By Joe Simonson
The Department of Justice inspector general identified a number of instances where FBI employees regularly spoke with members of the media and received a number of free perks from journalists including meals and tickets to various events.
On page XII in the report, the IG says the department “identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters.”
The IG expressed “profound concerns about the volume and extent of unauthorized media contacts by FBI personnel that we have uncovered our review.”
The contact between FBI agents and the media extended to receiving “improperly receiving benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events.”
In the following paragraph, the IG implies that such benefits could have encouraged various agents to leak information to the press. (EXCLUSIVE: BuzzFeed Confirms It Knew About Ali Watkins’ Relationship With Indicted Senate Official)
“The harm caused by leaks, fear of potential leaks, and a culture of unauthorized media contacts is illustrated in Chapters Ten and Eleven of our report, where we detail the fact that these issues influenced FBI officials who were advising Comey on consequential investigative decisions in October 2016,” the report states.
The IG is forceful in its opinion that the problem with leaking is not “with the FBI’s policy, which we found to be clear and unambiguous.” Instead, the leaking phenomenon “appears to be a cultural attitude among many in the organization.”
According to charts provided in the IG report, one reporter had contact with 12 FBI officials, including an FBI executive and unit chief.
Another reporter contacted an assistant director 21 times and a special agent 23 times, according to the IG. Some FBI employees were in contact with multiple reporters, with one special agent contacting various journalists 32 times.
Such a finding by the IG helps shed light on how various information has reached outlets like CNN or The New York Times throughout the criminal investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One of the striking findings from the report is how senior officials within the organization had no problem speaking with the media and breaking department policy — and possibly receiving goods in exchange for that information.
By Jefferson Morley
The firing of Gen. Michael Flynn has popularized the concept of the “Deep State” across the political spectrum.
Breitbart’s Joel Pollak attacks the disloyal “Deep State #Resistance” to President Trump, while conservative pundit Bill Kristol defends it.
“Obviously [I] strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics,” Kristol tweeted Tuesday. “But if it comes to it, [I] prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”
And the conflict is deepening. The New York Times reports Thursday that Trump wants to bring in Wall Street billionaire Stephen Feinberg “to lead a broad review of American intelligence agencies.”
The idea is reportedly provoking “fierce resistance” from intelligence officials who fear it “could curtail their independence and reduce the flow of information that contradicts the president’s worldview.”
What Is the Deep State?
The Deep State is shorthand for the nexus of secretive intelligence agencies whose leaders and policies are not much affected by changes in the White House or the Congress. While definitions vary, the Deep State includes the CIA, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and components of the State Department, Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the armed forces.
With a docile Republican majority in Congress and a demoralized Democratic Party in opposition, the leaders of the Deep State are the most—perhaps the only—credible check in Washington on what Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) calls Trump’s “wrecking ball presidency.”
The leaders of these agencies are generally disturbed by Trump’s cavalier treatment of their intelligence findings and particularly worried about contacts between Trump’s entourage and Russian intelligence officials.
As Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire notes, the undisputed facts are accumulating:
- Multiple U.S. intelligence services believe that Russian operatives, at Putin’s directions, tried to help Trump get elected. The FBI is investigating contacts between Russian officials and at least three people connected to Trump’s presidential campaign: Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Roger Stone.
- There were “continuous” contacts between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian intelligence officials. At least some of the claims made in a dossier compiled by a former British intelligence official have been confirmed, though none of the more salacious details.
- Trump has had many financial dealings with Russian oligarchs, as shown in an investigation by the American Interest.
As a result, the intelligence agencies are withholding sources and methods from the president out of fear they will leak to foreign powers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Senior officials are also leaking the results of the ongoing investigation into Trump to reporters at the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
The leaking of classified information, which Trump welcomed during the 2016 campaign, is indeed a felonious violation of the law, although it has been standard procedure for Washington power players since the passage of the National Security Act in 1947. If today’s leaks targeted a Democratic national security adviser, they would likely induce the outrage now heard mostly on the political right.
In denouncing the “political assassination” of Flynn, Bloomberg’s Eli Lake notes that, “Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.”
Writing in Foreign Policy, Marc Ambinder observes, “The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works.”
Roger Stone Responds
One target of the leaks, hard-right political operative Roger Stone, says the allegations that he had contact with “senior Russian intelligence officials,” as reported in the Times, are “categorically false.”
“Show me the proof,” Stone said in a telephone interview with AlterNet. “Show me an email. Show me a copy of a financial transaction. They’ve got nothing.”
“I have never been contacted by the FBI,” Stone added. “If they’re conducting an investigation, it’s in secret.”
Stone charged that former CIA director John Brennan is the source of the leaks, noting that the Times report cited “current and former officials.” Brennan should be investigated for leaking classified information, he insisted.
“This is an effort by the Deep State to destabilize the president,” Stone said.
Vanity Fair calls the crisis of Trump’s presidency Watergate 2.0. The historical analogy is apt because the Watergate scandal that engulfed President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s was also a struggle between the White House and the intelligence agencies. But today’s crisis is more accurately described as Trump vs. the Deep State.
It is the death match of American political power and it will determine the fate of Trump’s troubled presidency.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is requesting that witnesses turn in their personal phones to inspect their encrypted messaging programs
Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team is requesting that witnesses turn in their personal phones to inspect their encrypted messaging programs and potentially view conversations between associates linked to President Donald Trump, sources told CNBC.
Since as early as April, Mueller’s team has been asking witnesses in the Russia probe to turn over phones for agents to examine private conversations on WhatsApp, Confide, Signal and Dust, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Fearing a subpoena, the witnesses have complied with the request and have given over their phones, the sources said.
While it’s unclear what Mueller has discovered, if anything, through this new request, investigators seem to be convinced that the apps could be a key to exposing conversations that weren’t previously disclosed to them.
A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
Manafort accused of tampering
The revelation that Trump associates are giving Mueller access to their encrypted apps comes as former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is being accused by investigators of tampering with witnesses through the same types of programs.
On Monday, the special counsel filed a claim that Manafort tampered with witnesses after he was indicted in February for money laundering and illegally acting as a foreign agent.
For evidence, Mueller’s deputy listed two apps, WhatsApp and Telegram, that they say Manafort used to contact the witnesses in his case. The filing also says that those conversations were provided to Mueller in May, a month after witnesses say they were approached to provide their phones.
Representatives from WhatsApp, Signal and Dust did not return requests for comment. A representative for Confide could not be reached.
Encryption to protect privacy
The encrypted applications are used to keep conversations private and give users the ability to have discussions without being monitored.
WhatsApp, for instance, markets itself as a way to securely communicate with people overseas.
“With WhatsApp, you’ll get fast, simple, secure messaging and calling for free, available on phones all over the world,” the website says.
Dust dubs itself a “safer place to text,” and pushes its platform as a way to keep messages secretive as well as giving their users the ability to erase messages off of other people’s phones, according to their website.
“All your messages automatically ‘dust’ (erase) in 24 hours or as soon as they’re read – you choose which,” the site explains.
Dust was also the app reportedly used between longtime Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen and Felix Sater, a real estate developer who has claimed to have ties to Russian oligarchs, when they tried to complete a deal for Trump Tower Moscow. The plan ultimately fell apart.
Legal experts aren’t surprised
It isn’t surprising that witnesses are voluntarily giving over possible evidence to federal investigators, experts said.
“It’s just more typical for law enforcement to ask for consent for the obvious reason because it’s much easier than applying to a court to get judicial permission,” said Robert Ray, who acted as independent counsel during the Bill Clinton Whitewater investigation.
He added, though, that it’s “not commonplace, but not all that unusual, either,” for prosecutors to seek evidence from witnesses’ phones.
“There’s nothing wrong with asking people to voluntarily provide information to the FBI for whatever investigation,” said Michael German, a retired FBI agent and current fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program. “And to the extent that that’s a voluntary action is where the rub is.”
“The national anthem is problematic in and of itself.”
CNN commentator Angela Rye said Tuesday that she believes the national anthem is “problematic in and of itself.”
Rye tore into Trump during a discussion about the president disinviting the Philadelphia Eagles from their White House victory celebration after only a handful of players committed to attending. (RELATED: Trump Cancels Eagles Reception Over National Anthem Protests)
“It’s just dishonest, right?” Rye said. “This isn’t about people who disagree with the partisan leanings of the president. There are Republicans who are my friends — this is about someone who trafficked in bigotry, xenophobia, and racism from the very beginning of his campaign.”
“We’re now going to end up in a midterm where we’re talking about the national anthem,” she added. “The national anthem is problematic in and of itself. There is a second verse that Colin Kaepernick brought attention to that has yet to be discussed on broad platforms.”
By Tyler Durden
The Department of Justice’s internal watchdog has found that James Comey defied authority several times while he was director of the FBI, according to ABC, citing sources familiar with the draft of a highly anticipated OIG report on the FBI’s conduct during the Clinton email investigation.
One source told ABC News that the draft report explicitly used the word “insubordinate” to describe Comey’s behavior. Another source agreed with that characterization but could not confirm the use of the term.
In the draft report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz also rebuked former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for her handling of the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal email server, the sources said. –ABC
President Trump complained on Tuesday of “numerous delays” in the release of the Inspector General’s report, which some have accused of being slow walked or altered to minimize its impact on the FBI and DOJ.
“What is taking so long with the Inspector General’s Report on Crooked Hillary and Slippery James Comey,” Trump said on Twitter. “Hope report is not being changed and made weaker!”
“It’s been almost a year and a half and it is time that Congress receives the IG report,” said Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who has been on the front lines of the battle against the DOJ and FBI’s stonewalling of lawmakers requesting documentation. “This has gone on long enough and the American people’s patience is wearing thin. We need accountability,” said DeSantis.
Another congressional official, who’s been fighting to obtain documents from the DOJ and FBI, said it is no surprise that they are putting pressure on Horowitz. According to the official, “They continue to slow roll documents, fail to adhere to congressional oversight and concern is growing that they will wait until summer and then turn over documents that are heavily redacted.”
ABC reports that there is no indication Trump has seen – or will see – the draft of the report prior to its release. Inspector General Horowitz, however, could revise the draft report now that current and former officials have offered their responses to the report’s conclusions, according to the sources.
The draft of Horowitz’s wide-ranging report specifically called out Comey for ignoring objections from the Justice Department when he disclosed in a letter to Congress just days before the 2016 presidential election that FBI agents had reopened the Clinton probe, according to sources. Clinton has said that letter doomed her campaign.
Before Comey sent the letter to Congress, at least one senior Justice Department official told the FBI that publicizing the bombshell move so close to an election would violate longstanding department policy, and it would ignore federal guidelines prohibiting the disclosure of information related to an ongoing investigation, ABC News was told. –ABC
During an April interview, Comey was asked by ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos OI
“No,” replied Comey. “I believe in the chain of command.”
Deputy Attorney General slammed Comey’s letter to congress while recommending that Trump fire Comey last year – saying it “was wrong” for Comey “to usurp the Attorney General’s authority” when he revealed in July 2016 that he would not be filing charges against Hillary Clinton or her aides (many of whom were granted immunity).
“It is not the function of the Director to make such an announcement,” Rosenstein wrote in a letter recommending that Comey be fired. “At most, the Director should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings to federal prosecutors.”
The draft OIG report dings Comey for not consulting with Lynch and other senior DOJ officials before making his announcement on national TV. Furthermore, while Comey said there was no “clear evidence” that Hillary Clinton “intended to violate” the law, he also said that Hillary Clinton had been “extremely careless” in her “handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
And as we now know, Comey’s senior counterintelligence team at the FBI made extensive edits to Clinton’s exoneration letter, effectively decriminalizing her behavior.
“I have not coordinated or reviewed this statement in any way with the Department of Justice or any other part of the government. They do not know what I am about to say,” Comey said on live TV July 5, 2016.
By then, Lynch had taken the unusual step of publicly declaring she would accept the FBI’s recommendations in the case, after an impromptu meeting with former president Bill Clinton sparked questions about her impartiality.
Comey has defended his decisions as director, insisting he was trying to protect the FBI from even further criticism and “didn’t see that I had a choice.” –ABC
“The honest answer is I screwed up a couple of things, but … I think given what I knew at the time, these were the decisions that were best calculated to preserve the values of the institutions,” Comey told ABC News. “I still think it was the right thing to do.”
Comey is currently on a tour promoting his new book, “A Higher Loyalty.”
Sign it while it’s HOT!!!
JUNE 5, 2018
Click here to sign the White House petition to fire Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions before it expires.
And if just 1 reader out of every 100 to 150 have signed it, which would be a respectable ratio by modern web standards, then 850,000 to 1.275 million people have seen it. Further, I have a feeling that Sessions himself knows it’s there and we’ll be issuing a request for comment to both him and the DOJ spokesperson at the White House when it closes. So, it sure would be nice to hit 10,000 signatures before then, 😉
However, this many signatures already send a clear message to Mr. Sessions that he has become a distraction, an obstacle in the way of handling the nation’s business. Even if he stays, the petition is a stern reminder to him that we’re here, we’re watching, we’re active, and we’re NOT happy. It also sends a clear message that if President Trump were to make a cabinet change and ditch Sessions, then thousands of Americans would support that choice.
So, sign here. It only takes a couple minutes and if POTUS does fire Sessions, you’ll always be able to say that you signed to help make it happen!
Thanks, and let’s hope that Sessions never lives down images like the below.