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ANALYSIS

There’s a Huge Hole in Barr’s Summary of the Mueller Report — According to Top Counterintelligence Experts

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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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ANALYSIS

Right Wing Pundit’s Claim Conservative SCOTUS Justice Alito Is Also Considering Retiring Sets Off Court Watchers on Both Sides

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Could the two most-conservative Supreme Court justices retire before the November election? Rumors are swirling. Here’s why.

Buried within Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa’s analysis Wednesday that Trump supporters are hoping “to use conservative anger at Justice Roberts” as an “energizing moment” for the President’s troubled campaign, is the news that far right Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is “privately seen by Trump’s aides as the most likely to retire this year.”

The potential retirement of Justice Thomas, who by most measures is the most conservative jurist on the nation’s top court, set off a firestorm on social media among some court-watching conservatives and liberals – even though Costa noted that “Thomas has not given any indication” he is retiring.

Costa’s reporting was, he says, seen by far right wing pundit Hugh Hewitt, who told his “radio audience this morning that he hears from several leading conservatives that Justice Alito, 70, is considering retirement, and adds that he also hears the Alito family is ready to leave Washington, D.C.”

Hewitt, in his usual self-aggrandizing way, told his listeners, “I’m hardly a ref, but I got a column in the Washington Post, and so they start working me about, ‘You know this person would be great if Alito quit.'”

Whether or not Alito is considering retirement, the mere prospect of not just one but possibly two Supreme Court seats opening before the election is giving conservatives hope, and liberals terror.

Not even trying hard to hide their excitement, some on the religious right are especially ecstatic President Donald Trump might get to place one or two more radical jurists on the Supreme Court.

An attorney for the far Christian-right law and anti-LGBTQ advocacy firm First Liberty Institute responded with thinly-veiled glee, couching his happiness as concern for Justice Alito’s family.

The Justice Correspondent for The Nation, Elie Mystal, responded to a legal correspondent for New York’s local Fox station, implying Alito might be more likely to retire than Thomas.

Vox Senior Correspondent Ian Millhiser, who literally wrote the book on the Supreme Court, also puts more weight in Alito retiring:

Of course, on the left, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also of retirement age and has (successfully) faced health issues.

Whoever is President at 12:01 PM ET on January 20, 2020, may have an opportunity to move the court fully one way or the other.

 

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ANALYSIS

Experts Are Not Buying Trump’s Claim for Why He Called Off Strike on Iran in Mid-Air

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“These are not strategically sophisticated people”

Many agree President Donald Trump made the right call when he called off the strike on Iran, in retaliation for their downing of a $130 million unarmed, unmanned U.S. Military surveillance drone.

But he is the one who ordered the strike in the first place, so there’s no “credit” there.

Friday morning the President took to Twitter to defend his actions, saying he stopped the assault 10 minutes before the actual strike was about to happen.

Why?

“I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General.”

(The drone was actually downed early Thursday morning, not Monday.)

Many are asking, how was this not a part of the decision-making process before he gave the order to strike?

Others just point-blank don’t believe it wasn’t.

One, a CNN political analyst, says there’s a lot of speculation it was Fox News’ Tucker Carlson’s comments that led Trump to back off – Carlson advised against the strike.

Here’s what some others are saying.

Contributor to The Nation:

CNN national security analyst:

NY Times White House correspondent who co-authored the story about Trump calling off the strike in mid-air:

Former Special Counsel at the Dept. of Defense:

CNN Chief National Security Correspondent:

Former Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The Fletcher School at Tufts University and at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on international security and foreign policy, and emerging technologies and urban warfare:

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ANALYSIS

‘Projection of Incompetence’: White House Out of Control, Commander-in-Chief Not in Charge – Experts Speak Out

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Americans and much of the world either went to bed Thursday night or woke up Friday morning to the news that President Donald Trump ordered a strike against Iran over a downed drone, then called it off in progress, mid-air.

Calling off the strike was the fourth critical action he took in the span of less than 12 hours. Ordering the strike was the third action. Saying a rogue Iranian military official probably was to blame was the second, and threatening Iran, possibly with military action was the first.

That was Thursday.

By late Thursday night The New York Times had broken the news of the strike that wasn’t.

But additional reporting reveals many disturbing facts, leading to one unmistakeable conclusion: this is a White House out of control, with a Commander-in-Chief not in charge.

Take a look, for example, at this disturbing report from CNN’s Alexander Marquardt, a Senior National Correspondent focusing on National Security. He makes clear Trump’s not the one calling the shots, and is only making decisions to fend off internal bickering and power plays in his administration.

A Fellow at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center notes that the CIA is not supposed to be in the business of making policy decisions.

A professor at the U.S. Naval War College who is an expert on Russia, nuclear weapons, and national security affairs sums up what’s going on:

Then there’s this warning from former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes:

Former Republican U.S. Congressman David Jolly delivers a breathtaking blow:

Here’s a professor of international relations, political scientist, and journalist:

And if you think this episode is over, Newsweek reports it very well may not be.

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