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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Right Wing Pundit’s Claim Conservative SCOTUS Justice Alito Is Also Considering Retiring Sets Off Court Watchers on Both Sides
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.
These rumors—which we heard months ago before they initially died down—have indeed really picked up steam over the past couple of weeks.
Sam Alito is a terrific justice who would be difficult to replace, but we should all hope he makes the best decision for his family. https://t.co/OmBVFuBIVb
— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) July 1, 2020
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.
Two important points:
1. Clarence Thomas loves his job.
2. Sam Alito hates his job. https://t.co/p94j7I8NAc
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) July 1, 2020
Vox Senior Correspondent Ian Millhiser, who literally wrote the book on the Supreme Court, also puts more weight in Alito retiring:
Hewitt is the opposite of a reliable source, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Alito does retire. Alito is the most reliable partisan on the Court, and the best thing for the Republican Party is for him to step down and be replaced by a younger Republican. https://t.co/8e9qBCvVzp
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) July 1, 2020
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.
Experts Are Not Buying Trump’s Claim for Why He Called Off Strike on Iran in Mid-Air
“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.
“I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General.”
….proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019
(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.
Lot of officials speculating today Trump called off the Iran strike literally while watching Tucker Carlson.
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) June 21, 2019
Here’s what some others are saying.
Contributor to The Nation:
Does anyone believe that the military didn’t brief him on projected casualties until he asked them 10 minutes before the strikes?
If not, then why buy any of it? Guy’s a serial liar surrounded by equally mendacious sycophants.
— Joshua Holland 🔥 (@JoshuaHol) June 21, 2019
CNN national security analyst:
1/ This is one time when the President’s indecision may have saved thousands of lives. But having been part of military CONOPs briefings, they always include an assessment of casualties on both sides at the front end.
— Sam Vinograd (@sam_vinograd) June 21, 2019
NY Times White House correspondent who co-authored the story about Trump calling off the strike in mid-air:
A source told me 30 minutes ago that Trump was pleased with his own performance last night, loved being in command by ordering the strikes and by then ordering the stand-down. And the president just… tweeted it. https://t.co/tUPSym7inn
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) June 21, 2019
Former Special Counsel at the Dept. of Defense:
This explanation doesn’t smell right.👇
The assessments of casualties would have been prepared, known, and discussed long in advance (part of the “CONOP”)
Is Trump saying he asked that question of the General only after authorizing the strike, and when US planes were en route? pic.twitter.com/z6DyNSwKVz
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) June 21, 2019
CNN Chief National Security Correspondent:
The president revealed the number and type of Iranian target the US was going to hit and the exact US estimate of Iranian casualties. Did he reveal normally classified information?
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) June 21, 2019
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:
These are not strategically sophisticated people. They don’t understand or care about how signaling to foreign powers works, if they did, we’d see consistency, minimal uniformity of msg, resolve, and/or directionality of some kind. 2/
— Rita Konaev (@RitaKonaev) June 21, 2019
Again. Very nice or very unfair TO HIM. Not the country, not the people, not his supporters, not his party, not his cabinet. HIM or anything he sees as an extension of himself, such as his brand, financial interests, business acumen, ratings and maybe sometimes his children. 4/
— Rita Konaev (@RitaKonaev) June 21, 2019
We have to see this administration and President for what they are, not for what our theories say they should be. 6/6
— Rita Konaev (@RitaKonaev) June 21, 2019
‘Projection of Incompetence’: White House Out of Control, Commander-in-Chief Not in Charge – Experts Speak Out
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.
Sr WH official tells me it’s Bolton vs Trump on how to proceed on Iran. Trump does not want conflict. Pompeo, Pence, Esper are “swing votes.” Pompeo is “a triangulator,” source tells @MichLKosinski, “the goal is re-establishing deterrence, but that is still very risky.”
— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) June 20, 2019
A Fellow at the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center notes that the CIA is not supposed to be in the business of making policy decisions.
Not the most important thing right now but why is CIA Director Haspel recommending policy options according to NYT report. Aren’t intelligence agencies not supposed to wade into policy. https://t.co/v38Z7Wn5sr
— Zachary Keck (@ZacharyKeck) June 21, 2019
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:
No benefit of the doubt here, especially after he was warned off by Putin.
But I’d rather two more years of humiliation than a pointless war led by a CinC who is in over his head, has alienated our allies, surrounded by Actings and temporaries, and has no idea what he is doing. https://t.co/NKP8rE7HVq
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) June 21, 2019
Then there’s this warning from former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes:
This is precisely why politics isn’t a game, diplomatic agreements should be honored, and temperament, intellect and judgement are what matters in who is President. It should never have come to this.
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) June 21, 2019
The absence of any rational, coherent process for national security decision-making has always been a clear risk under Trump. Now we see what that looks like in a crisis
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) June 21, 2019
Former Republican U.S. Congressman David Jolly delivers a breathtaking blow:
There’s absolutely nothing about this aborted Iran strike that looks good on the world stage tonight. Nothing. Nothing strategic. Nothing geopolitically advantageous. Nothing reflecting well on US political leaders. Nothing reassuring to allies. Only a projection of incompetence.
— David Jolly (@DavidJollyFL) June 21, 2019
Here’s a professor of international relations, political scientist, and journalist:
Even though Trump blinked re: Iran–not a sign of restraint so much as evidence of indecision and bumbling–the situation remains very dangerous and prone to accidental escalation and/or spinning out of control.
— David Rothkopf (@djrothkopf) June 21, 2019
And if you think this episode is over, Newsweek reports it very well may not be.
#BREAKING Update: @Newsweek has learned from a Pentagon official that regional U.S. military assets, including the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, have been put on 72-hour standby to potentially strike #Iran #Trump https://t.co/OCWZGcJPG0
— Jim LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) June 21, 2019
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