We are discovering incredible, and now daily, revelations surrounding the Mueller Investigation. They approach – and perhaps reach – the highest levels of the Obama Administration.
The FBI’s weaponization by the Obama Administration. The partisan, and quite possibly illegal acts by the Department of Justice. Manipulation of the FISA Court. Illegal Unmasking and Surveillance of American Citizens. The partisan actions of FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who seemingly appears everywhere in the Clinton and Flynn Investigation. The equally partisan actions displayed by DOJ Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr through his interactions with Fusion GPS and the Trump Dossier.
The list is almost endless.
Mueller was appointed as Special Council on May 17, 2107 by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
It turns out that Mueller’s Investigation had been superseded by an earlier investigation – one started back on January 12, 2017 – to look into various actions taken by the DOJ and the FBI.
From a little-seen update memo from the Office of the Inspector General:
The January 2017 statement issued by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announcing its review of allegations regarding various actions of the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in advance of the 2016 election stated that the OIG review would, among other things, consider whether certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations and that we also would include issues that might arise during the course of the review. The OIG has been reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them.
This investigation has been proceeding, largely unnoticed, for almost a full year.
You can find the full details in, The Inspector General’s Quiet Investigation.
It was this investigation, led by the Inspector General’s Office, that turned up the texts by FBI Agent Strzok – and Mueller Team Leader – that led to Strzok’s removal from Mueller’s Investigation. It also uncovered the actions taken by Associate Deputy AG Ohr.
Consider some of the information that has come out in the past few days.
Bruce Ohr, an Associate Deputy Attorney General, was stripped of his title after it was disclosed that he met with Fusion GPS founder, Glenn Simpson. The meeting between the two was facilitated by Richard Steele – the author of the Trump Dossier. From an article by Byron York:
Ohr knew Steele and had repeated contacts with Steele when Steele was working on the dossier. Ohr also met after the election with Glenn Simpson, head of Fusion GPS, the opposition research company that was paid by the Clinton campaign to compile the dossier.
Ohr’s contacts with Steele and Simpson were covered by a subpoena [Devin] Nunes issued to the FBI and the Justice Department on Aug. 24 .
Ohr met several different times with Steele – prior to the 2016 election. And reports indicate that Ohr has known Steele since 2006. From an article by James Rosen:
According to congressional sources, Simpson and Ohr met sometime around Thanksgiving last year, when President-elect Trump was in the process of selecting his cabinet, and discussed over coffee the anti-Trump dossier, the Russia investigation and what Simpson considered the distressing development of Trump’s victory.
How exactly Simpson and Ohr came to know each other is still being investigated, but initial evidence collected by the House intelligence committee suggests that the two were placed in touch by Steele, a former FBI informant whose contacts with Ohr are said by senior DOJ officials to date back to 2006.
The ramifications from this are startling.
As Associate Deputy Attorney General, Bruce Ohr’s former boss was Sally Yates, then-Deputy Attorney General. Sally Yates’ boss was Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Yates was also briefly the Acting Attorney General until her firing by President Trump. As noted by Byron York:
Knowledge of the dossier project, during the campaign, extended into the highest levels of the Obama Justice Department.
Bruce Ohr, a career official, served as associate deputy attorney general at the time of the campaign. That placed him just below the deputy attorney general, Sally Yates, who ran the day-to-day operations of the department. In 2016, Ohr’s office was just steps away from Yates, who was later fired for defying President Trump’s initial travel ban executive order and still later became a prominent anti-Trump voice upon leaving the Justice Department.
This discovery is hard to understate:
[Investigators] knew that knowledge of the dossier extended to some officials in the FBI. That was bad enough; how could the FBI endorse and consider underwriting one campaign’s dirt-digging operation in the middle of a hotly contested election? But now investigators know that nearly the highest levels of the Obama Justice Department were also aware of the dossier.
Investigators believe the dossier’s sensational allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign played a role in the beginning of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump-Russia affair — an investigation that later morphed into special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.
You can find out more concerning Fusion GPS and their financing by the Clinton Campaign (and Russia), their relationship with the FBI and the Dossier’s use in obtaining FISA warrants here and here. It’s an amazing – and shocking – story in its own right.
We already know about the disclosures surrounding the ubiquitous FBI Agent and top Mueller team member, Peter Strzok. To quickly recap, Strzok was the:
Lead FBI agent in charge of the Clinton email investigation.
FBI Agent who interviewed Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin.
FBI Agent who interviewed Hillary Clinton.
FBI Agent assigned to the top level of Mueller’s Russia-Trump investigation.
FBI Agent who served as the contact person between the FBI and Richard Steele – the author of the Trump Dossier.
One of the two FBI agents who interviewed General Flynn on January 24, 2017. This interview is what led to Flynn’s guilty plea.
One who changed Comey’s earlier draft language describing Clinton’s actions as “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless” in the FBI’s Clinton Email Investigation.
FBI official who signed the document officially opening an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Peter Strzok’s former boss was Bill Priestap, Assistant Director, FBI Counter Intelligence. Priestap’s boss was FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. McCabe’s boss was FBI Director James Comey.
As already mentioned, Bruce Ohr’s former boss was Sally Yates, then-Deputy Attorney General. Sally Yates’ boss was Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Now, this part is important.
Note the following timeline. And consider it’s compression – spanning the final days of the Obama Administration through the first days of President Trump’s Administration:
December 29 2016 – General Michael Flynn speaks to the Russian Ambassador. The conversation takes place the same day that outgoing President Barack Obama imposes sanctions against Russia for suspected hacking of Democrats’ emails during the election.
The conversation is recorded by intelligence agencies and later reviewed by the FBI. Recording or releasing Americans’ conversations is prohibited without written approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). The existence of recorded conversations and the contents of the conversation are barred from public release by classification rules and privacy laws.
December 29 2016 – Obama announces sanctions on Russia.
January 3 2017 – Loretta Lynch signs Section 2.3 of Executive Order 12333 – Procedures for the Availability or Dissemination of Raw Signals Intelligence Information by the NSA – into effect. This order is significant. As I note in, The Suspicious Timing of Obama’s NSA Data-Sharing Order:
Prior to the formal signing of Section 2.3 it appears that there existed more latitude within the White House in regards to collection of information on the Trump Campaign. However, once signed into effect, Section 2.3 granted broad latitude in regards to inter-agency sharing of information. By the time the new order was signed, the information was already in the Obama White House’s possession.
The new order, had it been implemented earlier, might have restricted White House access to information regarding the Trump Team. Once signed, it granted broad latitude to inter-agency sharing of information already held.
Importantly, the transcript of Flynn’s call was already in the possession of the Obama White House.
Jan 12 2017 – Mike Flynn’s Dec 29 2016 call is leaked to Washington Post. The article portrays Flynn as undermining Obama’s Russian sanctions.
Jan 15 2017 – VP Pence appears on Face the nation to defend Flynn’s calls – five days before the inauguration of President Trump.
January 19 2017 – The New York Times reports, on the eve of Inauguration Day, that several agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Treasury Department are monitoring several associates of the Trump campaign suspected of Russian ties.
January 19 2017 – Obama’s top intelligence and law-enforcement deputies meet to talk about Flynn’s conversation with Kislyak, according to a Feb 13 article in the Washington Post.
January 20 2017 – Inauguration.
January 23 2017 – Acting Attorney General Sally Yates increases pressure on FBI Director Comey regarding Mike Flynn – telling Comey that Flynn could be vulnerable to blackmail.
January 23 2017 – The Washington Post reports that the FBI intercepted a conversation in late December 2016 between Michael Flynn and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The intercept is supposedly part of routine spying on the ambassador.
January 23 2017 – The FBI reports nothing unlawful in the content of Flynn’s call. Having listened to the tapes, the FBI clears General Michael Flynn of any wrongdoing in his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn did not violate the Logan Act by attempting to influence US foreign policy.
January 24 2017 – Mike Flynn is interviewed at the White House by the FBI. It is during this interview that Flynn supposedly lies to the FBI – despite having his calls already cleared by the FBI. The surprise – and unscheduled – interview is conducted by Peter Strzok.
January 25 2017 – The Department of Justice receives a detailed briefing on Flynn’s interview from the FBI.
January 26 2017 – Yates contacts White House Counsel McGahn who agrees to meet with Yates the same day.
January 26 2017 – Sally Yates meets with McGahn. She also brings Bill Priestap, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
Yates later testifies the meeting surrounds General Flynn’s phone calls and his FBI Interview. She also testifies that Flynn’s call and subsequent interview “was a topic of a whole lot of discussion in DOJ and with other members of the intel community.”
January 27 2017 – McGahn calls Yates and asks if she can come back to his office.
January 27 2017 – Yates returns to the White House without Priestap. McGahn asks to examine the FBI’s evidence on Flynn. Yates says she will respond by Monday.
To my knowledge, Yates fails to provide McGahn with the FBI’s evidence on Flynn.
Sally Yates became Acting Attorney General after Loretta Lynch left office upon President Trump’s inauguration. On January 30, 2017, President Trump fired Yates for refusing to enforce the Travel Ban.
Bill Priestap later presents the FBI’s contributions to the early 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment, or ICA, entitled Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent Elections to the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 21, 2017.
Bruce Ohr and Peter Strzok both have ties to Fusion GPS and Richard Steele. Strzok personally helps to exonerate Clinton in the email investigation. Ohr has known Steele since 2006. Ohr provides the Trump Dossier to Strzok who uses it to start the FBI Investigation into Russia and the Trump Campaign in July 2016 (per March 20, 2017 testimony by Comey). The Dossier is later used – at least in part – to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump Campaign.
The two people directly above Bruce Ohr and Peter Strzok are Sally Yates and Bill Priestap, respectively.
Per Comey’s testimony, Priestap was the individual responsible for making the decision not to inform Congressional leadership – the Gang of Eight – about the July 2016 FBI investigation. From Comey’s testimony in an exchange with Representative Elise Stefanik (at bottom of article):
STEFANIK: So just to drill down on this, if — if the open investigation began in July and the briefing of congressional leadership only occurred recently, why was there no notification prior to the recent — to the past month?
COMEY: I think our decision was it was a matter of such sensitivity that we wouldn’t include it in the quarterly briefings.
STEFANIK: So when you state our decision is that your decision? Is that usually your decision what gets briefed in those quarterly updates?
COMEY: No, it’s usually the decision of the head of our counter- intelligence division [Bill Priestap]
STEFANIK: And just again, to get the detailed — on the record, why was the decision made not to brief senior congressional leadership until recently when the investigation had been open since July? A very serious investigation — why was that decision to wait months?
COMEY: Because of the sensitivity of the matter.
I find it all but impossible to believe that both Ohr’s and Strzok’s respective bosses – Sally Yates and Bill Priestap – were unaware of the activities of Ohr and Strzok.
Based on the magnitude of the information – and the manner in which the information was used – I find it equally impossible to believe that Yates and Priestap wouldn’t inform their bosses – Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (and almost certainly FBI Director James Comey).
Yesterday, current FBI Director Christopher Wray gave testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. During the Q&A portion a fascinating exchange occurred between Wray and Representative Jim Jordan.
It’s highly worth the 7 minutes:
Jordan pursues the theory that FBI Agent Peter Strzok took the Trump Dossier to the FISA Court in an effort to gain a warrant – allowing the FBI to spy on the Trump Campaign.
From Jordan’s comments:
It has been reported that this dossier “was all dressed up” by the FBI, taken to the FISA court where it was painted as a legitimate intelligence document, that it became the basis for granting a warrant to spy on Americans.
I’m wondering if that all actually took place, it sure looks like it did…
I think Peter Strzok, head of counterintelligence at the FBI, Peter Strzok, the guy who ran the FBI’s Clinton investigation, did all the interviews, Peter Strzok, the guy who was running the Russia investigation at the FBI, Peter Strzok, Mr. Super Agent at the FBI, I think he is the guy that took the application to the FISA court.
And if this happened, if you have the FBI working with the Democrats’ campaign, to take opposition research, dress it all up and turning it into an intelligence document to take it to a FISA court so they can spy on another campaign, if that happened, that is as wrong as it gets…
Wray’s response is telling:
We will not hesitate to hold people accountable after there has been an appropriate investigation, independent and objective, by the Inspector General into the handling of the prior matter and based on that I will look at all available remedies pending on what the facts are when they are found.
As to the access to the Dossier, that’s something that’s of ongoing discussion between my staff and the various intelligence committees.
A few hours after the hearing ended, Spencer Hsu, legal reporter for the Washington Post, sent out this tweet:
U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of DC recuses from fmr Trump national security advisor Michael T. Flynn’s criminal case, court says. Emmet G. Sullivan, a 1994 Clinton appointee and fmr Reagan and Bush I judicial appointee, takes over by random draw https://t.co/4PWa0CLIPI pic.twitter.com/XubybAtXIc
— Spencer Hsu (@hsu_spencer) December 7, 2017
I thought it odd and likely connected, but failed to understand the potential significance.
The folks over at The Conservative Treehouse had an immediate take:
— TheLastRefuge (@TheLastRefuge2) December 8, 2017
From Sundance’s article, Federal FISA Judge Recuses Himself:
Judge Rudolph Contreras recused himself from the case surrounding Michael Flynn, and people are wondering why. There’s one very distinct possibility.
Judge Rudolph Contreras is one of a very small group of FISA Court Judges. –LINK
There is a very real possibility that Judge Contreras signed off on the FISA warrant in October 2016 that initiated the counterintelligence wiretapping and surveillance of the Trump campaign. That wiretapping and surveillance ultimately led to the questioning of Michael Flynn; the consequence of which brings Flynn to Contreras courtroom.
In light of all the other facts assembled, this educated guess makes perfect sense to me – and helps tie everything together into one neat – and damning package.
There has been significant outrage over Mueller’s appointment as Special Counsel. Myself included.
But ask yourself this question:
If Mueller’s Investigation had not existed, do you think this torrent of new details would be seeing the light of day?
I also don’t think most Americans would be willing to entertain many of these allegations without some lengthy groundwork.
These aren’t the kind of things you simply disclose at once to the public without a proper preamble. They have to be shown – repeatedly, over time, and in a systematic pattern.
Which is exactly what appears to have been happening.
All of this leads me to the real question.
Did Obama and Clinton know everything as well – and, if so, when.
Given the magnitude of actions taken, I find it equally impossible to believe they were kept in the dark.
My guess is we are going to find out substantially more in the very near future.
Keep your eyes on the lookout for new revelations. Especially that Inspector General report…