Trump Will Provide Classified Intelligence to Kremlin

Trump Will Provide Classified Intelligence to Kremlin

Trump Will Provide Classified Intelligence to Kremlin

This is what today’s headlines should read, because it conveys what will actually happen when the U.S. Department of Justice and Department of National Intelligence are forced to comply with the President’s reckless order to declassify and publicly release numerous classified documents in the name of “transparency.” According to a September 17, 2018 press release from the White House, the documents to be declassified will include:

  • Pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page
  • All FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation
  • All FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications
  • All text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction [blacking out portions of text], of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

WhiteHousePressRelease-Declassification


 

The backgrounds of the people in question are:

  • Carter Page:
    • American citizen who regularly does business in Russia
    • Lost a large amount of money if Russian investments
    • Came to the attention of the FBI in 2013 when the FBI believed that he was being actively recruited by Russian operatives
    • Became Trump Campaign Foreign Policy Adviser in March 2016
    • Gave pro-Russia speech in Moscow in July 2016
    • Went to Moscow again in December 2016
  • Bruce Ohr
    • High-ranking Department of Justice official with expertise in Russian organized crime
    • Long-time friend of highly regarded Russia expert/former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele; Steele had been contracted to begin investigating Trump’s activities in Russia in mid 2016 by research firm Fusion GPS (the company paid indirectly by the Clinton Campaign to do opposition research into Trump); Steele’s interviews with his trusted sources in Russia resulted in the “Steele dossier”
    • Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele apparently had conversations after and possibly during the campaign about the information that Steele was uncovering
    • Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie worked for Fusion GPS on the different aspects of the same Trump project that Steele was hired to work on (see article of this coincidence)
  • James Comey
    • FBI Director during the 2016 Campaign and for the early months of the Trump Administration
    • Fired by President Trump in May 2017, triggering special counsel investigation into Trump for obstruction of justice
  • Andrew McCabe
    • Deputy Director of the FBI during the 2016 Campaign
    • Temporary acting Director of the FBI after James Comey was fired
    • Was found by the DOJ Inspector General’s office to have made unauthorized releases to the media and to have “lacked candor” when asked about it
  • Peter Strzok
    • Former FBI Chief of Counterespionage
    • Led FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server
    • Worked for first two months of Mueller investigation into Russian interference in 2016 election
    • Removed from Mueller investigation after Mueller learned of anti-Trump text messages between Strzok and an extramarital mistress, Lisa Page, sent between August 2015 and December 2016
    • Discussed a “media strategy” in texts with Page
  • Lisa Page
    • Former FBI lawyer
    • Briefly served on Mueller investigative team
    • Had affair with FBI officer Peter Strzok

 

There may be validity to initiating a deeper investigation into the actions of some of these individuals and determining whether their personal political biases crept into their professional activities. However, declassifying and releasing these documents to the public is not the appropriate way to do that. The information should instead be evaluated by a special counsel and/or by the courts. Releasing the information publicly will contribute to the legitimacy of an obstruction of justice case against the President and will jeopardize our national security.

When we hear that a government document is being released to the public, we typically envision the public as the average American citizen. In American culture, such transparency with the public is generally considered a good thing. Yet when the government assigns a “classified” label to certain information, there is a reason for that. That reason for classifying the information is usually important and should be bypassed only with thorough consideration of the unintended consequences.

The President’s public release of classified information about an active investigation into himself can provide otherwise unobtainable insights that enable witnesses and accomplices to shape their stories to match the known facts while concealing vital, still undiscovered information. This would be tantamount to obstruction of justice, similar to providing inside police information to a criminal about that criminal’s own case.

Far more alarmingly, however, are the national security implications of the President’s decision. Successful intelligence and law enforcement operations depend on the security of “sources and methods.” This is shorthand for maintaining confidentiality of how information was obtained (disclosure of which would tip off guilty parties and foreign adversaries about, for example, what modes of communication to avoid) and who the information was obtained from (disclosure of which could at best result in those informants and spies no longer being useful sources of information, or could at worst result in those individuals and their families being killed).

In Russia, the mafia and the Kremlin have a symbiotic relationship. What benefit can Russia gain from knowing about the communications between Russian organized crime expert Bruce Ohr and Christopher Steele, who relied on numerous individuals inside Russia to compile his dossier? Which of Steele’s sources might be revealed in the declassified documents? How valuable would the Kremlin find information about how Russia’s election interference activities were first uncovered and how the investigation proceeded from there?

Even if names are redacted, the descriptions of dates and locations can enable a foreign adversary to determine how their activities became compromised, and who compromised them. By rendering certain intelligence sources and methods less useful or even useless, the President is jeopardizing our national security, making it that much harder for our intelligence community to determine what hostile adversaries are up to. He also may be intentionally or unintentionally tipping off Putin on how to cover tracks of Russian election interference activities being investigated by Mueller.

Trump’s decision to publicize valuable, unredacted, classified information is not only a disclosure to the average American: it is a prized treasure trove of information for the Kremlin.

– rob rünt

When Will He Wake Up About Putin?

When Will He Wake Up About Putin?

Remember during the 2016 Presidential Campaign, when political pundits and career politicians soberly asserted that if Donald Trump won the election, he would rise to the dignity and magnitude of the office? And once he won the election and nothing changed, they asserted that spending time in the job would surely change him? And although the change still didn’t materialize, they nonetheless held out hope, pouncing on isolated incidents like his scripted first State of the Union address as evidence that now he was finally becoming Presidential. Until he returns to his usual behavior within hours.

The same thing seems to be happening in regards to Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki. Politicians and journalists have been asking aghast for over a year “How can President Trump possibly trust Putin?” “Why doesn’t he realize that Putin isn’t our friend?” etc. These questions are even asked regularly by bright commentators who should know better. Their framing of the issue in this way not only misses the mark, but imposes a naïve bias on America’s predicament which (possibly inaccurately) colors public perception about what is happening.

Nobody but Donald Trump can possibly know whether or not he trusts Vladimir Putin. It is just as possible – if not more so – that he does not trust Putin at all, but is being aggressively blackmailed by the Russian President, and is profoundly terrified of him. Of course, that is not a dignified assumption for the media to make about the President of the United States, but neither is assuming that he is some wide eyed boob who is too foolish or totalitariophilic to recognize a major and obvious threat to our nation about which he has been warned continuously and repeatedly for the entirety of his time in office.

We are in a potentially perilous time right now. Yet many of us seem to be eager to assume the best-case scenario about what is happening, even after witnessing the President’s subservience to Putin with our own eyes – his shell-shocked, slumping, dead-man-walking body language as the two emerged from their private meeting and Putin jauntily strode to the podium, his refusal to hold Putin in any way accountable for actions that America’s own intelligence community have told him undeniably took place.

We need to prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that what we are seeing is exactly what it looks like: a self-centered, emotionally immature man who has lived a life of impulsive desire fulfillment, lack of accountability, and petty one-upsmanship, whose wealth, behavior and influence brought him to the attention of Russian intelligence long ago as a U.S. person upon whom to compile a dossier of “kompromat,” who is now realizing to his own horror that his past behavior and his present job are conflicting in a way that can lead to deep embarrassment and humiliation at best, and prison time for him and his associates at worst.

The first step to acknowledging and bracing ourselves for this potential reality is to stop asking why the President does not realize that Putin is a threat, and to accept that he may already understand the threat of Vladimir Putin all to well.

– rob rünt

“Finish It The Hell Up!”

“Finish It The Hell Up!”

Those words were spoken by U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), expressing frustration over what he sees as the slow pace of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. Gowdy’s words reflect a perception among many on the right, fed and amplified by the likes of Fox News, that Mueller’s team is dawdling, and that a lack of charges against the President by now means unquestionably that there is nothing there. Because of the constant repetition of this misconception in some circles, some clarification is needed.

First, Gowdy’s statement is ironic, since the House Judiciary Committee, led by Trey Gowdy, spent 30 months investigating Hillary Clinton’s possible role in the Benghazi attack between May 8, 2014 and December 12, 2016. While Benghazi was a serious incident, it was far less consequential than a U.S. President being assisted by a hostile foreign adversary to get elected. We are currently in the 14th month of the Mueller investigation, which began on May 17, 2017. And as Special Counsel investigations go, this one has taken a relatively short length of time thus far. The chart below was published by the Washington Post.

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It is also important to look at the types of crimes that Mueller is likely investigating. Steve Bannon reportedly said “this is all about money laundering.” I believe that Trump knowingly or unknowingly laundered money for Russian oligarchs and Russian organized crime figures for decades. There is an abundance of evidence of Trump real estate deals with Russians in which Trump properties were purchased at an inflated price and quickly resold for a significantly lower price, and in which properties were paid for with all cash – telltale signs of money laundering. An example would be the sight-unseen sale of a Palm Beach mansion to Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev (whose yacht and plane coincidentally appeared numerous times near Trump campaign events).

Money laundering is an intentionally complex and opaque crime. That’s the point of money laundering: the goal is to disguise the original illegitimate source of the money by processing it – often through multiple opaque transactions, shell companies, etc. – in a way that ultimately makes the money appear legitimate (even if at a loss – at least now it can be used). Money laundering is therefore an extremely time-consuming crime to investigate, and this case likely involves many multiple incidents of it.

In Russia, Putin demands a cut of all illicit money that the Russian mafia and oligarchs take in. If Trump were laundering money (a felony) for them, Putin would absolutely have a long and thorough awareness of that. Such knowledge – far more than any alleged salacious video from the Moscow Ritz Carlton – is likely the “kompromat” (compromising material) that Putin has on Trump, and with which Putin may in fact be blackmailing the President of the United States.

In addition to a lengthy history of money laundering – a clear motive for Trump to cooperate with Russia – Mueller’s team must also look into evidence of cooperation between the Trump Campaign / Trump Transition Team / White House and a foreign government run by a former KGB officer who knows how to cover his tracks. Potential witnesses and participants from Russia cannot be subpoenaed, and also know that they could potentially be murdered or jailed if they choose to offer evidence or testimony to Mueller. Those witnesses must therefore be presumed inaccessible.

Even so, you might say, if Trump has been involved in any criminal activity and/or collusion with Russia, Mueller must certainly have evidence of it by now – over a year into the investigation – so Mueller’s silence clearly indicates that he has found no such evidence. I believe that Mueller currently has a ton of evidence against a number of people from Trump’s campaign and possibly against the President himself. But consider what you do when playing poker. Do you pick up your hand and announce excitedly “Hey, I just got two pair! If I get another ace or king. I’ll have a full house!” Or do you keep your mouth shut, betray no emotion, and move calmly forward?

Mueller disclosing the evidence that he has collected at this point could compromise the rest of the investigation in multiple ways. It could tip off wrongdoers about who is providing information and what that information is. It could enable the President to know which facts not to lie about if he is ever interviewed by Mueller, and it could give him time to develop a plausible explanation for those particular facts. It could result in some witnesses being paid off, or if the participants involved are dangerous enough, it could result in witnesses being killed.

Some Republicans have stated the Mueller should let Congress know what evidence has been gathered so far, to prove to them, as part of their oversight responsibility, that the investigation is pursuing real issues and not simply wasting taxpayer money on, as the President calls it, a “witch hunt.” This is a legitimate argument.

Yet many of the same Republicans leading this charge, like U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) – a former member of the Trump Transition Team and currently Chair of the House Intelligence Committee (who should theoretically know better than anyone about the proper handling of sensitive information) – have proven repeatedly that they cannot treat the information with the care that it deserves. Upon getting key information, Nunes has instead chosen to run to tell the President what he has learned, or has called a press conference to be the first to put a spin on the information. Both of these activities jeopardize the investigation by informing potential suspects about an ongoing investigation.

I want to see the Meuller investigation completed as soon as possible – likely for a different reason than Trey Gowdy does. But I also know that what Mueller is likely investigating is extremely complex, involves years of activity long pre-dating the 2016 campaign, involves witnesses who can never be questioned, and involves a Congress whose members cannot all be relied upon to put justice above partisan or selfish interests. So I force myself to be patient and believe that justice will prevail.

Of all the people in this situation, I trust Robert Mueller the most. Until the President and Fox News began their slanderous drumbeat to tarnish his name and reputation, Mueller was known to Republicans and Democrats alike as a brilliant and solid law enforcement official of unwavering integrity. That was why he was approved for his current responsibilities by both parties in an otherwise deeply divided House and Senate. Mueller is still the same man that he was before the smear campaign began, and I will trust whatever outcome he and his team arrive at, even if that outcome is that there is no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing by the President.

– rob rünt