Posts Tagged ‘Trump campaign’

Needed in the Russia investigation: More skepticism of Manafort and the media (Lynch Mob Doesn’t Need a Rope, At Least Not Yet)

January 11, 2019

Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

The Russia-collusion story manages to be at once frenetic and humdrum. Apparent bombshell revelations arise but without advancing the public’s knowledge beyond a couple of truths we all knew back in 2016: First, when it comes to President Trump, the media can’t control itself. Second, Paul Manafort is no friend.

In perhaps the 1,000th “ bombshell” report on the Russia investigation, the New York Times reported earlier this week that Manafort, as Trump’s campaign chairman, had sent internal polling data to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who is “close to the Kremlin.”

Washington Examiner

This revelation perturbed us. Seeing how close Manafort and Michael Flynn were to both Russia and Trump, we have kept an open mind about the investigation into collusion. We don’t know all the facts, and so we try to process all new information on its merits.

Oleg Deripaska — Credit Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images

Yet while many media outlets — see Esquire, Talking Points Memo, and others — took the Times report as conclusive proof of collusion, we held our fire. Why? Because while we have tried to keep cool about this investigation, the largest media outlets have not. We recall ABC reporting that Flynn met with the Kremlin during the campaign. That was a “bombshell” of the first order. Except that it turned out to be false.

And so it was with the latest Times report. Manafort was sending the polling data to Ukranians, it turns out, not to Russians as the Times claimed.

Former National Security Advisor General Michael Flynn leaves after the delay in his sentencing hearing at US District Court in Washington, DC, December 18, 2018. - President Donald Trump's former national security chief Michael Flynn received a postponement of his sentencing after an angry judge threatened to give him a stiff sentence. Russia collusion investigation head Robert Mueller had proposed Flynn receive no jail time for lying to investigators about his Moscow ties. But Judge Emmet Sullivan said Flynn had behaved in a "traitorous" manner and gave the former three-star general the option of receiving a potentially tough prison sentence now -- or wait until Mueller's investigation was closer to being completed to better demonstrate his cooperation with investigators. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP or licensors

Mike Flynn outside the courthouse

This incident confirmed both of our general operating assumptions on the Russia investigation: Don’t fall for the media “bombshells,” and never count Manafort as a friend.

Manafort went to work for the Trump campaign in the spring of 2016. Trump wasn’t paying Manafort, which should have been a clear warning sign. Manafort was free to Trump for the same reason Facebook is free to you: You are not the customer; you’re the product. Manafort was working for Ukrainian oligarchs and other shady foreign clients, and part of the value he was delivering was proximity to the Republican presidential nominee and the information, such as internal polling, that proximity allowed him.

We have repeatedly warned Trump about this. “Manafort is not your friend,” we wrote in an editorial addressed to the president. “Manafort is a shady foreign agent who tried to exploit you. And if he had never been involved in the Trump campaign, there may not be a Russia investigation at all.”

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There’s some worry that Trump has considered pardoning Manafort. At the very least, we’ve seen Trump praise Manafort. This praise is unwarranted.

Trump should turn his back on this double-dealer who has caused him so much trouble. And we all should show more skepticism of the media “bombshells” that have caused commentators and other reporters so much trouble.


Manafort filing reveals ‘collusion’ — Democrats think they have finally hit pay dirt.

January 10, 2019

Democrats and intelligence experts from both political parties believe information that was accidentally revealed in a court filing from Paul Manafort’s lawyers could be the biggest link yet to President Trump and Russia.

Manafort, while serving as the campaign manager for President Trump’s campaign, shared political polling data with a business associate who also had ties to Russian intelligence. The disclosure occurred by accident after the court filing, which was in response to accusations that Manafort lied during his plea deal agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, was not properly formatted to block out information meant to be redacted.

After a year of lobbing accusations against Trump that he colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election, Democrats think they have finally hit pay dirt.

“Internal polling data is precious. It reveals your strengths — & your weaknesses. Why share such valuable information with a foreign adversary — unless that adversary was really a friend?” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

In this photo from June 15, 2018 Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Mike McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014 under President Barack Obama and is now a professor at Stanford University, said on Twitter: “If proven, then call it by whatever c word that you want — collusion, cooperation, conspiracy — but this is serous.”

It is unclear what data Manafort shared, but the failed redactions show he allegedly gave the information to Konstantin Kilimnik, who has also been charged by the special counsel. It is also unclear how Kilimnik might have used the information.

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Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation

The New York Times reported this week that Manafort and Rick Gates, the deputy campaign manager, transferred the data to Kilimnik in spring 2016, around the time Trump clinched the presidential nomination.

Most of the data was public, according to the Times report, “but some of it was developed by a private polling firm working for the campaign,” a person knowledgeable about the situation said.

Manafort wanted the data to be sent to two Ukrainian oligarchs, Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akhmetov, the Times reported. Both men had financed Russian-aligned Ukrainian parties that had previously hired Manafort as a political consultant.

The court filing also revealed that Manafort has been accused by Mueller of lying about discussing a Ukrainian peace plan with Kilimnik during the 2016 campaign and that Manafort also “acknowledged” that he met with Kilimnik while they were both in Madrid.

Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, said the Madrid meeting took place in January or February 2017, after his work on the presidential campaign was finished.

But others think there’s enough information there to show that Manafort was somehow working with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

“The margins the Russians needed to change in key states during the 2016 elections was pretty small. Now we know how they were able to be so precise: Paul Manafort was providing polling data to Russia,” said Steven Hall, the former chief of Russia operations for the CIA, in a tweet.

He later added: “[t]he next logical step is to tie in the fact that we know the Russians wanted to help elect Trump and hurt his opponent. It appears that Manafort and Putin had the same goal, and that Manafort was trying to help the Kremlin.”

John Dean, a White House counsel under President Richard Nixon convicted for his role in Watergate, said: “Big story. New info. Both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, Trump’s top campaign managers, transferred inside polling data to Russian intel guy Kilimnik in the spring of 2016 as Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination. It’s called COLLUSION!”

The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee called the revelation about Manafort “one of the most significant activities of this whole investigation.”

“This appears as the closest we’ve seen yet to real live actual collusion. Clearly, Manafort was trying to collude with Russian agents, and the question is, ‘What did the president know?’” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., in an interview with CNN that aired Wednesday. “How is that not evidence of an effort to collaborate?”

He added: “If it’s true that Manafort as campaign chair shared internal polling data with Kilimnik, he was giving the Russians information that would have been useful for their intelligence operation.”

Mueller’s team will respond to the Manafort court filing no later than Monday at midnight, and there is a possibility that more details of the allegations will be revealed.

“Manafort’s lawyers’ general characterization of Mueller’s allegations about Manafort’s conduct in the context of a dispute over whether Manafort violated his plea agreement or not offers a highly imperfect window into Mueller’s understanding of that evidence and how it fits into the larger picture of interactions between the Trump campaign and the Russian state. We will not know what these tidbits mean, if anything, until we see both how Mueller characterizes them and, more particularly, how Mueller situates them against that broader pattern of interactions,” wrote Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a blog post Wednesday.


Andrew Napolitano: Mueller can show Trump campaign ‘had a connection to Russian intelligence’

January 10, 2019

Special counsel Robert Mueller has evidence that could prove a link between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, according to a Fox News senior legal commentator.

Judge Andrew Napolitano’s remarks come after the defense team for Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former 2016 campaign chairman, acknowledged in a new court filing that their client shared polling data before the election with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant to Russian intelligence, who at one point worked for Manafort’s lobbying firm. Kilimnik was indicted by Mueller last June on charges of obstruction of justice and tampering with a witness on behalf of Manafort.

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“This shows that Bob Mueller can demonstrate to a court, without the testimony of Paul Manafort, that the campaign had a connection to Russian intelligence, and the connection involved information going from the campaign to the Russians,” Napolitano said during a Fox News segment on Wednesday. “The question is, was this in return for a promise of something from the Russians, and did the candidate, now the president, know about it.”

That could amount to a “conspiracy” if there was an arrangement to exchange “something of value from a foreign person or government during the campaign,” he said.

“Whether or not the thing of value arrives, the agreement is what is the crime,” Napolitano said.

The interactions between Manafort and Kilimnik were uncovered Tuesday when Manafort’s defense team submitted documents that were not properly redacted. The filing was made as Manafort’s lawyers continue to defend their client against allegations by Mueller that Manafort broke the terms of his plea deal.

“The part they forgot to seal was that the FBI accused Paul Manafort of lying about whether or not he gave confidential campaign polling data, at the height of the campaign,” Napolitano said Wednesday.

Manafort in September pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts, and agreed to “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” answer questions about “any and all matters” of interest to Mueller.

Russian official offered Trump campaign ‘political’ cooperation in 2015

December 8, 2018

President’s ex-lawyer tells federal prosecutors in Mueller probe that ‘trusted’ Kremlin official reached out months before previously thought

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Russian President Vladimir Putin looks over toward US President Donald Trump, as Trump speaks during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

NEW YORK (AFP) — US prosecutors revealed Friday that a Russian offered cooperation to Donald Trump’s campaign as early as 2015, declaring that the president’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen had provided “relevant” and “substantial” help to the Russia investigation.

In a separate case, federal prosecutors demanded “substantial” jail time of between 51 to 63 months — four to five years — for Cohen for bank fraud and campaign finance violations to which he plead guilty last August.

US Attorney Robert Khuzami accused the 52-year-old, who once vowed to take a bullet for the president, of being motivated by “personal greed” and of “repeatedly” using his power and influence for “deceptive ends.”

“Totally clears the President. Thank you!” tweeted the US president cryptically as television networks were consumed by the Cohen documents — which the White House dismissed as revealing “nothing of value.”

The campaign finance violations to which Cohen pleaded guilty in August concerned hush payments he made on Trump’s behalf to alleged former lovers of the president, including porn star Stormy Daniels.

In this photo taken on November 29, 2018, Michael Cohen, former personal attorney to US President Donald Trump, exits federal court, in New York City. (Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)

Robert Mueller, the special counsel heading up the probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 vote, followed up with a separate filing saying Cohen had made “substantial and significant efforts to remediate his misconduct, accept responsibility for his actions, and assist” the special investigation, a thorn in Trump’s side.

Cohen continued to provide “relevant and truthful information” to assist the probe, holding seven sessions with investigators, “many of them lengthy, and continues to make himself available to investigators,” it said.

He had provided information about contacts with Russian interests during the campaign, attempts by Russians to reach the campaign and about contacts with “persons connected to the White House” in 2017-2018, the filing added.

Around November 2015, some five months after Trump launched his bid for the presidency and well before previously reported contacts, Cohen spoke to a purported “trusted person” in the Russian Federation who offered the campaign “political synergy” and “synergy on a government level.”

Cohen said the person “repeatedly proposed” a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, claiming it could have a “phenomenal” impact “not only in political but in a business dimension as well”.

“Cohen, however, did not follow up on this invitation,” the filing added.

Trump claims ‘cleared’

The former fixer last week pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in connection with a Moscow real-estate deal, which was being pursued as late as one month before Trump officially became the Republican nominee for president.

Due to his help, Mueller declined to recommend additional jail time for Cohen for lying to Congress.

In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Recent filings in the Mueller probe have suggested the White House knew that Cohen planned to lie to lawmakers about his contacts with Russians.

They also suggest Trump and his family were in the loop on discussions with Russians on a Moscow project, even after the real estate tycoon secured the Republican nomination in mid-2016.

Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders dismissed the latest filings in Cohen’s case, saying they “tell us nothing of value that wasn’t already known.”

“Mr. Cohen has repeatedly lied and as the prosecution has pointed out to the court, Mr. Cohen is no hero,” she said.

But Mueller has been inching ever closer to the White House, and early on Friday Trump fired off a feverish volley of tweets against a probe he dubs a “witch hunt,” accusing Mueller of “big time conflicts of interest” and alleging the prosecutor coerced false testimony from witnesses.

The commander-in-chief vowed his lawyers would produce a “major Counter Report” to rebut Mueller’s findings, as and when he delivers them.

Attorney general switch

Shortly afterward, Trump announced his intention to nominate William Barr as his new attorney general — succeeding Jeff Sessions, who he sacked last month.

Sessions had angered the president by recusing himself from overseeing the Mueller probe because of his own contacts with Russian officials.

Barr — a former attorney general under the late George H.W. Bush — is considered something of a consensus candidate for the highly sensitive post.

He does, however, have a record of endorsing strong executive powers, which could come into play if Mueller sought to compel Trump to testify.

In this photo from June 15, 2018 Paul Manafort arrives for a hearing at US District Court on June 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)

Barr has also voiced concerns about a number of Mueller’s team donating to the Democratic Party.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer warned Barr must commit, under oath, that the Russia investigation “will proceed unimpeded” and that the final report will be made available to Congress and the public “immediately.”

In Washington Mueller also detailed multiple “lies” that former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort told investigators, leading to a termination of his cooperation deal.

A heavily redacted court filing included among Manafort’s “lies,” untruths about his dealings with Konstantin Kilimnik, a business associate who US officials suspect is a Russian intelligence operative, and about his contacts with Trump administration officials after striking a plea agreement.

The White House similarly dismissed that filing, arguing it “says absolutely nothing about the President.”

“Once again the media is trying to create a story where there isn’t one,” said Sanders.


New Woodward book raises old questions about methods — “Be Very Afraid”

September 13, 2018

Consider Woodward’s methods. Extended sections of [Woodward’s] recent efforts have been fabricated … In his books, he recreates behind-the-scenes events based upon bits and pieces of talk given to him later…


Bob Woodward’s new book Fear: Trump in the White House, is filled with extended accounts of behind-the-scenes conversations between major players in the Trump campaign and administration. There’s no need to give examples; almost every page has dialogue that is presented, in quotation marks, with the implicit assurance that the author knows precisely what was said.

Of course, Woodward did not hear every word uttered by every character in the book. So any reader would ask: How does he know exactly what they said? Woodward anticipated such questions in a note to readers, explaining that, “When I have attributed exact quotations, thoughts or conclusions to the participants, that information comes from the person, a colleague with direct knowledge, or from meeting notes, personal diaries, files and government or personal documents.”

By Byron York
Washington Examiner

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Woodward’s note raises an obvious question. If Participant A, for example — whether it was Kellyanne Conway, or Steve Bannon, or Gary Cohn, or someone else — told Woodward what he or she said in a particular conversation that occurred months earlier, how could Woodward be confident that they recalled just what was said? So even if Woodward accurately recounted what Participant A said she said, how could he, or anyone else, be certain that that is what was actually said? Shouldn’t Woodward have written that this is what Participant A recalled about a conversation, rather than this is the conversation?

The answer, of course, is that it is not possible for Woodward to know precisely what was said, quotation marks or not. But even as controversy swirls around Fear, it’s important to note that questions about Woodward’s quotes are nothing new. Fear is not the first time these questions have arisen in connection with a Woodward book. In fact, many of Woodward’s books have raised precisely the same questions, leading to similar, and similarly unsatisfying, answers. Here is a look back at a few of the how-does-he-know questions that have surrounded Woodward efforts in the past.

In 1999, Woodward published Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate. The book included in-quotation-marks recountings of conversations that took place in the Clinton administration. Critics wondered how Woodward knew what was said. On July 6, 1999, Washington Post columnist and former ombudsman Geneva Overholser, in a column headlined “Rules Not Made to be Broken,” wrote:

Now consider Woodward’s methods. In his books, he recreates behind-the-scenes events as if he’d been in the room — full of detail, characterizations and direct quotes, much of it unattributed. Thus “Shadow” quotes Hillary Clinton from conversations she held alone with individuals such as former Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry and former White House lawyer Jane Sherburne — in passages written as if Woodward were present and describing the scene.


This causes confusion, and not just for readers wondering who told Woodward what and why. Both McCurry and Sherburne said recently that the conversations Woodward reconstructed between them and the First Lady are inaccurate. “The dialogue that Woodward describes or has in my mouth and hers…does not resemble what I recall of the conversation,” said Sherburn.

McCurry said, “If I left Bob Woodward with that impression that I was giving him direct, verbatim quotes, then we must have had a serious misunderstanding, but I would not have quoted her. That’s not the way I remember that moment.”

“Woodward stood by his account,” Overholser added. “He told The Post that McCurry had not objected when Woodward read him the passages before publication. And he called Sherburne’s account ‘false.'”

In the Washington Monthly on Oct. 1, 1999, critic Art Levine addressed the same issue with Shadow:

Woodward’s liberal use of quotes raises questions about craft and technique that may be of interest only to fellow journalists. Still, most of us feel queasy about using direct quotes if we’re not confident that those words were said exactly as we write it. My guess is that Woodward is simply more willing to run with the gist of what he’s told, dressed up as exact quotes remembered with curiously total recall by his sources and supplemented by their meeting notes. He is clearly pushing the envelope of recreated dialogue further than previous New Journalists did. Personally, I can’t remember exactly what I said at lunch last week, let alone in meetings a year ago. The more troubling issue raised by all these hard-charging quotes that enliven Woodward’s books, including Shadow, is their strikingly self-serving quality and Woodward’s complicity in promoting his subjects’ preening self-portraits. Typically, his subjects are also saddened and angered to discover dark truths about the president they defended…


Asked about his practice in a January 2000 appearance at the National Press Club, Woodward said, “I extensively use quotation marks in conversations that — where I was not present, but I’ve talked to people who were present. Lots of people keep diaries and notes. And if you were to go to a courtroom where somebody is under oath, and they were to relate a conversation that occurred, it would be accepted in all courts in this country, state or federal or other, that somebody can say “Yes, this is what somebody said.”

In 2004, Woodward published Plan of Attack, about George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq. It was filled with quotes of conversations between top Bush administration officials. In response, the New Republic’s Gregg Easterbrook wrote this on May 3, 2004:

Extended sections of [Woodward’s] recent efforts have been fabricated in the literalist sense, with speculative conversations placed in quotation marks. What is presented may be similar to what was actually said but cannot have the verity Woodward claims (unless George W. Bush and Colin Powell taped their private conversations). Woodward and his editors have thus cheapened the quotation mark, changing its meaning from “what was said” to “whatever sounds about right”…Does Woodward crave attention so badly he can no longer write a book that conforms to the standard disciplines of nonfiction and to standard distinctions between truth and conjecture?

Around the same time, The Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson drew attention to an anecdote in Plan of Attack in which some top supporters of the Iraq War, among them Kenneth Adelman, attended a dinner organized by Vice President Dick Cheney. Of course Woodward quoted what was said at the dinner. “Though the quotes that Woodward offers us appear to be direct,” Ferguson wrote, “they are in fact direct quotes from a source, Adelman, who is quoting himself through a haze of memory and self-congratulation months after the words were uttered…”

With much criticism in the air, on April 25, 2004, Howard Kurtz, then with CNN, asked Woodward about Plan of Attack. Woodward said his quotes were accurate. From their conversation on April 25, 2004:

KURTZ: There’s been some criticism, as you know, about the way you reconstruct conversations and put quotation marks around things. It’s really people’s recollection about what they believe they said a year ago.

WOODWARD: What it is is what they said, or what’s in notes or what’s in the records. And, as you know — and I asked the president. I said, “Well, what did you say to Colin Powell when you called him in and told him it’s going to be war?” He said, “I told” — this is the president, quoting him — he told Powell, “Time to get your war uniform on.” It’s pretty vivid and clear, recollected by the president on the record. He could go into a courtroom and say it, and it would be admitted as evidence. I’m not reconstructing anything. It’s reported from the participants, witnesses and the record.


In 2006, Woodward published State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III. On Oct. 15, 2006, Sunday Times of London reviewer Simon Jenkins saw an old problem:
We must…take on trust extended passages in direct quotes that the author cannot have heard and for which there cannot be available recordings. Can Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Bremer or Paul Wolfowitz — assuming they are the sources — really remember pages of verbatim conversation with the president? And when so many quotes are derogatory, Woodward’s sources must have some axes to grind.

Finally, many years earlier, in 1987, Woodward published Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA. In the New York Times on Sept. 30, 1997, reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote:

Aside from citing [former CIA director William Casey], Mr. Woodward identifies few of the 250 people he talked to for this book, and none of the 100 or so with whom he held multiple interviews. Moreover, his use of quotation marks even for remarks not precisely recalled or documented is not reassuring.


So the questions about Fear: Trump in the White House are nothing new. They were not fully answered when they arose in connection with previous Woodward books. And there is no reason to believe they will be fully answered now.

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.

FILED UNDER         

Giuliani suggests Obama, top intelligence officials knew of ‘spygate’

May 27, 2018

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani suggested on Sunday that former President Barack Obama and his top intelligence officials “knew” the FBI had used an alleged top-secret informant to spy on Trump’s 2016 campaign.

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By Max Greenburg
The Hill
May 27, 2018

In an interview with radio host John Catsimatidis, Giuliani insisted that former CIA Director John Brennan and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper were aware of the informant.

Giuliani also suggested that Brennan likely briefed Obama himself on the matter.

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“Brennan and Clapper knew about it. Brennan briefed him everyday, Obama — well to the extent that he got briefed everyday,” Giuliani said. “You would have to have brought this up, wouldn’t you? Gosh, I can’t see how you would escape it.”

Trump and his political allies have raised concerns in recent days that the FBI infiltrated his 2016 presidential campaign for political purposes.

The informant, identified in media reports as American professor Stefan Halper, reportedly met with three Trump campaign advisers — George Papadopoulos, Carter Page and Sam Clovis — during the 2016 presidential race.

But no evidence has emerged that the informant was used to spy on the campaign, much less for political purposes.

Clapper and Brennan have pushed back on Trump’s claims, insisting that the informant was used to try to determine what role Russia was playing in the 2016 election.

The U.S. intelligence community released an assessment months after the informant met with campaign advisers that revealed Moscow had meddled in the presidential race to ensure Trump’s victory.

Giuliani’s comments came after select lawmakers met with top Justice Department officials for a pair of highly classified meetings on Thursday to discuss the FBI’s use of the informant.


Justice Dept. Agrees to Brief Members of Congress on “Spygate” (Not a Spy in Trump Campaign) — Justice Department conspiracy against Trump?

May 24, 2018

House and Senate lawmakers are set to meet with top intelligence officials as President Donald Trump raises new suspicions about the federal investigation into his 2016 campaign. Mr. Trump has dubbed his latest attempt to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation “spygate.”

In recent days, he has been zeroing in on — and at times embellishing — reports that a longtime U.S. government informant approached members of his campaign during the 2016 presidential election in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election.

CBS News

Mr. Trump tweeted Wednesday that the FBI had been caught in a “major SPY scandal.”

Donald J. Trump


SPYGATE could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!

Mr. Trump’s latest broadsides set the stage for the unusual decision by the White House to arrange a briefing Thursday about classified documents for just two Republican House members, both Trump allies, as Mr. Trump and his supporters in Congress pressed for information on the outside informant.

After Democratic complaints and negotiations that went into the late evening Wednesday, the Justice Department said it would host a second classified briefing the same day and invite the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” — a group that includes the top Republicans and Democrats in each chamber and the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

There were two other late additions to the list — White House chief of staff John Kelly and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had originally said that no one from the White House would attend the briefing, at which the investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign will be discussed.

Rosenstein will replace another Justice Department official who was originally scheduled to attend. Rosenstein was left off the list as Mr. Trump on Tuesday declined to say whether he had confidence in him. Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, and is frequently criticized by Mr. Trump.

The two House lawmakers — Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy — were invited to attend both briefings, as were Kelly, Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats.

All were invited to the second briefing, as well, plus Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr was also invited, along with the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence panel, Sen. Mark Warner, and the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, Rep. Adam Schiff.

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A spokeswoman for Ryan told CBS News he would not be able to attend due to previous commitment, and that, “Chairmen Gowdy and Nunes will continue to lead in this space for House Republicans.”

Nunes, an ardent supporter of President Trump, had originally requested the information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. And Mr. Trump took up the cause as the White House tried to combat the threat posed by Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference and possible obstruction of justice.

Donald J. Trump


Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!

Mr. Trump escalated his efforts to discredit the investigation Wednesday, tweeting: “Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!”

It remained unclear what, if any, spying was done. The White House gave no evidence to support Trump’s claim that the Obama administration was trying to spy on his 2016 campaign for political reasons. It’s long been known that the FBI was looking into Russian meddling during the campaign and that part of that inquiry touched on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian figures. Mueller later took over the investigation when he was appointed in May 2017.

Trump has told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement had conspired against him, according to three people familiar with his recent conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. Trump told one ally this week that he wanted “to brand” the informant a “spy,” believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public.

As Republicans worked to show a Justice Department conspiracy against Trump, Democrats and former law enforcement officials defended the agency. Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, tweeted Wednesday that the agency’s use of secret informants was “tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country.”

“Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country,” Comey tweeted. “How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?”

Trump shot back during a brief news conference with reporters: “What I’m doing is a service to this country and I did a great service to this country by firing James Comey.”

The back and forth between Congress and the Justice Department over the Nunes request – one of many over the course of the Russia investigation – has simmered for weeks.

The department originally rejected Nunes’ appeal, writing in a letter in late April that his request for information “regarding a specific individual” could have severe consequences, including potential loss of human life. Negotiations over the information stalled, but restarted when Trump demanded in a tweet Sunday that the Justice Department investigate “whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”

The Justice Department agreed by expanding an open, internal investigation to determine whether there was any politically motivated surveillance. And the White House said Kelly would organize the meeting with House lawmakers to discuss the documents.

The New York Times was the first to report that the FBI had an informant who met several times with Trump campaign officials who had suspicious contacts linked to Russia. No evidence has emerged to show that Obama-era authorities placed an informant inside the Trump campaign.

Clapper: Trump Should Be “Happy” That The FBI Was “Spying” On His Campaign — “Not Spying”

May 24, 2018


Former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper used the word spy while discussing the Trump campaign surveillance scandal in an appearance on Tuesday’s The View. Clapper said the spy was there for Russian meddling purposes and that Trump should be happy such a person existed.

President Trump has claimed for months now that his campaign for president was surveilled. Many did not take him seriously, however, last night law professor Jonathan Turley said he was right.

“With the informant business, well, the point here is the Russians,” Clapper said. “Not spying on the campaign but what are the Russians doing? And in a sense, unfortunately, what they were trying to do is protect our political system and protect the campaign.”

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“But the FBI started to look into Trump’s ties to Russia in the summer of 2016. Trump tweeted that this spring — this spying, rather, this spying that he claims is spying, other people say it’s a whistleblower or informant. He says it’s spying, it’s bigger than Watergate. So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump’s campaign?” Co-host Joy Behar asked.

“No, they were not,” Clapper answered. “They were spying on, a term I don’t particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do.”

“Well, why doesn’t like that? He should be happy,” Behar said.

“He should be,” Clapper responded.

“Right,” Behar said.

Trump said it would be a “disgrace” and “make every political event ever look like small potatoes” at an Oval Office meeting with South Korean President Moon.

“If they had spies in my campaign for political purposes that would be unprecedented,” the president added.

James Clapper Recalls ‘Staggering’ Proof of Putin Working to Sway Election to Trump

May 23, 2018

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has spoken out about the “staggering” amount of evidence that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin swayed the 2016 presidential election. In his new memoir, Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in IntelligenceClapper offers a scathing assessment of President Trump and his ties to Russia.

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The book shows Clapper “free to say about the 2016 elections what he did not say when he testified multiple times before Congress as director of national intelligence,” The Daily Beast’s Christopher Dickey writes in The Washington Post.

As Clapper put it: “Of course the Russian efforts affected the outcome. Surprising even themselves, they swung the election to a Trump win. To conclude otherwise stretches logic, common sense, and credulity to the breaking point.”

Describing a January 2017 report by the intelligence community presented to the soon-to-be-president, Clapper said, “I remember just how staggering the assessment felt the first time I read it through from start to finish, and just how specific our conclusions and evidence were.”

In the intelligence chief’s view, “We showed unambiguously that Putin had ordered the campaign to influence the election… and how the entire operation had begun with attempts to undermine US democracy and demean Secretary Clinton, then shifted to promoting Mr. Trump when Russia assessed he was a viable candidate who would serve their strategic goals.” Trump’s reaction then as now: “aggressive indifference.”