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The Democratic Minority On The House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence Issues a Rebuttal Report

The Democratic minority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has issued a rebuttal report to the GOP majority’s report that was released this morning. The Democratic minority report can be found here. As I indicated earlier regarding the majority report, I’ve only had a chance to give this a quick read and won’t have a chance to do a deep dive until later in the weekend. I do want to note a couple of points from the introduction.

One year later, the Committee’s Majority has shattered its commitment by rushing to end its investigation prematurely, even as it continues to investigate President Donald Trump’s political opponents, our intelligence agencies, law enforcement, and diplomatic corps, and former members of the Administration of President Barack Obama.

In so doing, the Majority has not only failed to meet the mandate given to the HPSCI by the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader, but they have engaged in a systematic effort to muddy the waters, and to deflect attention away from the President, most recklessly in their assault on the central pillars of the rule of law. Their report, as with their overall conduct o f the investigation, is unworthy of this Committee, the House of Representatives, and most importantly, the American people, who arc now left to try to discern what is true and what is not.

The Majority’s report reflects a lack of seriousness and interest in pursuing the truth. By refusing to call in key witnesses, by refusing to request pertinent documents, and by refusing to compel and enforce witness cooperation and answers to key questions, the Majority hobbled the Committee’s ability to conduct a credible investigation that could inspire public confidence. The Majority’s conduct has also undermined Congress’ independent investigative authority. Their repeated deferrals to the White House allowed witnesses to refuse cooperation, and permitted the Administration to dictate the terms of their interaction with Congress, or evade congressional oversight altogether, setting a damaging precedent for future non-cooperation by this President and, possibly, by his successors.

These Views memorialize the Minority’s profound disappointment with and objections to the manner in which the Majority subverted this investigation, and highlight for the public some of the most glaring misrepresentations, distortions, and inaccuracies in the Majority’s report.

A majority of the report’s findings are misleading and unsupported by the facts and the investigative record. They have been crafted to advance a political narrative that exonerates the President, downplays Russia’s preference and support for then-candidate Trump, explains away repeated contacts by Trump associates with Russia-aligned actors, and seeks to shift suspicion towards President Trump’s political opponents and the prior administration.

One can find no better example of the Majority’s willingness to contort facts to support its politicized narrative than the report’s Finding #35. The Majority argues that evidence that Trump associates sought after the election to establish secret back channels to communicate with the Russians without the U.S. government finding out – and then lied about it – actually proves there was no collusion with Russia. The sophistry of this kind of analysis, and the report as a whole, wither under scrutiny. Even before its public release, the report suffered in the face of public revelations that bear directly on the investigation and contradicted the Majority’s conclusions.

The actions of both the majority and minority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in releasing their reports come as either new information is coming to light or older information is being fleshed out regarding the June 2016 meeting between Russian assets/proxies and Donald Trump, Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower in NY, as well as other Russian attempts to establish connections with the President and/or members of his campaign.

From CNN:

The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions.

The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin — a relationship that ensnared members of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.

Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump’s candidacy — more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas next Friday, an official told CNN.

The NRA recently found itself facing allegations that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money through the group to bolster Trump, according to a McClatchy report. The NRA has publicly denied any contact from the FBI and insisted it hasn’t accepted illegal donations.

Despite the public denials, officials at the gun-rights group have been anxiously preparing as if they were already under investigation, sources said. Some employees have been tasked with preserving years of documents mentioning Torshin or his associate, Maria Butina, who runs a pro-guns group in Russia, a source familiar with the situation said. Privately, some officials have expressed anxiety about a potential investigation and the group’s Russian ties.

Much more at the link.

Despite the dysfunction on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence the investigation into Russian active measures and cyberwarfare during the 2016 campaign will not end here. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is still conducting its investigation as is the Special Counsel’s Office. Moreover, the British and Canadian Parliaments are both engaging in their own investigations into Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL, there corroboration with Facebook, and how all of this is connected and may also be connected to Russia. Finally, Putin’s efforts to weaken the US and its NATO and EU allies and partners won’t be ending any time soon either.

Stay right where you are!

Open thread.

 



See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: The GOP Majority On The House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence Report On The Russian Active Measures Campaign

On a party line vote, the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), have released the GOP majority’s report on Russia’s active measures campaign against the US – specifically in regard to the 2016 election. The report can be found here. I haven’t had time to do much other than give it a quick read, and won’t until later in the weekend, but basically this is garbage in and garbage out. When you read through it you find that the GOP majority on the committee went out of there way to not investigate what they were supposed to be investigating. They deliberately chose not to ask questions regarding whether or not the President’s business or his campaign were involved with Russian assets – both legitimate and illegitimate. They also went out of their way to take answers from people like Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Keith Schiller, George Papadapolous, Erik Prince, Donald Trump, Jr, etc at face value and to not appropriately follow up. Finally, they went out of their way not to pursue legitimate investigative leads or areas of investigative interest. As a result they have produced a report that concludes that nothing was done wrong, there were no purposefully inappropriate contacts between the President’s business and/or campaign with the Russians, and the real issues were all on the Democratic side of the election – on the part of the Obama administration, and the result of behaviors taken by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, FBI Director Comey, Special Counsel Mueller, DNI Clapper, DCI Brennan, and several others at the DOJ and the FBI.

Unfortunately the truth will out!

From CBS News:

An organization established by an exiled Russian tycoon says it has obtained emails showing collaboration between Russian government officials and the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in 2016. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, also admitted she’s an informant to the Russian attorney general, during an NBC News interview that’s slated to air Friday, according to the New York Times.

“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she reportedly told NBC. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”

This contradicts her earlier contention that she had no connections with the Russian government. Last year, when asked point blank by NBC if she had any connections to the Russian government or had previously worked for the Kremlin, Veselnitskaya replied, “No.”

The emails the Dossier organization have suggest Veselnitskaya worked closely with a top official in Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office to fend off a U.S. fraud case against one of her clients.

Veselnitskaya has denied having connections to the Kremlin since her meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman. The encounter took place after Donald Trump Jr. was told she had potentially incriminating information about Trump’s election opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Veselnitskaya is a well-connected Moscow lawyer, but the extent of her government ties has been unclear.

Trump Jr., along with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after Trump Jr. was told in emails that the lawyer could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Congressman Conoway, who was supposed to be running the investigation once Congressman Nunes recused himself, provided this response to this new information:

Congressman Conoway’s response just reinforces my impression here. The GOP majority on HPSCI took a see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil approach to their duties in this investigation. Congratulations! You all played yourself.

Ultimately it is not surprising that the GOP majority on HPSCI would conduct themselves this way or come to these conclusions. The fish here has rotted from the head. And that head is Congressman Nunes. From the NY Times:

In the Intelligence Committee’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility — a secure office in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center where the committee does its work — there’s a log that keeps track of all the classified materials members request to read. The log’s primary purpose is security, but it also serves as a way of determining which members are doing their homework. According to three people familiar with the log, during Nunes’s first several years on the committee, he rated as its “least read” member. He had a similarly poor record of visiting the intelligence agencies for briefings. His lack of preparation could be seen in the committee’s classified hearings, where, according to a former committee staff member, Nunes often seemed out of his depth. “The committee gets to ask direct questions of the C.I.A. director for two hours a quarter, and if a member is using up half his time on questions that he should already know the answers to, it’s not very productive,” the former staff member says.

Even worse, in the eyes of some of committee members and staff, was how Nunes did get his information. “He’d go out to these hinterlands and run into security guys there, and they’d give him crazy ideas,” the former committee staff member says. “He wasn’t discerning. These guys might have something interesting that’s one piece of the whole puzzle, but he’d think whatever they had to say was the whole truth.” Then, when Nunes brought back that information to Washington and intelligence officials would try to put it in context for him — or correct any misinformation — he would become suspicious. “He didn’t take people at face value,” a former government official recalls, “and didn’t always believe leadership.”

Nunes could go to great lengths in pursuit of his suspicions. In late 2012, he said he heard from “informants” that Obama administration officials were ignoring evidence in a cache of documents collected from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, showing that Al Qaeda was much stronger than the administration publicly contended. Nunes took these allegations to the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, who in turn questioned intelligence officials. Rogers was satisfied with their answers and told Nunes that he believed that the documents, which were being analyzed by Defense Intelligence Agency officials at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., revealed nothing quite so significant. But Nunes wasn’t convinced.

On a Saturday in May 2013, he flew from Washington to Tampa and paid a visit to Centcom headquarters himself, where he demanded to meet with the analysts reviewing the documents, in the hope of uncovering evidence of Al Qaeda’s strength — and an Obama administration cover-up. But after a meeting with the Army major general who headed Centcom’s intelligence wing, Nunes came back to Washington empty-handed.

At the same time, Nunes was also trying to prove that the Obama administration had covered up key facts about the assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Not long after the September 2012 attack, which killed four Americans, including the American ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, the Intelligence Committee began investigating the episode to determine if there had been any intelligence failures. Before going into politics, Rogers, the committee’s chairman, had been an F.B.I. agent — he was confident he knew how to conduct an investigation. But Nunes apparently did not believe that Rogers was pushing hard enough, and he repeatedly gave Rogers what he thought were tantalizing leads, ones that might prove that the Obama administration could have prevented, or at least mitigated, the Benghazi attack and then tried to cover up its mistake.

Nunes had heard that a drone operator at an American air base in Germany said a drone had been flying over the Benghazi compound during the raid and captured video of the incident. According to a source familiar with the investigation, Rogers sent a committee staff member, Michael Ellis, to Germany to find and interview the American drone operator — who, it turned out, wasn’t even in the drone unit that covered Libya and had been telling tales to his parents, which had somehow made their way to Nunes. Rogers was frustrated that he had spent so long investigating a lead that he believed was absurd on its face. Nunes was not chastened; instead he grew discouraged that Rogers wasn’t pursuing even more leads.

The conflict between Rogers and Nunes eventually came to a head over the committee’s handling of five C.I.A. contractors who performed a rescue mission in Benghazi on the night of the raid. The contractors claimed that they were told to “stand down” that evening by the C.I.A. officer in charge at Benghazi. They found their way to Nunes in the fall of 2013, and they quickly hit it off with the congressman. “He was there to hear our story, and the only one I knew of looking for the truth,” Mark Geist, one of the C.I.A. contractors, told me. “That proved his credibility.” Nunes encouraged Rogers to invite the men to testify before the committee, which the panel did in November 2013.

The night before their testimony, Geist and two of the other contractors met with Nunes in his congressional office, according to their attorney, Mark Zaid. As they drank port and smoked cigarettes, they received a visit from a surprise guest. Nunes had invited Boehner to join them. For 45 minutes, the speaker was given a preview of what the men would testify about the next day in front of the Intelligence Committee. When Rogers got wind of what happened, he was alarmed. A longtime Boehner ally, he called his friend and, according to a person familiar with the conversation, told him he was potentially tainting the investigation.

But what can you expect of a member of Congress that is suspected by US officials of working for a foreign power, specifically the Portuguese government. Again from the NY Times‘ profile: (emphasis mine)

Seemingly every time American military or intelligence officials would note an obstacle to Lajes’s hosting the JIAC, Nunes would dismiss it as either a red herring or, worse, a manufactured excuse. “He felt that the reason the Pentagon wasn’t willing to engage on this issue was that the generals didn’t want to give up their lifestyles of being close to London or in Germany,” the government official says. Jim Townsend, who as President Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy was the Pentagon’s point person on Lajes, says of Nunes, “He looked on this almost from a paranoid perspective, like we were out to get him.”

In the end, Nunes did not get his way: The JIAC is still planned for Croughton, and the American presence at Lajes has been drastically reduced. But Nunes created so much rancor over the issue that some American officials came to question his motives, and even his patriotism. “I was having a hard-enough time being beaten up by the Azoreans and the Portuguese, but it was even harder seeing a congressman being in cahoots with them,” Townsend says. “It was like, ‘Whose team are you on?’ ” A former Pentagon official suspects that during the Lajes negotiations, Nunes was making the Portuguese privy to things they should not have known. “We would have a conversation about some proprietary matters with Nunes,” this official says, “and then the next day, somehow, Portugal knew some of that.”

Looking back on the episode now, Townsend views it as a harbinger of sorts. “When all this stuff happened with the Russians, I laughed like hell,” he says, in reference to the Intelligence Committee’s investigation descending into chaos. “Of course it’s Nunes!”

Congressman Nunes has no business even serving on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, let alone chairing it. And given his behavior in regard to Lajes’ business and familial interests, Azorian officials, and the interests of the Portuguese government, he should be treated as if he’s compromised until proven otherwise. And this appearance of being compromised makes it even easier for others to compromise, manipulate, and suborn him. His long standing and long documented predilection for conspiracy theories and his sweet tooth for incomplete information and raw, partial intelligence make him a danger to Congress and the US. If he had been a career civil servant or even a political appointee with this sketchy of a history around classified information, rather than an elected constitutional officer, he would have had his clearance suspended and he’d be sent home pending the outcome of a counterintelligence investigation. That he and his majority on HPSCI would issue this report is not surprising at all.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.



And Now A Word From The Home Office: Russia Announces The US Position On Future US Sanctions Against Russia

The defenestration of Ambassador Haley continues…

From Tass:

MOSCOW, April 18. /TASS/. The United States has notified Russia through its Embassy in Washington that it will not impose fresh sanctions against Russia for the time being, a source in the Russian Foreign Ministry informed TASS on Wednesday.

“I can confirm that the US has notified the Russian embassy that there will be no new sanctions for some time,” he said.

The Washington Post’s Carole Leonnig confirmed this last night:

But it leaves an important question: who was informed first the Russian ambassador in DC or Ambassador Haley?

The US’s position on Russian sanctions has now been officially announced and confirmed by Russia through a Russian state news media outlet.

We are off the looking glass and through the map.

Stay clammy!

Open thread.



Follow The Trail Of Dead Russian Bodies!

Buzzfeed has the details on the service that retired MI6 senior intelligence officer Christopher Steele continues to provide. Right now an aide is trying to secure Senator Grassley’s twitter feed, another is trying to find a fainting couch for Senator Graham, and a third is hiding Congressman Gaetz car keys…

The FBI possesses a secret report asserting that Vladimir Putin’s former media czar was beaten to death by hired thugs in Washington, DC — directly contradicting the US government’s official finding that Mikhail Lesin died by accident.

The report, according to four sources who have read all or parts of it, was written by the former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, who also wrote the famous dossier alleging that Russia had been “cultivating, supporting and assisting” Donald Trump. The bureau received his report while it was helping the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department investigate the Russian media baron’s death, the sources said.

FBI spokesperson Andrew Ames declined to confirm or deny the existence of the report and would not comment for this story. Steele’s business partner, Chris Burrows, declined to comment on behalf of Steele and their company, Orbis Business Intelligence.

The BuzzFeed News series also revealed new details about Lesin — including that he died on the eve of a scheduled meeting with US Justice Department officials. They had planned to interview Lesin about the inner workings of RT, the Kremlin-funded network that he founded.

Now BuzzFeed News has established:

  • Steele’s report says that Lesin was bludgeoned to death by enforcers working for an oligarch close to Putin, the four sources said.
  • The thugs had been instructed to beat Lesin, not kill him, but they went too far, the sources said Steele wrote.
  • Three of the sources said that the report described the killers as Russian state security agents moonlighting for the oligarch.
  • The Steele report is not the FBI’s only source for this account of Lesin’s death: Three other people, acting independently from Steele, said they also told the FBI that Lesin had been bludgeoned to death by enforcers working for the same oligarch named by Steele.

Much more at the link.

If Steele’s report, as well as the FBI’s other sources regarding Lesin’s death, are borne out, we will have a confirmed case of Russian wetwork on US soil. Specifically intended to prevent a potential confidential informant of providing significant counterintelligence information pertaining to Russia’s active measures to the FBI. That the death was unintentional because the Russian agents who administered the beating were bad at their jobs is actually inconsequential. While the result may provide Putin with some mild embarrassment that the Russian government will deny any involvement in, the deterrent effect is this the same: turn on Putin and you and/or your loved ones will be killed.

It is also going to cause a significant problem for whoever was involved in trying to cover it up. From the same Buzzfeed article:

But Steele’s report — the existence of which has never before been made public — adds to a mounting body of evidence that casts doubt on the official finding on Lesin’s death. “What I can tell you is that there isn’t a single person inside the bureau who believes this guy got drunk, fell down, and died,” an FBI agent told BuzzFeed News last year. “Everyone thinks he was whacked and that Putin or the Kremlin were behind it.”

In December, DC police released 58 pages of its case file on Lesin’s death. While many parts are blacked out, what was released says nothing about the blunt force injuries that killed Lesin — or even about him falling down, which is how he is supposed to have died.

Steele’s report on Lesin’s murder, and the Buzzfeed reporting about it, raise significant questions:

  1. Is the existing coroner’s report the product of shoddy forensic work or was a decision made to cover this up to lower the temperature between the US and Russia?
  2. If it was covered up to lower the temperature between the US and Russia, what, if any, more covert responses were taken?
  3. Who decided to create the cover story? And what was their real purpose in doing so?

Until we get answers to those questions, the revelations about this additional Steele report are interesting, but still only provide us with a partial understanding of the events surrounding Lesin’s murder, his autopsy, the investigation into his death, and the official accounting of those events.

Updated at 1:45 PM EDT

I just want to take a moment and add this portion of Buzzfeed’s reporting:

For his report to the FBI about Lesin, Steele gathered intelligence from high-level sources in Moscow, according to the two sources who read the whole report.

All four of the people who read Steele’s report said it pins Lesin’s murder on a professional relationship gone lethally awry. According to the report, they said, Lesin fell out with a powerful oligarch close to Putin. Wanting to intimidate Lesin, the oligarch then contracted with Russian state security agents to beat up Lesin, the report states, according to three of the sources. The goal was not to kill Lesin, all four sources said Steele wrote, but Lesin died from the attack.

The sources could not recall what, if anything, the report said about whether Putin knew of or sanctioned the attack.

Three other individuals, including a business associate of Lesin and two intelligence officials, told BuzzFeed News that they had independently given the FBI similar information: that Lesin had been bludgeoned to death by thugs operating on orders from the same oligarch Steele named.

I specifically want to highlight that three of Steele’s four high level sources indicate that the oligarch that Lesin crossed contracted with “Russian state security agents to beat up Lesin”. Given that the report indicates that the oligarch that Lesin had gotten crosswise with is close to Putin, and given how we know Putin runs Russia, it would be hard to believe that “Russian state security agents” that were contracted to do the op were doing so without Putin at least knowing about the operation, if not approving it.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.



Just A Quick Note On The Russia Investigation

Jane Mayer has produced an excellent piece of long form reporting on Christoper Steele and the investigation into Russia’s active measures and cyberwarfare campaign to both influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential elections and to continue to influence US politics (h/t: Paul Campos at LGM). I just want to highlight what I think are two of the most important points, if not the two most important points, in Mayer’s article, which Campos also highlighted, with some commentary.

First:

Robert Hannigan, then the head of the U.K.’s intelligence service the G.C.H.Q., had recently flown to Washington and briefed the C.I.A.’s director, John Brennan, on a stream of illicit communications between Trump’s team and Moscow that had been intercepted.

I cannot emphasize how important this is. While this has been reported and/or alluded to in other reporting, what Mayer is unequivocally stating is that the head of Britain’s equivalent of the NSA hand carried the signals intelligence (SIGINT) of communications between the Trump campaign and/or Trump organization with the Russians. Moscow in this sentence means Russian government, not just people living and/or working in Moscow. This is important because it means that counterintelligence task force that Director Comey set up, and that Special Counsel Mueller inherited, has had the actual communications captured by British intelligence. Thanks to our British allies, from the start of his investigation, Special Counsel Mueller and his team have known exactly who from the Trump campaign and/or businesses were in touch with Russian officials and what they said to each other. So when you see reporting on Mueller’s investigation or what he is seeking in subpoenas, just keep in mind that the Special Counsel has known a lot about the who, the what, and the when since he started. What he and his team have been doing is fleshing this out. Mapping the overall network. Determining the directions of influence. And, of course, following the money.

The second important part of Mayer’s reporting I want to highlight is:

One subject that Steele is believed to have discussed with Mueller’s investigators is a memo that he wrote in late November, 2016, after his contract with Fusion had ended. This memo, which did not surface publicly with the others, is shorter than the rest, and is based on one source, described as “a senior Russian official.” The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he’d heard was astonishing: people were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump’s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. (During Romney’s run for the White House in 2012, he was notably hawkish on Russia, calling it the single greatest threat to the U.S.) The memo said that the Kremlin, through unspecified channels, had asked Trump to appoint someone who would be prepared to lift Ukraine-related sanctions, and who would coöperate on security issues of interest to Russia, such as the conflict in Syria. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy—and an incoming President.

The question here is who was the American conduit of interference? The contemporary reporting at the time was that Kellyanne Conway played the leading role in dissuading the President from nominating Governor Romney as Secretary of State.

President-elect Donald Trump’s former campaign manager again strongly suggested on Sunday that his supporters would not back former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for secretary of state.

Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s top advisers, told CNN’s Dana Bash that while she hoped Romney would be a gracious secretary of state if selected, his aggressive criticism of Trump during the 2016 Republican primary did not sit well with the president-elect’s supporters.

“It’s just breathtaking in scope and intensity the type of messages I have received from all over the country,” Conway said. “The number of people who feel betrayed to think that Governor Romney would get the most prominent Cabinet post, after he went so far out of his way to hurt Donald Trump — there was the Never Trump movement, and then there was Mitt Romney.”

Just who was Kellyanne Conway receiving messages from about a potential Romney nomination to be Secretary of State? And is she still receiving them? Or, if it wasn’t Conway, or only just Conway, which other staffer, friend, or family member close to the President is taking direction from the Kremlin? I’m sure Special Counsel Mueller and his team are diligently trying to answer these questions.

Stay Frosty!

Open thread.



Imagine That?

Whoever could have guessed that this might be a problem?

Washington (CNN)Former Trump campaign deputy Rick Gates told a federal court Thursday afternoon that he and his wife believe it’s “not prudent” for them to take their four children on a trip to Boston, after feeling threatened by an online commenter who invoked the Russian mafia.

A Boston Globe report on Gates’ scheduled trip, planned for next week and approved by Judge Amy Berman Jackson, “generated comments on the internet, some of which were of a threatening character,” Gates’ attorney said in a court filing.
One Globe reader posted two comments referencing possible violence against Gates in response to an online Boston Globe story published February 26 and titled “Following guilty plea in Mueller probe, Rick Gates plans to visit Boston.” The comments suggested Russians living in Boston could be angry with Gates, if Mueller targeted them in his probe.
The Globe late Thursday blocked the two comments.

Stay frosty and don’t drink any tea you don’t personally prepare for yourself!

Open thread.



Exactly What Is Special Counselor Mueller Investigating?

This morning Cheryl did a post laying out what James Rosen thinks are the four tracks of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation:

THERE ARE FOUR important tracks to follow in the Trump-Russia story. First, we must determine whether there is credible evidence for the underlying premise that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Trump win. Second, we must figure out whether Trump or people around him worked with the Russians to try to win the election. Next, we must scrutinize the evidence to understand whether Trump and his associates have sought to obstruct justice by impeding a federal investigation into whether Trump and Russia colluded. A fourth track concerns whether Republican leaders are now engaged in a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice through their intense and ongoing efforts to discredit Mueller’s probe.

Cheryl provided appropriate caveats regarding Risen, his past reporting, and the editorial bias of The Intercept where he is now employed. Quite simply Risen is wrong. He is wrong because he fundamentally misunderstands what is actually going on with the Special Counsel’s oversight of a dual track counterintelligence and criminal investigation. There are actually five parts to what Special Counsel Mueller and his team are investigating. They are:

1) Russian interference in the election. This includes the hacking and phishing, the troll farms and the bots.  The Russian deployed human and signals and electronic intelligence. Basically the active measures and cyberwarfare campaign to influence the American electorate in order to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected president and to ensure that Donald Trump was elected president. And, perhaps, suppressing enough of the vote by various means to ensure that the Democrats couldn’t flip the Senate and/or the House.

2) What, if any, connections exist between the Trump campaign, including surrogates, as well as other campaigns such as Jill Stein’s, and any other Americans and/or American organizations with the Russians to influence the American electorate in order to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected president and to ensure that Donald Trump was elected president. And, perhaps, suppressing enough of the vote by various means to ensure that the Democrats couldn’t flip the Senate and/or the House.

3) Whether the President and/or others conspired to and/or actually tried to cover up the second item above in order to frustrate both the counterintelligence and criminal investigations.

4) The financial crimes investigation into the President’s, his children’s, his son in law’s, his son in law’s family’s, and many of the President’s associate’s (Felix Sater and Michael Cohen for instance) businesses that have been uncovered as a result of the counterintelligence and criminal investigations.

5) Any other criminality that is subsequently discovered as a result of the investigation.

These five investigatory parts are divided between the counterintelligence and criminal tracks to the investigation. And in the case of much of the counterintelligence portions, the fine line that Special Counsel Mueller and his team are walking is how to build criminal cases out of the counterintelligence investigation. Basically, they have to come up with appropriate evidence that can be used for a criminal prosecution that does not compromise American, allied, and partner nation sources and methods. What Special Counsel Mueller knows as a result of having full access to and oversight of the counterintelligence investigation versus what he thinks he can prove in a court of law are things we all have to wait to find out.

Finally, it is amazing just how well this has held up.

Open thread!