Ken Vogel Has a Bullshit Story To Tell That Will Help the President and He Would Appreciate It if the President and Rudy Giuliani Would Shut Up Because They Are Screwing Up His Work!

Ken Vogel has a bullshit story to tell about Vice President Biden and his son Hunter Biden that would help the President’s reelection chances. Vogel’s story is bullshit, but he’s very upset that the President and Rudy Giuliani just won’t shut up long enough so that Vogel can peddle his bullshit.

Former FBI Special Agent specializing in counterintelligence Asha Rangappa summarizes Vogel’s efforts very, very well.

How do we know the story that Vogel, as well as the President and Rudy Giuliani, are peddling is bullshit? Because two different publications, The Washington Post and The Intercept have debunked it.

And we know where this disinformation comes from, Russian government media outlets. And they started pushing it all the way back in 2014 most likely because most people reasonably assumed Vice President Biden, as the incumbent vice president would run to succeed President Obama positioning his campaign as a third Obama term (see the dates in the third tweet below). This also shows that Putin’s planning to interfere in US politics and the 2016 presidential election through information warfare goes farther back then has been previously recognized.

There’s another piece to the puzzle that debunks Vogel’s, the President’s, and Giuliani’s bullshit disinformation that they lifted whole cloth from Putin’s information warfare campaign against the United States – the legal and Federal professional ethics piece. And here too, even if everything Vogel, the President, and Giuliani are alleging were true, which it isn’t as both the facts and the timelines do not line up, there is no there there. Here’s a deep dive into these issues to answer a question asked by former Federal prosecutor Ken White, who tweets and blogs as Popehat.

And the response from courtesy of the Thread Reader Ap:

asked if anyone had done a law-based deep dive into the allegations that Biden somehow did something legally impermissible (i.e., conflict of interest) by being involved in the Ukraine prosecutor negotiations. I decided to look into it. BLUF: No /Tweetstorm
First off, the general financial conflict of interest laws that generally prohibit Federal employees from participating in matters in which they have financial interests (namely 18 USC.208) expressly do not apply to the Vice President (nor the President). 18 USC 202(c)
Moreover, w/r/t family members of executive branch employees, the primary financial conflict of interest statute only prohibits employees from participating in particular matters in which the employee, their spouse, or their MINOR children have a financial interest. 18 USC 208(a)
So, even assuming for the sake of argument that the conflict of interest statute applied to the VP & even if the departure of the prosecutor were to have had an impact on Hunter’s finances (which all reputable reports suggest was an impossibility given the timeline of events)…
the VP’s involvement in discussions re: the prosecutor still would not have constituted a criminal conflict of interest because Hunter was obviously not a MINOR child at the time.
That said, if the Federal conflict of interest laws did apply to the VP, the fact that a criminal conflict didn’t exist under the statute wouldn’t have ended the legal analysis…
Federal employees are also subject to Standards of Ethical Conduct, which are set out in broader regulations issued by the Office of Govt Ethics. 5 CFR 2635.
Under the Standards of Ethical Conduct, Federal employees generally should recuse themselves from participating in certain matters even if there is no prohibited financial conflict of interest under 18 USC 208.
Under 5 CFR 2635.502, an employee is generally required to recuse when there is a “particular matter involving specific parties, the employee has a “covered relationship” (such as a close family) and a reasonable person would question their impartiality.
Applying this here, even if it were true (its not!) that the prosecutor was investigating the company Biden’s son was involved with at the time that Biden was engaged in discussions re: the prosecutor’s removal, its not clear that this rule would be directly applicable here…
The rule, by its terms, only applies to “particular matters involving specific parties,” which is intentionally narrow and applies to specific proceedings affecting the legal rights of the parties or transactions between identified parties. 5 CFR 2640.102(1).
Examples of such matters are particular contracts, grants, product approval applications, litigation, investigations, etc. Here, it seems a stretch to say that discussions re whether the prosecutor should remain in his position was a “particular matter involving specific parties”
Moreover, even if you stretched & decided it met that definition, the particular rule would not apply directly here anyway, because Biden’s son (nor even the company) was most definitely NOT a party to the matter at issue (whether the prosecutor should remain in his position)…
A caveat: there’s a catch-all provision at 5 CFR 2635.502(a)(2), acknowledging that even in other circumstances not addressed in the reg, an employee should generally recuse anytime their participation in a matter would reasonably raise a question re: their impartiality.
If Biden’s son was involved with a company under active investigation by the Ukrainian prosecutor (again, apparently this is not true!)…
I think nearly any Federal ethics official would have cited this regulation and advised the VP NOT to get involved in discussions regarding the future of the Ukrainian prosecutor, even if only to avoid creating the appearance of a potential conflict
Even still, this is very much a judgment call and even under this incredibly-strained counter-factual hypothetical, the VP’s involvement still would NOT have been a criminal violation.
In short, even if the VP wasn’t exempt from these conflict of interest laws, and even if the facts were other than they actually appear to be, Biden’s behavior still would have been lawful. /End @waltshaub @NormEisen @RWPUSA

Vogel, the President, Giuliani, even the Vice President, are all peddling this bullshit or actively involved with trying to get Ukraine’s new president and his government to assist them in ratfucking the 2020 presidential election, really ratfuck the Democratic primaries, to the President’s benefit. So we already know the cui bono or who stands to benefit piece of this active measures information warfare campaign of disinformation aimed at the American people: the President. What we don’t know, but someone really should be looking into it, is what exactly does Ken Vogel get out of this? What does he stand to benefit? The real question here is why is Vogel clearly peddling debunked Russian disinformation that was created and first used back in 2014 to help obscure Putin’s moves to scarf up Crimea, invade the Donbass, and potentially dirty up a potential Biden 2016 candidacy? Is Vogel just a useful idiot or is he actively participating in an act of information warfare begun by Putin, weaponized by Giuliani and the President, which is intended to propagandize Americans in order to achieve Putin’s strategic interests? This is the real story, not the bullshit that Vogel is pushing. Enterprising reporters and investigators should be looking into it; trying to figure out exactly why Vogel is doing this and what he is getting out of it.

Open thread!

PS: Someone should really also be looking into exactly what it is that Giuliani has been doing in Europe, especially the post Soviet states, over the better part of the past ten to fifteen years supposedly as part of his consulting work as a security expert, which he is not. Journalists and investigators should also be looking into who has been paying for whatever it is he’s been doing. It isn’t all just beer, skittles, and cuckolding Marines. And it clearly has made Giuliani a very wealthy man.

Full Disclosure: I served as the Cultural Advisor (senior civilian advisor for culture) to the Commanding General of US Army Europe under temporary assigned control (TACON) from December 2013 to June 2014 and under operational control (OPCON) from June to August 2014. The views expressed here are solely my own and do not reflect those of US Army Europe and the US Army either in 2014 or now.

The Intelligence Whistleblower’s Life Is Over Because the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act Does NOT Actually Protect Intelligence Community and National Security Whistleblowers!

Right now only a very limited number of people know the name of the Intelligence official or officer who filed the whistleblower complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG). She or he is represented by a top national security lawyer, who is of counsel for a firm that specializes in national security law, classification, and clearance related issues. I have no doubt that by late Wednesday evening, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was most likely called by the President and told to figure out which senior Intelligence officials and officers were assigned to the National Security Council’s National Security Staff over the summer and returned to their home agency in late July or early August in order to figure out who made the complaint. By last night the President’s surrogates started impugning the whistleblower as an Obama holdover or loyalist or a deep state actor acting out of political motivations. The President, of course, decided to pick up that argument this morning on Twitter and during his ongoing press gaggle in the Oval Office. And we now have this reporting:

At this point, if they haven’t done so already, the Intelligence official or officer who made the complaint and his or her attorneys should have plans in place to both mitigate potential retaliatory legal action the administration might take and to safeguard her or his life and that of his or her family. The reason these actions are necessary is because the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act DOES NOT ACTUALLY PROTECT WHISTLEBLOWERS! Ken McClanahan, an attorney specializing in national security law, classification, and clearance provides a handy explainer at Just Security.

What is the ICWPA?

The ICWPA holds the dubious distinction of being the only “Whistleblower Protection Act” that doesn’t actually include any whistleblower protections. To summarize the law’s extensive history, I’ll say: It originally was intended to provide protections for national security whistleblowers who wanted to go to Congress, but was watered down in the final iteration due to separation of powers objections from the executive branch. While keeping the original – and misleading – name, the final law only really established a mechanism for Intelligence Community whistleblowers to forward a complaint to the congressional intelligence committees by way of an inspector general. It is a breakdown in this process that Schiff is flagging.

What is the ICWPA process?

Simply speaking, if a whistleblower working for an Intelligence Community agency wants to bring something to the attention of the congressional intelligence committees, they must write up a complaint and give it to either their agency’s inspector general or the Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG), specifically stating that it is an ICWPA complaint. The ICIG then has 14 days to decide if the complaint pertains to an “urgent concern” and if it is credible.

I highly recommend the rest of McClanahan’s explainer if you really want to understand what the process dispute between the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the Department of Justice, and the White House over the Acting Director’s refusal to submit the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s report finding the complaint to be both urgent and credible to Congress.

The ICWPA does not actually protect Intelligence Community and national security whistleblowers. It also, contrary to Rachel Maddow’s hyper-enthusiastic statements during and after her interview with Congressman Schiff last night, DOES NOT PROVIDE THE INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL OR OFFICER WITH ANY OTHER LAWFUL WAY TO GET THIS INFORMATION TO CONGRESS!!!!!!! Whoever the whistleblower is, she or he is not now entitled under the ICPWA to go directly to Congress because the Acting DNI, on the advice of the Office of Legal Counsel at DOJ and the White House, presumably the White House Counsel’s Office, have determined not to forward the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s findings to Congress as required by the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act. If this Intelligence official or officer tries to take the information that is the basis of his or her complaint directly to the House Special Committee on Intelligence, she or he will be in jeopardy for prosecution under the Espionage Act. Because it is not up to this Intelligence official or officer to determine if Congressman Schiff and the members of his committee need to know this information.

This Intelligence official or officer is not, under the law, a whistleblower. They are basically, at most, a lawful complainant about a counterintelligence and insider threat concerning the President to the Intelligence Community Inspector General. He or she has no protection under the law. And based on how the President and his surrogates are talking about her or him, and the reporting that “administration officials”, most likely the Acting Director of National Intelligence and his senior counsel, have shared additional information with the White House so they can determine if executive privilege should be invoked and asserted, it is highly likely that if the White House has not figured out who this Intelligence official or officer is, they likely have a short list of possibilities and will work it out sooner rather than later. Once that happens, this Intelligence official or officers life as they know it, not just their career, will be over. All for following the law. A badly written law that provides no actual protections for the person bringing the complaint. And it will all be done under the cover of law.

Open thread!


PPS: For a fuller, very technical treatment of this issue, as well as last night’s post, please check out my weekly column at The Ark Valley Voice. I focused on these issues for this week’s column.

PPPS: I did a slight editorial clarification to the fifth sentence of the final paragraph and added a new final sentence to the final paragraph of this post.

The Counterintelligence Implications of the Intelligence Officer’s Whistleblower Complaint

About an hour ago The Washington Post reported that the Intelligence official’s or officer’s complaint to the Intelligence Community Inspector General has to do with Ukraine.

A whistleblower complaint about President Trump made by an intelligence official centers on Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter, which has set off a struggle between Congress and the executive branch.

The complaint involved communications with a foreign leader and a “promise” that Trump made, which was so alarming that a U.S. intelligence official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community, two former U.S. officials said.

Much more at the link, but not much new information beyond the top line. What we don’t have are details, just some tantalizing hints. Given that the complaint involves something the President committed to do for a still undisclosed foreign leader and that it involves Ukraine, it is likely one of two things. Either he promised Putin something that had something to do with Ukraine, such as getting sanctions lifted and/or getting Russia readmitted to the G-7 making it once again the G-8, or he promised Ukraine’s President Zelensky something. Most likely that he’d free up the military aid in exchange for made up dirt on Vice President Biden’s son. Either way Putin will have signals intercepts of the call. Either because the call was with Putin and he recorded it or because Russia is actively collecting Signals Intelligence on the Ukrainians. Ukraine’s new president would be a primary target of such collection. It also likely means that the Estonians, the Latvians, the Germans, the French, the Norwegians, the Dutch, and several others most likely know the details as well as they are all collecting Signals Intelligence on Russia and Putin.

And this is where the counterintelligence concerns arise. The President’s unconventional approach to communicating with foreign leaders, outside advisors, and others, and his opposition to having these communications memorialized creates a counterintelligence problem for him and for the United States. This counterintelligence problem exists regardless what he may or may not have promised a foreign leader over the series of phone calls and interactions at the heart of the Intelligence official’s or officer’s complaint and whether or not it is good for the US and American interests. By getting rid of note takers, getting rid of readouts and summaries, either eliminating or extremely restricting transcripts of his phone calls and meetings, and by often using an unsecured cell phone, the President has made it all but impossible for officials in his own administration to actually document and know what he is saying to and hearing from the foreign leaders he is interacting with. This places the President, and by extension the United States, at the mercy of these foreign leaders. Right now we do not know with whom the President was speaking to in these phone calls, even as we now know it had something to do with Ukraine. But it would be a safe assumption that the foreign leader was making a recording of the call, as well as having a note taker making detailed notes. This provides that foreign leader with leverage over the President and the United States should he or she choose to use it because they can disclose as much or as little of the conversations and spin them however they want, while the United States’ government has limited, at best, information about the conversations and is therefore operating at an asymmetric disadvantage. The same problems exists for the President’s one on one meetings with Putin and Kim, where we also have no officially documented notes or transcripts on the US side of the meetings. And if you think that Putin and Kim didn’t record those meetings, I have a bridge and some beachfront property to sell you.

Right now we do not know which foreign leader the President spoke with, what, if anything, the President promised that foreign leader, and if the promise is good for the US’s national interest or bad for it. We do not even know how the Intelligence official or officer came to know this information. We don’t know if she or he was part of the limited chain of distribution for a transcript of the call. We do not know if he or she saw a Signals Intelligence Intercept of the call because we have that foreign leader under full time Signals Intelligence surveillance. We do not know if he or she was in the presence of the President when the phone call and the other, multiple activities that were reported occurred. But we do know one thing: the foreign leader in question knows what the President promised and, from a counterintelligence perspective, it is responsible to assume that foreign leader has a recording of the call, which gives that foreign leader leverage over the President and the United States. The President has compromised himself and the United States to the leader of a foreign power and that is the major counterintelligence problem that arises from this whistleblower’s complaint.

Open thread!

A Few Thoughts on the Attack on the Saudi Oil Facility

While we all wait to actually see something that resembles actual evidence, as opposed to speculation and assertions, of who is responsible for Saturday’s attack on the Saudi oil facility, I think there are several things to keep in mind. The first is that the administration in general and the President, the Secretary of State, and the US Special Representative for Iran do not have any real credibility in any of their public statements. You will undoubtedly remember that all three of them went all in on Iran being responsible for the two rounds of tanker attacks in port in the UAE and just underway off the UAE’s coasts earlier in the summer. You’ll notice that those assertions were not only quickly contested by the ship owners and the UAE. And you have also probably noticed that all three stopped talking about them shortly after the initial round of public bluster. So until or unless someone with some credibility comes out and provides some verification that the Iranians actually conducted Saturday’s attack on the Saudi refinery, all assertions from the administration should be taken with a very large grain of salt. And this goes even more for anything the Saudis state publicly, as well as the Israelis. Both Muhammad bin Salman and Bibi Netanyahu have their own reasons for wanting to place the blame for this on Iran. And both would really like the US to fight Iran for them to the last American Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, DOD and Service civilian, and contractor. Is it possible that Iran is responsible? Yes it is. What we don’t know right now is how plausible or probably it is.

What I think is going to happen here is that the President will bluster a bit more on Twitter or in press gaggles about Iran, though, apparently, the Special Representative has told Congressional staffers that the President is still open to engagement with Iran. So I expect that we’ll see a replay of what happened with the two rounds of tanker attacks from this past summer. Several days of Presidential bluster on Twitter and in press gaggles about Iran being responsible and what the US could do, followed by the Secretary of State and the US Special Representatives trying to both back up the tough talk, while doing whatever it is they’re doing. If no evidence is actually ever presented, or contrary evidence comes out, then the whole thing will just be dropped.

I do not think we’re going to see a US military response. A one off strike, either lobbing a couple of missiles or a US Air Force or Naval aviation strike, would be both tactically and strategically pointless. All it would do is rally the just attacked Iranian populace to support the Iranian government. As I’ve written about here, as well as in more professional publications, an invasion of Iran would be strategic malpractice. Moreover, as I’ve written about here and elsewhere, we simply do not have the military resources right now to actually increase our military operational tempo, let alone add a third theater of war to the Afghan and Iraqi ones we are already operating in. And there’s another reason an American response is unlikely: this wasn’t an attack on Americans or American infrastructure. As far as we know so far from the reporting, no Saudis were hurt or killed. Certainly no Americans were. So any attack on Iran here would not be justifiable, it would be preemptory. Not that I think the President or the Secretary of State actually care about such things as Just War Theory. It is also hard to convince Americans to support going to war to protect Saudi oil refineries, so even the domestic politics of this would be a very difficult needle to thread.

There’s a final dynamic at work here that I think is very important, which is that the Iranians are in control of this situation, not the President, not the Secretary of State, not Muhammad bin Salman, and not Bibi Netanyahu. They also have the President’s number. They know he doesn’t want to actually get into any more wars in the Middle East and Central Asia and, in fact, wants to get out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible. They also don’t give a damn about the Trump Doctrine. The Iranians have no desire to treat the President fairly and from their perspective they’ve gotten nothing but “or else” from the US for over 40 years, with, perhaps, the exception of how President Obama treated them in the run up to and during the JCPOA negotiations. The open ended “or else” threat of the Trump Doctrine is a hollow threat for Iran. As a result, the Iranians are actually calling the shots here, not the President or anyone else. Whether the President, Secretary Pompeo, the Special Representative for Iran, or anyone else advising them recognizes this reality is something I cannot speak to.

Finally, for those looking for other resources, both subject matter experts and reporters, on the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Iran, I recommend the following.

Open thread!

Houston DNC Debate Part III: The Revenge of the Son of the Houston DNC Debate!

Looks like we could use a new debate thread. Since we’re only about five minutes or so from the end of this thing. let this also serve as a post debate open thread as well.

I’m just now watching it on the DVR as I had something to do earlier. But feel free to spoiler away. For instance, do they all stop answering each question with “Let’s be clear…”? Also, did someone get Bernie a lozenge?

Open thread!