by Robert Bridge
In the time-honored tradition of Machiavellian statecraft, all of the charges being leveled against Donald Trump to remove him from office – namely, ‘abuse of power’ and ‘obstruction of congress’ –are essentially the same things the Democratic Party has been guilty of for nearly half a decade: abusing their powers in a non-stop attack on the executive branch. Is the reason because they desperately need a ‘get out of jail free’ card?
Due to the non-stop action in Washington of late, few believe that the present state of affairs between the Democrats and Donald Trump are exclusively due to a telephone call between the US leader and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That is only scratching the surface of a story that is practically boundless.
Back in April 2016, before Trump had become the Republican presidential nominee, talk of impeachment was already in the air.
“Donald Trump isn’t even the Republican nominee yet,” wrote Darren Samuelsohn in Politico. Yet impeachment, he noted, is “already on the lips of pundits, newspaper editorials, constitutional scholars, and even a few members of Congress.”
The timing of Samuelsohn’s article is not a little astonishing given what the Department of Justice (DOJ) had discovered just one month earlier.
In March 2016, the DOJ found that “the FBI had been employing outside contractors who had access to raw Section 702 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) data, and retained that access after their work for the FBI was completed,” as Jeff Carlson reported in The Epoch Times.
That sort of foreign access to sensitive data is highly improper and was the result of “deliberate decision-making,” according to the findings of an April 2017 FISA court ruling (footnote 69).
On April 18, 2016, then-National Security Agency (NSA) Director Adm. Mike Rogers directed the NSA’s Office of Compliance to terminate all FBI outside-contractor access. Later, on Oct. 21, 2016, the FBI and the DOJ’s National Security Division (NSD), and despite they were aware of Rogers’s actions, moved ahead anyways with a request for a FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The request was approved by the FISA court, which, apparently, was still in the dark about the violations.
On Oct. 26, following approval of the warrant against Page, Rogers went to the FISA court to inform them of the FBI’s non-compliance with the rules. Was it just a coincidence that at exactly this time, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter were suddenly calling for Roger’s removal? The request was eventually rejected. The next month, in mid-November 2016 Rogers, without first notifying his superiors, flew to New York where he had a private meeting with Trump at Trump Towers.
According to the New York Times, the meeting – the details of which were never publicly divulged, but may be guessed at – “caused consternation at senior levels of the administration.”
Democratic obstruction of justice?
Then CIA Director John Brennan, dismayed about a few meetings Trump officials had with the Russians, helped to kick-start the FBI investigation over ‘Russian collusion.’ Notably, these Trump-Russia meetings occurred in December 2016, as the incoming administration was in the difficult transition period to enter the White House. The Democrats made sure they made that transition as ugly as possible.
Although it is perfectly normal for an incoming government to meet with foreign heads of state at this critical juncture, a meeting at Trump Tower between Michael Flynn, Trump’s incoming national security adviser and former Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, was portrayed as some kind of cloak and dagger scene borrowed from a John le Carré thriller.
Brennan questioning the motives behind high-level meetings between the Trump team and some Russians is strange given that the lame duck Obama administration was in the process of redialing US-Russia relations back to the Cold War days, all based on the debunked claim that Moscow handed Trump the White House on a silver platter.
In late December 2016, after Trump had already won the election, Obama slapped Russia with punitive sanctions, expelled 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two Russian facilities. Since part of Trump’s campaign platform was to mend relations with Moscow, would it not seem logical that the incoming administration would be in damage-control, doing whatever necessary to prevent relations between the world’s premier nuclear powers from degrading even more?
So if it wasn’t ‘Russian collusion’ that motivated the Democrats into action, what was it?
From Benghazi to Seth Rich
Here we must pause and remind ourselves about the unenviable situation regarding Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, who was being grilled daily over her use of a private computer to communicate sensitive documents via email. In all likelihood, the incident would have dropped from the radar had it not been for the deadly 2012 Benghazi attacks on a US compound.
In the course of a House Select Committee investigation into the circumstances surrounding the attacks, which resulted in the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US personnel, Clinton handed over some 30,000 emails, while reportedly deleting 32,000 deemed to be of a “personal nature”. Those emails remain unaccounted for to this day.
I want the public to see my email. I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 5, 2015
By March 2015, even the traditionally tepid media was baring its baby fangs, relentlessly pursuing Clinton over the email question. Since Clinton never made a secret of her presidential ambitions, even political allies were piling on. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), for example, said it’s time for Clinton “to step up” and explain herself, adding that “silence is going to hurt her.”
On July 24, 2015, The New York Times published a front-page story with the headline “Criminal Inquiry Sought in Clinton’s Use of Email.” Later, Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post candidly summed up Clinton’s rapidly deteriorating status with elections fast approaching: “Democrats still show no sign they are willing to abandon Clinton. Instead, they seem to be heading into the 2016 election with a deeply flawed candidate schlepping around plenty of baggage — the details of which are not yet known.”
Moving into 2016, things began to look increasingly complicated for the Democratic front-runner. On March 16, 2016, WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for over 30 thousand emails and attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547-page treasure trove spans the dates from June 30, 2010 to August 12, 2014.
In May, about one month after Clinton had officially announced her candidacy for the US presidency, the State Department’s inspector general released an 83-page report that was highly critical of Clinton’s email practices, concluding that Clinton failed to seek legal approval for her use of a private server.
“At a minimum,” the report determined, “Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department’s policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act.”
The following month brought more bad news for Clinton and her presidential hopes after it was reported that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had a 30-minute tête-à-tête with Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, whose department was leading the Clinton investigations, on the tarmac at Phoenix International Airport. Lynch said Clinton decided to pay her an impromptu visit where the two discussed “his grandchildren and his travels and things like that.” Republicans, however, certainly weren’t buying the story as the encounter came as the FBI was preparing to file its recommendation to the Justice Department.
The summer of 2016, however, was just heating up.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) June 30, 2016
Hack versus Leak?
On the early morning of July 10, Seth Rich, the director of voter expansion for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), was gunned down on the street in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, DC. Rich’s murder, said to be the result of a botched robbery, bucked the homicide trend in the area for that particular period; murders rates for the first six months of 2016 were down about 50 percent from the same period in the previous year.
In any case, the story gets much stranger. Just five days earlier, on July 5th, the computers at the DNC were compromised, purportedly by an online persona with the moniker “Guccifer 2.0” at the behest of Russian intelligence. This is where the story of “Russian hacking” first gained popularity. Not everyone, however, was buying the explanation.
In July 2017, a group of former U.S. intelligence officers, including NSA specialists, who call themselves Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) sent a memo to President Trump that challenged a January intelligence assessment that expressed “high confidence” that the Russians had organized an “influence campaign” to harm Hillary Clinton’s “electability,” as if she wasn’t capable of that without Kremlin support.
“Forensic studies of ‘Russian hacking’ into Democratic National Committee computers last year reveal that on July 5, 2016, data was leaked (not hacked) by a person with physical access to DNC computer,” the memo states (The memo’s conclusions were based on analyses of metadata provided by the online persona Guccifer 2.0, who took credit for the alleged hack). “Key among the findings of the independent forensic investigations is the conclusion that the DNC data was copied onto a storage device at a speed that far exceeds an Internet capability for a remote hack.”
In other words, according to VIPS, the compromise of the DNC computers was the result of an internal leak, not an external hack.
At this point, however, it needs mentioned that the VIPS memo has sparked dissenting views among its members. Several analysts within the group have spoken out against its findings, and that internal debate can be read here. Thus, it would seem there is no ‘smoking gun,’ as of yet, to prove that the DNC was not hacked by an external entity. At the same time, the murder of Seth Rich continues to remain an unsolved “botched robbery,” according to investigators. Meanwhile, the one person who may hold the key to the mystery, Julian Assange, is said to be withering away Belmarsh Prison, a high-security London jail, where he is awaiting a February court hearing that will decide whether he will be extradited to the United States where he 18 charges.
Here is a question to ponder: If you were Julian Assange, and you knew you were going to be extradited to the United States, who would you rather be the sitting president in charge of your fate, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Think twice before answering.
“Because you’d be in jail”
On October 9, 2016, in the second televised presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump accused his Democratic opponent of deleting 33,000 emails, while adding that he would get a “special prosecutor and we’re going to look into it…” To this, Clinton said “it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” to which Trump deadpanned, without missing a beat, “because you’d be in jail.”
Now if that remark didn’t get the attention of high-ranking Democratic officials, perhaps Trump’s comments at a Virginia rally days later, when he promised to “drain the swamp,” made folks sit up and take notice.
At this point the leaks, hacks and everything in between were already coming fast and furious. On October 7, John Podesta, Clinton’s presidential campaign manager, had his personal Gmail account hacked, thereby releasing a torrent of inside secrets, including how Donna Brazile, then a CNN commentator, had fed Clinton debate questions. But of course the crimes did not matter to the mendacious media, only the identity of the alleged messenger, which of course was ‘Russia.’
By now, the only thing more incredible than the dirt being produced on Clinton was the fact that she was still in the presidential race, and even slated to win by a wide margin. But perhaps her biggest setback came when authorities, investigating Anthony Weiner’s abused laptop into illicit text messages he sent to a 15-year-old girl, stumbled upon thousands of email messages from Hillary Clinton.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 28, 2016
Now Comey had to backpedal on his conclusion in July that although Clinton was “extremely careless” in her use of her electronic devices, no criminal charges would be forthcoming. He announced an 11th hour investigation, just days before the election. Although Clinton was also cleared in this case, observers never forgave Comey for his actions, arguing they cost Clinton the White House.
Now James Comey is back in the spotlight as one of the main characters in the Barr-Durham investigation, which is examining largely out of the spotlight the origins of the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory that dogged the White House for four long years.
In early December, Justice Department’s independent inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, released the 400-page IG report that revealed a long list of omissions, mistakes and inconsistencies in the FBI’s applications for FISA warrants to conduct surveillance on Carter Page. Although the report was damning, both Barr and Durham noted it did not go far enough because Horowitz did not have the access that Durham has to intelligence agency sources, as well as overseas contacts that Barr provided to him.
With AG report due for release in early spring, needless to say some Democrats are very nervous as to its finding. So nervous, in fact, that they might just be willing to go to the extreme of removing a sitting president to avoid its conclusions.
Whatever the verdict, 2020 promises to be one very interesting year.