Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Comey and the e-mails

Former US Attorney for the District of Colmbia Joseph E. Digenova has an important speech he's given about the Russia hysteria.  There's a lot of great stuff in there.  But this time, let's highlight the whole Hillary e-mail issue because he's providing a great deal of context that has been left out:

Over the past year, facts have emerged that suggest there was a plot by high-ranking FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials in the Obama administration, acting under color of law, to exonerate Hillary Clinton of federal crimes and then, if she lost the election, to frame Donald Trump and his campaign for colluding with Russia to steal the presidency. This conduct was not based on mere bias, as has been widely claimed, but rather on deeply felt animus toward Trump and his agenda.
In the course of this plot, FBI Director James Comey, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, FBI Deputy Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok, Strzok’s paramour and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, FBI General Counsel James Baker, and DOJ senior official Bruce Ohr—perhaps among others—compromised federal law enforcement to such an extent that the American public is losing trust. A recent CBS News poll finds 48 percent of Americans believe that Special Counsel James Mueller’s Trump-Russia collusion probe is “politically motivated,” a stunning conclusion. And 63 percent of polled voters in a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll believe that the FBI withheld vital information from Congress about the Clinton and Russia collusion investigations.
I spent my early legal career as a federal prosecutor. I later supervised hundreds of prosecutors and prosecutions as a U.S. Attorney and as an Independent Counsel. I have never witnessed investigations so fraught with failure to fulfill the basic elements of a criminal probe as those conducted under James Comey. Not since former Acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray deep-sixed evidence during Watergate has the head of the FBI been so discredited as Comey is now.

The Case of the Clinton Emails

The Hillary Clinton email scandal began in 2013 with the U.S. House of Representatives investigation into the attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. It was during that investigation that accessing Secretary of State Clinton’s emails became an issue. But it wasn’t until The New York Times broke the story on March 2, 2015, that Clinton had a secret, personal server that things really took off.
Thousands of emails that the House at first requested, then subpoenaed, conveniently disappeared—remember those reports about BleachBit and the smashing of Clinton’s numerous phones with hammers? Clinton and her aides were, to say the least, not forthcoming. It was clearly time for the FBI and DOJ to act, using the legal tools at their disposal to secure the emails and other materials the House had subpoenaed. But that didn’t happen.
One tool at their disposal was the grand jury—the sine qua non of a criminal investigation. Grand juries are comprised of 16 to 23 citizens who hear a prosecutor’s case against an alleged criminal. The subject of the investigation is not present during the entire proceeding, which can last up to a year. A grand jury provides investigators with the authority to collect evidence by issuing subpoenas for documents and witnesses. FBI agents and prosecutors cannot themselves demand evidence. Only a grand jury can—or a court, in cases where a subpoena recipient refuses a grand jury’s command to provide documents or to testify.
Incredibly, FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Lynch refused to convene a grand jury during the Clinton investigation. Thus investigators had no authority to subpoena evidence or witnesses. Lacking leverage, Comey then injudiciously granted immunity to five Clinton aides in return for evidence that could have been obtained with a subpoena. Even when Clinton claimed 39 times during a July 2, 2016, interview—an interview led by disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok—that she could not recall certain facts because of a head injury, Comey refused the case agents’ request to subpoena her medical records.
Comey claims he negotiated the immunity deals because of his concern about time. Yet the investigation was opened in the summer of 2015, nearly a year before he cut these deals. Compare this to the DOJ’s handling of four-star Marine General James E. Cartwright, who pleaded guilty in October 2016 to a false statement about leaking classified information to The New York Times. In that case, the DOJ bragged about its use of subpoenas and search warrants.
Not only was there no grand jury, the FBI never issued a search warrant—something it does when there is concern a person will destroy evidence. Clinton deleted half her emails and then claimed, under penalty of perjury, that she had turned over to the government all emails that “were or potentially were” work-related. The FBI later found email chains classified as “secret” or “confidential” that she had not turned over. Still no search warrant was issued.
Comey’s dereliction did not stop at the failure to utilize essential prosecutorial tools. He violated several rules that prosecutors consider sacrosanct:
  • Comey allowed one lawyer to represent four material witnesses, an arrangement ripe for the four to coordinate testimony.
  • After needlessly giving immunity to two lawyers representing Clinton, Comey permitted both to sit in on her July 2, 2016, FBI interview—a patent conflict. He claimed he could not control who sat in on the “voluntary” interview. That’s nonsense. He could have convened a grand jury, subpoenaed Clinton, and compelled her to appear and be questioned without a lawyer or else plead the Fifth Amendment.
  • Comey authorized the destruction of laptop computers that belonged to Clinton’s aides and were under congressional subpoena.
  • Comey ignored blatant evidence of culpability. It is ridiculous to the general public and risible to those who have security clearances for Clinton to claim she thought that “(c)” placed after paragraphs in her emails meant the material was in alphabetical order rather than meaning it was classified. If she thought (c) indicated alphabetical order, where were (a) and (b) on the documents? Clinton and her supporters touted her vast experience as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, positions requiring frequent use of classified information and presumably common sense. Yet neither experience nor common sense informed her decisions when handling classified materials.
  • Comey and the FBI never questioned Clinton about her public statements, which changed over time and were blatantly false. “I did not email classified information to anyone” morphed into “I did not email anything marked ‘classified,’” which morphed into the claim that (c) did not mean what it clearly meant. False and changing statements are presented to juries routinely by prosecutors as evidence of guilt.
  • Breaking DOJ protocols, violating the chain of command, and assuming an authority he never had, Comey usurped the role of the U.S. attorney general on July 5, 2016, when he announced that the case against Clinton was closed. He justified his actions saying that he no longer trusted Attorney General Lynch after her June 27, 2016, meeting with Bill Clinton on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport. This meeting took place at the height of the so-called investigation—just days before Peter Strzok interviewed Clinton on July 2. Thanks to the efforts of Judicial Watch to secure documents through the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that Comey was already drafting a letter exonerating Clinton in May 2016—prior to interviewing more than a dozen major witnesses. We also know that the FBI’s reaction to the impropriety of the tarmac meeting was not disgust, but rather anger at the person who leaked the fact of the meeting. “We need to find that guy” and bring him before a supervisor, stated one (name redacted) FBI agent. Another argued that the source should be banned from working security details. Not one email expressed concern over the meeting. An FBI director who truly had his trust shaken would have questioned the members of Lynch’s FBI security detail for the Arizona trip about how the meeting came to be. Comey didn’t bother.
Comey described Clinton’s handling of classified information as “extremely careless,” a clumsy attempt to avoid the legal language of “gross negligence” for criminal mishandling of classified information—and we later learned that Peter Strzok, again, was responsible for editing this language in Comey’s statement. But practically speaking, the terms are synonymous. Any judge would instruct a jury to consider “gross negligence” as “extremely careless” conduct.
Comey claimed that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring the case against Clinton. I have spent many years investigating federal crimes, and I can tell you that a reasonable prosecutor would have utilized a grand jury, issued subpoenas and search warrants, and followed standard DOJ procedures for federal prosecutions. In short, Comey threw the case. He should have been fired long before he was.
In late spring 2016, just weeks prior to Comey’s July 5 press conference clearing Clinton of any crime, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe ordered FBI agents in New York to shut down their investigation into the Clinton Foundation. Their objections were overruled. Sources have told me that McCabe also shut down an additional Clinton investigation. This is the McCabe who, while he was overseeing the Clinton email investigation, had a wife running for the Virginia State Senate and receiving more than $460,000 in campaign contributions from a longtime Clinton loyalist, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Moreover, it was only after the news of Clinton’s private server became public in The New York Times that McAuliffe recruited McCabe’s wife to run for office. McCabe eventually recused himself from the Clinton probe, but that was one week before the 2016 election, after the decisions to clear Clinton and to pursue the Trump-Russia collusion investigation had already been made. So his recusal was meaningless.
In clearing legal impediments from Clinton’s path to the Democratic nomination, Comey and his senior staff thought they had helped Clinton clinch the presidency. Their actions put an end to a decades-long tradition of non-political federal law enforcement.
Again, there's a lot more in the speech but I thought he really nailed down what the FBI failed to with regards to Hillary's e-mails.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, March 6, 2018.  We look back at some of the early days and reason of the ongoing Iraq War.

Starting in California where Kevin de Leon is running for the US Senate.

Last week, Kevin was interviewed on CNN.

Kevin's background demonstrates he's ready for the US Senate:

During his time as President pro Tempore of the California State Senate, Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has led the 40-member Senate body to historic accomplishments that will improve the lives of Californians and the state’s environment and economy for decades to come.
Senator de León has led a bold agenda to increase economic opportunity for all Californians with a focus on maintaining California’s global leadership role in fighting climate change and building a clean-energy economy, rebuilding our state’s infrastructure, public education, work-place and health-care, equity for women, immigrants and low-wage workers and public safety.
Through his ambitious approach to policymaking, Senator de León has authored groundbreaking legislation on a variety of issues that have become national models. The progress that has been made on critical issues confronting California and the nation stands in stark contrast to the gridlock in the U.S. Congress.
In many ways, Senator de León embodies the promise of America. From a childhood of poverty to community activism, to the upper echelon of the California Legislature, his respect and commitment to working families and the betterment of all Californians has never diminished.
Senator de León is the son of a single immigrant mother who supported her family in the San Diego barrio of Logan Heights working as a housekeeper and other pick-up jobs. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school and college.
He attended U.C. Santa Barbara and graduated from Pitzer College at the Claremont Colleges with honors. He is a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California. He has one daughter.
Before entering into politics, Kevin served the public as a community organizer, taught English as a Second Language and U.S. Citizenship, and advocated for public schools.
Working for both the National Education Association and the California Teachers Association, Kevin fought for additional funding for schools in low-income neighborhoods, more school construction, and health insurance for children. He fought against schemes to take funds from public schools through taxpayer-funded vouchers and academic censorship in public schools. 
Senator de León was elected by his colleagues to lead the Senate in 2014, making him the first Latino to hold that position in over a century. Prior to that, Kevin served four years in the Assembly before his election to the Senate in 2010.

In June, we will have a primary and the top two candidates -- regardless of which political party they belong to -- will then be on the ballot in the November general election.

Staying with the US Congress, we'll note this from IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff.

. Chief Policy Officer, Iraq vet, former Army Captain , will deliver testimony on behalf of our membership nationwide today at 2PM. Her background:

The Iraq War will not, however, be the subject of the hearing.

No one wants to talk about the ongoing and never-ending Iraq War, apparently.

Let's revisit, as the 15th anniversary draws near, how the hell we got here.

Dr. Michael Parenti explained in the months after the March 2003 US-led invasion:

Through September and October of 2002, the White House made it clear that Iraq would be attacked if it had weapons of mass destruction. Then in November 2002, Bush announced he would attack if Saddam denied that he had weapons of mass destruction. So if the Iraqis admit having such weapons, they will be bombed; and if they deny having them, they still will be bombed—whether they have them or not.
The Bushites also charged Iraq with allowing al Qaeda terrorists to operate within its territory. But US intelligence sources themselves let it be known that the Iraqi government was not connected to Islamic terrorist organizations. In closed sessions with a House committee, when administration officials were repeatedly asked whether they had information of an imminent terrorist threat from Saddam against US citizens, they stated unequivocally that they had no such evidence (San Francisco Chronicle, 20 September 2002). Truth be told, the Bush family has closer ties to the bin Laden family than does Saddam Hussein. No mention is made of how US leaders themselves have waged death squad terrorist campaigns in scores of countries, and how they have allowed terrorists to train and operate within our own territory, including a mass murderer like Orlando Bosch. Convicted of blowing up a Cuban airliner, Bosch walks free in Miami.
Bush and company seized upon yet another pretext for war: Saddam has committed war crimes and acts of aggression, including the war against Iran and the massacre of Kurds. But the Pentagon’s own study found that the gassing of Kurds at Halabja was committed by the Iranians, not the Iraqis (New York Times, 24 January 2003). Another seldom mentioned fact: US leaders gave Iraq encouragement and military support in its war against Iran. And if war crimes and aggression are the issue, there are the US invasions of Grenada and Panama to consider, and the US-sponsored wars of attrition against civilian targets in Mozambique, Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, and scores of other places, leaving hundreds of thousands dead. There is no communist state or “rogue nation” that has such a horrific record of military aggression against other countries over the last two decades.
With all the various pretexts for war ringing hollow, the Bushites resorted to the final indictment: Saddam was a dictator. The United States stood for democracy and human rights. It followed that US leaders were obliged to use force and violence to effect “regime change” in Iraq. Again, we might raise questions. There is no denying that Saddam is a dictator, but how did he and his crew ever come to power? Saddam’s conservative wing of the Ba’ath party was backed by the CIA. They were enlisted to destroy the Iraqi popular revolution and slaughter every democrat, left-progressive, and communist they could get hold of, which indeed they did, including the progressive wing of the Ba’ath party itself—another fact that US media have let slide down the memory hole. Saddam was Washington's poster boy until the end of the Cold War.

It's worth noting that the events above are just the latest wave in what has been a never ending attack on Iraq by the US government.  As novelist and activist Arundahti Roy observed the 2003 invasion immediately followed these events:

After using the "good offices" of UN diplomacy (economic sanctions and weapons inspections) to ensure that Iraq was brought to its knees, its people starved, half a million of its children killed, its infrastructure severely damaged, after making sure that most of its weapons have been destroyed, in an act of cowardice that must surely be unrivalled in history, the "Allies"/"Coalition of the Willing"(better known as the Coalition of the Bullied and Bought) - sent in an invading army!

She has also rightly observed, "The assault on Iraq is an assault on all of us: on our dignity, our intelligence, and our future." 

This war was rejected globally.  Nicaraguan activist Bianca Jagger was among those rejecting the illegal war and doing so before it started.  Here she is reflecting on the war in 2016 with Afshin Rattansi on RT's GOING UNDERGROUND.


Bianca Jagger: How interesting when read about [in book 9 of the Iraq Inquiry's published report] about the e-mails that were sent to [then-prime minister of the United Kingdom Tony] Blair about, you know, what they needed to do and when Blair said at the time --I think it was in 2002 that he said -- that the energy crisis was one of the most important issues at the time here.  

Afshin Rattansi: And now, of course, oil privatization seems to be continuing -- that was the goal here.  What do you think of oil privatization today because they seem to be pumping out more oil?

Bianca Jagger: At the time, what they hoped to achieve, was to produce 5 million barrels of oil per day.  When Saddam Hussein was in charge, they were producing 2.5 million barrels of oil per day.  It took them 12 years to produce 4.5 million. [. . .]  But you have to go back, really, to the exchange of e-mails that Blair had about how it was important to secure contract for BP and for Shell -- not to be left out like they were during the first Iraq War [the Gulf War].  And anyone who believes that that didn't play -- So why was it, if that is not the case, that the first thing they secure -- two days after they arrive -- is the oil fields?

Afshin Rattansi:  Well, as I said, Shell denouncing any of these accounts, Blair calling it an oil conspiracy and, of course, the invasion was called Operation Iraqi Liberation -- that was before they changed the acronym from OIL -- perhaps because of your speech, I don't know.

Cynthia McKinney was in the House of Representatives and -- unlike John Kerry, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein among others -- she managed to vote against the Iraq War in 2002 and to speak out against the war before it started and after it had.  In 2008, she left the Democratic Party and was the Green Party's presidential candidate (Rosa Clemente was her running mate).  From her WIKINEWS interview in 2008:

If elected, how would you handle Iraq?

Congresswoman McKinney: I would instruct the Joint Chiefs to draw up a plan for the orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops from the country. I would dismantle our military bases in the area, and I would also demand that U.S. and other international corporations relinquish any claims to Iraqi oil or other resources and withdraw as well. I would encourage the Iraqi people to select their own leaders through the ballot box with assistance from the best minds in the universities region and in the world, in very much the same way that the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa was written. I would support the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to inaugurate a just peace and I would deploy a Peace Corps to the country that would work in concert with the reconstruction needs of the Iraqi people and their leadership.

So many spoke out.  But as the war dragged on, year after year, so many 'forgot.'

Let's note one example.  January 27, 2007, many of us in the US were in DC protesting the ongoing war.  We reported on the DC protest for THIRD.  Jane Fonda was there.  Remember her words?  Arab activists do and they haven't been happy with her in the last few years.

Her words included:

I haven't spoken at an antiwar rally in 34 years, because I’ve been afraid that because of the lies that have been and continue to be spread about me and that war, that they would be used to hurt this new antiwar movement, but silence is no longer an option. My daughter, who is here with me today -- come here -- she was a little girl when she would come with me to the anti-Vietnam War protests. She’s here today with her two little children, my grandchildren. I’m very proud that they’re here, but I’m so sad that we still have to do this; that we did not learn the lessons from the Vietnam War; that we’ve made the same mistakes, blindness to the realities on the ground, hubris and arrogance in dealing with a people and culture far older than we are; and that we understand so little, carelessness and thoughtlessness in our approach to rebuilding a country we’ve destroyed, allowing billions of dollars to be stolen, squandered at the hands of private contractors, just as this administration has done in our own gulf in the post-Katrina era. So, thank you. Thank you for being here, and we’ll continue to be here for as long as necessary.

"We'll continue to be here for as long as necessary"?

For those who missed it, that was Jane's last action or speaking out against the ongoing Iraq War.  That was January 2007.  

Late to the party and first to bail, thank you, Jane.

See, Barack Obama got elected in November 2008 and no one wanted to call him out.  

Arundhati Roy deserves credit for not being a coward. In March of 2013, this exchange took place on DEMOCRACY NOW!:

AMY GOODMAN: Do you see President Obama going in a different direction?
ARUNDHATI ROY: Of course not. I don’t see him going in a different direction at all. I mean, the real question to ask is: When was the last time the United States won a war? You know, it lost in Vietnam. It’s lost in Afghanistan. It’s lost in Iraq. And it will not be able to contain the situation. It is hemorrhaging. It is now—you know, of course you can continue with drone attacks, and you can continue these targeted killings, but on the ground, a situation is being created which no army—not America, not anybody—can control. And it’s just, you know, a combination of such foolishness, such a lack of understanding of culture in the world.

And Obama just goes on, you know, coming out with these smooth, mercurial sentences that are completely meaningless. I was—I remember when he was sworn in for the second time, and he came on stage with his daughters and his wife, and it was all really nice, and he said, you know, “Should my daughters have another dog, or should they not?” And a man who had lost his entire family in the drone attacks just a couple of weeks ago said, “What am I supposed to think? What am I supposed to think of this exhibition of love and family values and good fatherhood and good husbandhood?” I mean, we’re not morons, you know? It’s about time that we stopped acting so reasonable. I just don’t feel reasonable about this anymore.
Who does feel reasonable about this?  With the 15th year anniversary of the start of the ongoing war just weeks away, who does feel reasonable?  The people with their heads buried in the sand?  

I get it.  We noted it in real time.  The media withdrew from Iraq -- the US media -- at the end of 2008, following Barack being elected president.  They'd still cover it, they insisted, as long as US troops were there -- a promise they now forget.  ABC NEWS insisted they'd continue to cover it . . . via BBC.  That went on for a few weeks.  MCCLATCHY and so many others left as well.  I get that there is a media whole, there is no significant coverage of this ongoing war in the US media.  But at some point, that's just not good enough for an excuse.  Yes, Americans can only follow what gets covered.  That's true to a large degree.  But when we're having deaths in Iraq of US citizens and even that's not able to register?  At some point, the lack of network news coverage doesn't quality as a valid excuse.

From the October 4, 2017 snapshot:

Let's stay with the trash that is Brian Stelter.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, he can use Iraq as a political football on his Twitter feed -- can and did -- but he still hasn't Tweeted about the US service member who died in Iraq Sunday.  He hasn't even reTweeted Jake Tapper's Tweet.

Pentagon IDs US soldier killed by IED Sunday in iraq: Spc. Alexander W. Missildine, 20, of Tyler, Texas. RIP

Stelter is an idiot and an embarrassment.

Army Spc. Alexander W. Missildine, killed in Iraq bomb blast Sunday, was just starting first deployment:

Honoring the memory of a fallen 10th Mountain Division Soldier. Specialist Alexander W. Missildine, killed Sunday, October 1, 2017 in Iraq

Alex Horton and Dan Lamothe (WASHINGTON POST) report:

Troops learn early on to call peers by their last name. But for Pfc. Gabrielle Babbitt, she was drawn to a fellow soldier she just calls Alex, the guy with a “silly” Texas accent.

She met Spec. Alexander W. Missildine while training in summer 2015, with her coming from Fairport Harbor, Ohio, and he from Tyler in East Texas. Both were learning to become Army truck drivers.
[. . .]
“I told him, ‘You have to promise me you’ll come back.’ I had a feeling something was wrong, because normally he’d send a message throughout the day just to say hi,” said Babbitt, also 20, “and I didn’t hear from him at all.”

KLTV is the local ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas. - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

And this is from KLTV Doug Murray's text report:

"Towards the end of high school, we would talk about that transition of graduating and getting to real life," former Robert E. Lee High School Band Director Robert Castillo said. "He was really excited about serving his country."
[. . .]
"I knew him when he was an 8th grader at Hubbard," Castillo said. "He took care of me, he took care of the band and he had pride in helping others."
Outside Missildine's mother's home there are yellow ribbons affixed to the mailbox and tree. His mother, Robin Goodwin, says the family does not wish to offer any official statement in relation to his death, but expresses thanks for the condolences pouring in.

KXAN notes:

Tyler ISD released the following statement on Spc. Missildine’s passing:
“Tyler ISD is saddened to learn of the passing Spc. Alexander Missildine, a 2015 graduate of Robert E. Lee High School. The District joins the Tyler community in thanking him for his service to our country. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time of loss.”

Good for the school district.

Need a more recent example?

Sgt. Christina Marie Schoenecker, 26, of Arlington, Kan., died in a noncombat incident Monday in Iraq while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

The Iraq War continues.  It hits the 15 year mark in a matter of weeks.

At what point are we going to demand that it end?

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, Cindy Sheehan and DISSIDENT VOICE -- updated: