Seeing the Round Corners

February 4, 2019

   The Mueller investigation as it’s come to be known has dominated the news since President Trump was sworn in. What few Americans realize is just how “clandestine” the two-year investigation really is. (Clandestine is defined as “characterized by, done in, or executed with secrecy or concealment, especially for purposes of subversion or deception, private or surreptitiously.)
No, this writer is not about to pretend to explain away the political war now going on in Washington. Keep in mind as you read today’s column, the Democrats are still hell-bent on impeaching President Trump based mostly on what the Mueller report contains, or what they hope it contains, but first, a little background to recognize the main players in this political war. Then, some points of how clandestine acts the government of this country stooped to in compiling the Russian investigation for these two years.

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been one of those agencies that has been looked on as one that could do no wrong. Throughout its history since its founding, the agency has pretty much been scandal free, well respected by most citizens and known for “getting their man,” to borrow an old cliché.
  • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA) was initially enacted in 1978 with amendment adopted in January of 2018. FISA “established procedures for the conduct of foreign intelligence surveillance and created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).” “The Department of Justice must apply to the FISC to obtain a warrant authorizing electronic surveillance of foreign agents.” “For targets that are U. S. persons (U. S. citizens, permanent resident aliens and U. S. corporations), FISA requires heightened requirements in some instances.”
  • James Baker, a former top FBI lawyer, has reportedly told lawmakers he “was involved in the warrant application for surveillance of Donald Trump’s junior campaign aide Carter Page, and it was not routine for him to normally get involved in such matters.” Baker is now under investigation for leaking information to the media, according to Fox News – “a criminal leak investigation that is still active at the U S. Justice Department.”
  • Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, assembled the body of documents that has become infamous as the Russian dossier. According to National Public Radio, Steele was commissioned by a political intelligence firm Fusion GPS, to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia – a project that was being underwritten by Democrats, and some sources say by Hillary Clinton.
  • House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes.

   Readers beware, the following points are taken from various news sources including National Public Radio, Newsmax and the Wall Street Journal, and are presented not as facts verified by this writer, but to show how innuendos, weak and flimsy presumptions, in some cases “wishes,” were used in the Mueller investigation, and the Democrats’ part in driving this political war.
Finally, top-secret surveillance warrant(s) were released (significantly redacted) – such papers are seldom even acknowledged, much less revealed/shown to the public, with legal experts saying, “it is the first time they can recall an application to the spy court being made public in the four decades since Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

  • The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee Adam Schiff (D-CA) has long been adamant that Donald Trump Jr. called his father on the phone before meeting with the Russian lawyer with ties to Kremlin.
  • New York Times (no fan of President Trump) reported on January 31st  that Senate investigators obtained evidence that “Trump Jr. did not call his father, but spoke instead with two longtime family friends:  Nascar head Brian France and investor Howard Lorber, prior to his meeting with Natalie Veseinitskaya (the Russian lawyer) at Trump tower.
  • CNN (also no fan of President Trump) citing three unnamed sources reported the records provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee show the calls were between Trump, Jr. and two business associates.
  • The issue of the calls involving blocked numbers have been a lingering issue as investigators looked into the meeting and whether Trump had advanced knowledge of his eldest son, son-in-law Jared Kushner and then campaign chair Paul Manafort meeting with the Russian lawyer.
  • Trump Jr. told congressional investigators in 2017 he did not know who the blocked calls were with, but declared he did not tell his father about the meeting or the offer of dirt on Clinton.
  •  The FBI’s investigation began in 2016 when it learned that a Trump campaign foreign policy aide, George Papadopoulos had been offered ‘dirt” on Hillary Clinton and “off-the-record” meetings with Russian officials by Russian intelligence operatives in London.
  • A few short months later (October 2016), the FBI turned its focus to Carter Page, a onetime junior foreign policy aide to the Donald Trump campaign, and subsequently asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to begin collecting Page’s electronic communications, arguing it believed Page might have been conspiring with the Russians and that it believed he was a full-blown Russian agent..
  • Former top FBI lawyer, James Baker, said he was involved in the warrant application for surveillance of Carter Page, acknowledged and confirmed other “unusual steps” in the FBI probe in 2016 during closed door congressional testimony.
  • The FBI released a heavily redacted but still significant application to conduct surveillance of an American under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act –these are some of the most secret papers in official Washington and are very seldom ever seen by people without specialized security clearances.
  • In a new document (also October 2016), investigators cited a number of reasons they believed it, including the FBI’s past experience in dealing with Page – who had been targeted for recruitment by Russia’s foreign intelligence service – and then-new reports the FBI was getting from a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele.
  • Christopher Steele assembled the body of documents that has become infamous as the Russia dossier and passed them to his employers and to the FBI with which he had a pre-existing relationship, supposedly because he was alarmed by what he had learned.
  • Even though payment for Steele’s work had come from Democrats, the Justice Department and the FBI considered Steele trustworthy enough to include his reporting in their application to surveil Page. Avoided in this document was many direct references to people or institutions as part of national security that is  Washington’s practice called “minimization.”
  • The FBI speculates that the identified U. S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.
  • Also in the application was “Notwithstanding Source #1’s reason for conducting the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia, based on Source #1’s previous reporting history with the FBI, whereby Source #1 provided reliable information to the FBI, the FBI believes Source #1’s reporting herein to be credible.
  • The argument has been raised that the Department of Justice and the FBI officials appear to have deliberately concealed from the FISA judge that “Source 1” wasn’t just someone with an ax to grind – he was being paid by one of the two-major-party campaigns in the United States. 
  • House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes argued details should have been included but weren’t:  “In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts.” “However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.”
  • Nunes (and Republicans) complained about a section of the FISA application that cites a news story to buttress information from Steele, even though it has since become clear that Steele also was the source of that story.
  • The final blow, “Nunes declared victory and told the Associated Press that the document confirmed ‘the FBI used outright political propaganda to spy on an American citizen during the election.’” Nunes then called for the full FISA application to be released without its redactions.
  • Finally, Schiff told NPR that there was more evidence beyond the Steele reporting in the FISA application, but that he could not discuss what it was because it remains classified.

   Reams more could be written on this political war, but the points in items 1-19 are probably more than enough to show the zeal which has been put into the effort to create something that did not actually occur, and causing special counsel Robert Mueller to nail Buzzfed for its false reporting, a more than highly unusual move on the part of such a prosecutor. 

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