Something smelled wrong about the election from the very start. In the weeks before the presidential balloting took place, millions of voters were bombarded with “fake news” about the candidates on Facebook and other social media sites. And when the vote tallies were announced, the nation was shocked by the results. There was scattered unrest, even violence — and loud whispers that the election had somehow been stolen. Some wondered about the role of Cambridge Analytica, the firm founded by a billionaire backer of Donald Trump.
Then, something remarkable — unprecedented, really — took place. The nation’s highest court decided to launch a thorough investigation of what really happened on Election Day. What the justices eventually uncovered was shocking — a scheme to change results from the actual polling places when they were tallied electronically. What happened next was perhaps more surprising: The Supreme Court justices ordered a new national election.
In America, there is a stubborn, almost inexplicable blindness about the myriad problems with our own 2016 election
— including the alarming possibility that at least some of those problems were the result of a now-pretty-well-documented effort by a foreign power, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, to meddle in the selection of this nation’s 45th president. It’s getting harder and harder not to think
our nation’s top officials — not just President Trump and his aides who were the alleged beneficiaries of Russian meddling, but our intelligence agencies and even state and local officials — don’t really want to know whether Moscow’s interference was so great that it actually decided the race.
It’s as if they are terrified by what they might discover.
First, let’s review what we do know about Russia’s 2016 tampering, because that’s disturbing enough. We know that Trump officials eagerly met in June 2016 in Trump Tower with a cast of characters tied to Putin insiders and Russian intelligence who promised inside dirt on Hillary Clinton. A short time later, hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and a top Clinton aide went public on Wikileaks, at the same time Trump aides were keeping an anti-Putin plank out of the GOP convention platform and as Trump bizarrely made a public plea for Russia to find Clinton’s deleted emails (a cause also adopted by a GOP insider who claimed he was working for Trump, right before he committed suicide).
Then came an avalanche of fake news — much of it grown in Russian content farms — to convince blacks or young people in key states such as Wisconsin to stay home or vote third party.
That’s bad, but it’s not as bad as what we don’t know: Whether Russia was able to hack into any state and local election systems in a way that might have changed the result — and thus throw the entire Nov. 8, 2016, result, with Trump’s narrow Electoral College win, into doubt. Although officials have slowly confirmed over the last 10 months that there’s evidence of Russian hackers trying to breach government election websites in nearly 40 states and actually gaining some access, at least in Illinois and Arizona, they’ve also assured us that a beefed-up effort by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence found zero evidence of Election Day hacking.
Now comes the New York Times to say: Don’t be so certain about that. In a blockbuster report that was inexplicably dropped on the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the newspaper revealed a) in one of the key states that gave Trump the election — North Carolina — voters in heavily Democratic urban precincts faced unexplained computer glitches that in some cases prevented people from casting ballots, using an electronic system known to have been targeted by Russian hackers) no federal, state or local agency has really aggressively probed this possibility of Election Day hacking — despite mounting evidence that the attempted tampering was more widespread than first acknowledged.
After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers, according to interviews with nearly two dozen national security and state officials and election technology specialists.
The Times article also raises the important possibility that Russian bad guys — or some other corrupt element — could have tampered with the U.S. presidential election in ways that no one has really focused on. A key point of the article involves problems on Election Day in 2016 with electronic poll books, the online system that officials at polling places use to determine who is eligible to vote and in what precinct.
Last Nov. 8, polling officials in Durham, N.C. — a town with a large college and non-white population that skews Democratic — found widespread problems with these records as voters showed up to cast their ballots. The problems were repeated in other localities in North Carolina and across the Sun Belt that had used electronic poll books run by software from VR Systems — a company that had been breached by Russian hackers months earlier.
The Times scoop makes the point that, while election watchers have looked for evidence that hackers stole the election by changing the actual votes that have been cast — and no hard evidence of that has been found — it was also possible to mess with the outcome by making sure that some votes in heavily Democratic wards were never cast at all. A recount is meaningless for votes that were prevented from happening in the first place. The even bigger problem, as noted by the Times, is that no one is looking too hard to see how often this happened, or why.
Something else here is important to note: American elections are easy to mess with because America’s election system is terrible — Russian hacking or no Russian hacking. Voters went to the polls in 2016 after years of efforts by mostly GOP-led state governments to make it hard for citizens — but especially non-white citizens, college students or the elderly — to cast ballots. Consider Wisconsin, the state where Trump pulled arguably his biggest upset, winning by only 22,748 votes. Critics have said Wisconsin’s turnout fell sharply because of its voter ID law (although maybe not by 200,000, as one study claimed.) Voters in the Badger State were also badgered with “fake news” — some of it undoubtedly from Russia. It’s hard to tell an array of innocent computer glitches and malfunctions from criminal hacking.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or political scientist to figure out what needs to be done.
In the long run, we need massive election reform — including a new and improved Voting Rights Act that would pinpoint the most pernicious voter ID laws, an Election Day federal holiday, and same-day voter registration. We need a voting system that leaves a real paper trail that can be routinely audited and easily investigated when there are allegations of vote tampering. And, as the Times article makes clear, we need a more thorough investigation of computer hacking and other problems that occurred in 2016 — regardless of the possibility that we might learn the unthinkable.
This isn’t the first time America was afraid of asking hard questions. Does anyone remember the Warren Commission? There’s no precedent for undoing an election result if an investigation uncovered proof of direct interference with the balloting, and so perhaps it’s not shocking that the political establishment isn’t eager to contemplate this. Personally, I think that Americans can handle the truth — and that a serious investigation is called for. But for right now, if you want a government that takes election tampering seriously, you may have to move to Kenya.
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If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve known all along that this would end up being inevitable. It was always a matter of time before the investigation into Donald Trump’s Russian election collusion and the investigation into Donald Trump’s corrupt finances would become one and the same. Now that day has arrived: Trump is officially under investigation for financial dealings with Russia during the election.
That’s the word according to House Intelligence Committee Ranking member Adam Schiff, who appeared on CNN on Sunday. He officially confirmed that the committee is now investigating Donald Trump’s attempt at building a Trump Tower in Moscow during the election. He also confirmed that Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen and Trump’s longtime business associate Felix Sater, who conspired to try to get the Kremlin itself to assist in the real estate deal, are targets in the investigation. But there’s more to this.
By now it’s become clear that the ongoing House and Senate committee investigations are working in lock step with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s own investigation. One of the committees brought in Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort for questioning, and after his testimony must have given something away, Mueller had the FBI bust down his door before the sun came up the next morning. There is no doubt that Mueller is now investigating the Trump Tower Moscow plot as well, and that he’ll proceed with the same level of aggression he’s displayed up to this point.
Furthermore, the upshot of the Trump Tower Moscow scandal is that Donald Trump has absolutely no deniability. Cohen has already confirmed that he discussed the deal with Trump three times during the election. It’s also been confirmed that Trump signed a letter of intent during the election to build it. Trump can’t pretend he somehow didn’t know what his aides were doing when they conspired with the Kremlin during the election.
The post Donald Trump is officially under investigation for Russian financial scheme during electionappeared first on Palmer Report.
New York Times
In Defense of the Truth
New York Times
Of the statements by Trump that the fact-checking site PolitiFact has checked, just 5 percent were deemed absolutely true. Another 26 percent were just “mostly true” or “half true.” But a whopping 69 percent were found to be “mostly false,” “false” or …
The Pentagon for the first time has set a schedule of naval patrols in the South China Sea in an attempt to create a more consistent posture to counter China’s maritime claims there, injecting a new complication into increasingly uneasy relations between the two powers.
The man arrested outside Buckingham Palace last Friday who allegedly attempted to pull out a 4-foot long sword was an Uber driver who got lost, according to U.K. court documents released this week.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has regularly lambasted the Israeli press, but a new disclosure related to an ongoing corruption probe shows the leader also worked hard to shape how the domestic media covers him.
A Russian businessman who explored building a tower with Donald Trump’s company during the presidential campaign is a little-known developer of middle-class apartments. His connection to the Trump world: a Russian-American former stockbroker who brought deals to the Trump firm.
The State Department notified Congress this week that it will be holding up $255 million in military aid for Pakistan until the country takes steps to address U.S. concerns about providing safe haven to terrorist groups.
The U.S. has ordered Russia to close some diplomatic offices in San Francisco, Washington and New York by Saturday. The move comes after Russia ordered the U.S. to cut its diplomatic staff in Russia by 755 people.
China’s Communist Party plans to hold its twice-a-decade congress in mid-October, setting the stage for President Xi Jinping to embark on a second term as the strongest Chinese leader in decades.
The U.S. sent four of its most advanced fighter jets and a pair of B-1B bombers over the Korean Peninsula, alongside Japanese and South Korean jets, as a show of force in direct response to North Korea firing a missile over Japan.
Putin’s Hand Can Clearly Be Seen In the Chaos of a Destabilized West
… policy of supporting the murderous Slobodan Milosevic in former Yugoslavia. Among the later results of these trends, under Putin, were a dismembered Georgia, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and prolonged Russian aggression in the Donbas region of …and more »
What role is Russia playing in the difficulties the United States, Europe, and other countries are experiencing?
Does the Kremlin reject the existing world order and aspire to a new division of the world?
Did Moscow’s political kitchen deliberately help to concoct the loathsome dish of domestic and international terrorism, the tsunami of refugees, and political destabilization in many countries?
There can be no simple and straightforward answers, but serious consideration of recent Russian history leads to distressing conclusions.
When the totalitarian USSR collapsed there was cause for hope. The germs of a multi-party, parliamentary system and free enterprise appeared, political and religious freedoms were guaranteed, censorship vanished, and the mass media were liberated. Soviet citizens were free to travel, and punitive psychiatry ended.
And then–recoil. In 1993 President Yeltsin dealt a crushing blow to the parliamentary system, killing several hundred people in the process. Russia practiced genocide against its own people in Chechnya. Political assassinations and the murder of journalists commenced.
Vladimir Putin at the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Department (GRU) in Moscow, 08 November 2006. DMITRI ASTAKHOV/AFP/Getty
The economic situation was no better. Even prior to the attempted coup by communist hardliners against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in August 1991, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the KGB began transferring huge amounts of “party funds” to “trusted persons.,” thereby founding the fortunes of the first of Russia’s nouveaux riches. The most infamous cases followed in the mid-1990s.
The coup is said to have failed miserably. Not so. By then the USSR was falling apart. Key positions in the executive and legislative branches had already been seized by officials and agents of the special services, often working “under cover.” The same thing happened in the world of business.
Gorbachev in power ended the Cold War. Yet after the dissolution of the USSR, Russia began a gradual return to Cold War policies. Under the pretext of defending Russian compatriots abroad, the Kremlin interfered in the domestic politics of neighboring Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Moldova. It was suspected of involvement in the attempted assassination of Georgia’s president Eduard Shevardnadze.
Meanwhile, Russia pursued an anti-Western policy of supporting the murderous Slobodan Milosevic in former Yugoslavia. Among the later results of these trends, under Putin, were a dismembered Georgia, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and prolonged Russian aggression in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Why were a number of terrorist acts in the West, such as the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, performed by visitors or emigrants from the former Soviet Union?
Did the emigrants, the brothers Tsarnaev, of Chechen nationality, responsible for the Boston attack, act on their own initiative? It seems most unlikely.
Russia must accept a share of responsibility for the Syrian civil war, the flood of refugees into Europe, the rightward drift of several European countries, the rising influence of ultra-right politicians, attempts to weaken the EU, and the U.K.’s Brexit decision.
What is going on between Russia and Donald Trump?
Is the president of the United States linked more closely to the Kremlin than any Western political figure should be?
That these questions command serious and prolonged attention in the United States puts Russia in a very poor light.
Why didn’t democracy take root in Russia? Why under Putin has the overwhelming majority of the population joyously welcomed the rebirth of authoritarianism, in a different flavor, of extreme corruption and misappropriation of state funds and natural resources?
The ultimate answer is that it is extremely dangerous when the secret police, with their nationalistic mentality, seize power in an enormous nuclear state, and when a former hunter of dissidents becomes president. Dangerous not only for Russia, but for the whole world.
When it became clear that Russia interfered in the internal affairs of the United States, in the presidential election, increasing numbers of Americans were persuaded of this truth.
Unfortunately, Russia has entered a path that leads nowhere. Power is unlimited; legislation is repressive; there has long been no real opposition. There is no coherent opposition program. The slogans “Russia without Putin,” and “Russia will be free,” are just words.
Putin cynically and regularly proclaims a struggle against the corruption that he himself sponsors.
What would Russia be without Putin? Putin himself is nothing. He is merely a facade concealing the special services and the oligarchs. They can easily replace him with another representative of the secret services.
Was Russia free under Dmitri Medvedev, president in 2008-2012? Of course not. He was a puppet of these very same forces.
Sometimes I am reproached for attributing to the Kremlin too much influence in the world. My response is that the Putin regime is so convinced of its own impunity that it indulges in actions that even communist leaders during the Cold War refrained from attempting.
Russia is at a dead end. It is vital that it not drag the rest of the world down the path it has taken.
It is our responsibility to make sure that does not happen.
Andrei A.Kovalev served as a diplomat and official in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) and then in similar capacities under presidents Yeltsin and Putin (1991-2007). He is author ofRussia’s Dead End: An Insider’s Testimony from Gorbachev to Putin (Potomac Books, University of Nebraska Press, 2017).
Robert Mueller. AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
- President Trump’s drafted letter laying out his reasons for firing FBI director James Comey could give the special counsel a direct window into the president’s intent when he later dismissed Comey.
- The letter could also implicate top Trump aide, Stephen Miller, in Robert Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice investigation.
- The advice that White House counsel Don McGahn gave Trump to dissuade him from sending the letter could also prove to be a critical piece of the puzzle.
News on Friday that special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained a letter drafted by President Donald Trump that details his reasons for firing then-FBI director James Comey has likely bolstered the progress of the Russia investigation, and may have landed another close Trump confidant in its crosshairs.
Mueller was put in charge of the investigation — which is examining whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow during last year’s presidential election — after Trump dismissed Comey in May. As part of his investigation, Mueller is also examining whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired the FBI director four months ago.
The letter Mueller is reviewing was drafted by Trump along with policy adviser Stephen Miller, and legal experts say it is possibly the most critical piece of evidence in Mueller’s obstruction-of-justice case since Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, because it can give prosecutors a direct window into Trump’s thinking shortly before he fired Comey.
The biggest challenge a prosecutor faces in an obstruction-of-justice case is proving corrupt intent, which is almost always difficult to establish. But Trump’s letter could change the ballgame.
“The best way to prove someone’s intent is through their own words and actions,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told Business Insider in an interview Saturday. “Here, you have a letter that was written by Miller, at the direction of the president, that contains what the president’s thoughts were at that time.”
Though the letter’s full contents remain unclear, The Washington Post reported that it focused on what was perhaps Trump’s greatest frustration with Comey: that the FBI director did not publicly announce, when he was leading the bureau’s investigation, that Trump was not personally under investigation.
Former FBI Director James Comey Drew Angerer/Getty Images
“It’s problematic for Trump if he fired Comey because he did not take actions in the investigation that would benefit Trump personally,” Mariotti said. “That makes Mueller’s case stronger.”
Cornell Law School associate dean and criminal law expert Jens David Ohlin echoed that assessment.
“The draft letter is extremely relevant to Mueller’s investigation because it may yield evidence about the true reason that Trump fired Comey,” Ohlin said. “If Trump fired Comey to impede an investigation that might implicate his own campaign or administration, that is obstruction of justice.”
Trump put the letter together shortly after Comey’s May 3 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, during which he defended his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. The president was reportedly incensed after Comey acknowledged that his October announcement that the FBI was reopening its investigation into Clinton, days before the election, could have impacted its results.
Trump’s lawyer, Ty Cobb, told Business Insider in an email Saturday that the letter has long been in Mueller’s possession and its existence was known both to the special counsel’s team, as well as to the Department of Justice, “which has had a copy since the day it was first discussed within the White House.” He added there was “little, IF ANY, objection within the White House” to the letter, and that it focused primarily on Comey’s “usurpation of powers and other erratic and inexplicable conduct.”
The long weekend during which Trump drafted the letter at his Bedminster golf club began on Thursday, May 4, The New York Times reported on Friday. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein was given a copy of Trump’s draft letter on Monday, May 8, and then proceeded to write a separate memo as to why Comey should be fired.
Stephen Miller tapes Sunday show interviews from the White House. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The letter also implicates Miller, who The Post said acted as a “stenographer” for Trump in writing the letter.
Miller, an ally of the recently ousted chief strategist Steve Bannon, has emerged in recent months as a Trump loyalist within the administration.
Given his role in the matter, Miller will likely be, at the very least, a witness in Mueller’s investigation. Other possible witnesses include Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, who were both with Trump at his Bedminster golf club when he drafted the letter during a weekend in early May.
If Miller acted primarily as a transcriber, he could have a smaller part in the investigation. However, “if he was actively working with the president to plan how they could derail or kill the Russia investigation,” Mariotti said, “that could present legal problems for Miller.”
Ohlin added that Miller and anyone else involved in Comey’s firing — or drafting the letter — may be accessories or co-conspirators to that crime as well.
The question then becomes, Mariotti added, “whether there was an agreement between Miller and the president to obstruct justice.” If that were the case, it could amount to conspiracy, he said.
Another way the adviser could be implicated in the investigation is if, for example, the president was acting in a way to obstruct justice, and Miller knew about that and tried to do what he could to help Trump succeed. If that were the case, Miller could have been aiding and abetting a crime.
Mariotti said those two possibilities are likely the biggest potential sources of criminal liability for Miller.
The letter, as a whole, is a crucial part of the Russia controversy because it “goes directly to the biggest issue at question — what Trump’s intent was as to the Russia investigation,” Mariotti said.
Trump’s best defense would likely be that the draft letter did not reflect his true thinking on the subject, and that’s why never sent it, Ohlin said.
He added, however, that he didn’t believe the argument would hold much water because “it seems more likely that the draft letter reflected his true thinking, but then was edited down for other reasons.”
Though the White House initially said that Trump fired Comey based entirely on Rosenstein’s and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recommendations, Trump later said he had already decided to fire Comey, and that Rosenstein’s recommendation sealed the deal.
His explanation changed again later on, when he admitted to NBC News’ Lester Holt that he had fired Comey because of “this Russia thing,” and that he was going to dismiss the FBI director regardless of Rosenstein’s input.
President Donald Trump looks at Finnish President Sauli Niinisto during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
And as far as that goes, White House counsel Don McGahn’s conversation with Trump when he advised him against sending the letter could be another key piece of the puzzle.
“We don’t know exactly what McGahn said, but the mere fact that he put a stop to that letter is another piece of evidence that Mueller could use to say, ‘Donald Trump was warned by the White House counsel that this was a problematic step and decided to do it anyway,'” Mariotti told Business Insider on Saturday morning, and later spoke about on Twitter.
The substance of what McGahn told Trump is important — and there’s no guarantee that it could be withheld as privileged information.
The reason is that a federal court of appeals ruled in 1998, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, that deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey had to submit to the special prosecutor’s questions about President Bill Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky. In that case, the court held that there is no attorney-client privilege between a government lawyer and a government employee in response to a grand jury inquiry.
If that ruling holds as it relates to the obstruction-of-justice investigation, it’s possible the public will eventually hear what McGahn told the president. “If he said anything along the lines of, ‘There’s potential criminal liability if you shut down this investigation,’ that would be extraordinarily powerful evidence against Trump,” Mariotti said.
In that case, McGahn’s advice to Trump could possibly become as important as Trump’s state of mind when he crafted the letter.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Charles Grassley and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, want to interview two high-ranking FBI officials about some key aspects of the bureau’s role in the Trump-Russia investigation — the Trump dossier, the firing of James Comey, and more. But the FBI doesn’t want those officials to talk — even though the Judiciary Committee has oversight responsibility for the FBI, and even though the request is bipartisan, and even though there appears to be no conflict with the ongoing Trump-Russia investigation conducted by special prosecutor James Mueller.
A standoff could be developing.
It began on July 11, when Grassley and Feinstein wrote letters to James Rybicki, who was Director Comey’s chief of staff, and Carl Ghattas, head of the bureau’s national security branch. “The committee is investigating the removal of FBI Director James Comey, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and allegations of improper interference in law enforcement investigations,” the chairman and ranking member wrote. “Please make yourself available for a transcribed interview during the week of July 24, 2017.”
It didn’t happen. On July 27, Samuel Ramer, the acting assistant attorney general, wrote to say that Rybicki and Ghattas would not be talking. Noting the Mueller investigation, Ramer said, “Under these circumstances and consistent with the department’s long-standing policy regarding the confidentiality and sensitivity of information relating to pending matters, the department cannot make Mr. Ghattas or Mr. Rybicki available for transcribed interviews at this time.”
Grassley and Feinstein did not agree. They knew that committee staff, Republican and Democrat, had had so-called “de-confliction” discussions with Mueller’s office on how the Senate investigation might proceed without interfering with Mueller’s criminal probe. And they didn’t see a conflict. So on August 25, Grassley and Feinstein wrote another letter, this time to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“The department declined to make Mr. Ghattas and Mr. Rybicki available for interviews because of pending matters and their current work on those matters with Special Counsel Robert Mueller,” Grassley and Feinstein wrote. “However, in our de-confliction discussions with the Special Counsel’s office, we have clarified that the committee intends to limit the scope of the interviews to avoid that concern. There is no intent to seek information about these witnesses’ current work with the Special Counsel’s office. Rather, we seek their independent recollections, as fact witnesses, of events that occurred before and including Director Comey’s removal.”
The two lawmakers asked the Justice Department to get in touch by September 1 to schedule the interviews. “We appreciate and expect the department’s voluntary cooperation with this important request,” they wrote.
Including the words “expect” and “voluntary” was notable, because it essentially meant, “Don’t make us force you.” If they are united, the chair and the ranking minority of a Senate committee can make a lot of trouble for an agency under their oversight. Grassley and Feinstein, veterans of many years in the Senate, know that very well.
The Justice Department does, too. But September 1 came and went with no department effort to set up the interviews.
Now, it is not clear what is next. Grassley and Feinstein appear to be determined to talk to Rybicki and Ghattas. It is obvious that both men know a lot about what went on in the FBI in the last couple of years. As far as the Trump dossier specifically is concerned, they could be able to shed light on the FBI’s reported decision in October 2016 to support work on the dossier, which at the time was an anti-Trump opposition research project funded by Clinton donors. Grassley has said that decision “raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics.” There’s no doubt he wants to learn more about it.
Finally, sharp-eyed readers may have noticed the name of James Rybicki in the news in the last few days. He was one of the FBI officials cited in a letter from Grassley and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham suggesting that Comey may have decided to exonerate Hillary Clinton in the email investigation before Clinton and more than a dozen other witnesses were even interviewed. The senators based the charge on Rybicki’s interview with the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel. (They took care to note that, despite the name, the Office of Special Counsel is completely separate from and not related to the Robert Mueller investigation.) Rybicki, as Comey’s chief of staff, obviously knew a lot about the email investigation.
Now Grassley and Feinstein want to know what Rybicki, as well as Ghattas, knows about the dossier, the Comey firing, and other events that make up the broadest definition of the Trump-Russia affair. But first, they’ll have to get past the Justice Department’s determination to keep things secret.
What happens to a country whose most important police force — and its key investigators — is no longer telling the truth to the citizens of that nation? Nothing good, I’m sure most would agree. There’s almost no point in going through all the analogies to despotic regimes. Writers from George Orwell to Arthur Koestler have already done it for us.
But those analogies come immediately to mind following two revelations regarding our Federal Bureau of Investigation that surfaced this week. In one instance, the FBI refused to turn over documents regarding the Hillary Clinton emails because of — wait for it — “lack of public interest.”
The head of the FBI Records Management Division wrote Ty Clevenger, a New York Attorney who filed the FOIA request in March 2016, to inform him that his request was being denied in late August.“You have not sufficiently demonstrated that the public’s interest in disclosure outweighs personal privacy interests of the subject,” the letter, obtained by Fox News, reads. “Therefore, records regarding your subject are withheld pursuant to FOIA exemptions.”
It’s hard to imagine what was going on in the mind of Records Management Division head David M. Hardy when he wrote — or was forced to write by some unknown superior — such a risible lie, but things have only gotten worse from there. Now we learn that then FBI director James Comey may never have planned to find Clinton guilty in the first place.
While the transcripts of those interviews are heavily redacted, they indicate that Comey started working on an announcement clearing Clinton in April or May of last year, before the FBI interviewed 17 witnesses in the case, including Clinton and some of her top aides.Clinton was interviewed for several hours on July 2, just three days before Comey’s announcement.
Defenders of Comey insist this early draft exonerating Clinton is standard FBI practice, but, not surprisingly, none of them mention that a similar draft deeming Clinton culpable has not surfaced. One doubts it exists.
To millions of Americans, Hillary Clinton was as guilty as O.J. Simpson. You would have to be an imbecile not to think she didn’t know she was doing something illegal secreting her professional emails as secretary of State on a private server hidden in a bathroom. And yet James Comey’s ultimate decision on Clinton depended on her putative ignorance after literally decades of government service.
No wonder he vacillated so many times in his statements and actions. Only someone completely without conscience wouldn’t have. And Comey should have a guilty conscience because it is now becoming increasingly clear he was looking for way to exonerate Clinton virtually no matter what. The famous Bill-Loretta tarmac meeting was an unnecessary embarrassment, as was Lynch instructing Comey to call the investigation a “matter.” This was ultimately, as the Italian film goes, “The Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion.” That is why she was never interviewed under oath and so many of her subalterns were let off free or allowed to destroy records and negotiate the most outlandish requests that neutered the inquiry. That is why we have never seen the tens of thousands of erased and supposedly missing emails.