Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Steele’

Russian tech executive behind Steele dossier lawsuit says he is vindicated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russians

July 14, 2018

A Russian tech executive suing BuzzFeed News over the Steele dossier says he is vindicated by special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian nationals allegedly involved in cyber attacks against Democrats.

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Aleksej Gubarev, the executive, says Mueller’s indictment shows he was not involved in hacks of Democratic National Committee emails, as the dossier alleges.

He has filed defamation lawsuits against BuzzFeed News, the website’s editor, Ben Smith and dossier author Christopher Steele. BuzzFeed published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017. Steele, a former British spy, compiled the dossier as part of an anti-Trump research project funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign. (RELATED: Mueller Indicts 12 Russians Involved In DNC, Clinton Email Hacks)

“This is a complete and utter vindication of our clients,” Gubarev’s attorney Val Gurvits said of the Mueller indictment.

A federal grand jury handed down an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officials who allegedly hacked emails from the DNC and Clinton campaign.

The Russians, who worked for Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, used the fake online personas Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks to disseminate the emails. Guccifer 2.0 also passed tens of thousands of DNC and Clinton-related emails to the website WikiLeaks.

Gubarev and his two firms, Webzilla and XBT Holding, are not named in the indictment.

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Gubarev has claimed in his lawsuit that BuzzFeed failed to properly investigate the dossier’s allegations before publishing the 35-page document.

Gubarev is mentioned in the last of 17 memos that make up the dossier. The memo, dated Dec. 13, 2016, alleges that Gubarev’s companies, Webzilla and XBT Holding, used bots and porn to plant viruses and bugs on DNC computer networks in order to steal data.

Steele also alleges in the dossier that Gubarev was “recruited under duress” by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB.

“When Ben Smith and BuzzFeed decided to publish the Dossier, they knew that they had been unable to verify any of the allegations in it,” Evan Fray-Witzer, a lawyer for Gubarev, said in a statement.

“They knew that falsely accusing people of serious criminal activity could ruin lives, but they decided that getting traffic to their website was more important than the truth. It was all about clicks and dollars for them. Nothing else mattered.”

Gubarev is scheduled to go to court with BuzzFeed in November unless a settlement is reached or the federal judge handling the case intervenes. The executives lawyers deposed Steele in London on June 18. They are attempting to depose executives with Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that hired Steele.

“We are looking forward to presenting our case to a jury,” said Val Gurvits, another Gubarev lawyer.

“We are strong believers in freedom of the press, but the First Amendment is designed to protect responsible journalists. What BuzzFeed did was anything but responsible.”

BuzzFeed has argued it was justified in publishing the dossier because the document had been circulating among government officials and the press for months before it was published. The website also acknowledged in its article revealing the dossier that its allegations had not been corroborated.

A BuzzFeed spokesman reiterated the point in a statement responding to Gubarev on Friday.

“Every development of the past 17 months has reaffirmed our position that the dossier was circulating at the highest levels of government, and squarely within our First Amendment right to publish,” BuzzFeed spokesman Matt Mittenthal said.

http://dailycaller.com/2018/07/13/dossier-mueller-vindication/

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Dossier Author Steele Visited State Department in Oct. 2016

June 21, 2018

Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the infamous Trump dossier, visited the State Department weeks before the 2016 presidential election to discuss his findings about then-candidate Donald Trump.

“Based upon our review of the visitor logs at the State Department, Mr. Steele visited the State Department, briefing officials on the dossier in October 2016,” Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said, The Daily Caller reported.

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Christopher Steele

The dossier was compiled over several months and made allegations Trump had ties to the Russian government. Some of the claims in the document were scandalous.and most unverified.

The dossier was leaked to the media and published by BuzzFeed News a short time before Trump was sworn in as president in January 2017.

Steele’s visit to the State Department had not been made public until Wednesday.

Burr cited an exchange he had with former State Department official Victoria Nuland — who worked for the department during the Obama administration — in revealing Steele’s trip to Washington, D.C. Nuland said she saw portions of the dossier in July 2016.

Former FBI Director James Comey briefed President Donald Trump on the dossier after he won the election but before he took office. It has also been reported former Secretary of State John Kerry and others might have seen the document before its publication.

The Steele dossier was one of the sources FBI officials used to obtain multiple FISA warrants to spy on certain members of the Trump campaign in 2016.

Read Newsmax: Report: Dossier Author Steele Visited State Department in Oct. 2016 | Newsmax.com
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https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/dossier-christopher-steele-state-department-deep-state/2018/06/20/id/867349/

Obama’s spying scandal is starting to look a lot like Watergate

May 28, 2018

F.B.I. Used Informant to Investigate Russia Ties to Campaign, Not to Spy, as Trump Claims,” read the headline on a lengthy New York Times story May 18. “The Justice Department used a suspected informant to probe whether Trump campaign aides were making improper contacts with Russia in 2016,” read a story in the May 21 edition of The Wall Street Journal.

So much for those who dismissed charges of Obama administration infiltration of Donald Trump’s campaign as paranoid fantasy. Defenders of the Obama intelligence and law enforcement apparat have had to fall back on the argument that this infiltration was for Trump’s — and the nation’s — own good.

It’s an argument that evidently didn’t occur to Richard Nixon’s defenders when it became clear that Nixon operatives had burglarized and wiretapped the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in June 1972.

Op-Ed By Michael Barone
New York Post

Until 2016, just about everyone agreed that it was a bad thing for government intelligence or law enforcement agencies to spy — er, use informants — on a political campaign, especially one of the opposition party. Liberals were especially suspicious of the FBI and the CIA. Nowadays they say that anyone questioning their good faith is unpatriotic.

The crime at the root of Watergate was an attempt at surveillance of the DNC after George McGovern seemed about to win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, just as the government misconduct in Russiagate was an attempt at surveillance of the Republican Party’s national campaign after Trump clinched its nomination.

In both cases, the incumbent administration regarded the opposition’s unorthodox nominee as undermining the nation’s long-standing foreign policy and therefore dangerous to the country. McGovern renounced the Democrats’ traditional Cold War policy. Trump expressed skepticism about George W. Bush and Obama administration policies on NATO, Mexico, Iran and (forgetting Barack Obama’s ridicule of Mitt Romney on the subject) Russia.

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The incumbents’ qualms had some rational basis. But their attempts at surveillance were misbegotten. Back in 1972, my brief experience in campaigns left me skeptical that you could learn anything useful by wiretapping the opposition. If you were reasonably smart, you should be able to figure out what a reasonably smart opposition would do and respond accordingly. Subsequent experience has confirmed that view. It’s a different story if you face irrational opposition. It’s hard to figure out what stupid people are going to do.

Similarly, it’s hard to figure out what the Obama law enforcement and intelligence folks had to gain by spying. Candidate Trump’s bizarre refusals to criticize Vladimir Putin and Russia were already a political liability, criticized aptly and often by Hillary Clinton and mainstream media.

But neither the Obama informant/spy nor Robert Mueller’s investigation has presented additional evidence of Trump collusion with Russia. None of Mueller’s indictments points in that direction, and Trump’s foreign policy over 16 months has been far less favorable to Russia than Obama’s.

Both the Watergate wiretap and the Obama appointees’ investigator/spy infiltration were initially inspired amid fears that the upstart opposition might win. The Watergate burglary was planned when Nixon’s re-election was far from assured. A May 1972 Harris Poll showed him with only 48 percent against McGovern. It was only after the Haiphong harbor bombing and Moscow summit in early June made clear that U.S. involvement in Vietnam was ending that Nixon’s numbers surged — just before the June 17 burglary.

In March 2016, it was conventional wisdom that Trump couldn’t be elected president. But his surprising and persistent strength in the Republican primaries left some doubtful, including the FBI lovebirds who instant messaged their desire for an “insurance policy” against that dreaded eventuality.

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Their unease may have owed something to their knowledge of how the Obama Justice Department and FBI had fixed the Hillary Clinton emails case. Clinton wasn’t indicted but was left with a disastrously low 32 percent of voters confident of her honesty and trustworthiness.

There are two obvious differences between Watergate and the Obama administration’s infiltration. The Watergate burglars were arrested in flagrante delicto, and their wiretaps never functioned. And neither the FBI nor the CIA fully cooperated with the postelection cover-up.

That’s quite a contrast with the Obama law enforcement and intelligence appointees’ promotion of Christopher Steele’s Clinton campaign-financed dodgy dossier and feeding the mainstream media’s insatiable hunger for Russia collusion stories.

Has an outgoing administration ever worked to delegitimize and dislodge its successor like this? We hear many complaints, some justified, about Donald Trump’s departure from standard political norms. But the greater and more dangerous departure from norms may be that of the Obama officials seeking to overturn the results of the 2016 election.

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Stopping Robert Mueller to protect us all — The FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules

May 21, 2018

The “deep state” is in a deep state of desperation. With little time left before the Justice Department inspector general’s report becomes public, and with special counsel Robert Mueller having failed to bring down Donald Trump after a year of trying, they know a reckoning is coming.

This is about cleaning out and reforming the deep state…

 Mueller grilled pharma giant that paid $400K to Trump lawyer

WSJ: The FBI Hid A Mole In The Trump Campaign

May 11, 2018

On Wednesday we reported on an intense battle playing out between House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (D-CA), the Department of Justice, and the Mueller investigation concerning a cache of intelligence that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein refuses to hand over – a request he equated to “extortion.”

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On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Nunes was denied access to the information on the grounds that it “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.

After the White House caved to Rosenstein and Nunes was barred from seeing the documents, it also emerged that this same intelligence had already been shared with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 US election.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, news emerged that Nunes and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) would receive a classified Thursday briefing at the DOJ on the documents. This is, to put it lightly, incredibly significant.

Why? Because it appears that the FBI may have had a mole embedded in the Trump campaign.

In a bombshell op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel shares a few key insights about recent developments. Perhaps we should start with the ending and let you take it from there. Needless to say Strassel’s claims, if true, would have wide ranging implications for the CIA, FBI, DOJ and former Obama administration officials.

Strassel concludes: 

“I believe I know the name of the informant, but my intelligence sources did not provide it to me and refuse to confirm it. It would therefore be irresponsible to publish it.”

Authored by Kimberley Strassel, op-ed via The Wall Street Journal,

About That FBI ‘Source’

Did the bureau engage in outright spying against the 2016 Trump campaign?

The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications.

Among them is that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation. In a Thursday press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan bluntly noted that Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s request for details on this secret source was “wholly appropriate,” “completely within the scope” of the committee’s long-running FBI investigation, and “something that probably should have been answered a while ago.” Translation: The department knew full well it should have turned this material over to congressional investigators last year, but instead deliberately concealed it.

House investigators nonetheless sniffed out a name, and Mr. Nunes in recent weeks issued a letter and a subpoena demanding more details. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s response was to double down—accusing the House of “extortion” and delivering a speech in which he claimed that “declining to open the FBI’s files to review” is a constitutional “duty.” Justice asked the White House to back its stonewall. And it even began spinning that daddy of all superspook arguments—that revealing any detail about this particular asset could result in “loss of human lives.”

This is desperation, and it strongly suggests that whatever is in these files is going to prove very uncomfortable to the FBI.

The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a “top secret intelligence source” of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe. When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.

This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting. It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough. Obama political appointees rampantly “unmasked” Trump campaign officials to monitor their conversations, while the FBI played dirty with its surveillance warrant against Carter Page, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its supporting information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now we find it may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

Which would lead to another big question for the FBI: When? The bureau has been doggedly sticking with its story that a tip in July 2016 about the drunken ramblings of George Papadopoulos launched its counterintelligence probe. Still, the players in this affair—the FBI, former Director Jim Comey, the Steele dossier authors—have been suspiciously vague on the key moments leading up to that launch date. When precisely was the Steele dossier delivered to the FBI? When precisely did the Papadopoulos information come in?
And to the point, when precisely was this human source operating? Because if it was prior to that infamous Papadopoulos tip, then the FBI isn’t being straight. It would mean the bureau was spying on the Trump campaign prior to that moment. And that in turn would mean that the FBI had been spurred to act on the basis of something other than a junior campaign aide’s loose lips.

We also know that among the Justice Department’s stated reasons for not complying with the Nunes subpoena was its worry that to do so might damage international relationships. This suggests the “source” may be overseas, have ties to foreign intelligence, or both. That’s notable, given the highly suspicious role foreigners have played in this escapade. It was an Australian diplomat who reported the Papadopoulos conversation. Dossier author Christopher Steele is British, used to work for MI6, and retains ties to that spy agency as well as to a network of former spooks. It was a former British diplomat who tipped off Sen. John McCain to the dossier. How this “top secret” source fits into this puzzle could matter deeply.

I believe I know the name of the informant, but my intelligence sources did not provide it to me and refuse to confirm it. It would therefore be irresponsible to publish it. But what is clear is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the FBI’s 2016 behavior, and the country will never get the straight story until President Trump moves to declassify everything possible. It’s time to rip off the Band-Aid.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-05-10/wsj-fbi-hid-mole-trump-campaign

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Related (Wall Street Journal):

Was the FBI Outright Spying On The Trump Campaign?

May 11, 2018

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There’s no doubt that the “swamp” in Washington was stunned, enraged and even left fearful by the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the Oval Office. And individuals reacted in their shock.

 

Examples are galore.

Take, for instance, fired FBI Director James Comey, who took documents from private meetings with the president and gave them to a friend to give to a reporter so they would be publicized – and, he hoped, trigger a special counsel investigation.

And it’s known now that one of the main documents used by the government to give to a court as evidence so that they could start spying on the Trump campaign was a hired political hit piece done by a contractor for a company paid off by Hillary Clinton.

Now talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that, based on the evidence that’s become available, the Deep State may have had a spy infiltrate the Trump campaign.

“These swamp people are so in the vapors with all of this – I think they’re so shocked and stunned over everything that’s happened – that they have long since abandoned any rationality whatsoever,” he said.

“I actually believe the FBI planted an informant in the Trump campaign – before Mueller was appointed, obviously,” he said

He cited three recent publications in coming to his conclusion.

The first was a column by Kimberley Strassel, of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which made the point “that the Trump legal team is narrowly focused, that they’re focused on defending and protecting Trump and what they need to be focused on is defending and protecting the Constitution and the presidency and the executive branch – and in doing so, they will take care of Trump.”

Her theory, he explained, is that the attack being sustained by Trump critics isn’t an attack on him, “it’s an attack on the Constitution.”

“It is an attempt to say that any president exercising his constitutional duties is obstructing justice! He can’t fire Comey, that’s obstructing justice? That’s bogus! Her point is, the Constitution permits him control of the executive branch! He can do with anybody in the executive branch what he wants! He can declassify any file that he wants! He could make sure that we all could see the FISA warrant application. He could release everything; nobody could stop him. Her point is actually very good, that any president exercising his constitutional duties cannot be guilty of obstruction.”

Second, for Limbaugh, was a Washington Post report that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is seeking information from the Justice Department about “an individual who people close to the matter say is a sensitive, longtime intelligence source for the CIA and FBI.”

Justice has refused to provide any information on the “U.S. citizen who has aided the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.”

Third was a Wall Street Journal report that commented on that very source.

“I would not be surprised if, in fact, the FBI planted an informant in the Trump campaign in order to try to prove this Russia collusion business,” Limbaugh said Thursday.

He noted Nunes’ demands for documents and information – and the Justice Department’s refusal.

He explained that one of the reports suggests that reporters already know who the “top secret” source is.

He noted the description as a “U.S. citizen,” who has been an informant for both “the CIA and FBI,” and has provided information that was given to Mueller.

“So the Journal editorial claims the Post already knows who this source is – and if they do, why can’t Nunes? Well, Nunes learning somehow would violate national security,” he said.

The claims include that outing the source could “damage relationships with other countries,” but Limbaugh said “only if the source is a foreign citizen, but we know now the source isn’t.”

“The source is a U.S. citizen, so outing the source would not damage relationships with other countries unless this source has also been involved in screwing other countries. But it suggests that the source has worked overseas. If they’re gonna claim that a U.S. citizen cannot be outed here because it might damage relationships other countries, it means he has worked overseas. Suggests it, anyway,” he continued.

Further, Limbaugh added, “And the story says the ‘role of the intelligence source’ could further provoke Republicans who have accused Justice and the FBI of engaging in ‘misuse of their surveillance power,” and, here we go, ‘hinting that the government may have used the source to snoop on the Trump campaign’”

“There it is. So it’s a pretty safe bet that the FBI planted an informant in the Trump campaign. Nunes wants to know who it is; the DOJ says, ‘No way, Jose!’” he said.

“If they had an informant in that campaign who was supposed to find the collusion and they still don’t have it? I mean, look at what we’re learning. They had an informant in the campaign, and they still don’t have any evidence!”

Further, he pointed out that Glenn Simpson, of Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to create the so-called dossier allegedly about Trump, testified in 2017 that “the FBI had a source in the Trump campaign.”

“Simpson claimed it was ‘a voluntary source,’ meaning it wasn’t a plant, meaning somebody on the Trump team decided to become an informant against Trump,” Limbaugh said.

His conclusion?

“This is the FBI more than likely planting an informant inside the campaign. Just remember, if they had somebody that nobody knew was there looking for this collusion and still didn’t find it, then what the hell is going on with this investigation?”

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2018/05/rush-did-fbi-plant-spy-in-trump-campaign/#ptRzvem2GOqhfCmO.99

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Related (Wall Street Journal):

Why the Justice Department Is Defiant

May 4, 2018

A House subpoena, another missed deadline. What is the department hiding?

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The feud that has simmered for months between Congress and the Justice Department erupted this week into a cage match. That’s because the House is homing in on the goods.

Until this week, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and fellow institutionalists at the department had fought Congress’s demands for information with the tools of banal bureaucracy—resist, delay, ignore, negotiate. But Mr. Rosenstein took things to a new level on Tuesday, accusing House Republicans of “threats,” extortion and wanting to “rummage” through department documents. A Wednesday New York Times story then dropped a new slur, claiming “Mr. Rosenstein and top FBI officials have come to suspect that some lawmakers were using their oversight authority to gain intelligence about [Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s ] investigation so that it could be shared with the White House.”

Mr. Rosenstein isn’t worried about rummaging. That’s a diversion from the department’s opposite concern: that it is being asked to comply with very specific—potentially very revealing—demands. Two House sources confirm for me that the Justice Department was recently delivered first a classified House Intelligence Committee letter and then a subpoena (which arrived Monday) demanding documents related to a new line of inquiry about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Trump investigation. The deadline for complying with the subpoena was Thursday afternoon, and the Justice Department flouted it. As the White House is undoubtedly monitoring any new congressional demands for information, it is likely that President Trump’s tweet Wednesday ripping the department for not turning over documents was in part a reference to this latest demand.

Republicans also demand the FBI drop any objections to declassifying a section of the recently issued House Intelligence Committee report that deals with a briefing former FBI Director James Comey provided about former national security adviser Mike Flynn. House Republicans say Mr. Comey told them his own agents did not believe Mr. Flynn lied to them. On his book tour, Mr. Comey has said that isn’t true. Someone isn’t being honest. Is the FBI more interested in protecting the reputations of two former directors (the other being Mr. Mueller, who dragged Mr. Flynn into court on lying grounds) than in telling the public the truth?

It’s hard to have any faith in the necessity of the more than 300 redactions in the House Intel report, most of which the Republican committee members insist are bogus and should be removed. On every occasion that Justice or the FBI has claimed material must be withheld for the sake of national security or continuing investigations, it has later come out that the only thing at stake were those institutions’ reputations. Think the Comey memos, which showed the former director had little basis for claiming obstruction. Or Sen. Chuck Grassley’s criminal referral of dossier author Christopher Steele, the FBI’s so-called reliable source, whom we now know it had to fire for talking to the press and possibly lying.

The Justice Department is laying all this at the feet of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which technically oversees redactions. But ODNI consults with the agency that “owns” the material, and the FBI is clearly doing the blocking. Again, many pieces of the House Intel report that are being hidden happen to relate to FBI conduct during the 2016 election.

The increasingly poisonous interaction between Congress and the Justice Department also stems from a growing list of questions Republicans have about leading Justice Department officials’ roles in the events Congress seeks to investigate. Mr. Rosenstein’s name was on at least one of the applications for a warrant on Carter Page to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Dana Boente’s name is on another, and he’s now serving as the FBI’s general counsel.

We can’t know the precise motivations behind the Justice Department’s and FBI’s refusal to make key information public. But whether it is out of real concern over declassification or a desire to protect the institutions from embarrassment, the current leadership is about 20 steps behind this narrative. Mr. Comey, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Andrew McCabe —they have already shattered the FBI’s reputation and public trust. There is nothing to be gained from pretending this is business as usual, or attempting to stem continued fallout by hiding further details.

This week’s events—including more flat-out subpoena defiance—put a luminous spotlight on Speaker Paul Ryan. The credibility of the House’s oversight authority is at stake. Mr. Ryan’s committee chairmen have done remarkable work exposing FBI behavior, and they deserve backup. The quickest way to get Justice and FBI to comply with these legitimate requests is for Mr. Ryan to state strongly and publicly that he has zero qualms about proceeding down the road of contempt or impeachment if House demands are not met. This is the people’s government, not the Justice Department’s.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Appeared in the May 4, 2018, print edition as ‘Why Justice Is Defiant.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-justice-department-is-defiant-1525388245

Former FBI Director on Steele Dossier “It was funded first by Republicans.” — Funded by the DNC? — “I still don’t know that for a fact.” (Drug Addicts are told this is “denial”)

April 27, 2018

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Former FBI Director James Comey asserted Thursday evening that he did not know beyond news reports that Hillary Clinton‘s campaign had paid for research that led to a dossier of unverified allegations about President Trump‘s ties to Russia.

.@BretBaier: “When did you learn that the DNC and @HillaryClintonhad funded Christopher Steele’s work?”@Comey: “I still don’t know that for a fact.”#SpecialReport pic.twitter.com/LxK4MSO045

— Fox News (@FoxNews) April 26, 2018

“When did you learn that the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign had funded Christopher Steele’s work?” Fox News anchor Brett Baier asked Comey on “Special Report,” referring to the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

“I still don’t know that for a fact,” Comey responded. “I’ve only seen it in the media. I never knew exactly which Democrats had funded. I knew it was funded first by Republicans.”

“That’s not true,” Baier interjected, referring to funding by Republicans.

“My understanding is that his work started…as oppo research funded by Republicans,” Comey maintained, adding the activity was “then picked up by Democrats opposed to Donald Trump.”

The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, confirmed to the House Intelligence Committee in October that it originally funded the Trump project through the opposition research firm Fusion GPS.

The project until that point had focused on researching multiple Republican presidential candidates and was not looking at collusion with Russia, the Free Beacon said.

The Free Beacon maintained that none of the work product it received from Fusion GPS appeared in the dossier and the publication said it did not pay for any work performed by Steele, suggesting he became involved after the publication stopped funding the project.

The unverified dossier compiled by Steele contains salacious details about Trump’s 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant.

Democrats argue the dossier provides a framework into Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, while Republicans say the document is politically motivated.

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http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/385112-comey-asserts-republicans-first-paid-for-steele-dossier

How Trump Takes On Obstruction — Time to reset the Russia dynamic — The real threat is to the Constitution—to this presidency and every future one

April 27, 2018

Focus on the threat to the powers of the presidency, not the president personally.

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, April 24.
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House, April 24. PHOTO: POOL/GETTY IMAGES
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President Trump vociferously protests his innocence as Robert Mueller finishes the first year of his Russia investigation. Still, the endless Tweet bleats of “PHONY” and “WITCH HUNT” are doing little to help his cause.

The question is why this high-energy president seems to have fallen for the media claim that his only proactive course is to fire Mr. Mueller. It isn’t. There are two very bold actions the Trump White House could take to .

Both would aid Mr. Trump’s presidency and serve the executive branch and the public in the longer term.

The first is an abrupt overhaul of the president’s legal team and strategy. Mr. Trump has talented lawyers, but not ones skilled at confronting the threat at hand. They continue to fret over his personal liability, when the real threat is to the Constitution—to this presidency and every future one. Mr. Mueller is by all accounts now focused on obstruction of justice. Mr. Trump needs constitutional powerhouses who can swiftly take that issue off the table.

Constitutional lawyer David Rivkin in December argued on these pages that a president’s exercise of the powers of his office cannot legitimately be construed as obstruction of justice. Among those powers are the right to direct law enforcement and to fire executive-branch appointees at will. Whether or not Mr. Trump’s conversations with former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, or his firing of Mr. Comey, were wise, Mr. Trump was exercising rightful powers. If Congress believes he abused his office, it has the power to impeach. If Congress had the authority to criminalize the exercise of presidential power, or the judiciary to question a president’s motives, the separation of powers would be severely threatened.

Already we are seeing the obstruction narrative threaten other core powers. We are now told it is obstructionist for a president to use his pardon power, as Mr. Trump did with Joe Arpaio and Scooter Libby. We are told that Mr. Trump is obstructing justice by ordering the attorney general to cooperate with congressional document demands. And Team Trump needs to understand that the mere specter is enough to constrain the presidency; Mr. Mueller doesn’t need to bring a charge.

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Which is why the president needs a team that focuses on the Constitution, decoupling its defense of Mr. Trump’s presidential powers from his personal legal risk. Example: The president’s lawyers are currently resisting a Mueller interview for fear the president might perjure himself. The correct grounds for refusing should be that the president will not parlay with any special prosecutor engaged in an unconstitutional obstruction probe. He needs a team that immediately goes to federal court to obtain a declaratory judgment that presidents cannot obstruct justice while exercising core powers. This legal clarification is crucial, to pre-empt any Mueller charge or even report. It’s also necessary to make clear that should the House impeach on obstruction, it will not be doing so on grounds that the president violated criminal law.

Simultaneous to legal overhaul, the White House should immediately order the declassification (with redactions for sources and methods) of every underlying document in the Justice Department and FBI counterintelligence probe, including any paper at the State Department, Central Intelligence Agency and any other agencies that were involved. Everything. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants. Emails. Texts. The interviews with dossier author Christopher Steele. The story of how exactly the FBI came into possession of info about Trump aide George Papadopoulos. Details of any as yet undisclosed FBI spying on the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump’s advisers have warned him off this transparency, on the grounds—yet again—that such a release might be construed as obstructing the Mueller probe. To repeat: The president has ultimate authority over classification, and no exercise of that constitutional power can be obstruction. Even the few documents the public has seen—the Comey memos, the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts, a glimpse of one FISA warrant—have created a compelling case that the FBI and Justice Department in 2016 abused their power.

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Yes, there are risks of a worrisome declassification precedent. But they are outweighed by the gravity of the threat to the executive branch and the potential loss of faith in law enforcement. The nation has the right to the full story now—to understand better how we ever got to a special counsel, and to put Mr. Mueller’s ultimate findings in context.

The media and anti-Trump elites have created a false choice: that Mr. Trump must either sit back and take it, or go on a firing rampage. He has better options. He can define the terms of this debate and defend the executive branch. And he can enlighten the country. But his time for doing so productively is growing very short.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Appeared in the April 27, 2018, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-trump-takes-on-obstruction-1524784790

 Related:
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Mueller Seized Manafort Testimony on Russian Oligarch Deripaska

April 24, 2018

Testimony came in civil lawsuit over failed cable-TV deal — Manafort faces 2 indictments, neither related to Russia

 Updated on 
Paul Manafort exits the District Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia on March 8, 2018. Photographer: Zach Gibson/Bloomberg

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and FBI agents seized tens of thousands of items from the home of Paul Manafort last July, including testimony that he gave in a civil lawsuit about a protracted business dispute with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, disclosed his seizure of the Deripaska-related testimony in a court filing defending an FBI raid on the home of Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager. The disclosure shows the depth of Mueller’s interest in understanding the links between Manafort and Deripaska.

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 Oleg V. Deripaska (at left) and Christopher Steele.(Photos: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images; Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Manafort once worked as a political consultant for Deripaska, who was considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deripaska then invested $18.9 million with Manafort in a cable-television venture in Ukraine, and paid him more than $7 million in management fees. The deal ultimately soured, and Deripaska sued to try to get an accounting of the money.

Deripaska, the billionaire founder and majority shareholder of En+ Group, was among the most prominent tycoons penalized with sanctions this month by the Trump administration. The moved followed passage of a law last year to retaliate against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In the raid, agents seized the 2015 testimony, in video form as well as written transcripts, by Manafort and his former right-hand man, Rick Gates, according to a filing late Monday in federal court in Washington. The contents of that testimony, which is sealed, are unknown. Early this year, Deripaska filed a fraud lawsuit against Manafort and Gates.

Manafort now faces two indictments, but neither accuses him of crimes related to Russia.

Fraud Charges

In the Washington case, he’s charged with laundering profits from tens of millions of dollars that he made as a political consultant to former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and other politicians there, as well as of failing to register in the U.S. as a lobbyist. In Alexandria, Virginia, he’s accused of tax and bank fraud. Gates has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Mueller.

In a court filing earlier this month, prosecutors said that any investigation of links between Russia and the Trump campaign “would naturally cover ties that a former Trump campaign manager had to Russian-associated political operatives, Russian-backed politicians, and Russian oligarchs.”

Prosecutors said they properly searched Manafort’s home after learning about its contents from an employee, according to the filing.

Seized Material

A court exhibit showed that prosecutors had searched emails, bank accounts, computers and other electronic devices. They gave Gates material seized from nine devices at Manafort’s home, and they also turned over a hard drive with 80,000 items. Both Gates and Manafort had also been interviewed by U.S. authorities in 2014, according to prosecutors.

In a separate filing, prosecutors defended a May 2017 search in Alexandria of a rental storage unit containing Manafort’s files, refuting assertions that an FBI agent gained access to the records through an employee who didn’t have the authority to allow such an entry. Manafort had asked a judge to throw out all evidence from the search, which underpinned charges against him and Gates.

In asking the judge to throw out evidence seized in the storage unit, Manafort argued that the employee lacked authority to consent to the search. But the agent believed the worker could allow the warrantless search because he signed the lease, held a key, and had moved files into and out of the space, prosecutors argued in a filing in federal court in Washington.

Unit Access

The employee “had the right and capability to gain access to the unit at any time” without Manafort’s knowledge or permission, according to the filing. “This is not like a situation in which an employee quits his job, keeps a copy of the key to the job site, and then invites the police to enter,” prosecutors wrote.

The employee, who previously worked for Davis Manafort Partners Inc., a political consulting firm, was working then for another Manafort company, Steam Mountain LLC, the U.S. wrote.

Nothing about the change in the business name would have signaled to the agent that the worker’s “access to and authority over the storage unit had suddenly ceased,” prosecutors wrote. “Indeed, it did not change anything about the employee’s services to Manafort or access to the unit.”

Ukraine Work

Manafort’s lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson for a hearing to determine whether the consent to search was “freely and voluntarily given’’ by the ex-employee. Prosecutors argued that no such hearing is necessary. They said the agent who wrote the search warrant is “currently stationed overseas and arrangements would have to be made for him to return” for a hearing, which would probably occur on May 23.

The cases are U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-00083, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria), and U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-00201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

— With assistance by Pamela A Maclean, and Greg Farrell

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-24/mueller-says-fbi-properly-searched-manafort-storage-unit

See also:

Was Christopher Steele Paid by Russian Oligarch and Putin Ally Oleg Deripaska?

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/255290/christopher-steele-putin-oleg-deripaska