Archive for the ‘#comey’ Tag

The FBI and Hillary Clinton   1 comment

Judge Andrew Napolitano

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/04/andrew-p-napolitano/the-fbi-and-hillary-again/

Last weekend, The New York Times published a long piece about the effect the FBI had on the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign. As we all know, Donald Trump won a comfortable victory in the Electoral College while falling about 3 million votes behind Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.

Related imageI believe that Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate who failed to energize the Democratic Party base and who failed to deliver to the electorate a principled reason to vote for her. Yet when the Times reporters asked her why she believes she lost the race, she gave several answers, the first of which was the involvement of the FBI. She may be right.

Here is the back story.

Time to buy old US gold coins

In 2015, a committee of the House of Representatives that was investigating the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, learned that the State Department had no copies of any emails sent or received by Clinton during her four years as secretary of state. When committee investigators pursued this — at the same time that attorneys involved with civil lawsuits brought against the State Department seeking the Clinton emails were pursuing it — it was revealed that Clinton had used her own home servers for her emails and bypassed the State Department servers.

Because many of her emails obviously contained government secrets and because the removal of government secrets to any non-secure venue constitutes espionage, the House Select Committee on Benghazi sent a criminal referral to the Department of Justice, which passed it on to the FBI. A congressionally issued criminal referral means that some members of Congress who have seen some evidence think that some crime may have been committed. The DOJ is free to reject the referral, yet it accepted this one.

It directed the FBI to investigate the facts in the referral and to refer to the investigation as a “matter,” not as a criminal investigation. The FBI cringed a bit, but Director James Comey followed orders and used the word “matter.” This led to some agents mockingly referring to him as the director of the Federal Bureau of Matters. It would not be the last time agents mocked or derided him in the Clinton investigation.

He should not have referred to it by any name, because under DOJ and FBI regulations, the existence of an FBI investigation should not be revealed publicly unless and until it results in some public courtroom activity, such as the release of an indictment. These rules and procedures have been in place for generations to protect those never charged. Because of the role that the FBI has played in our law enforcement history — articulated in books and movies and manifested in our culture — many folks assume that if a person is being investigated by the FBI, she must have done something wrong.

In early July 2016, Clinton was personally interviewed in secret for about four hours by a team of FBI agents who had been working on her case for a year. During that interview, she professed great memory loss and blamed it on a head injury she said she had suffered in her Washington, D.C., home. Some of the agents who interrogated her disbelieved her testimony about the injury and, over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, asked Comey for permission to subpoena her medical records.

When Comey denied his agents the permission they sought, some of them attempted to obtain the records from the intelligence community. Because Clinton’s medical records had been digitally recorded by her physicians and because the FBI agents knew that the National Security Agency has digital copies of all keystrokes on all computers used in the U.S. since 2005, they sought Clinton’s records from their NSA colleagues. Lying to the FBI is a felony, and these agents believed they had just witnessed a series of lies.

When Comey learned what his creative agents were up to, he jumped the gun by holding a news conference on July 5, 2016, during which he announced that the FBI was recommending to the DOJ that it not seek Clinton’s indictment because “no reasonable prosecutor” would take the case. He then did the unthinkable. He outlined all of the damning evidence of guilt that the FBI had amassed against her.

This double-edged sword — we won’t charge her, but we have much evidence of her guilt — was unprecedented and unheard of in the midst of a presidential election campaign. Both Republicans and Democrats found some joy in Comey’s words. Yet his many agents who believed that Clinton was guilty of both espionage and lying were furious — furious that Comey had revealed so much, furious that he had demeaned their work, furious that he had stopped an investigation before it was completed.

While all this was going on, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of Clinton’s closest aide, Huma Abedin, was being investigated for using a computer to send sexually explicit materials to a minor. When the FBI asked for his computer — he had shared it with his wife — he surrendered it. When FBI agents examined the Weiner/Abedin laptop, they found about 650,000 stored emails, many from Clinton to Abedin, that they thought they had not seen before.

Rather than silently examine the laptop, Comey again violated DOJ and FBI regulations by announcing publicly the discovery of the laptop and revealing that his team suspected that it contained hundreds of thousands of Clinton emails; and he announced the reopening of the Clinton investigation. This announcement was made two weeks before Election Day and was greeted by the Trump campaign with great glee. A week later, Comey announced that the laptop was fruitless, and the investigation was closed, again.

At about the same time that the House Benghazi Committee sent its criminal referral to the DOJ, American and British intelligence became interested in a potential connection between the Trump presidential campaign and intelligence agents of the Russian government. This interest resulted in the now infamous year-plus-long electronic surveillance of Trump and many of his associates and colleagues. This also produced a criminal referral from the intelligence community to the DOJ, which sent it to the FBI.

Yet this referral and the existence of this investigation was kept — quite properly — from the press and the public. When Comey was asked about it, he — quite properly — declined to answer. When he was asked under oath whether he knew of any surveillance of Trump before Trump became president, Comey denied that he knew of it.

What was going on with the FBI?

How could Comey justify the public revelation of a criminal investigation and a summary of evidence of guilt about one candidate for president and remain silent about the existence of a criminal investigation of the campaign of another? How could he deny knowledge of surveillance that was well-known in the intelligence community, even among his own agents? Why would the FBI director inject his agents, who have prided themselves on professional political neutrality, into a bitterly contested campaign having been warned it might affect the outcome? Why did he reject the law’s just commands of silence in favor of putting his thumb on political scales?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But the American public, and Hillary Clinton, is entitled to them.

Posted June 9, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in politics, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Drain the FBI’s Swamp   4 comments

When President Trump fired FBI chief James Comey, I don’t think I was alone in giving a small cheer of support. Comey’s refusal to forward charges against Hillary Clinton almost made me vote for Donald Trump (I didn’t, it was just a momentary flirt with the idea), because I believe firmly that the elite of this country should face the same penalties as the rest of us and there are many ordinary people serving decades for mishandling classified information in less egregious ways than Hillary Clinton. The United States is not Europe where anyone with the right pedigree can buy their way to immunity. Former First Ladies who have bought their way up the political food chain should be held to the same standard as current presidents and low-level Navy operatives. If Hillary Clinton is allowed to skate, then Bradley Manning should be released and Edward Snowden should be given a full pardon … and a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. While we’re at it, we should grant Julian Assange American citizenship and give him the key to Oval Office bathroom.

Image result for image of the fbi in a swampI’m not entirely kidding. Snowden and Assange are personal heroes of mine for telling the American people what our government is doing behind our backs.

Firing Comey looks a bit like a tiny step toward draining the DC swamp and I applaud that. Maybe it will inspire more such forays into therapeutic political land sculpting.

But more than just getting rid of a single swamp critter, the firing of James Comey provides a welcome chance to dethrone the FBI from its catbird’s seat in American politics and life. It’s not a Twitter fantasy. The FBI has a long record of both deceit and incompetence.

Five years ago, Americans learned that the FBI was teaching its agents that the bureau “has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” That we didn’t know about it before doesn’t negate the fact that has been the FBI’s underlying culture since its creation.

J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI from 1924 until his death in 1972. He built a revered agency that utterly intimidated officials in Washington. In 1945, President Truman wrote: “We want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. … This must stop.” Apparently, nobody listened to President Truman, because the bureau’s power soared after Congress passed the Internal Security Act of 1950. This authorized massive crackdowns on suspected “subversives”. Hoover compiled a list of more than 20,000 “potentially or actually dangerous” Americans who could be seized and locked away at the president’s command. “Congress secretly financed the creation of six of these (detention) camps in the 1950s,” noted Tim Weiner “Enemies: A History of the FBI” (2012).

From 1956 through 1971, the FBI’s counterintelligence programs (COINTELPRO) conducted thousands of covert operations to incite street warfare between violent groups, to get people fired, to smear innocent people by portraying them as government informants, and to cripple or destroy left-wing, black, communist, white racist and anti-war organizations. FBI agents also busied themselves forging “poison pen” letters to wreck activists’ marriages.

Image result for image of the fbi in a swampCOINTELPRO was exposed only after a handful of activists burglarized an FBI office in a Philadelphia suburb, seized FBI files, and leaked the damning documents to journalists. No FBI agents were jailed and few were fired stemming from this disclosure.

Maybe not surprisingly for a “bulletproof” agency, the FBI haughtiness was on display April 19, 1993, when its agents used armored vehicles to smash into the Branch Davidians’ sprawling compound near Waco, Texas. The tanks intentionally collapsed much of the building on top of the huddled residents. After the FBI pumped the building full of CS gas (banned for use on enemy soldiers by the Chemical Weapons Convention), a fire ignited that left 80 children, women and men dead. You don’t have to be a Branch Davidian supporter to find these actions deplorable.

The FBI swore it was blameless for the conflagration, but six years later, an investigation revealed that the FBI fired incendiary cartridges into the building before the blaze erupted. No FBI agents were penalized or prosecuted for their fatal assault against American civilians.

The FBI also lost track of a key informant at the heart of the cabal that detonated a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center in 1993.

Before the 9/11 attacks, the FBI dismally failed to connect the dots on suspicious foreigners engaged in domestic aviation training. Though Congress had deluged the FBI with $1.7 billion to upgrade its computers, many FBI agents had old machines incapable of searching the Web or emailing photos. One FBI agent observed that the bureau ethos is that “real men don’t type. …The computer revolution just passed us by.”

The FBI’s pre-9/11 blunders “contributed to the United States becoming, in effect, a sanctuary for radical terrorists,” according to a 2002 congressional investigation.

In the late 1990s, the FBI Academy taught agents that subjects of investigations “have forfeited their right to the truth.” This doctrine helped fuel pervasive entrapment operations after 9/11.

Image result for image of the fbi in a swampTrevor Aaronson (The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism) estimated that only about 1% of the 500 people charged with international terrorism offenses in the decade after 9/11 were bona fide threats. Thirty times as many were induced by the FBI to behave in ways that prompted their arrest.

The bureau’s informant program extends across many facets of American society. It bankrolled an extremist right-wing New Jersey blogger and radio host for five years before his 2009 arrest for threatening federal judges. The FBI crime lab is infamous for its perpetual false testimony. It uses National Security Letters and other surveillance tools to illegally vacuum up Americans’ personal info. It has whitewashed every shooting by an FBI agent between 1993 and 2011.

The FBI’s power has rarely been effectively curbed by either Congress or federal courts. In 1971, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs declared that the bureau’s power terrified Capitol Hill:

Our very fear of speaking out (against the FBI) has watered the roots and hastened the growth of a vine of tyranny. … Our society … cannot survive a planned and programmed fear of its own government bureaus and agencies.

Boggs vindicated a 1924 American Civil Liberties Union report warning that the FBI had become “a secret police system of a political character” — a charge that supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would have alternatively cheered last year.

If Trump fired Comey to throttle an investigation into Trump administration criminality, that is an impeachable offense. I am not a Trump supporter and I don’t think Mike Pence could do a worse job. That doesn’t negate the fact that Comey’s fall provides an excellent opportunity to take the FBI off its pedestal and place it where it belongs — under the law.

No, I’m not saying disband it … at least not yet, but it is past time to cease venerating a federal agency whose abuses have perennially menaced Americans’ constitutional rights. If the Trump administration is truly serious about draining the swamp, this is a good place to start.

Jerk Move: Trump Threw Rosenstein Under the Bus | Jeffrey A. Tucker   2 comments

Like many people, I’m not crying that FBI director James Comey was fired from his job before his tenure was up. As Rand Paul has reported, Comey never stopped crawling to Capitol Hill for more money, more spying authority, more power to the government, and all those things I’m against. And like many people, I find the claims of Russian meddling in the election to be a diversion from the more obvious point that voters wanted change and didn’t want Hillary Clinton.

Image result for image of rod rosensteinThe scenario is pretty clear: Trump leaned on a subordinate to provide cover for a decision he wanted to make.

What has struck me more is a particularly telling aspect of the way the firing of Comey was done. This is a human interest story to me. It reveals a facet of human life that is really grim, and serves as a warning for the type of power move all of us need to be on the lookout for. What would you do if your boss muscled you into taking the fall for his or her sketchy decisions?

The Plot

President Trump’s memo firing Comey came with an attachment. It was a letter to him from Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general of the Justice Department and the person who is technically Comey’s boss. The memo to Trump, dated the same day of the firing, carefully built a case against Comey. The implied conclusion of  the memo was that Comey needed to be let go, but it stopped short of demanding it.

Rosenstein’s conclusion was as follows:

“The way the Director handled the conclusion of the email investigation was wrong. As a result, the F.B.I. is unlikely to regain public and congressional trust until it has a Director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them. Having refused to admit his errors, the Director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions.”

It was this letter that Trump used as cover to fire someone he believed was becoming a personal enemy.

Did Trump ask Rosenstein for the letter? Most certainly.

Presidential spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders admits that Rosenstein, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, came to see Trump in the White House the day before. Rosenstein reported to the president that Comey had come to him asking for more resources to investigate ties between Trump and Russia, a case from which Sessions had already recused himself. That left only Rosenstein to act on Trump’s behalf.

We have no access to what happened then. It was a private meeting. But it seems that Trump asked Rosenstein his opinion of how Comey was doing at his job. According to McClatchy, he rendered a negative judgment, as one is wont to do under the circumstances. Trump then asked Rosenstein to write a memo detailing his criticisms. That memo arrived the next day and Comey was fired.

Fight or Survive?

The scenario is pretty clear: Trump leaned on a subordinate to provide cover for a decision he wanted to make. Trump demanded that an underling surrender his professional integrity so that the President could get his way. I can only imagine the lump that must have appeared in Rosenstein’s throat at that moment. It must have been the worse evening of his life.

Anyone who has faced such a situation in his or her professional life has to wince.

I’m looking at Rosenstein’s education and career. It is a classic case, every decision made to plot the perfect, non-partisan career in the highest reaches of government. He obtained an economics degree from the Wharton School, then moved to Harvard for a law degree. He became a Supreme Court clerk, and easily found a place at the Department of Justice, where he served under five presidents. After 27 years, he is the longest serving U.S. Attorney.

Somehow he managed to do all of this while staying out of the public eye and out of partisan squabbles. To achieve that requires focus. Rosenstein has it. It’s how he earned credibility and a flawless reputation. He must protect it every day, as a matter of habit.

A Bad Night

Then that fateful day arrived. He was nudged and answered the right way to please the president. Then the president told him to own his opinions and go public, as a way of giving the big cheese cover. What was he to do? Yes, he could have quit the job, and he probably should have. Instead, he acquiesced. After all, he built his whole career to achieve this height: Deputy Attorney General! Was he really going to give it all up?

Good leaders are servants of others who bear huge burdens, even to the point of taking the fall for others.

Anyone who has faced such a situation in his or her professional life has to wince. It’s painful –  and seedy. This is classic “bad boss” behavior. It reveals cowardice and a lack of character. The demand that subordinates cough up their professional capital for you is a move completely lacking in integrity. If the boss wants to make an unpopular decision, he should have the guts to bear the full weight of that decision, not devour the reputations of those around them as a fallback.

What’s remarkable here is that this move was unlike Trump. His usual tack is to bear the total responsibility for the success or failure of his project by making them all bear his name: Trump Tower, Trump Golf Course, Trump University, or whatever. People have criticized this about him but I actually admire it. He gets all credit when it works but he risks the whole of his reputation if it fails. This has been his usual way, so far as I know.

But now he has ultimate power. Maybe it has affected him. Has he come to the place in life in which he is totally happy treating those around him solely as a means and not ends in themselves? Will he stop at nothing to exercise, retain, and benefit personally from his power, no matter who it hurts? It is also possible that he always been this way and it is just now becoming public knowledge.

The Captain and the Ship

Regardless, the private sector builds in a check on such bad-boss behavior. They don’t attract people of integrity around them. They get bad reputations. They are widely considered to be toxic personalities. But as president, Trump faces no such market test. He can get away with it because he is at the height of his power and Rosenstein himself is at the height of his profession. So why not?

Sensing that this is a problem, Trump has since tried to walk back his excuse.

The answer to that question is this: it is poor leadership. Good leaders are servants of others who bear huge burdens, even to the point of taking the fall for others. This is why there are traditions that instantiate this ethical idea. The captain is that last to take the lifeboat, even if the shipwreck was not his fault. The head coach gets fired after a losing season. The Japanese military leader falls on his sword after a losing battle.

This is just how we do. We absolutely do not demand that subordinates fall in their swords for us. True, there is nothing illegal about this. It is just revealing of who Trump really is.

Sensing that this is a problem, Trump has since tried to walk back his excuse. “I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” he now says. Of course this is no help to Rosenstein now. The reputation he worked a lifetime to build is now toast.

Again, I’m crying no tears for anyone in this drama. But there are lessons in it for the rest of us. It shows what kind of leader and boss not to be, and shows workers what kind of people to avoid, if at all possible.

Source: Jerk Move: Trump Threw Rosenstein Under the Bus | Jeffrey A. Tucker

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