Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the special counsel report overlooks one of key aspects of the investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation shortly after Trump fired the bureau’s director James Comey, although it’s not clear what happened to that probe after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel, reported The Atlantic.
“We were concerned, and we felt like we had credible, articulable facts to indicate that a threat to national security may exist,” said former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
That counterintelligence investigation was aimed at determining whether the president was acting as a Russian agent — which presents an immense challenge.
“Normally, the bureau would investigate,” said Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the Defense Department and the CIA during the Obama administration, “and if criminal matters were involved, they’d ask prosecutors to get involved. But if it is just a matter of there being a national-security threat, the FBI would report to the director of national intelligence, who would then report to the president. But what if the president is the threat? We don’t have a playbook for this.”
Trump sought real estate ventures in Moscow during the 2016 campaign, which he and his lawyer Michael Cohen lied about, but that still doesn’t fully explain his odd devotion to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“We still do not understand why President Trump has this affinity for Putin,” said former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell. “What happened yesterday is Mueller took one possibility off the table — that there was a criminal conspiracy. But we still don’t know what is going on between these two leaders, and what is driving this relationship.”
Barr’s summary showed Mueller apparently determined there was not enough evidence to prove a criminal conspiracy case, but that’s a different standard of proof than what a counterintelligence investigation would determine.
“(Mueller) always noted that the term evidence meant something different to intelligence analysts who had to work with a variety of sources of varying reliability, whereas an FBI officer needed something so unassailable as to work in a court prosecution,” said JOhn McLaughlin, the former acting CIA director under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
That distinction is crucial to understanding what evidence Mueller was looking for, and it’s something that Barr ignored in his summary.
“If all we do is provide criminal standards to investigative findings, we are missing the point,” said Frank Figliuzzi, the former assistant director for counterintelligence at the FBI.
Most counterintelligence cases don’t result in criminal prosecution, but are intended to determine whether a foreign power targeted, compromised or recruited the subject of the investigation.
“This thing started as a counterintelligence investigation,” Figliuzzi said, “and it needs to end as a counterintelligence investigation.”
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Overturning Roe Is Just the Beginning
The Supreme Court majority built by the hard-right legal movement with help from Republican presidents and senators, and turbocharged by three Trump-McConnell justices, is apparently preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating a constitutional right to abortion and potentially eviscerating the constitutional underpinning of rulings protecting privacy and the rights of LGBTQ Americans.
While overturning Roe has been an intense focus and will be a massive victory for the religious right and right-wing legal movement, reversing Roe is just one part of a much broader agenda that has been promoted by the right-wing Federalist Society and allied political operatives who have worked with it to pack the federal courts. Trump basically outsourced his judicial picks to the group’s activists. Now, with the Trump justices cementing a hard-right majority on the Court, Federalist Society lawyers and judges and their political allies can move even more aggressively to reverse a century’s worth of precedents, pulling the constitutional rug out from under the New Deal and Great Society anti-poverty programs like Medicare and Social Security; further gutting voting rights in favor of states’ rights; weakening the separation of church and state; and undermining the federal government’s ability to regulate corporations and protect workers and communities.
Seeking a National Abortion Ban
A leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Samuel Alito dispenses with any notions of nuance in favor of a complete repudiation and reversal of Roe. If the court ultimately rules along the lines set out in Alito’s draft, abortion would be banned or severely restricted in more than half the states immediately or in short order.
Some states already have bans in place. Some have passed “trigger” laws, most of which would take effect at the moment of Roe’s demise. Others, including Michigan and Wisconsin, still have old laws on the books that will come back into force once Alito and his colleagues have removed the constitutional barrier to their enforcement. While some anti-choice groups have talked about preparing for a “50-state battle,” they have already won many of those battles.
Eliminating Roe would intensify the already existing disparities in access to abortion between states. Many people seeking that care will be forced to travel elsewhere—a fundamental freedom that is also being targeted by anti-abortion legislators.
And for all the federalism-embracing, give-it-back-to-the-states rhetoric, expect anti-choice activists to quickly demand a national ban on abortion. The state-by-state approach pursued by anti-choice activists was a strategic decision to bypass Congress, chip away at Roe, and build momentum toward a day when the Court was in their ideological grasp. But a nationwide ban is their goal.
This is not speculation. The amicus brief submitted by Princeton University professor Robert P. George, a brief cited in Alito’s draft, is clear. George argues that “prenatal persons” and “unborn children” are persons under the 14th Amendment from the moment of conception, and therefore that states should be required to treat abortion as homicide. He argues that Congress would have to enforce such a ruling “if States failed in their duties.” George’s brief mirrors the arguments of the hard-core “personhood” wing of the anti-choice movement, which has successfully pushed anti-choice legislators away from even granting exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape and incest. The right to contraception is at risk, too, as anti-abortion activists are hard at work to make the public believe that some widely used forms of contraception are the equivalent of abortion.
Eliminating Equality for LGBTQ Americans
Alito’s draft includes language seemingly meant to suggest that if adopted by the majority, his ruling would not put LGBTQ equality at risk. “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Referring to the Court’s rulings in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized marriage equality, Alito’s draft says that the Court ruling against a right to abortion “does not undermine them in any way,” in part because those decisions do not involve “the critical moral question posed by abortion.”
But that reads as high-level gaslighting.
In a 2020 comment on the court’s decision not to hear a case brought by a marriage-resisting county court clerk, Alito and Clarence Thomas disparaged Obergefell, saying that a right to same-sex marriage cannot be found in the Constitution. And many anti-choice activists have portrayed opposition to marriage equality as inhabiting the same legal and moral plane as opposition to abortion.
A brief submitted by Texas Right to Life was filed by Jonathan Mitchell, the author of the Texas abortion ban that the Supreme Court has allowed to take effect. The brief sneers at “court-invented rights to homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage,” calling the Lawrence and Obergefell decisions “as lawless as Roe.”
Robert George, who argues that states must treat abortion as homicide, is also intensely opposed to legal equality for LGBTQ people. A founder of the National Organization for Marriage, George co-authored The Manhattan Declaration, a 2009 manifesto whose signers frame opposition to abortion and marriage equality as similarly non-negotiable. The manifesto concludes with this:
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.
Anti-LGBTQ activist Ryan Anderson, a Robert George protégé, has urged anti-marriage equality activists to follow his road map to overturning Obergefell, with the religious right’s anti-Roe campaign as a guide. The first step in his plan was to denounce the marriage equality decision as illegitimate, which George and others have done relentlessly. Other anti-LGBTQ leaders, like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, have also expressed hope that success in eradicating a right to abortion points the way toward doing the same for marriage equality.
And it is not just about marriage. Many religious-right legal and political advocacy groups defended state laws that made gay people de facto criminals and opposed the Lawrence decision. You can hear that in the rhetoric of anti-LGBTQ activists who express a desire to return to a time when gay people were disfavored in law and demonized in popular culture, and already, they are working to return us to that time with a wave of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation smearing LGBTQ people and their allies as “groomers” and sexual predators.
Indeed, anti-choice activist Janet Porter recently said she hopes to apply the nefarious strategy of Texas’s abortion ban, which allows anyone to sue anyone who helps a person obtain an abortion, to LGBTQ issues in schools, making teachers, librarians, and school board members vulnerable to lawsuits for “pushing this garbage on our children.”
‘Rome Wasn’t Burned in a Day’: Return to a States’ Rights Constitution
In the name of federalism, the Supreme Court’s conservative and far-right justices have repeatedly weakened the federal Voting Rights Act, giving a green light to state legislators to pass wave after wave of voting restrictions. That is far from the only way that the right-wing legal movement hopes Trump’s justices can continue to “fundamentally change the country.”
In 2017, Republican congressional and White House aides told a conference of religious-right activists that getting a second Supreme Court justice would allow Trump to create “epic, titanic” shifts and undo New Deal and Great Society programs created when Democrats had wide congressional majorities. Trump also filled lower federal courts with ideologically minded judges who give hard-right justices like Alito and Thomas the “troops” to carry out their judicial counterrevolution.
Dismantling much of what the federal government does to address poverty and access to education and health care has been a long-term project, a reality reflected in a bit of Federalist Society humor: “Rome wasn’t burned in a day.” But right-wing funders knew their long-term investments could bring huge returns.
The confirmation of Trump’s third Supreme Court pick, Justice Amy Coney Barrett—who some anti-choice activists believe was anointed by God to help the Supreme Court overturn Roe—could also strengthen the religious right’s already successful push to weaponize and redefine religious liberty in ways that weaken the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the establishment of religion by Congress, and the separation between church and state.
The net result is all too clear. As tragic as it is, the reversal of Roe is just one step in the far-right campaign to rewrite the Constitution and gut fundamental rights, harming millions of Americans in the process.
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
George Conway Says DOJ Must Go After Trump: ‘Evidence Is Piling Up and Fits These Statutes Like a Glove’
George Conway believes the House select committee has built an airtight case against former president Donald Trump.
The conservative attorney told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the evidence closely matched the statute for conspiracy to obstruct or influence an official proceeding, and he said the Jan. 6 committee has already presented a strong case against the former president and right-wing attorney John Eastman.
“This statute says what it says, but the problem for Trump and Eastman and others, and Eastman has had to plead the Fifth [Amendment] 146 times at his deposition before the Jan. 6 committee,” Conway said. “The problem for them is that the ‘evidence is piling up and mounting and it fits these statutes like a glove. I mean, the real issue is were they intending to deceive anybody, did they know they were deceiving people?”
The committee’s new brief shows all the various individuals who told Trump and his advisers there was no basis to overturn the election, which his own administration and various states had determined was fairly and safely conducted, and Conway said Trump was apparently aware he had, in fact, lost.
“There’s already, you know, reporting out there that Trump was telling his aides,” Conway said, “and I know for a fact this to be true, that he was saying, ‘How could I have lost to this guy? How could I have lost?’ which means he knew he lost, which means he knew he was engaging in a fraud and knew he was engaging in a deceit, and the fact he was trying to obstruct the lawful function of the United States government puts this squarely, squarely under the scope of 18 U.S.C. section 371.”
“At this point I don’t see how the Justice Department can pass on this,” he added.
After Taking Heat for Praising Putin, Fox Segments Have Gone to Openly Calling for His Assassination
The Fox network and the Republican Party stood in solidarity with Russia and President Vladimir Putin but that has evolved over the weekend.
Fox host Tucker Carlson has been begging Putin for an interview for weeks and the Russian state television networks have been running Carlson’s monologues on their media with subtitles.
It was just four days ago that Carlson asked why it was unpatriotic to support Putin.
“It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much?” he said Tuesday. “Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? These are fair questions, and the answer to all of them is ‘no.’ Vladimir Putin didn’t do any of that. So, why does permanent Washington hate him so much?”
Carlson even went so far as to claim that Democrats would charge you with treason if you didn’t hate Putin. According to the GOP and Fox, the fight with Ukraine is nothing more than a “border dispute.”
Speaking to Laura Ingraham on Wednesday evening, former President Donald Trump explained that Putin’s fight is what the United States should be doing on the U.S./Mexico border.
According to Ingraham and Trump, the weakness of the U.S. and NATO is the reason that Putin felt he could invade Ukraine.
“He was going to be satisfied with a peace,” Trump claimed. “And now he sees the weakness and the incompetence and the stupidity of this administration, and, as an American, I’m angry about it, and I’m saddened by it. And it all happened because of a rigged election. This would have never happened.”
While many conservatives have bought into that narrative, the reality is that Putin has explained he wants to reestablish the Soviet Union. That goal would not depend on who was the president of the United States. The war from Putin has nothing to do with the United States, nor is the U.S. exclusively attacking Russia. As former Secretary Condi Rice explained, the global community would not be unified behind Trump the way they are with President Joe Biden.
On Sunday, Fox featured Judith Miller, the reporter who got facts wrong about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. She cited another moment on Fox in which it was suggested “someone” should “go Julius Caesar on Putin.” Meaning, someone should assassinate the leader.
Fox appears to be turning in their support of Russia. It may have come from intervention by the station’s owners, the Murdoch family, or Republican leaders.
Carlson’s show doesn’t air on the weekends, so it will be interesting to see if Carlson is continuing to fight to interview Putin.
See the video of Miller below:
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