June 4 – 10, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories


Robert Mueller


Special Counsel Mueller Puts an Expert in the Mafia and Fraud at the Heart of His Investigation
(Daily KOS – 6/6/17)

‘Brilliant’ Criminal Law Expert Joins Mueller’s Team on Russia Probe
(Chicago Tribune – 6/9/17)


Leaks


Federal Government Contractor in Georgia Charged With Removing and Mailing Classified Materials to a News Outlet
(Department of Justice – 6/5/17)

NSA leak suspect Reality Winner allegedly bragged in jail calls she would ‘play that card’ of being ‘pretty, white and cute’
(Business Insider – 6/9/17)


Former FBI Director James Comey


Comey Told Sessions: Don’t Leave Me Alone With Trump
(New York Times – 6/6/17)

Comey Accuses White House Of ‘Lies, Plain And Simple’ About His Firing
(National Public Radio – 6/8/17)

“I can definitively say the President is not a liar.”

– White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders
   June 8 Press Conference (The Hill – 6/8/17)

Full Transcript and Video: James Comey’s Testimony on Capitol Hill
(New York Times – 6/8/17)

7 Takeaways from Comey’s Extraordinary Testimony About What Trump Told Him to Do
(Washington Post – 6/8/17)

Ryan Defends Trump: President is New at This
(CNN – 6/8/17)

The Five Lines of Defense Against Comey — and Why They Failed
(The Atlantic – 6/8/17)

And while everyone was paying attention to the Comey hearing, remember what resulted from bank deregulation by the end of the George W. Bush years?

House Passes Sweeping Legislation to Roll Back Banking Rules
(Washington Post – 6/9/17)


Counter–Punching


 Trump Sees Comey’s Testimony as ‘Complete Vindication’ — and His Fans Agree
(Washington Post – 6/10/17)

President Trump’s Lawyer’s Statement on Comey Hearing
(CNN – 6/8/17)

Calling Comey a Liar, Trump Says He Will Testify Under Oath
(New York Times – 6/9/17)

See May 18 blog entry:
“Why Donald Trump Will Be Impeached and May Go To Prison”

Trump: I’m Willing to Testify Under Oath About Comey Claims
(CNN – 6/9/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Testimony Before Congress by Daniel Coats (Director of National Intelligence) and Mike Rogers (NSA Director)


Top Intelligence Official Told Associates Trump Asked Him if He Could Intervene with Comey on FBI Russia Probe
(Washington Post – 6/6/17)

Coats and Rogers Refuse to Say if Trump Asked Them to Sway Russia Probe
(Politico – 6/7/17)

Transcript of Testimony by Coats and Rogers
(CNN – 6/7/17)


Testimony from Attorney General Jeff Sessions Coming Up


Sessions Says he Plans to Testify Before Senate Intelligence Panel
(CNN – 6/10/17)


Trump Supporters


It’s Time to Bust the Myth: Most Trump Voters Were not Working Class
(Washington Post – 6/5/17)


Business Dealings


How Donald Trump Shifted Kids-Cancer Charity Money Into His Business
(Forbes – 6/6/17)

Eric Trump’s Cancer Charity Event was Billed by Trump for Use of Golf Course
(CBS News – 6/7/17)

Democrats to Sue Trump Over Conflicts of Interest
(Politico – 6/7/17)


International Relations


Foreign Relations Chairman Stunned by Trump’s Qatar Tweets
(The Hill – 6/6/17)

Russian fighter Intercepts U.S. Bomber Over Baltic Sea
(Reuters – 6/6/17)

Nikki Haley Warns US May Pull Out of UN Human Rights Council Over ‘Anti-Israel Bias’
(The Independent UK – 6/6/17)

North Korea Slams Trump’s Decision to Pull out of Paris Accord as ‘the Height of Egotism’
(Washington Post – 6/7/17)

North Korea’s Antiship Missile Test Aims to Show It Can Repel Assault
(New York Times – 6/8/17)


Impeachment


Former US Intelligence Chief: Watergate Pales in Comparison to Russia Probe
(CNN – 6/7/17)


?


ACT for America Stages Marches Against ‘Sharia Law’ Nationwide, Arrests Made
(NBC News – 6/10/17)


 Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


 Donald Trump is a Profoundly Incompetent President
(Chicago Tribune – 6/7/17)

Reality Winner isn’t a Whistleblower — or a Victim of Trump’s War on Leaks
(Washington Post – 6/8/17)

Russia’s Attempt to Hack US Election Officials, Explained
(Vox – 6/6/17)

Trump has Mastered the Art of Seeming Like He’s Telling the Truth
(Washington Post – 6/9/17)


 

Cartoons, Images & Videos


Comedian John Mulvaney on Stephen Colbert’s show:


This Week’s Blog Entry:

CoverImage-01

What You Don’t Need to Know: Understanding Intelligence and Law Enforcement Regarding Trump


Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations


 

What You Don’t Need to Know: Understanding Intelligence and Law Enforcement Regarding Trump

What You Don’t Need to Know: Understanding Intelligence and Law Enforcement Regarding Trump

What You Don’t Need to Know: Understanding Intelligence and Law Enforcement Regarding Trump


We are likely to hear plenty of testimony before Congress from law enforcement and intelligence officials in the coming months. People who see Donald Trump as corrupt or worse may find themselves frustrated by what appears to be an attempt by these officials to hide key information from Congress and from the public. Some Americans may even begin developing conspiracy theories about these officials’ silence or apparent evasiveness under oath.

It is possible that some individuals in the FBI, Secret Service, NSA, CIA, etc. may be inappropriately trying to conceal incriminating information about the President. However, when law enforcement or intelligence people conceal such information from Congress in open testimony, it is almost certainly not an attempt to protect the President. Rather, it is an attempt to protect the investigations into his campaign and administration from becoming compromised, because they want to ensure that any wrongdoing can be prosecuted with the best evidence possible when and if arrests are made.

Law enforcement and intelligence have obligations that at times can be hard to balance. They are supposed to serve the American public, which in the minds of many means that the public has a right to know everything that is going on in an investigation, what evidence has been compiled so far, how it was discovered, and all other important information. Americans want to quickly and definitively know, in the words of Richard Nixon, “if their President is a crook,” and they certainly don’t want a crook to stay in office if law enforcement have strong reason to believe that the person is corrupt in some way.

But law enforcement and intelligence personnel are also supposed to serve the American public by doing their job, by “getting the bad guys,” by performing as thorough an investigation as they can, by ensuring that their evidence is as airtight as it can be, by preventing crimes, sabotage, and foreign intelligence operations from being successful in the future. That means that not everything that they know can or should always be disclosed to the public all the time.

The audience for public statements from law enforcement and intelligence is not only the American public. Criminals being investigated are paying attention as well. People considering committing future crimes are paying attention. In the Russia investigation, the Russians are paying attention. Other hostile countries are paying attention. It is important not to give them useful information.

For this reason, there are things that law enforcement officials may be reluctant to disclose publicly, particularly in the middle of an active investigation, including:

  • Who is under surveillance
  • What facts, testimonies and evidence have been gathered so far
  • Who are the witnesses, informants or undercover agents
  • What don’t law enforcement currently know
  • What evidence don’t they have
  • How is information being collected/what techniques are being used
  • What is their strategy for getting the needed evidence or making an arrest
  • Any sensitive/classified/secret information
  • Conclusions that law enforcement have reached so far

Prematurely disclosing such information can damage an active investigation in many possible ways. It can enable a criminal to better know how to cover their tracks, who to stop trusting, who to kill to prevent testimony in court, what not to lie about under oath, or any number of other issues that can complicate or even completely ruin an investigation. That information is appropriate to reveal in court after the arrests, and much may be appropriate to reveal publicly as well at that time, but not during the investigation.

Similarly, there are things that intelligence officials may be reluctant to disclose publicly, especially in the middle of their operations or investigations, including:

  • Who or what their sources of information are (or things that could enable someone to figure that out)
  • What they know about other foreign powers (or how they know it)
  • What they don’t know about other foreign powers (or why they don’t know it)
  • What tactics and techniques they use
  • Where they are focusing their attention

Gathering intelligence, setting up an effective surveillance operation, and gaining access to key information is very difficult. It can require extensive resources, money, talent, and in some cases years of cultivating trustworthy relationships. Once that information is revealed publicly (and therefore to the people about whom it has been gathered), it becomes far less valuable, or sometimes completely useless. For that reason, intelligence officials are very careful about what they say about their work.

Publicly disclosing information about an intelligence operation or its results – or revealing that information to the wrong person – can have severe consequences beyond merely rendering years of hard work useless. Those consequences include:

  • Agents or informants being killed
  • Hostile countries learning of previously unknown vulnerabilities of the US, American allies, or themselves
  • Hostile countries being able to more effectively conduct intelligence or military operations to harm the US or its allies
  • Military operations of the US or Americas allies becoming compromised, resulting in American troops or those of our allies being needlessly killed
  • Hostile countries taking military actions elsewhere in the world which they otherwise might not have
  • Terrorists knowing how to better avoid detection of their plans and activities

That is why Israel was so outraged – and other nations so deeply concerned – when President Trump boastfully blabbed classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office: he had recklessy damaged an intelligence operation of an important ally, rendered the information less useful, made that ally’s future intelligence operations more difficult, and potentially put the lives of that ally’s informants or spies at risk – and for what?

Additionally, law enforcement see their own investigations in ways that may not always make immediate sense, especially during testimony or public comments.

Law enforcement treat investigations that are in progress differently from those that have been completed. An ongoing investigation requires some degree of secrecy, for reasons described above. Law enforcement consider an investigation complete when they have gathered what they believe to be all of the evidence, spoken to what they believe to be all of the relevant people involved, and come to a conclusion that the evidence collected is sufficient (or not) for a court of law to potentially determine the guilt or innocence of one or more persons. At that point, if that evidence points sufficiently to guilt, arrests are made, after which law enforcement officials feel more free to publicly discuss some of the details of the case.

An example of this would be former FBI Director James Comey’s controversial handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation. The FBI had been investigating Hillary Clinton and those around her for evidence of conscious wrongdoing in their use of a private e-mail server (potentially more open to being hacked) to transmit classified government information.

The FBI considered that investigation to have been completed in July of 2016: they believed that they had reviewed all of the evidence, and because Clinton was a candidate for President, they took the step of publicly announcing that their investigation was complete. It should be noted that the closing of that investigation did not mean that Hillary had done nothing wrong, but merely that the FBI did not have sufficient evidence to prove in a court of law that she had knowingly and intentionally done something illegal.

In October of 2016, in a separate investigation into illegal online sexual activity by former Senator Anthony Weiner (D-NY), a large number of Clinton-related e-mails from Weiner’s wife, Clinton aid Huma Abedin, were discovered on Weiner’s computer. The FBI could not be instantly certain that all of these e-mails had already been reviewed during the Clinton e-mail investigation. In other words, it was possible that the FBI had been mistaken and premature in concluding in July that they had reviewed all of the evidence.

Because a public announcement had already been made that the Clinton e-mail investigation had been closed, because it now needed to be reopened, and because it was important for the public to know that the investigation’s status had changed, James Comey took the unusual – and to many, outrageous – step of notifying Congress shortly before the election that the FBI was reopening their investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail activity. Through the allocation of extra staff, time and resources, the FBI was able to quickly process the potentially new e-mails and announce before the election that they were once again closing that investigation.

It is almost certain that Comey’s decision impacted the results of the election in favor of Donald Trump, and one can question Comey’s judgment in how he handled things, but looking at it from his perspective, the outcome of the Clinton investigation had become once again not known. Had Hillary become President, and then the e-mails on Weiner’s computer had revealed that she was guilty of provably, knowingly, and intentionally committing a crime, Americans would have been demanding why Comey had concealed from them the fact that the investigation had been reopened. The outrage currently felt by many Democrats about Comey’s last-minute Hillary revelation would have been felt even more strongly by Trump supporters, who would likely have made accusations and developed conspiracy theories about how the FBI had covered for Hillary Clinton to get a Washington insider unjustly elected to protect the status quo. In other words, it was a no-win for Comey, and he made the best decision that he could in a situation where there were no good decisions.

One could ask why Comey did not give what would seem to many people to be equal treatment to the Trump investigation, which was by then underway. Why did he choose not to notify Congress, at the same time as his announcement of reopening the Hillary investigation, that the Trump campaign was also under investigation for activity related to Russia? This again was a judgment call in a situation where there were no good decisions.

At the time, the Trump Campaign did not know that the FBI was actively investigating them. Notifying Congress of that fact while the investigation was ongoing – and in truth just starting – would have damaged the investigation, potentially causing people in the Trump Campaign or the Russians to be more cautious, cover their tracks more thoroughly, stop talking to certain people, etc., all of which would have made gathering sufficient evidence for an eventual prosecution much more difficult or even impossible. The efforts by Russia were huge and sophisticated: it was absolutely in America’s best interest to conduct a thorough and effective investigation of it to prevent such activity in the future. That meant that the FBI did not want to take action that could jeopardize the investigation.

On the other hand, not telling Congress about the Trump-Russia investigation could result in America having a President whose campaign – or who himself – was influenced by or compromised by a hostile foreign power. Comey apparently believed that this was at least something that could be managed through continued monitoring of the situation by the FBI and other law enforcement. This does not mean that he made the right decision, or that he did not. It merely explains the difficult decision that he made.

Finally, when law enforcement and intelligence officials are questioned publicly before Congress, they may say things like “I don’t think that’s appropriate to discuss here” or “I can’t talk about that in open session,” they are not being underhanded. We are used to assuming a greater likelihood of guilt or shiftiness when people “plea the Fifth” under oath, but that is not what is happening here.

Some Congressional hearings are held in “open session,” meaning that the public can potentially watch, listen to, or be made aware of what is said there. Other Congressional hearings are held in “closed session.” Statements and information revealed in closed hearings may not be disclosed publicly, and may only be attended by Senators or Representatives who have been properly “cleared” (formally assessed to be capable of keeping their mouths shut).

The reason for a closed hearing is usually so that Congress (in the form of the handful of “cleared” legislators) can be notified of information that cannot be revealed publicly. In the various Trump-, Russia-, and election-related investigations, referring some subjects to a closed session is likely because disclosing such information in a public setting could jeopardize an investigation or an intelligence operation in some way.

We live in a time when trust in government is low and our suspicions high. It is natural for us to question when someone testifying before Congress appears to be concealing the truth. Understanding the perspectives and priorities of law enforcement and intelligence officials can help us better assess what we are seeing and hearing – and not seeing and hearing – from them.

– rob rünt

February 20-26, 2017

February 20-26, 2017

 


Articles & Editorials:


Main Stories:


Russia

FBI Refused White House Request to Knock Down Recent Trump-Russia Stories
(CNN – 2/23/17)

Can the White House Discuss Open Investigations with the FBI?
(CNN – 2/24/17)

Trump Administration Sought to Enlist Intelligence Officials, Key Lawmakers to Counter Russia Stories
(Washington Post – 2/24/17)


Other Stories That You Should Know About:


Anti-Semitism

Anne Frank Center Slams Trump: “Do Not Make Us Jews Settle for Crumbs of Condescension”
Chicago Tribune – 2/21/17


Steve Bannon

Bannon Vows a Daily Fight for “Deconstruction of the Administrative State”
(Washington Post – 2/23/17)


More Russia News

Republicans Tricked into Waving Russian Flags at Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)
(Independent UK – 2/24/17)

Meet the Protesters Who Tricked Conference Attendees into Waving Russian Flags
(The Atlantic – 2/24/17)

week-0008-170226-012


Trump and the Press

Trump Intensifies His Attacks of Journalists and Condemns FBI “Leakers”
(New York Times – 2/24/17)

White House Selectively Blocks Media Outlets from Briefing With Sean Spicer
(Politico – 2/24/17)

Trump Says He Will Not Attend White House Correspondents’ Dinner
(Politico – 2/25/17)

“We must challenge this statement and this sentiment that the news media is the enemy of the American people. This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”

William H. McRaven
Retired Four-Star Admiral/former Navy SEAL who organized and oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden
Washington Post – 2/24/17

 


National Security

Department to Homeland Security Memo Contradicts Threats Cited by Trump’s Travel Ban
(USA Today – 2/24/17)

Trump Rejects DHS Intelligence Report on Homeland Security
(Fox News – 2/25/17)

Trump’s National Security Adviser Reportedly Says Label “Radical Islamic Terrorism” Not Helpful
(Fox News – 2/25/17)


Keeping Track of the Basics:


Editorials


Trump’s Attacks on the Media Sound Eerily Familiar to Germany’s Journalists

Washington Post – 2/25/17


Alternative Facts from an Alternative Universe


Self-selecting our news sources, a reluctance to hear opposing ideas, and the choice by many of us to surround ourselves only with like-minded individuals has resulted in many Americans becoming oblivious to the beliefs of those with whom they disagree. This bubble helped create the world of “alternative facts” in which Donald Trump could become President.

To counter this, each week I will present a little of what Trump’s supporters are thinking. Their reality may be very different from yours. Please listen/read to the end, and consider what respectful questions you could ask to better understand and have a conversation, rather than seeking to prove them wrong as quickly as possible and shut them down. We can’t change minds if we can’t talk to each other.


Recorded the day after the 2016 Presidential Election:


Cartoons, Images & Videos


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-001


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-002


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-009


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-003


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-004


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-008


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-010


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-014


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-019


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-018


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-015


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-007


Tweet by Caitlyn Jenner, with response:

week-0008-170226-017


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-011


Source: Unknown

week-0008-170226-006


Events & Actions

Two major nationwide protests coming up:

  • Saturday, April 15, 2017: Trump Tax Day Marches across the country to let him know that it’s not just reporters who care about his undisclosed tax returns – find your nearest rally here!
  • Saturday, April 22, 2017: Science Marches across the country to let Trump know that science and facts matter – find your nearest rally here!

Resources & Organizations


On Impeachment

On Impeachment

On Impeachment


2/18/17


Each day, many of us watch slack-jawed as we witness further evidence of President Trump’s potential corruption, ties to Russia, mental instability, administrative chaos, lack of knowledge of political basics, divisiveness, and extremism. Many of us consider at least some of these things to be cause for impeachment, and we wonder why the wheels are not being put in motion for a removal from office. There are a number of explanations.

First, and most obviously, Congress needs to initiate and follow through on any impeachment proceedings, and both houses are currently controlled by Republicans. Those Republican Congresspeople are, by and large, getting exactly what they want right now – and more: Trump is doing all of the most extreme and unpopular things that they have wanted to do for years, and is taking all of the public heat for it. All that the Congressional Republicans have to do is keep their mouths shut, look the other way and whistle a happy tune. What could be better?

Second, many Congressional Republicans are the kind of politicians that Trump voters couldn’t stand: politically cowardly, insincere, ready to change positions whenever they believe that doing so is politically expedient. They see a lot of unrest in the streets and at their town halls right now. But they also know that Trump voters were silent before they elected Trump, and are quite possibly being silent right now. Politically, that is a very smart observation, and is an important thing for people on the left to be aware of as well: despite the impression that the left’s echo chamber might create for itself, the lack of vocal support for Trump right now does not mean that that support may not still be widespread. Congressional Republicans do not want to outrage this “silent majority” (realistically a minority), because Trump’s people are much more likely to vote Republican in future elections than are the masses who are swarming out into the streets.

Third, like many other Americans, Congressional Republicans watched the Presidential debates, where Trump effectively used aggressive, simplistic, elementary-schoolyard-style branding to inescapably trample each of his opponents – Republican and Democrat. They know that opposing him could be politically disastrous. They also know that the time will eventually come when they have no choice but to do so.

Right now is the honeymoon period for Congressional Republicans. Trump has behaved more like a king than a President. As the former top decision-maker for his own companies, that is how he is used to operating all his life. His main Presidential actions have been to sign his own executive orders. There has not yet been much of the usual back-and-forth that takes place between a President and the Legislature. That kind of interaction will eventually come, but for now, Congress is happy to have the President do what he wants and let him experience all of the flack for it.

Fourth, Congressional Republicans have made the political calculation that the impeachable things that Trump can be proven in a court of law to have done thus far do not yet rise to the level of public outrage that would prompt them to impeach. Realistically, all that is provable is that Trump has conflicts between his Presidential duties and his financial interests – bad, but not bad enough. Arguments about his mental instability could result in impeachment under the 25th Amendment, but such mental instability is difficult to prove in court. His divisiveness and extremism are part of what appealed to his most enthusiastic base, and that base is generally pleased with what they have seen from him so far. His lack of knowledge of politics is something that could be fully expected from a political “outsider,” so there is little surprising there beyond perhaps his seeming willful determination to flaunt that lack of knowledge internationally, offending America’s traditional allies and adversaries alike. Similarly, his Administration’s inner chaos and incompetence could be expected from a Washington novice, and he has dismissed reports of disorganization as “fake news” from the “lying press” – a characterization that his supporters likely believe.

That leaves us with his ties to Russia. Despite the seething anger of Congressional Democrats after a confidential briefing several weeks ago from FBI Director James Comey, I am of the belief that Comey’s FBI and other intelligence agencies are in the process of diligently investigating these Russian connections, and that any silence from the FBI and others is out of a desire not to jeopardize those investigations by tipping off the Administration about what leads they are pursuing. I also believe that the law enforcement and intelligence communities are investigating Trump’s business interests as they relate to corruption of his position as an elected public official.

Until one of these two investigations is complete, we are unlikely to see any serious moves toward impeachment. However, I do believe that at that point, there will be ample and irrefutable evidence, it will be made public, and Congress will have no choice but to take action.

In practical terms, such action will be far from undesirable for Congress: they will have in Mike Pence a mentally stable, cooperative President with whom they are ideologically in perfect step; all of the really ugly, controversial measures will already have been put in place by Trump; and people on the left will be jumping for joy at their “victory” and breathing a sigh of relief that there is no longer a lunatic in the White House with one finger on the nuclear button and one finger on his Twitter account.

And that’s the way that I believe the American Constitutional system will ultimately force/empower a dysfunctional political system to remove a profoundly unfit leader from office in the year 2017. If we can get there without a nuclear war, major financial collapse, or the irreversible implementation of an authoritarian state along the way, I’ll be happy. Yeah, I’m setting the bar pretty low.

– rob rünt