Tag Archives: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

Top FBI lawyer James Baker flips; says Russia investigation politically biased

The White House insider known as Q or Q Anon has been hinting at an imminent political turning point he calls “Red October”.

Yesterday afternoon came news that the FBI has completed investigating Brett Kavanaugh, the agency’s 7th investigation of the judge, and a full Senate vote is expected this weekend.

Today was the deadline for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to hand in McCabe, FISA and Russian investigation documents subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee.

Add this to hopeful signs of a “Red October”.

Catherine Herridge reports for Fox News that former top FBI lawyer James Baker gave “explosive” closed-door testimony yesterday, Oct. 3, detailing for congressional investigators how Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe was handled in an “abnormal fashion” reflecting “political bias,” according to two Republican lawmakers present for the deposition — Rep. Mark Meadows (North Carolina) and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio).

James A. Baker, who as General Counsel of the FBI had a close working relationship with former FBI Director James Comey and was a recipient of at least one Comey memo, resigned from the bureau in May this year.

Meadows and Jordan would not provide many specifics about the private transcribed interview of James Baker, citing a confidentiality agreement with Baker and his attorneys. However, the two Congressmen indicated in broad terms that Baker was cooperative and forthcoming about the genesis of the Russia case in 2016, and about the FISA surveillance warrant application for Trump campaign aide Carter Page in October 2016.

Rep. Mark Meadows said, “Some of the things that were shared were explosive in nature. This witness [Baker] confirmed that things were done in an abnormal fashion. That’s extremely troubling.” Indeed, Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who opened the Russia case, FBI lawyer Lisa Page and others had sent politically charged texts, and have since left the bureau.

Rep. Jim Jordan said, “During the time that…DOJ and FBI were putting together the FISA (surveillance warrant)…prior to the election — there was another source giving information directly to the FBI, which we found the source to be pretty explosive.”

Meadows and Jordan would not elaborate on the source, or answer questions about whether the source was a reporter. They did stress that the source who provided information to the FBI’s Russia case was not previously known to congressional investigators.

Baker is at the heart of surveillance abuse allegations, and his deposition lays the groundwork for next week’s planned closed-door interview with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Baker, as the FBI’s top lawyer, helped secure the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant on Page, as well as three subsequent renewals. Prior to the deposition, Republican investigators said they believed Baker could explain why information about Christopher Steele (the British ex-spy behind the concocted Trump-“golden shower” dossier) and Steele’s apparent bias against then-candidate Trump, was withheld from the FISA court, and whether other exculpatory information was known to Rosenstein when he signed the final FISA renewal for Page in June 2017.

For his part, Rosenstein is expected on Capitol Hill on Oct. 11 for a closed-door interview. It comes after the New York Times reported last month that he’d discussed secretly recording President Trump in order to remove him from office using the 25th Amendment.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Wednesday the meeting between Rosenstein and President Trump remains in limbo: “If there’s a meeting, we’ll let you know. But at this point, they continue to work together and both show up every day and do their jobs.”

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~Eowyn

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House Judiciary Committee subpoenas AG Sessions for McCabe, FISA and Russian investigation documents

A week ago on September 27, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) subpoenaed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for three documents. The deadline for Sessions to produce those documents is tomorrow.

In his letter notifying Sessions of the subpoena, Goodlatte wrote:

Given the [Justice] Department’s ongoing delays and/or refusal to produce these documents, I am left with no choice but to issue the enclosed subpoena to compel their production.

The Subpoena states that on October 4, 2018, at 12:00 p.m., Sessions is “hereby commanded to be and appear before the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives” to produce three documents “in un-redacted form”:

(1) The McCabe Memos: “All documents and communications” written by former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe “to memorialize discussions, meetings, or correspondence he had with senior government officials, including the President of the United States.

The McCabe Memos include:

  • Real-time debriefs from former FBI Director James Comey after his meetings with Trump.
  • A memo on the May 16, 2017 meeting where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein allegedly suggested he would wear a wire to secretly tape President Trump, which would then be used to enlist Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. McCabe and former FBI counsel Lisa Page were among several people in the room. (Fox News)

Note: Michael Bromwich, who is now an attorney representing Christine Blasey Ford, Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser, was Andrew McCabe’s attorney.

(2) The Woods File: includes (a) the application for a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) order authorizing surveillance on Carter Page; and (b) “any document concerning or relating to any attempt to verify the accuracy of any alleged facts stated in the FISA applications for Mr. Page.”

Carter Page is a petroleum industry consultant and a former foreign-policy adviser to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. He has been a focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year investigation into alleged links between Trump and Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.

(3) Russian interference: “All documents and communications shared with the Gang of Eight in May 2018 related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.”

On May 24, 2018, FBI and Justice Department officials briefed the bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the “Gang of 8” on classified documents related to Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation. The “Gang of 8” are:

  1. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  2. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader.
  3. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
  4. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader.
  5. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Speaker.
  6. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
  7. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader.
  8. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

H/t maziel

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~Eowyn

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Why Trump won’t fire Rod Rosenstein

Rod Rosenstein, 53, a Republican, is the rat-face whom President Trump, on February 1, 2017, nominated to be the Justice Department’s Deputy Attorney General, and whom the Senate quickly confirmed on April 25, 2017.

The next month, in May 2017, Rosenstein authored a memo which President Trump said was the basis of his decision to dismiss FBI Director James Comey. Rosenstein then appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election and related matters. Rosenstein also approved the raids on the home, office and hotel room of Trump attorney Michael Cohen.

The Deputy Attorney General is a political appointee of the President of the United States and takes office after confirmation by the Senate. According to the DOJ website:

The Deputy Attorney General advises and assists the Attorney General in formulating and implementing Departmental policies and programs and in providing overall supervision and direction to all organizational units of the Department. The Deputy Attorney General is authorized to exercise all the power and authority of the Attorney General, except where such power or authority is prohibited by law from delegation or has been delegated to another official. In the absence of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General acts as the Attorney General.

Five days ago on Sept. 21, The New York Times reported that shortly after the dismissal of Comey, Rosenstein grew concerned about Trump’s fitness for office. Rosenstein suggested he could wear a wire to secretly tape conversations between himself and Trump, then use those recordings against the President by  invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. The 25th Amendment provides for the removal of a sitting president if he or she is judged unfit to carry out the duties of the office.

Rosenstein strongly denied it, saying he was just being sarcastic in his reference to taping Trump. In response, Trump said he wasn’t sure what the deputy AG’s fate would be.

Two days ago, conservatives got all elated by talk of Rosenstein having resigned or being fired:

  • Citing sources, Axios reported that Rosenstein had anticipated being fired by President Trump, so he told White House chief of staff John Kelly he was resigning.
  • Bloomberg said Rosenstein actually had resigned and that his resignation had been accepted.
  • Pete Williams of NBC News, however, said Rosenstein was not going to resign but was on his way to the White House for a showdown to force Team Trump to fire him.

But the chatter all came to nothing. We are told that Rosenstein had not resigned and that he will meet with President Trump tomorrow.

That Rosenstein still has a job despite his plotting against Trump adds to conservatives’ frustration. Many of us repeatedly have asked why Trump hasn’t  and seemingly won’t fire swamp creatures like Rosenstein.

Bob Fredericks of the New York Post briefly explained why:

Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Trump has the power to appoint an acting AG if it’s a resignation. If he is fired, the process is murkier and governed by federal employment laws.

So I looked into this. Here is what I found.

To begin, firing federal workers is very difficult.

In an article for Politifact, Angie Drobnic Holan describes the process for firing or even disciplining federal government workers as “cumbersome” and “difficult”.

Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University, said that out of a federal workforce of 1.86 million, “Very few federal employees — in the hundreds, not the thousands — are ever fired on the basis of poor performance. If you want to fire an employee, you’re taking on a task that is very intense and difficult, and biased in favor of protecting employees, and it can take a year or more to complete.

Don Kettl, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed that it’s too hard to fire poor performers and that few experts who study the issue would disagree: “The federal civil service is hamstrung by antiquated rules. We need to make it easier to fire poor performers.”

John Palguta of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit that advocates for an improved federal workforce, said that when an employee is fired, there are a number of appeals processes available to fight a termination. Some of those processes probably could be streamlined, while keeping in place rules designed to protect employees from partisan politics because “It’s not supposed to be easy to fire federal workers for the wrong reasons.”

In 1999, when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) undertook a study of poor-performing federal employees, the researchers had a difficult time even finding a statistically-significant sample of supervisors who had attempted to take action against a poor performer. The 42 supervisors whom the researchers found said it was hard to fire workers because of a lack of support from upper management, varying quality in technical guidance for completing the process, and reluctance to devote the time and energy needed to complete the cumbersome process. Many bosses got discouraged and gave up. The OPM report said:

Interviewees found the investment of time and energy required over an extremely long period to be daunting. This was compounded by the stress resulting from the employee’s counter-charges, grievances, accusations, appeals, general hostility and attempts to subvert the supervisor. One described the documentation required as ‘horrendous.’

In contrast, if a federal employee who is a presidential appointee resigns or quits, the President immediately can appoint a person to the vacated office “in an acting capacity” until a replacement candidate is nominated and confirmed.

According to the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, if an officer of an executive government agency that requires presidential appointment with Senate confirmation (such as deputy attorney general of the Justice Department) dies, resigns, or is otherwise unable to perform office functions, the President is authorized to appoint a person temporarily to serve in the vacated office in an acting capacity for a period of 150 days, during which time the President is expected to nominate a replacement, with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The Federal Vacancies Reform Act makes no mention of what happens when an officer of an executive government agency that requires presidential appointment with Senate confirmation is fired. But common sense says that the very fact that Congress enacted this Act, to address cases when the federal appointee resigns, presumes that the procedure would be different if the appointee is fired.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Trump had to be warned by aides back in April not to fire Rosenstein. Others, such as Sean Hannity, also advised Trump against firing Rosenstein, claiming that such a move would open Trump to being impeached. Whatever the reason, despite, as NewsMax puts it, Rosenstein being “a frequent target of the president’s wrath,” the Federal Vacancies Reform Act makes clear why Rosenstein’s resignation would be preferable to him being fired.

~Eowyn

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FISA Memo in text format. Lock them up!

Yesterday, after President Trump had declassified the memo, the House Intelligence Committee (full name: House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence or HPSCI) finally released the notorious FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) memorandum.
The memo was released in PDF format that does not enable copying. So I took screenshots of the memo and posted them yesterday.
Since I prefer a document in text format because it enables copying, pasting, highlighting, and reproduction, I painstakingly copied and typed the FISA memo from the screenshots into a text document.
Below is the text version of the FISA memo, followed by my bullet-point analysis. Word between brackets [ ] are my comments.

The FISA Memo

January 18, 2018
To: HPSCI Majority Members
From: HPSCI Majority Staff
Subject: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Purpose
This memorandum provides Members with updates on significant facts related to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and, 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.
Investigation Update
On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a U.S. citizen who served as a volunteer adviser to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.
The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. §1805(d)(1)), a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the FISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Then-DAG Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.
Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the FISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard–-particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

(1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $16,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Cole and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Cole) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information. [That means Steele, in addition to producing an egregiously flawed dossier on Trump, double-dipped!]

(2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News—and several other outlets—in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Cole was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations—an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship to the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September—before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October—but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling—maintaining confidentiality—and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

(3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files—but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

a) During this time period, Ohr’s wife [Nellie Ohr] was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.

(4) According to the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was—according to his June 2017 testimony—“salacious” and “unverified”. While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.
(5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.

Here are the main points you need to know about the FISA memo:

(1) The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 is a federal law that establishes procedures for the U.S. government’s physical and electronic surveillance of foreign powers and domestic (U.S.) agents of foreign powers suspected of espionage or terrorism. The Act created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to oversee requests for surveillance warrants by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
(2) To prevent abuse of FISA against U.S. citizens, FISA applications require the government to produce valid and unbiased documentation in support of the application.
(3) In October 2016, the Obama Administration made a FISA application to FISC to conduct electronic surveillance of an American citizen named Carter Page, who was at the time a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign.
(4) The validity of the Carter Page FISA application depended on two supporting documents:

  • A “dossier” compiled by a former British spook named Christopher Steele which claims that Trump was colluding with Russia, which meant Trump was a foreign (Russian) agent — thus triggering the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and justifying the government’s surveillance on Trump and members of his campaign team.
  • An article in Yahoo News by journalist Michael Isikoff.

(5) Both supporting documents are seriously flawed:

  • The Steele dossier’s information is tainted because:
    • The information in the dossier was unverified and unsubstantiated.
    • The dossier was politically motivated, paid for by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign to be used as “opposition research” against Trump.
    • The dossier’s author, Christopher Steele, had made known to the DOJ (in the person of Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr) his political objections to and bias against Donald Trump — the subject of the dossier.
  • Michael Isikoff’s Yahoo News article is a duplicate of the Steele dossier because Isikoff’s source was none other than Christopher Steele. Since the Steele dossier is tainted, Isikoff’s article is also tainted.

(6) An individual involved in the Page FISA application, DOJ official Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, should have recused himself due to conflict of interest. Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, was working for Fusion GPS — the firm that hired Christopher Steele — to produce “opposition research” on Trump. All of this, however, was concealed from the FISC — information relevant to the FISC’s consideration of the Page FISA application.

(6) FBI agent Pete Strzok, who conducted a counterintelligence investigation of another Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, should have recused himself because of his bias against Trump, expressed in text messages to his mistress, another FBI agent named Lisa Page. To compound his misdeeds, Strzok then leaked information to the media, which was used to attack Trump.
(7) Similarly, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who signed the Page FISA application, should have recused himself because of his anti-Trump bias. McCabe had met with Bruce Ohr to discuss an “insurance policy” to ensure that Trump would not be elected President.

Lock Them Up!

The FISA memo shows that the Obama Administration abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to illicitly obtain court approval to conduct surveillance of at least one Trump team member, Carter Page, in violation of Page’s Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights.
This means that the following FBI and DOJ officials committed malfeasance when they certified, approved, and signed the FISA applications:

  1. FBI Director James Comey
  2. FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
  3. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates
  4. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
  5. Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente


~Eowyn

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