Patterico's Pontifications

7/11/2017

Confirmed: Trump Jr. Was Told Hoped-for Dirt Was Coming from Russian Government

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 5:44 pm

Well, well. The recent @FAKENEWS!! from the New York Times — claiming that Trump Jr. was told that the hoped-for dirt on Hillary was coming from the Russian government — turns out to be more accurate than the denials by people with names. How do we know? Because Jr. himself tweeted out the emails telling him that. His response to the claim that the Russian government had dirt on Hillary? “I love it.”

The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

If the future president’s eldest son was surprised or disturbed by the provenance of the promised material — or the notion that it was part of a continuing effort by the Russian government to aid his father’s campaign — he gave no indication.

He replied within minutes: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

The emails can be read in their entirety here.

This does not show collusion, of course. It appears to remain true that the meeting did not immediately result in usable information. It may, however, have been a feeler put out by the Russians to see if the Trump campaign was interested in getting dirt on Hillary from the Russian government. Jr.’s “I love it” response suggests that the message was a loud and clear “yes.”

The Trump administration and its hack defenders are now claiming that Trump Jr. was “transparent” in releasing the emails himself. Um, except that the New York Times was about to release them and he knew it. “Since you’re about to release it, I guess I will” is the New Model of Transparency in Trump Propagandaland.

Andrew Breitbart used to dribble out damaging information a little bit at a time, to see if his targets would lie, based on a false assumption that he had nothing else. It was a great technique — and Andrew used it to catch liars like Anthony Weiner with their pants down, both figuratively and sometimes literally.

I wonder if the New York Times learned something from him.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back — likely the only place I will appear in comments.]

Claim: James Comey Broke Agency Rules He Criticized Hillary Clinton Over

Filed under: General — Dana @ 3:49 pm

[guest post by Dana]

If so, how rich:

More than half of the memos former FBI chief James Comey wrote as personal recollections of his conversations with President Trump about the Russia investigation have been determined to contain classified information, according to interviews with officials familiar with the documents.

This revelation raises the possibility that Comey broke his own agency’s rules and ignored the same security protocol that he publicly criticized Hillary Clinton for in the waning days of the 2016 presidential election.

Comey testified last month he considered the memos to be personal documents and that he shared at least one of them with a Columbia University lawyer friend. He asked that lawyer to leak information from one memo to the news media in hopes of increasing pressure to get a special prosecutor named in the Russia case after Comey was fired as FBI director.

But when the seven memos Comey wrote regarding his nine conversations with Trump about Russia earlier this year were shown to Congress in recent days, the FBI claimed all were, in fact, deemed to be government documents.

While the Comey memos have been previously reported, this is the first time there has been a number connected to the amount of the memos the ex-FBI chief wrote.

Four of the memos had markings making clear they contained information classified at the “secret” or “confidential” level, according to officials directly familiar with the matter.

The report goes on to note that “classified information or any information from ongoing investigations or sensitive operations without prior written permission, and it mandates that all records created during official duties are considered to be government property.” All FBI agents sign an employee agreement containing the following:

“Unauthorized disclosure, misuse, or negligent handling of information contained in the files, electronic or paper, of the FBI or which I may acquire as an employee of the FBI could impair national security, place human life in jeopardy, result in the denial of due process, prevent the FBI from effectively discharging its responsibilities, or violate federal law.”

It adds that “all information acquired by me in connection with my official duties with the FBI and all official material to which I have access remain the property of the United States of America” and that an agent “will not reveal, by any means, any information or material from or related to FBI files or any other information acquired by virtue of my official employment to any unauthorized recipient without prior official written authorization by the FBI.”

What is unknown is whether Comey signed the form.

And that brings us to 18 U.S. Code § 793, which everyday Americans became familiar with last year, thanks to Hillary Clinton. Remember, that was when Hillary Clinton was in a bit of a bind and then-Director Comey swooped in to save the day:

According to Director James Comey (disclosure: a former colleague and longtime friend of mine), Hillary Clinton checked every box required for a felony violation of Section 793(f) of the federal penal code (Title 18): With lawful access to highly classified information she acted with gross negligence in removing and causing it to be removed it from its proper place of custody, and she transmitted it and caused it to be transmitted to others not authorized to have it, in patent violation of her trust. Director Comey even conceded that former Secretary Clinton was “extremely careless” and strongly suggested that her recklessness very likely led to communications (her own and those she corresponded with) being intercepted by foreign intelligence services.

Yet, Director Comey recommended against prosecution of the law violations he clearly found on the ground that there was no intent to harm the United States.

In essence, in order to give Mrs. Clinton a pass, the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require. The added intent element, moreover, makes no sense: The point of having a statute that criminalizes gross negligence is to underscore that government officials have a special obligation to safeguard national defense secrets; when they fail to carry out that obligation due to gross negligence, they are guilty of serious wrongdoing. The lack of intent to harm our country is irrelevant. People never intend the bad things that happen due to gross negligence.

At this point, wouldn’t a Special Prosecutor be needed? Further, was there “intent” with regard to Comey and this latest bit of news? And, is it possible that any of the memos were upgraded to “classified” after the fact?

Ed Morrisey makes a few interesting observations:

If Comey allowed those documents with classified information to get out of his hands, then 18 USC 793 might apply — the same Espionage Act statute under which Comey determined that Hillary Clinton could not be prosecuted.

If Solomon’s sources are accurate, which has not yet been established, then Comey was trusted with classified information and at the least improperly retained custody of it and improperly secured it. If the memo he gave to the Columbia University professor to leak to the press contained any classified information — something which Solomon’s story never explicitly alleges — then that would at least seem to be “gross negligence.” If Comey knew it contained classified information, then it would go beyond that standard into a mens rea for criminal activity in regard to a law that Comey only knows too well. Ignorance will not be a defense here.

However, let’s step back a bit and consider exactly what transpired. Comey did not take reports or other such classified documents and put them into memo form; he memorialized conversations with his boss. Those do not come with floating classification markings above and below someone’s head while the conversation takes place. The assumption is that anyone who has a clearance will understand what should be classified and take steps to protect it, but that’s more difficult in conversation than it is in documentation. In that sense, ignorance may well be a defense, since Comey may not have known about any classification levels attached to the information at the time of the conversations.

That doesn’t let Comey off the hook, though. If that was the case, Comey should have taken steps to determine whether the content he included in these memos was classified at any level before actually writing them, and then if still necessary, labeled and stored them appropriately. Failure to do so and then leaking them intentionally both raise potential violations of 18 USC 793, although perhaps cases that prosecutors wouldn’t normally press.

And of course the president weighed in on the matter. After re-tweeting a now retracted tweet from Fox and Friends about the report, President Trump tweeted:

Untitled

Just to be clear: Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee that he shared the memo with his close friend, Columbia University Law School professor Daniel C. Richman. He then asked Richman to share contents with reporters. Comey did not directly leak them to reporters.

As of yesterday Daniel C. Richman denied that there were any classified markings on the memos given to him by Comey. If it was classified material that he wanted leaked, Comey seems plenty smart enough to make sure it was clean when he gave it to Richman. He’s not an amateur.

Finally, Andrew McCarthy shares his thoughts on the matter, which are worth your time to read. Amusingly, he notes that the report in The Hill is based on leaks, and yet the president hasn’t uttered a peep of complaint about that. Apparently not all leaks are created equal.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

LOL

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:52 am

Italian = graduate degree.

Spanish = high school degree.

I guess that’s what he’s saying?

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

Irony Overload: A Literally Incredible Development

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:37 am

FoxNews.com:

Two weeks after Hillary Clinton clinched the Democratic presidential nomination last year, Bill Clinton arranged a secret meeting at his Harlem office with a lawyer who has connections to ISIS, according to confidential government records described to FoxNews.com.

The previously unreported meeting was also attended by Sidney Blumenthal, according to interviews and the documents, which were outlined by people familiar with them.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Blumenthal were told that the ISIS-connected lawyer had information damaging to the candidacy of Ms. Clinton’s opponent, Donald J. Trump, who was then the Republican nominee for president.

Mr. Clinton was informed in an email in advance of the meeting that the material was part of an effort by ISIS to aid his wife’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email.

You’ll have to click the link to understand just how literally incredible the story is. The irony of this story following directly on the heels of the Donald Trump Jr. revelations regarding Russia — well, it leaves the reader with the feeling that it is nothing short of impossible to believe.

And of course, it’s not true. I just made it up. It’s . . . wait for it . . . FAKE NEWS!! Actual, literal fake news.

In fact, it is of course, the Donald Trump Jr. story, slightly altered. All I did was switch the names of the preferred candidate and the non-preferred candidate — and the identity of the enemy power.

But if this story had happened, everyone here would be OK with it. I know this, because I have read the arguments by commenters assuring me that there is no problem meeting secretly with possible agents of an enemy power to get dirt on your presidential opponent. Since those arguments are driven by principle and not by partisanship, there would be no problem with the scenario described in the above fake news article.

Bringing us back to reality, Jonah Goldberg has an excellent piece on all of this, and I agree with almost every word:

I’ve found the whole feeding frenzy unappealing. The Democrats are clearly in full partisan mode, framing every inconvenient, benign, or even potentially exculpatory detail as a smoking gun. The whole “hacked the election” formulation, used both by the Democrats and by allegedly objective reporters, is a misleading bit of hyperbole. Is “meddled with” or “interfered in” too big a concession to reality?

Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of hyperbole among those most eager to defend Trump on the Russia story. I’ve lost count of how many adjectives Sean Hannity uses to describe the media these days. I think it’s the “Alt-Left, Globalist Mainstream, Deep State, Destroy Trump, Get a Two-Liter Bottle of Pepsi When You Order a MAGA Pizza Media” now. More seriously, the rush to say there’s nothing to the collusion story is a mirror of the rush to insist the story is everything. There’s just not much room to say, “Maybe there’s something here. Let’s wait and see.”

. . . .

What I just don’t understand is how conservatives can mock, scoff at, and ridicule the idea there might be some legs to this story when Donald Trump does everything he can to make it look like there might be a there there. He fired the FBI director. He told the Russian ambassador he did it to thwart the Russia investigation. He told Lester Holt the same thing. Donald Trump is clearly obsessed with the Russia story and with forging a bromance with Vladimir Putin. Both his son and his son-in-law have ties to Russia and keep having to revise their denials, making anyone who believed them in the first place look foolish.

My main difference with Jonah is that his attitude is entirely “wait and see.” That is mostly my attitude, with one difference. Ever since I have seen the argument advanced that there would be nothing to this story, even if everything alleged were true, I have been fascinated that people would argue that, and I have wanted to tease out the implications.

Hence this post and its FAKE NEWS!! story.

Again, these are not arguments about the legalities, but about morality and how the American public would have reacted if a) all this was true and b) all this was known before the election. Maybe they wouldn’t have cared. There was already quite a lot they didn’t care about.

So tell me. If the scenario I describe above had actually happened, would you be OK with it? Really?

Really? (Patterico tilts his head and looks meaningfully at the reader.) Really?

And if not, what’s the difference?

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


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