Robert Mueller’s Gaping Self-Inflicted Wound

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RxCowboy

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From spectator.org:

Special Report
Robert Mueller’s Gaping Self-Inflicted Wound
GEORGE PARRY
May 14, 2018, 12:05 am

It’s a doozy and very embarrassing, as he has clearly been outsmarted.

On February 16, 2018, Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained a federal indictment of 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian companies for conspiring to wage “information warfare” by “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the United States by dishonest means in order to enable Defendants to interfere with U.S. political processes, including the 2016 presidential election.”

According to the indictment, in 2014 the defendants, posing as U.S. persons, contacted American political and social activists on social media sites. Using information derived from these contacts, they structured disinformation operations to be used in the upcoming presidential election.

Once the presidential campaign started, they used stolen Social Security numbers and birth dates of real U.S. persons to set up bank and PayPal accounts. Through these, the defendants funded their “operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

Quoting from the defendants’ communications, the indictment avers that they set up social media accounts to spread content that focused on “politics in the USA” and to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except [Bernie] Sanders and Trump — we support them).” The indictment outlines a number of online media postings and other efforts that attacked Clinton and encouraged support for Sanders, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and Trump.

Also while posing as U.S. persons, the indictment says they contacted Trump campaign operatives to provide support. The indictment makes clear that the Trump organizers were unaware of the Russians’ true identities and motives.

Not until page 23 of the 37-page indictment does the defendants’ true purpose come into focus. As stated there, after the election, they organized and promoted rallies “in support of president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. persons to organize and coordinate rallies protesting the results of the 2016 presidential election.”

For example, on November 12, 2016, the defendants and their unnamed co-conspirators organized a rally in New York designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” while on the same date they organized a rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President.” Three days later, they organized a North Carolina rally entitled “Charlotte Against Trump.”

In addition to undercutting the Trump-Russia collusion narrative, these anti-Trump measures make apparent that, rather than achieve any particular electoral outcome, the defendants intended to sow dissension, bitterness, and distrust among the American electorate. They were trying to do in America what Russia has done in other countries by mounting disinformation campaigns to undermine trust and confidence in democratic institutions.

In announcing the indictment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein emphasized that it neither alleges that any American knowingly acted in concert with the defendants nor that the defendants’ efforts changed the outcome of the election. While all of that is undoubtedly true, it must be recognized that the defendants had to have known that their efforts described in the indictment would not have any material effect on the election results. Like everyone else, they could read the polls. Hillary was going to win, and Trump was guaranteed to lose. That solid and inescapable political consensus limited what they could hope to accomplish.

So causing one candidate to win and another to lose was not their goal. Instead their mission was to weaken and erode Americans’ confidence in our democratic institutions and to poison and sabotage the acceptance of the election outcome by millions of Americans who supported the losing candidate. In short, they wanted to cause turmoil, dissension, and disorder and to cripple our government. Given the post-election chaos, division and bitterness, they certainly seem to have achieved their purpose.

The indictment was heralded by the media as a major achievement by Team Mueller. But a few observers questioned whether Mueller truly expected any of the defendants to appear in a U.S. court to answer the charges. Others asked if the indictment was merely an empty public relations move by Mueller attempting to show that his investigation was producing solid results.

The answers to these questions have started to emerge. Against all expectations, in April, lawyers for one of the Russian corporate defendants, Concord Management and Consulting, LLC, entered their appearances in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They followed up by serving extensive discovery requests on Team Mueller seeking full disclosure of the government’s case and investigation including sensitive national security and intelligence information.

This type of discovery is called “graymail” (as distinguished from blackmail) in which the government is faced with having to disclose closely guarded state secrets in order to proceed with the prosecution. The alternative is to drop the charges.

Given that the maximum penalty against Concord is an uncollectable $500,000 fine or equally uncollectable compensation to anyone damaged by the alleged conspiracy, the choice is all the more bitter for Team Mueller. Should they litigate the discovery requests? If they lose and are faced with having to disclose sensitive intelligence information about the case and their investigation, should they withdraw the indictment against Concord? And, if they drop the charges, are they prepared for the resulting public mockery and howls of derision?

On Friday May 5, 2018, Team Mueller immediately began backtracking by filing a motion asking U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich to postpone Concord’s arraignment set for May 9, 2018.

They claimed that it was unclear whether Concord had formally accepted the court summons related to the case. In their motion, they included Concord’s discovery requests.

“Until the Court has an opportunity to determine if Concord was properly served, it would be inadvisable to conduct an initial appearance and arraignment at which important rights will be communicated and a plea entertained,” wrote the prosecutors. “That is especially true in the context of this case, which involves a foreign corporate defendant, controlled by another, individual foreign defendant, that has already demanded production of sensitive intelligence gathering, national security, and foreign affairs information.” [Emphasis added]

Team Mueller proposed that the arraignment be postponed while the parties briefed the issue of whether the court summons has been properly served on Concord.

The next morning, Concord’s lawyers replied, “Defendant voluntarily appeared through counsel as provided for in [the federal rules], and further intends to enter a plea of not guilty. Defendant has not sought a limited appearance nor has it moved to quash the summons. As such, the briefing sought by the Special Counsel’s motion is pettifoggery.” [Emphasis added]

Defense counsel argued that Team Mueller was trying “to usurp the scheduling authority of the Court” by waiting until Friday afternoon to try to delay a proceeding scheduled for the following Wednesday. They also stated that the special counsel’s office has not replied to Concord’s discovery requests and, ratcheting up the pressure on the Muellerites, stated that their client intends to assert its speedy trial rights.

Judge Friedrich, a Trump appointee, denied Team Mueller’s request and ruled that the arraignment would proceed as scheduled on May 9.

So what happened at the arraignment? Did things get better for Team Mueller? Hardly.

At the arraignment, Concord’s lead counsel, Eric Dubelier, was asked whether he represents Concord Catering, another one of the charged Russian companies. He replied that he did not and added, “I think we’re dealing with the government having indicted the proverbial ham sandwich. That company didn’t exist as a legal entity during the time period alleged by the government.” [Emphasis added]

Then, hinting at more of the graymail yet to come, he remarked darkly that, “We now know that the special counsel apparently has access to [Concord’s] confidential filings at the Office of Foreign Assets Control, which in and of itself is a disturbing fact.”

Dubelier stated, “Your Honor, we waive formal reading of the indictment. We enter a plea of not guilty. We exercise our right to a speedy trial.” [Emphasis added]

So, what does all of this mean? Metaphorically speaking, it would appear that the yapping dog chasing the car has sunk its teeth into the spinning tire. There is no way for Rover to escape injury. Even if Mueller and his pit bulls win the discovery battle and the case at trial, what’s the prize? A $500,000 fine or compensation to victims? How will they collect?

This is a no lose situation for Concord and a self-inflicted wound for Mueller. And, as the saying goes, self-inflicted wounds are always the most painful.

More importantly, this unforced prosecutorial error is a victory for 63,000,000 Americans who voted for Donald Trump and strongly oppose having the outcome of the election undone by Mueller’s politically motivated and rigged investigation. It will be a pleasure to see Team Mueller dragged kicking and squealing into an American courtroom where for it the process will be the punishment.

George Parry is a former federal and state prosecutor who practices law in Philadelphia. He blogs at knowledgeisgood.net and may be reached at kignet1@gmail.com.
 

RxCowboy

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From The Hill:

Mueller may have a conflict — and it leads directly to a Russian oligarch
BY JOHN SOLOMON, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 05/14/18 03:30 PM EDT
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL

Special counsel Robert Mueller has withstood relentless political attacks, many distorting his record of distinguished government service.

But there’s one episode even Mueller’s former law enforcement comrades — and independent ethicists — acknowledge raises legitimate legal issues and a possible conflict of interest in his overseeing the Russia election probe.

In 2009, when Mueller ran the FBI, the bureau asked Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to spend millions of his own dollars funding an FBI-supervised operation to rescue a retired FBI agent, Robert Levinson, captured in Iran while working for the CIA in 2007.

Yes, that’s the same Deripaska who has surfaced in Mueller’s current investigation and who was recently sanctioned by the Trump administration.

The Levinson mission is confirmed by more than a dozen participants inside and outside the FBI, including Deripaska, his lawyer, the Levinson family and a retired agent who supervised the case. Mueller was kept apprised of the operation, officials told me.

Some aspects of Deripaska’s help were chronicled in a 2016 book by reporter Barry Meier, but sources provide extensive new information about his role.

They said FBI agents courted Deripaska in 2009 in a series of secret hotel meetings in Paris; Vienna; Budapest, Hungary, and Washington. Agents persuaded the aluminum industry magnate to underwrite the mission. The Russian billionaire insisted the operation neither involve nor harm his homeland.

“We knew he was paying for his team helping us, and that probably ran into the millions,” a U.S. official involved in the operation confirmed.

One agent who helped court Deripaska was Andrew McCabe, the recently fired FBI deputy director who played a seminal role starting the Trump-Russia case, multiple sources confirmed.

Deripaska’s lawyer said the Russian ultimately spent $25 million assembling a private search and rescue team that worked with Iranian contacts under the FBI’s watchful eye. Photos and videos indicating Levinson was alive were uncovered.

Then in fall 2010, the operation secured an offer to free Levinson. The deal was scuttled, however, when the State Department become uncomfortable with Iran’s terms, according to Deripaska’s lawyer and the Levinson family.

FBI officials confirmed State hampered their efforts.

“We tried to turn over every stone we could to rescue Bob, but every time we started to get close, the State Department seemed to always get in the way,” said Robyn Gritz, the retired agent who supervised the Levinson case in 2009, when Deripaska first cooperated, but who left for another position in 2010 before the Iranian offer arrived. “I kept Director Mueller and Deputy Director [John] Pistole informed of the various efforts and operations, and they offered to intervene with State, if necessary.”

FBI officials ended the operation in 2011, concerned that Deripaska’s Iranian contacts couldn’t deliver with all the U.S. infighting. Levinson was never found; his whereabouts remain a mystery, 11 years after he disappeared.

“Deripaska’s efforts came very close to success,” said David McGee, a former federal prosecutor who represents Levinson’s family. “We were told at one point that the terms of Levinson’s release had been agreed to by Iran and the U.S. and included a statement by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointing a finger away from Iran. At the last minute, Secretary Clinton decided not to make the agreed-on statement.”

The State Department declined comment, and a spokesman for Clinton did not offer comment. Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, declined to answer questions. As did McCabe.

The FBI had three reasons for choosing Deripaska for a mission worthy of a spy novel. First, his aluminum empire had business in Iran. Second, the FBI wanted a foreigner to fund the operation because spending money in Iran might violate U.S. sanctions and other laws. Third, agents knew Deripaska had been banished since 2006 from the United States by State over reports he had ties to organized crime and other nefarious activities. He denies the allegations, and nothing was ever proven in court.

The FBI rewarded Deripaska for his help. In fall 2009, according to U.S. entry records, Deripaska visited Washington on a rare law enforcement parole visa. And since 2011, he has been granted entry at least eight times on a diplomatic passport, even though he doesn’t work for the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Former FBI officials confirm they arranged the access.

Deripaska said in a statement through Adam Waldman, his American lawyer, that FBI agents told him State’s reasons for blocking his U.S. visa were “merely a pretext.”

“The FBI said they had undertaken a careful background check, and if there was any validity to the State Department smears, they would not have reached out to me for assistance,” the Russian said.

Then, over the past two years, evidence emerged tying him to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the first defendant charged by Mueller’s Russia probe with money laundering and illegal lobbying.

Deripaska once hired Manafort as a political adviser and invested money with him in a business venture that went bad. Deripaska sued Manafort, alleging he stole money.

Mueller’s indictment of Manafort makes no mention of Deripaska, even though prosecutors have evidence that Manafort contemplated inviting his old Russian client for a 2016 Trump campaign briefing. Deripaska said he never got the invite and investigators have found no evidence it occurred. There’s no public evidence Deripaska had anything to do with election meddling.

Deripaska also appears to be one of the first Russians the FBI asked for help when it began investigating the now-infamous Fusion GPS “Steele Dossier.” Waldman, his American lawyer until the sanctions hit, gave me a detailed account, some of which U.S. officials confirm separately.

Two months before Trump was elected president, Deripaska was in New York as part of Russia’s United Nations delegation when three FBI agents awakened him in his home; at least one agent had worked with Deripaska on the aborted effort to rescue Levinson. During an hour-long visit, the agents posited a theory that Trump’s campaign was secretly colluding with Russia to hijack the U.S. election.

“Deripaska laughed but realized, despite the joviality, that they were serious,” the lawyer said. “So he told them in his informed opinion the idea they were proposing was false. ‘You are trying to create something out of nothing,’ he told them.” The agents left though the FBI sought more information in 2017 from the Russian, sources tell me. Waldman declined to say if Deripaska has been in contact with the FBI since Sept, 2016.

So why care about some banished Russian oligarch’s account now?

Two reasons.

First, as the FBI prepared to get authority to surveil figures on Trump’s campaign team, did it disclose to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that one of its past Russian sources waived them off the notion of Trump-Russia collusion?

Second, the U.S. government in April imposed sanctions on Deripaska, one of several prominent Russians targeted to punish Vladimir Putin — using the same sort of allegations that State used from 2006 to 2009. Yet, between those two episodes, Deripaska seemed good enough for the FBI to ask him to fund that multimillion-dollar rescue mission. And to seek his help on a sensitive political investigation. And to allow him into the country eight times.

I was alerted to Deripaska’s past FBI relationship by U.S. officials who wondered whether the Russian’s conspicuous absence from Mueller’s indictments might be related to his FBI work.

They aren’t the only ones.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz told me he believes Mueller has a conflict of interest because his FBI previously accepted financial help from a Russian that is, at the very least, a witness in the current probe.

“The real question becomes whether it was proper to leave [Deripaska] out of the Manafort indictment, and whether that omission was to avoid the kind of transparency that is really required by the law,” Dershowitz said.

Melanie Sloan, a former Clinton Justice Department lawyer and longtime ethics watchdog, told me a “far more significant issue” is whether the earlier FBI operation was even legal: “It’s possible the bureau’s arrangement with Mr. Deripaska violated the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits the government from accepting voluntary services.”

George Washington University constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley agreed: “If the operation with Deripaska contravened federal law, this figure could be viewed as a potential embarrassment for Mueller. The question is whether he could implicate Mueller in an impropriety.”

Now that sources have unmasked the Deripaska story, time will tell whether the courts, Justice, Congress or a defendant formally questions if Mueller is conflicted.

In the meantime, the episode highlights an oft-forgotten truism: The cat-and-mouse maneuvers between Moscow and Washington are often portrayed in black-and-white terms. But the truth is, the relationship is enveloped in many shades of gray.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

[Editor's note: This post was updated at 8:10 p.m. on May 14, 2018.]
 

Cowboy2U

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Mar 31, 2008
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Appears mueller had a hand in this before he was even running the witch hunt. Hope the Russian is asked to testify...the noose is tightening on the special council, rr, habitual liar jc and holy crap...don't you know hrc and toadies, bo and his group of thugs see a crap land side heading their way. Wonder what the President can actually accomplish when he isn't defending himself from the deep state and leakers...
 

CocoCincinnati

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#4
With each new bit of information that comes out, it becomes increasingly clear that the real collusion to steal the presidential election was between the US government and the DNC. Thank goodness they failed.
 

cowboyethics344

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Apr 2, 2008
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The alternate reality that you all participate in is fascinating. Thanks for the laughs chuckle heads.
The alternate reality is the liberals in America who believe that Barrack Obama was a good president. Trump is showing just how terrible he was as a leader and as a policy maker. Mueller is just another swamp witch hunter looking for some good publicity with his establishment cronies. The funny thing about all of this is that trump is far more moderate than most conservative republicans and yet the left is too dense to realize that he has implemented policies that would have been home runs if signed by Clinton or obama. The hypocrisy and rampant unfounded hate from the left is just downright hilarious.
 

Cimarron

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Jun 28, 2007
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#8
With each new bit of information that comes out, it becomes increasingly clear that the real collusion to steal the presidential election was between the US government and the DNC. Thank goodness they failed.
They haven’t failed yet. We’ve got to drain the swamp!
 

Cowboy2U

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With each new bit of information that comes out, it becomes increasingly clear that the real collusion to steal the presidential election was between the US government and the DNC. Thank goodness they failed.
Yep, can you imagine coming home to hrc (shudder) everyday. All of a sudden a summer house in Gaza sounds wonderful.