James Comey On The Investigation Of Hillary Clinton

After getting a copy of James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, I couldn’t resist skipping past the material from earlier in his career and get to the sections on Clinton and Trump. His views of Trump and his reasons for his statements on Clinton have been dealt with in many media interviews over the past week, but I did find some selections worth quoting from Chapter 10, which deals with his investigation of Hillary Clinton.

The first section I’m quoting lays out the reasons for the investigation. This is important as Clinton apologists often claim that the lack of an indictment exonerates Clinton. The first problem with this is that the inclusion of classified material investigated by the FBI is only one aspect of the email scandal. The bigger scandals in terms of Clinton being unfit for the presidency were over her violating rules designed to promote transparency (after she accused members of the Bush administration who did far less of shredding the Constitution), her frequent lies to the press and the public over her email, and the question of whether the email which was destroyed contained evidence of her influence peddling at the State Department.  This section also notes that Colin Powell’s use of his AOL account was not relevant to the investigation, despite Clinton trying to use his actions as an excuse:

Though much has been made since of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the FBI’s investigation, the focus of the Bureau’s investigation is often lost. The criminal investigation was not centered on the fact that Secretary Clinton decided to use nongovernmental email to do her work. In an attempt to blur the seriousness of the case, her defenders often cite the fact that one of her predecessors, Colin Powell, also used nongovernmental email, in his case AOL, as if that were relevant to the investigation. In fact, it entirely misses the point. I have never seen any indication that Powell discussed on his AOL account information that was classified at the time, but there were numerous examples of Secretary Clinton having done so.

Our investigation required us to answer two questions. The first question was whether classified documents were moved outside of classified systems or whether classified topics were discussed outside of a classified system. If so, the second question was what the subject of the investigation was thinking when she mishandled that classified information.

Information is classified based on its potential for harm to the United States if it is disclosed. Information marked at the lower classification level of “Confidential” refers to information that can cause some damage to the security of the United States if released. Information labeled “Secret” refers to material expected to cause “serious” damage to national security. “Top Secret” information is material that, if disclosed, could be expected to cause “exceptionally grave” damage to the security of the United States. This system is enforced by a variety of possible administrative punishments, including possible loss of a person’s security clearance or loss of their job. For the most serious cases, criminal prosecution is a possibility. A variety of espionage statutes make it a felony to steal or to disclose national security information to people not permitted to receive it. Those statutes are used most often when someone is a spy or gives classified information to journalists for publication. More commonly used is a statute making it a misdemeanor—punishable by up to a year in jail—to mishandle classified information by removing it from appropriate facilities or systems. Even with the misdemeanor, the Department of Justice has long required that investigators develop strong evidence to indicate government employees knew they were doing something improper in their handling of the classified information.

In Secretary Clinton’s case, the answer to the first question—was classified information mishandled?—was obviously “yes.” In all, there were thirty-six email chains that discussed topics that were classified as “Secret” at the time. Eight times in those thousands of email exchanges across four years, Clinton and her team talked about topics designated as “Top Secret,” sometimes cryptically, sometimes obviously. They didn’t send each other classified documents, but that didn’t matter. Even though the people involved in the emails all had appropriate clearances and a need to know, anyone who had ever been granted a security clearance should have known that talking about top-secret information on an unclassified system was a breach of rules governing classified materials. Although just a small slice of Clinton’s emails, those exchanges on top-secret topics were, by all appearances, improper. Put another way, there were thirty-six email chains about topics that could cause “serious” damage to national security and eight that could be expected to cause “exceptionally grave” damage to the security of the United States if released. The heart of the case, then, was the second question: What was she thinking when she did this? Was it sloppy or was there criminal intent? Could we prove that she knew she was doing something she shouldn’t be doing?

It makes sense that Comey did not recommend prosecution–if you go by this standard. While Clinton did mishandle classified information (and had previously lied about this), I would agree that she did not intend to compromise the security of the United States. However, people lower than Clinton who had treated classified information in this manner would be far less likely to receive such consideration if investigated.

Further in the chapter there was more on his rational for not recommending prosecution:

Her actions in regard to her emails seemed really sloppy to us, more than ordinary carelessness. At one point the draft used the term “grossly negligent,” and also explained that in this case those words should not be interpreted the way a hundred-year-old criminal statute used the term. One part of that 1917 law made it a felony if a person “through gross negligence permits [classified material] to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed.”

The history of that provision strongly indicated that Congress in 1917 meant the statute to apply only to conduct that was very close to willful—that is, driven by bad intent—and members of Congress who voted for it back then were very concerned that they not make merely careless behavior a felony. I was told that the Department of Justice had only charged one person under this statute since 1917—a corrupt FBI agent whose conduct was far worse than gross negligence—and no one had ever been convicted under it. This context strongly reinforced my sense that the statute simply did not apply in the Clinton email case and made use of the term “grossly negligent” inappropriate and potentially confusing, given the old statute. So I directed our team to consider other terms that more accurately captured her behavior. After looking at multiple drafts, I settled on “extremely careless” as the best way to describe the conduct.

Another section suggests that Comey handled Clinton with a different standard than the average person probably would have been treated:

By Clinton’s account, she was unsophisticated both about technology and security, used the personal account for convenience to avoid maintaining dual government and personal email accounts, and still didn’t consider the contents of the emails to be classified. Her lack of technological sophistication is evident in her memoir, What Happened, in which she seems to intimate that her private server in Chappaqua was protected from hacking because it was contained in a home guarded by the Secret Service. Hacking a server is done through the internet, not by breaking the glass in a basement window. She also said in her interview that she believed she and her staff had successfully “talked around” sensitive topics, a method of operating made necessary by the State Department’s poor communications infrastructure, which didn’t provide secure and reliable email and phone for her and her senior staff. There was some truth to this, but although frustrating to her team, it didn’t change the rules around classified information. Also in her interview, Clinton said she delegated the review and deletion of her emails to others, believed they were only deleting purely personal emails, and had no knowledge of any efforts to obstruct justice.

After discussion and careful review of her answers, there was nothing in her comments that we could prove was a lie beyond a reasonable doubt. There was no moment when investigators caught her in a lie. She did not at any point confess wrongdoing or indicate that she knew what she had done with her emails was wrong. Whether we believed her or not, we had no significant proof otherwise. And there was no additional work the investigators thought they should do. This case was done. Now the American people needed to know what the FBI had found.

We do know that the deleted email did contain non-personal material, such as discussions of Iraq and Libya, due to finding examples of deleted email from the other party involved. Imagine if you or I had email subpoenaed, reported that half was deleted because it was personal, and tried to explain this by saying we don’t understand computers and someone else had handled the deletions. I just don’t believe such excuses would be accepted from people not as powerful as Clinton.

Comey did not believe that Loretta Lynch was interfering with his investigation, but this passage shows she certainly did intercede to try to help Clinton’s reputation during the investigation (when she was also a candidate):

Attorney General Lynch agreed that it made sense to do that. But then she quickly added, “Call it ‘a matter.’”

“Why would I do that?” I asked.

“Just call it ‘a matter,’” came her answer.

It occurred to me in the moment that this issue of semantics was strikingly similar to the fight the Clinton campaign had waged against The New York Times in July. Ever since then, the Clinton team had been employing a variety of euphemisms to avoid using the word “investigation.” The attorney general seemed to be directing me to align with that Clinton campaign strategy. Her “just do it” response to my question indicated that she had no legal or procedural justification for her request, at least not one grounded in our practices or traditions. Otherwise, I assume, she would have said so.

The FBI didn’t do “matters.” The term means nothing in our language, and it was misleading to suggest otherwise. It was probably a mistake that I didn’t challenge this harder. But in that moment, I decided that her request was too frivolous to take issue with, especially as my first battle with a new boss. I also was confident the press, and the public, would totally miss the distinction between a “matter” and an “investigation” anyway. Maybe she knew that, too. I know the FBI attendees at our meeting saw her request as overtly political when we talked about it afterward. So did at least one of Lynch’s senior leaders. George Toscas, then the number-three person in the department’s National Security Division and someone I liked, smiled at the FBI team as we filed out, saying sarcastically, “Well, you are the Federal Bureau of Matters.”

I followed the attorney general’s direction at my regular quarterly press roundtable on October 1, 2015. When a reporter asked a question about the “investigation,” I replied that I was following it closely. I said I was confident we had “the resources and the personnel assigned to the matter, as we do all our work, so that we are able to do it in a professional, prompt, and independent way.”

I did what my boss ordered me to do. I said “matter.” As expected, the press uniformly missed the distinction and reported that I had confirmed the existence of an investigation. From then on, I called it by its true name—we had an open “investigation” and I wouldn’t comment on it any further. Until I had to, many months later.

Obama similarly tried to help Clinton:

Contributing to this problem, regrettably, was President Obama. He had jeopardized the Department of Justice’s credibility in the investigation by saying in a 60 Minutes interview on October 11, 2015, that Clinton’s email use was “a mistake” that had not endangered national security. Then on Fox News on April 10, 2016, he said that Clinton may have been careless but did not do anything to intentionally harm national security, suggesting that the case involved overclassification of material in the government. President Obama is a very smart man who understands the law very well. To this day, I don’t know why he spoke about the case publicly and seemed to absolve her before a final determination was made. If the president had already decided the matter, an outside observer could reasonably wonder, how on earth could his Department of Justice do anything other than follow his lead? The truth was that the president—as far as I knew, anyway—had only as much information as anyone following it in the media. He had not been briefed on our work at all. And if he was following the media, he knew nothing, because there had been no leaks at all up until that point. But his comments still set all of us up for corrosive attacks if the case were completed with no charges brought.

The other question commonly raised regarding the investigation is whether Clinton is justified in using the statements from Comey as an excuse for losing the election. While I am not getting into excerpts from Comey regarding his statements in this post, I did recently discuss why Clinton and not Comey is to blame for Clinton losing the election here.

Clinton And Her Apologists Still Wrong In Blaming James Comey For Clinton’s Loss

There should be little controversy as to the main headline coming out of James Comey’s interview with George Stephanopoulos. Donald Trump is morally unfit to be president. The more questionable claims are coming from Clinton supporters who have used this as an opportunity to repeat the absurd claims that James Comey is responsible for Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 election. This is wrong on many levels.

The biggest problem with this is that James Comey would not have been investigating Clinton in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding the use of email, as was verified by the State Department Inspector General’s report, and  hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated that she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the  law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.

Hillary Clinton, not James Comey, is ultimately responsible for any problems caused by the email investigation. The Democratic Party also shares the blame after rigging the nomination for Clinton despite the evidence as to how weak a candidate would be (even beyond the ethical questions surrounding their behavior). This was like if the Republicans had nominated Richard Nixon after the public knew about Watergate.

It didn’t take much to see that a scandal of this magnitude could easily cost Clinton the election.This was obvious by March of 2015 when I had a post entitled, Clinton’s Use Of Private Email Suggests Democrats Need To Consider A Plan B For 2016. Instead of exercising common sense, or looking at the facts, many Democrats passed off lies about the scandal which were repeatedly being debunked by the major newspaper fact checkers. Instead of standing up for principle, many Democrats ignored the magnitude of Clinton’s unethical behavior with trite sayings like “but her email.”

The email scandal also highlighted Clinton’s long-standing weaknesses, including her dishonesty and acting like the rules which apply to everyone else do not apply to her. Clinton’s own serious negatives balanced out Trump’s negatives. Clinton’s personal views and record also hurt her, including her record on trade and on foreign interventionism.

The 2016 election was pretty close to a fifty-fifty election, with a close popular vote and an electoral college vote which could have gone either way. The problem for Clinton’s argument is that the race should never have been this close in an election against a candidate as terrible (and morally unfit) as Donald Trump. The polls showed that nominating Clinton, as opposed to another candidate such as Bernie Sanders, meant giving up about ten percent of the vote. That was a costly choice by Democrats.

David Axelrod responded to Clinton’s claims that Comey cost her the election last year:

“It takes a lot of work to lose to Donald Trump,” Axelrod told CNN on Wednesday. “Let me tell you, he was the least popular presidential candidate to win in the history of polling.”

…Axelrod called the 2016 race a “miserable slog” and said nobody in America wants to relive it “except the combatants who keep going back to it.”

“She has a legitimate beef because Comey’s letter was instrumental I think in her defeat, so in a narrow sense she is right about it,” Axelrod said.

“But Jim Comey didn’t tell her not to campaign in Wisconsin after the convention. Jim Comey didn’t say don’t put any resources into Michigan until the final week of the campaign,” he continued.

“And one of the things that hindered her in the campaign was a sense that she never fully was willing to take responsibility for her mistakes, particularly that server.”

Axelrod then offered a piece of advice for Clinton.

“If I were her, if I were advising her, I would say, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t go back and appear as if you’re shifting responsibility.’ … She said the words ‘I’m responsible,’ but the — everything else suggested that she doesn’t really feel that way,” he said.

“And I don’t think that helps her in the long run, so if I were her I would move on.”

Clinton was already in serious trouble, both due to her own personal faults and due to the terrible campaign she had run, in the final days of the election. The American Association for Public Opinion Research cast doubt on the effects of Comey’s letter in analyzing the late polls:

In its effort to explore reasons for the large percentage of late-deciding voters who chose Trump, the report examines a central Clinton claim: that FBI Director James Comey’s letter to Congress on Oct. 28 of last year, stating that the bureau had discovered additional evidence related to Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, might have tipped the race.

The report does not find evidence the Comey letter was determinative.

“The evidence for a meaningful effect on the election from the FBI letter is mixed at best,” the report states, citing polls that showed Clinton’s support beginning to drop in the days leading up to the letter. “October 28th falls at roughly the midpoint (not the start) of the slide in Clinton’s support.”

Unfortunately there will continue to be Clinton apologists who will not face the fact that Clinton lost because of being a horrible candidate, who could not obtain a major party nomination for president in a fair campaign, and who went on to run a terrible campaign. Blaming others, whether it is James Comey, Russia, or any of the many others Clinton has tried to blame, does not change this.

Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Understand Why Even Democrats Are Fed Up With Her, So She Again Resorts To Claims Of Sexism

Hillary Clinton never takes responsibility for her actions and will inevitably resort to blaming others, whether it is to blame Russia, James Comey, or sexism. Clinton initially received a lot of negative response from those who disagree with her on both the left and the right. More recently, such as after she demonstrated once again why she lost earlier in March, establishment Democrats, also started advising her to stop saying things which are damaging to the party’s chances for success. Clinton responded by again using the sexism card. The Hill reports:

“I was really struck by how people said that to me — you know, mostly people in the press, for whatever reason — mostly, ‘Go away, go away,’” Clinton said Thursday during an event at Rutgers University.

“And I had one of the young people who works for me go back and do a bit of research. They never said that to any man who was not elected. I was kind of struck by that,” Clinton said.

Clinton’s remarks came in response to a question from Eagleton Institute of Politics director Ruth Mandel about the former Democratic nominee’s reaction to those who say she should “get off the public stage and shut up.”

“I’m really glad that, you know, Al Gore didn’t stop talking about climate change,” Clinton said to applause.

“And I’m really glad John Kerry went to the Senate and became an excellent secretary of State,” the former first lady continued. “And I’m really glad John McCain kept speaking out and standing up and saying what he had to say. And for heavens sakes, Mitt Romney is running for the Senate,” Clinton said.

The 70-year-old ex-secretary of State has taken heat in recent weeks, even among some Democrats, for comments she made about Americans who voted for President Trump in the 2016 race.

Of course this has nothing to do with gender. Al Gore, who had the most cause to complain about the election, avoided the public spotlight after he lost. Mitt Romney also limited political speech until he started to criticize Donald Trump. John Kerry and John McCain returned to the Senate where they did their jobs.

None of the other losing presidential candidates questioned the legitimacy of the elections they lost. When there was concern that Donald Trump would not accept the results of the election, Hillary Clinton called this a “direct threat to our democracy.” Then after she turned out to be the one to lose, Clinton denied the legitimacy of the election. Not long afterwards she tried to rewrite history in a book which attacked the left and blamed multiple others for the loss which she is responsible for. She has been calling for censorship of those who criticize her by calling legitimate criticism “fake news.”

As was revealed in Shattered, Clinton decided to blame others such as Russia for the loss within twenty-four hours of losing. Her claims regarding Russia, which go far beyond the actual evidence, are harmful in many ways. It gives establishment Democrats an excuse to resist reform. It plays into the hands of neocons who desire regime change in Russia, with their claims about Russia being no more truthful than their claims about WMD in Iraq. It is used to justify restrictions on freedom of speech, and has led to McCarthyism from establishment Democrats who claim that criticism stems from support for Putin.

Of course Hillary Clinton has the right to continue to speak publicly, but those of us who disagree with her also have the right to respond–regardless of how much her supporters attempt to suppress criticism of her. It is also understandable that professional politicians in her party, which saw serious losses in the presidential race and down ticket because of Clinton in 2016, do not want Clinton to bring about further losses for their party in 2018.

Mike Allen Provides Clue Regarding Mueller Investigation Which Further Casts Doubt On Democratic Conspiracy Theories About Election

As was revealed in Shattered, within twenty-four hours of losing the election, Hillary Clinton decided to blame others such as Russia for her loss to Donald Trump. Polls such as a recent YouGov survey show that a strong majority of Democrats continue to believe the claims of a conspiracy between Donald Trump and Russia which altered the election despite the lack of any evidence for this after over a year of investigations. The evidence available so far suggests that the investigation is moving in a different direction. Mike Allen of Axios posted A huge clue about Mueller’s endgame:

Axios has learned that special counsel Robert Mueller has focused on events since the election — not during the campaign — in his conversations with President Trump’s lawyers. The top two topics that Mueller has expressed interest in so far: the firings of FBI director James Comey and national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Why it matters: That suggests a focus on obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign. But both sagas are interwoven with Russia: Trump himself has linked Comey’s firing to Russia, and Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition.

This has actually been clear for quite a while. Mueller’s indictments have primarily involved matters such as money laundering, tax fraud, and obstruction of justice. The only indictments which related to the 2016 election campaign involved indictments of Russians for violation of federal election finance laws and identify theft. The indictments did not involve actions which either altered the election results or which indicated any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Those indictments involved social media activities which did not appear to have any meaningful impact on the election results.

Many others, such as here and here, have also been writing, contrary to the hysteria coming from cable news, that this scandal is primarily about financial crimes and their cover-up, not altering the election results. Michael Wolf, author Fire and Fury, has also said that the scandal is about money laundering, not collusion with Russia regarding the election. It is significant that Axios has added to his. That is because Mike Allen is well-connected, and  his voice will carry weight with many in the mainstream media. This could be the start of a trend towards looking at the scandal more objectively by others in the press.

Throughout the investigation there have been signs of the direction Mueller is going, including in his indictments and the types of attorneys he has hired. Other evidence goes along with Allen’s view that his focus is on “obstruction of justice while in office, rather than collusion with Russia during the campaign.” While this is still somewhat speculative, I wonder, based upon the recent request for business documents from the Trump Organization, if the focus on events since the election could also include the unprecedented conflicts of interest between Trump’s role as president and his business dealings, including his dealings with Russian oligarchs.

Obstruction Replaces Collusion As Key Description Regarding Investigation Of Donald Trump

Although Robert Muller’s investigation to date has concentrated on money laundering and obstruction of justice, some in the media such as Rachel Maddow try to make this sound like it is more about collusion which altered the 2016 election result despite lack of evidence of this. It was good to see that this week most of the news media concentrated on talking about obstruction rather than collusion as there is a far stronger case for obstruction of justice.

One example of the conventional wisdom in the political press comes from Politico Magazine which writes, It’s Now Likely Mueller Thinks Trump Obstructed Justice:

Thursday’s explosive New York Times story that President Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June renewed the public’s focus on the obstruction of justice investigation against Trump, which will soon culminate in Trump’s interview by Mueller. The case against Trump has grown stronger in recent months, and it now appears likely that Mueller will conclude that Trump obstructed justice…

Impeding or influencing an FBI investigation is a crime only if it is done with “corrupt” intent—in other words, the intent to wrongfully impede the administration of justice. In my experience, proving a defendant’s intent without direct evidence—that is, without statements by the defendant that directly reveal his or her intent—is challenging.

One could argue that Trump provided direct evidence when he told NBC’s Lester Holt that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and that he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he did so. But Trump quickly followed up that comment by indicating that he thought the investigation was bogus, and his defense to obstruction could be that he genuinely believed the Russia investigation was meritless.

Before bringing a case, prosecutors anticipate defenses like that one and gather evidence to rebut potential defenses. We have since learned of very substantial additional evidence that would rebut that defense, or a defense that Trump didn’t understand the consequences of firing Comey. While that evidence is indirect, Mueller could argue that we can infer Trump’s intent from that evidence, which is how prosecutors typically prove a defendant’s intent.

For example, last spring, Trump reportedly asked Sessions if the government could drop the criminal case against former Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, whom Trump later pardoned. According to the Washington Post, Sessions told Trump that would be inappropriate, and Trump decided to let the case go to trial and pardon Arpaio if he was convicted. Mueller could argue that this suggests that Trump is serious about killing investigations of his friends. A pattern of behavior is always a stronger indicator of intent than a one-off action.

We also learned that, according to the New York Times, in March—two months before Trump fired Comey—he ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself. When McGahn was unsuccessful, Trump reportedly erupted in anger, saying he needed Sessions to “protect him” and “safeguard” him, as he believed other attorneys general had done for other presidents. These are very odd statements by Trump that Mueller could argue indicate that Trump wanted Sessions to impede or even end the Russia investigation to “protect him.”

…As we learned Thursday in the New York Times, there was indeed a need to protect Mueller back in June, when Trump ordered the firing of special counsel due to “conflicts of interest” that were not actually conflicts and appear to be thinly veiled excuses to get rid of Mueller. Trump also considered firing Rosenstein and replacing him with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the No. 3 Justice Department official, so she could oversee Mueller. According to the Times, Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mueller, which is an “omnipresent concern among his legal team and close aides.”

This is an important piece of evidence because it comes after Trump fired Comey and learned that he was under investigation for obstruction of justice. It should be easy for Mueller to prove that Trump read or viewed legal analysis discussing the possibility that Trump obstructed justice by firing Comey. Trump’s desire to fire Mueller despite knowing that firing a law enforcement official overseeing the Russia investigation could raise obstruction concerns is strong evidence that Trump’s intent was to obstruct the investigation. The excuses offered by Trump also bolster Mueller’s case, because they indicate that the president realized that firing Mueller to impede the investigation would be perceived as wrongful.

While we don’t know all of the evidence, Thursday’s revelation suggests it is likely Mueller will conclude that Trump obstructed justice. Some conservative legal commentators have argued that Trump’s constitutional authority to fire personnel and end investigations is so vast that he cannot obstruct justice as a legal matter. Most legal scholars find that argument unpersuasive, but it is an academic point—not one that is decisive—because Mueller has pressed forward in investigating the firing of Comey as obstruction of justice and the power of Congress to impeach Trump goes beyond the text of any statute.

Even if Mueller concludes that he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that Trump was guilty of obstructing justice, I believe he will ultimately present the matter to Congress for potential impeachment instead. After all, according to the New York Times, former independent counsel Kenneth Starr possessed a legal memo concluding that he had the power to indict former President Bill Clinton but did not do so, ultimately choosing to present the matter to Congress. I think Mueller would likely do the same thing, because it’s the more prudential approach given that it’s an open legal question whether a sitting president can be indicted.

Many other publications have similar reports, such as Jeffrey Toobin writing at The New Yorker that The Answer to Whether Trump Obstructed Justice Now Seems Clear.

It has been clear for months that Mueller has been concentrating on money laundering and obstruction of justice based upon his indictments to date and the types of attorneys he has hired. We do know that Donald Trump’s son and son-in-law attended a meeting with Russians after being enticed with promises of information about Hillary Clinton, with no information actually available. This diminishes any claim from Trump that he was above collusion (assuming he was aware of the meeting), but no evidence of any actual meaningful collusion has yet to be presented, while much of the evidence obtained argues against this. Despite MSNBC repeatedly billing the investigation as one into Russian tampering with the election for over a year, Mueller has only hired a single prosecutor who specializes in cyber crimes, and this was not even done until earlier this month.

It would make a major change in the case if it could be proven that the Russians not only hacked the DNC computer but did so with collaboration from the Trump campaign, but there is zero evidence of this to date. Meanwhile, the information obtained through the Congressional hearings has shown that claims about Russian tampering with the election have been highly exaggerated. Similarly multiple media reports of Russian hacking were subsequently retracted as false. We definitely should be talking about obstruction of justice, and money laundering, if interested in a fact-based discussion of Trump’s crimes and the Russia investigation, rather than using Russia as an excuse for Clinton losing the 2016 election.

Freedom Of Information Request Shows Information On Call Logs And Gifts Received By Clinton While Secretary Of State Have Been Kept Secret

Judicial Watch has received additional documents from the State Department regarding Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin which indicates they were allowed to remove papers including call logs and information regarding gifts received. They argue that this information could reflect ties between Clinton’s actions as secretary of State and the Clinton Foundation. It is not clear from the information received whether or not this was personal information.

It must be recalled, as was verified in the State Department Inspector General’s report, that Hillary Clinton violated rules designed to promote transparency as Secretary of State by exclusively using a private server and failing to turn this email over for archiving as required by law until forced to after she left office. She also destroyed over half of the email claiming it was personal, but by comparing the email with the other parties involved, it was found that the email she destroyed included non-personal communication. The FBI report also showed that Clinton has lied to the public and press on multiple points regarding the email scandal, including that she did delete email which she claimed were personal but which contained professional information.

Therefore, while it is not clear whether the information described in this document was personal, claims that information is personal from Clinton cannot be relied upon as being truthful.

From Judicial Watch’s press release:

Judicial Watch today released new U.S. Department of State documents showing former Secretary Hillary Clinton and her then-Deputy Chief of Staff Huma Abedin were permitted to remove electronic and physical records under a claim they were “personal” materials and “unclassified, non-record materials,” including files of Clinton’s calls and schedules, which were not to be made public. The documents show the Obama State Department records would not be “released to the general public under FOIA.”

The new records also show that Huma Abedin was allowed to take five boxes of “physical files” out of the State Department that include records described as “Muslim Engagement Documents.”

…The documents include a list of official and personal calls and schedules that Clinton removed, which carry a special notation that the documents were not to be made public records. The notation is on an addendum to a DS-1904 signed by Clarence N. Finney Jr., then-director of the Office of Correspondence and Records, who was the reviewing officer. (Judicial Watch has a pending request for the deposition of Finney in separate litigation concerning Clinton emails and the Benghazi terrorist attack.)

…The originals of some Clinton documents were retained, such as the call logs and schedules. For other records, including material that predates Clinton’s tenure, there is no indication that a copy was made. The most significant of these are her personal correspondence and gift binders, which could reflect Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative ties.

…The documents indicate that Clinton removed a physical file of “the log of the Secretary’s gifts with pictures of gifts.”

The receipt of gifts by federal employees in the Executive Branch is regulated:

A “prohibited source” [of gifts] under the regulations is one who seeks official action from the employee’s agency; one who does business or seeks to do business with the agency; one whose activities are regulated by the employee’s agency; one whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s official duties; or an organization a majority of whose members fit any of the above categories.

A gift is given “because of” the employee’s official position if it would not have been offered “had the employee not held the status, authority or duties associated with his Federal position.”  Gifts that are “motivated by a family relationship or personal friendship” may therefore be accepted without limitation.

“We already know the Obama State Department let Hillary Clinton steal and then delete her government emails, which included classified information. But these new records show that was only part of the scandal. These new documents show the Obama State Department had a deal with Hillary Clinton to hide her calls logs and schedules, which would be contrary to FOIA and other laws,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “When are the American people going to get an honest investigation of the Clinton crimes?”

In light of the unethical “pay for access practices” which have already been exposed while Clinton was Secretary of State, Judicial Watch does have a valid point that information related to her call logs and gifts received could be pertinent information. The Clintons have been found to have unethically received payments from multiple parties with decisions before the State Department. This included both donations to the Clinton Foundation and unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton also ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State to disclose such contributions.

This comes shortly after reports of a pro-Clinton bias among a couple of FBI agents who were involved in the investigation of Hillary Clinton and later the Russia investigation until they were dismissed. One of the dismissed agents had also changed a key phrase in Comey’s report which affected whether Clinton might face criminal prosecution.

Report Suggests Mueller Investigating Obstruction Of Justice By Trump (But Still No Evidence Of Collusion Altering Election Result)

Following the reports of a plea deal with Michael Flynn earlier this month, NBC News has a new story which might shed some light on possible crimes committed by Donald Trump which Muller might be investigating. According to the report, the investigation is centering on the period between January 26, 2017 and Flynn’s firing on February 13:

Some of those interviewed by Mueller’s team believe the goal is in part to determine if there was a deliberate effort by President Trump or top officials in the West Wing to cover up the information about Flynn that Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, conveyed to McGahn on Jan. 26. In addition to Flynn, McGahn is also expected to be critical in federal investigators’ attempts to piece together a timeline of those 18 days.

Neither McGahn’s lawyer nor the White House responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

When did Trump learn Flynn lied to the FBI?

The obstruction of justice question could hinge on when Trump knew about the content of Flynn’s conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the transition, which were at the crux of Yates’s warning, and when the president learned Flynn had lied about those conversations to the FBI, according to two people familiar with the Mueller probe.

Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this month to lying to the FBI on Jan. 24, an interview that took place the day after he was sworn in as national security adviser…

Mueller is trying to determine why Flynn remained in his post for 18 days after Trump learned of Yates’ warning, according to two people familiar with the probe. He appears to be interested in whether Trump directed him to lie to senior officials, including Pence, or the FBI, and if so why, the sources said.

If Trump knew his national security adviser lied to the FBI in the early days of his administration it would raise serious questions about why Flynn was not fired until Feb. 13, and whether Trump was attempting to obstruct justice when FBI Director James Comey says the president pressured him to drop his investigation into Flynn. Trump fired Comey on May 9.

Trump denies pressuring Comey to drop the Flynn investigation, and his legal team has disputed any notion of the president obstructing justice.

Trump raised new questions about possible obstruction of justice on Dec. 2 when he wrote on Twitter that he fired Flynn because he had lied to Pence and the FBI, suggesting he already knew Flynn was in legal jeopardy for lying to federal investigators at the time he fired Comey.

“I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI,” Trump wrote. “He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

Trump lawyer John Dowd later took responsibility for the tweet, saying he had drafted it for the White House social media director to post.

The guilty plea by Flynn and plea deal appear to center around negotiations which Trump and his incoming administration attempting to conduct  with Russia before Trump took office, followed by Flynn lying to the FBI shortly after Trump and Flynn took office. This could possibly result in obstruction of justice charges against Trump if he did tell Flynn to lie and/or Trump did fire James Comey in order to obstruct the investigation of Flynn.

This aspect of the investigation centers around matters which occurred after the campaign and has nothing to do with claims from Hillary Clinton that she lost the 2016 election due to collusion between Donald Trump and Russia which altered the election results. As was revealed in Shattered, Hillary Clinton devised a strategy of blaming others, including Russia, for her loss within twenty-four hours of losing. The claim that Russia affected the election result was largely based upon the Steele Dossier. Clinton and the DNC had covered up their role in paying for this report for months, casting doubt on its reliability. While we have evidence of Mueller investigating matters including obstruction of justice and Trump’s personal financial dealings, there has been no evidence of any collusion between Trump and Clinton which altered the election results.

Mueller Crosses Trump’s Red Line Issuing Subpoena For Trump’s Bank Records

Donald Trump has warned Robert Mueller not to look into his personal finances, calling this a red line, which probably only served to point out that this (as opposed to collusion with Russia during the 2016 election) is what Trump is really concerned about hiding. Now Mueller has crossed the red line having subpoenaed Trump’s records from Deutsche Bank.

Trump has had dealings with Deutsche Bank since the 1990s, long before he entered politics. Trump’s financial records could provide evidence regarding multiple facets of this case including money laundering by the Trump family, obstruction of justice, possible tax evasion, and whether Russia had leverage over Trump, as well as the more questionable aspect regarding whether Trump and Russia colluded to change the 2016 election result

The Week adds:

Trump has warned that he considers any probe by Mueller into his family’s finances to be “a violation” unless it is directly related to Russia. Due to recent charges against Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, some Senate Democrats have said Mueller’s moves appear to be building a potential obstruction of justice case against Trump himself, Bloomberg Politics writes.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Deutsche Bankreceived a subpoena earlier in the fall from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office related to the lender’s business with President Donald Trump, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The subpoena requested documents and data about accounts and other dealings tied to client relationships with Mr. Trump and people close to him, the person said. The bank has lent more than $300 million to entities affiliated with Mr. Trump, according to public disclosures…

Deutsche Bank faces ongoing questions about a series of Russian trades that have been scrutinized in multiple investigations in the U.S. and Europe, including in a still-pending U.S. Justice Department probe. The Democratic U.S. lawmakers wanted the bank to detail any ties between those trades or other Russian financing and anyone connected to Mr. Trump, his family or advisers.

Reuters has more on their connection:

Deutsche Bank has lent the Trump Organization hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate ventures and is one of the few major lenders that has given large amounts of credit to Trump in the past decade. A string of bankruptcies at his hotel and casino businesses during the 1990s made most of Wall Street wary of extending him credit.

And from The Guardian:

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is investigating the Trump campaign, said Mueller’s reported subpoena of Deutsche Bank “would be a very significant development”.

“If Russia laundered money through the Trump Organization, it would be far more compromising than any salacious video and could be used as leverage against Donald Trump and his associates and family,” Schiff said in a statement. He was referring to a private investigator’s unsubstantiated allegation that the Kremlin had video proof of the president’s involvement in a salacious sex act.

Schiff also noted that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, has stated in the past that the Trump Organization received substantial funding from Russia and that there have been “credible allegations” that Russians have used the company to buy Trump properties for the purpose of money laundering.

Legal experts who are following the investigation said it showed Mueller was “following the money” in his search for possible links between the presidential campaign and the Kremlin.

It also indicated that any investigation into Trump personally may not be limited to the question of whether or not the president sought to obstruct justice when he fired the former FBI chief James Comey.

Finding that Mueller has (as expected) ignored Trump’s warning not to look into his personal finances raises the question of whether Trump would fire Mueller, which would be even more analogous to Richard Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre than Trump’s earlier firing of James Comey was. While the firing of Mueller might momentarily hinder the investigation against him, it might also increase the chances of eventual impeachment of Trump for obstruction of justice, also reminiscent of the fate of Richard Nixon.

Judicial Watch Releases Documents On Bill Clinton’s Tarmac Meeting With Loretta Lynch

Judicial Watch has released information “29 pages of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documents related to the June 27, 2016, tarmac meeting between former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton.” The meeting took place shortly prior to when James Comey interviewed Hillary Clinton regarding classified information on their private server. Their press release concentrates on accusations that “FBI officials were more concerned about leaks than the actual meeting itself. ”

This could be seen as analogous to those who are more concerned with action against those who allegedly hacked the DNC email and released it to Wikileaks as opposed to what was revealed about the actions of the DNC in their email.

In reading through the docments they released, I thought that their greater concern was more a matter of concern over potential security threats from discussing security procedures used by the FBI and Secret Service.

I am surprised that Judicial Watch did not concentrate on what I found to be the most interesting section. See the final document per the link above, which was sent to Michael Kortan, assistant director of the Office of Public Affairs at the FBI, with the name of the sender from the FBI redacted. The document responds to media reports that the FBI ordered no cell phones, photos, or videos at the meeting:

First of all, it isn’t the FBI’s job to to tell journalists or private citizens they can’t take photographs of a former president and the Attorney General? What were the agents going to do, arrest people for taking a picture or video?

Also, if there was nothing wrong with the meeting and it was totally innocent, why were the federal agents instructed to demand no one take a picture?

From there the selection goes on to note that while it is bad that the meeting was held because Hillary Clinton was under investigation, but questioned whether concentrating on Hillary Clinton is “actually letting Lynch and Clinton off the hook a bit.” The document notes that “Clinton himself is under investigation as the Grand Poo-bah at the Clinton Foundation.” Further down on the page it questions: “If the State Department and Hillary Clinton acted improperly or illegally by commingling staff and by granting favors to Clinton Foundation donors, isn’t the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton equally guilty of wrongdoing?”

In the next paragraph: “This may explain why  a day after the surreptitious meeting in Phoneix. Lynch’s Justice Department informed a judge they were going to drag their feet on the release of emails connected with the former president’s foundation and the State Department.” It notes that the DOJ filed a motion seeking a 27-month delay in the release of some documents and that “the public would not be about to read the communications until October 2018, about 22 months into her prospective first term as President.”

The document concludes: “I guess when this all adds up, its clear why Lynch and her FBI agents were so intent on keeping this inappropriate meeting a secret.”

It is also clear why Bill Clinton would want to keep this all a secret. The Clintons have been found to have unethically received payments from multiple parties with decisions before the State Department. This included both donations to the Clinton Foundation and unprecedented payments for speeches to Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton also ignored the ethics agreement she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State to disclose such contributions.

Intelligence Community Inspector General Under Obama Discussed Blowback From Clinton For His Investigation Of Classified Information Sent Over Her Private Email Server

Former Intelligence Community Inspector General under Barack Obama, General Charles McCullough III, discussed the retaliation from the Clinton campaign for investigating the presence of classified information in email sent with Hillary Clinton’s private email server. As I posted in January 2016, General McCullough sent a letter to leaders on congressional intelligence committees indicating that the email on Hillary Clinton’s private server contained classified information, leading to further investigation.

The State Department Inspector General position was left vacant while Clinton was Secretary of State. After the post was filled, the State Department Inspector General report did indicate that Clinton had acted in violation of the law.

McCullough was interviewed by Tucker Carlson. While I hate to use Fox as a source, they are the network which carried the interview and therefore have the report. From their report of the interview:

A government watchdog who played a central role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation during the Obama administration told Fox News that he, his family and his staffers faced an intense backlash at the time from Clinton allies – and that the campaign even put out word that it planned to fire him if the Democratic presidential nominee won the 2016 election.

“There was personal blowback. Personal blowback to me, to my family, to my office,” former Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough III said.

The Obama appointee discussed his role in the Clinton email probe for the first time on television, during an exclusive interview with Fox News aired on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” McCullough – who came to the inspector general position with more than two decades of experience at the FBI, Treasury and intelligence community – shed light on how quickly the probe was politicized and his office was marginalized by Democrats.

In January 2016, after McCullough told the Republican leadership on the Senate intelligence and foreign affairs committees that emails beyond the “Top Secret” level passed through the former secretary of state’s unsecured personal server, the backlash intensified.

“All of a sudden I became a shill of the right,” McCullough recalled. “And I was told by members of Congress, ‘Be careful. You’re losing your credibility. You need to be careful. There are people out to get you.’”

But the former inspector general, with responsibility for the 17 intelligence agencies, said the executive who recommended him to the Obama administration for the job – then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper – was also disturbed by the independent Clinton email findings.

“[Clapper] said, ‘This is extremely reckless.’ And he mentioned something about — the campaign … will have heartburn about that,” McCullough said…

As one of the few people who viewed the 22 top secret Clinton emails deemed too classified to release under any circumstances, the former IG said, “There was a very good reason to withhold those emails … there would have been harm to national security.” McCullough went further, telling Fox News that “sources and methods, lives and operations” could be put at risk.

Some of those email exchanges contained Special Access Program (SAP) information characterized by intel experts as “above top secret.”

WikiLeaks documents show the campaign was formulating talking points as the review of 30,000 Clinton emails was ongoing.

The campaign team wrote in August 2015 that “Clinton only used her account for unclassified email. When information is reviewed for public release, it is common for information previously unclassified to be upgraded to classified.”

McCullough was critical of the campaign’s response, as the classified review had barely begun. “There was an effort … certainly on the part of the campaign, to mislead people into thinking that there was nothing to see here,” McCullough said.

McCullough discussed opposition from the Clinton campaign, Congressional Democrats, and some at the State Department for his desire to investigate Clinton’s actions. This included threats that he would be fired:

“It was told in no uncertain terms, by a source directly from the campaign, that we would be the first two to be fired — with [Clinton’s] administration. That that was definitely going to happen,” he said.

McCullough said he was just trying to do his job, which requires independence. “I was, in this context, a whistleblower. I was explaining to Congress — I was doing exactly what they had expected me to do. Exactly what I promised them I would do during my confirmation hearing,” he said. “… This was a political matter, and all of a sudden I was the enemy.”

…Asked what would have happened to him if he had done such a thing, McCullough said: “I’d be sitting in Leavenworth right now.”

James Comey’s report showed that Clinton and her colleagues were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” While he declined to recommend prosecution, his report also demonstrated that many of Clinton’s public statements regarding the email scandal were false. Comey’s letter to Congress late in the campaign is on the long list of Clinton’s excuses for losing to Donald Trump. McCullough noted in the interview that the FBI’s involvement might have been avoided if Clinton had been more cooperative in the investigation:

Speaking about the case more than a year after the FBI probe concluded, McCullough in his interview also addressed the possibility that a more cooperative State Department and Clinton campaign might have precluded the FBI’s involvement from the start.

“Had they come in with the server willingly, without having us to refer this to the bureau … maybe we could have worked with the State Department,” he said.

Of course there would also have not been an FBI investigation if Clinton had not violated the law with her use of the private server. In addition, the scandal might not have repeatedly made news if Clinton had been more honest, as opposed to being constantly exposed for lying.