The New Abwehr Hypothesis of The Operation Trump: A Study In Political Psychology, Political Criminology, and Psychohistory, and as the aid for the General, Criminal and the Counterintelligence Investigations of Donald Trump - by Michael Novakhov, M.D. (Mike Nova): Web Research, Analysis, Hypotheses, and Opinions | Current News | Reviews of media reports | Selected reading lists | Site: http://trumpinvestigations.org/
Jared Kushner: power hungry and intent on enriching himself? Yes, without any doubts. - M.N. | Real question is if Trump is under the influence of a foreign power
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By Ken Dilanian
WASHINGTON — Nearly two years into his investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller has not accused any member of the Trump campaign of conspiring with the 2016 election interference effort — and it's not clear whether he will.
But legal experts, along with the congressman leading the House Russia investigation, tell NBC News that the most important question investigators must answer is one that may never have been suitable for the criminal courts: Whether President Trump or anyone around him is under the influence of a foreign government.
"It's more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016," said Martin Lederman, professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and former deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel during the Obama administration. "It's more important to know whether he has been compromised as president than whether his conduct during the campaign constituted a crime."
Whether Mueller will answer that question in the absence of criminal charges is unclear. But in an interview with NBC News, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he is steering his investigation in a new direction to focus on it — and he will demand any relevant evidence compiled by the FBI or Mueller's team.
The California Democrat also expressed concern that Mueller hasn't fully investigated Trump's possible financial history with Russia.
"From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it's very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at," Schiff told NBC News.
Schiff said the public testimony from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that in 2016 Trump stood to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a secret Moscow real estate project is a staggering conflict of interest that must be fully explored.
"I certainly agree that the counterintelligence investigation may be more important than the criminal investigation because it goes to a present threat to our national security — whether the president and anybody around him are compromised by a foreign power," Schiff said. "That's not necessarily an issue that can be covered in indictments."
In fact, most FBI counterintelligence investigations don't result in criminal charges, experts say, because they tend to involve secret intelligence that either can't be used in court or doesn't add up to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If the FBI assesses that a government official is compromised by a foreign adversary, officials often will quietly remove that person from a sensitive role or wall him or her off from classified information.
Obviously, none of that is an option for the president of the United States.
No official action was taken after Trump was accused of giving highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office in 2017. As the president, he has the legal right to spill secrets to whomever he wants.
The White House has long insisted that the notion of a president in thrall to the Kremlin is ridiculous, pointing to the sanctions the Trump administration has levied on Russia in response to cyber attacks, election interference, and its actions in Ukraine.
Trump defenders complain that those who are now focusing on foreign influence have "moved the goalposts" — shifting emphasis to the issue of foreign compromise now that criminal charges involving "Russian collusion" seem less likely.
Trump has criticized Schiff’s approach, saying in a Feb. 7 tweet, "So now Congressman Adam Schiff announces, after having found zero Russian Collusion, that he is going to be looking at every aspect of my life, both financial and personal, even though there is no reason to be doing so. Never happened before! Unlimited Presidential Harassment."
But the question of Trump's motives regarding Russia has always been front and center for the FBI, as former Acting Director Andrew McCabe made clear in a recent round of media appearances. Neither Trump nor any of his supporters has been able to quell questions about the president's embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, including Trump's seeming unwillingness to criticize the Russian autocrat.
McCabe, who was fired for lack of candor in an unrelated matter, alleged that the president disputed intelligence that a North Korean missile could hit the United States, saying, "I don't care. I believe Putin."
That allegedly happened behind closed doors, but few will forget the public spectacle of Trump siding with Putin over his intelligence community on the question of U.S. election interference at last year's Helsinki summit, telling the world: "President Putin says it's not Russia. I don't see any reason why it would be."
McCabe said he could not rule out that the president was, in essence, a Russian asset. Trump has called McCabe a liar and "a disgrace to the FBI."
"What Americans should be concerned about is whether the president's Russia policy is not dictated by our national interest but is dictated by his desire to make hundreds of millions of dollars off a tower in Moscow," Schiff said.
In the beginning, a counterspy probe
The FBI's Russia investigation began in July 2016 as a counterintelligence investigation into Trump campaign aides. Current and former officials say the case involved agents whose expertise is counterspy cases and agents who worked criminal matters.
After Mueller took over the investigation and began filing criminal charges, the public and the news media came to view the probe largely through the lens of the criminal justice system. But the counterintelligence dimension never diminished.
The FBI was looking for crimes, but was also using intelligence tools to ferret out and thwart Russia's efforts to interfere in American democracy. And it was collecting intelligence that the government would likely never want to use in court, current and former officials tell NBC News.
In May 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, told NBC News anchor Lester Holt he did so with Russia on his mind, and told the Russian foreign minister the firing had relieved "great pressure" on him. That led the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation into the president specifically, according to McCabe. It was married to a criminal investigation examining possible conspiracy with Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice, McCabe said.
After Mueller in July 2018 accused Russian intelligence officers who hacked the Democrats of conspiring against the United States, many expected that he eventually might charge members of the Trump campaign with participating in that conspiracy.
That hasn't happened. To the contrary, some of the key figures seen as likely participants in any Russia conspiracy — Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, Michael Cohen — have been charged with other offenses in cases that made no allegation of any "collusion" with Russia. Two of them, Manafort and Cohen, have been sentenced.
But just because they haven't been charged criminally doesn't mean there isn't evidence they were influenced by Russia, said Frank Figliuzzi, the former top counterintelligence official at the FBI and an NBC News contributor.
"I cringe when I see people trying to apply criminal metrics to a counterintelligence case," he said.
More often than not in counterintelligence cases, Figliuzzi said, the FBI makes a determination that a person has been subject to foreign influence without pursuing criminal charges. For example, he said, if the bureau finds that a top general has developed an inappropriate relationship with a Chinese intelligence asset, that general likely wouldn't be charged with espionage or other crimes. But he almost certainly would be fired.
In Trump's case, longtime students of his real estate career have raised questions about how he generated large amounts of cash in recent years to make big purchases of golf courses and other assets, and of why the German bank Deutsche Bank — which has been fined for laundering Russian money — made loans to him when, by all accounts, no other bank would. There is no public evidence linking Trump’s relationship to Deutsche Bank with the allegations of laundering money for wealthy Russians.
According to the Washington Post, the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section is investigating how Saudi Arabia and other countries sought to influence the Trump Administration through relationships with a key fundraiser, Elliott Broidy. Through a spokesman, Broidy has not denied working with those countries, but he denies any wrongdoing.
It has long been presumed that Mueller would investigate these questions, to determine the extent of Trump's financial history with Russia or other foreign entities that now have a stake in his policy decisions. Trump is the only president in recent history not to have released his tax returns, and the only one to retain a stake in a business empire.
How far did Mueller go?
But Schiff told NBC News he is not convinced that Mueller's Russia investigation — tasked with examining whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference — delved deeply into Trump's personal finances.
"The concern I've had in terms of the scope of the Mueller investigation is that the president has tried to draw a red line around certain aspects of his finances," Schiff said. "That's not a line that can be observed and still protect the country."
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Schiff noted that the New York Times reported that Trump demanded that Mueller be fired in December 2017 after news reports suggested the special counsel had sent a subpoena to Deutsche Bank. After Trump's lawyers were assured by Mueller's office that the reports were not accurate, the president backed down, according to the Times. The president has called reports he sought to fire Mueller "fake news."
But if Mueller hasn't looked at Trump's relationship the German bank, Schiff said, "they have not done a diligent investigation of money laundering."
He added: "If the president has been successful in chilling the DOJ from looking at his finances, then the Congress needs to do it… Any way in which this president or those around him might be compromised by a foreign hostile power is front and center in our probe."
David Kris, a former Justice Department national security lawyer and founder of Culper Partners consulting firm, worked closely with Mueller when he was FBI director, and knows him well. He told NBC News he believes that Mueller would have taken whatever steps necessary to examine the question of whether Trump had an improper financial relationship with Russia or Russian oligarchs.
"I would trust Mueller to be competently thorough," he said.
It's possible, however, that Mueller didn't believe his mandate allowed him to rummage through Trump's financial history, he added.
Either way, Kris said, Schiff and Congress are on solid legal footing in expecting that Mueller and the FBI will brief them on the results of the counterintelligence investigation into the president — regardless of what criminal charges Mueller files or what he puts in his report.
Leaving aside the special counsel regulations, the executive branch is required by law to keep the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed" on important intelligence matters, Kris noted. There is also a requirement that the Justice Department tell Congress about any instances in which a prosecution was halted over concerns about intelligence sources and methods.
Figliuzzi said he frequently briefed Congress on major counterintelligence cases as FBI counterspy chief. He said it's essential that Mueller tell the Congress what, if anything, he has found pointing to possible Russian or other foreign influence on anyone in the Trump administration.
"This is an independent reporting obligation that the intelligence community has," Schiff said. "I do think that the special counsel regulations certainly permit the sharing of this information with the Congress and we're going to insist on it."
Schiff said he is particularly concerned about the Trump Tower Moscow project, the real estate development Cohen was pitching to the Kremlin while Trump was running for president.
He noted that when it first emerged that Cohen had emailed Putin's office seeking help, Putin's spokesman, Dmitri Pescov, said he never answered the email. But it later emerged in court documents that an assistant to Pescov did respond, emailing Cohen and asking him to call, which he did.
"So here we had the Kremlin facilitating a cover up by the president of the United States," Schiff said. "This needs to be exposed."
Ken Dilanian is a national security reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Three years ago today, the personal email account of the chairman of the Clinton campaign, John Podesta, was hacked by an elite unit in Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU. (Full disclosure: he is the founder of CAP Action, which you probably already know).
This hacking effort was part of a yearlong campaign by Russian intelligence directed against the Clinton campaign and Trump opponents, an effort that left zero question about the prevalence of interference in the 2016 election. There were two campaigns to elect Donald Trump in 2016: a campaign run out of Trump Tower (the Trump campaign) and a campaign run out of the Kremlin (the Russian campaign).
In the three years since the Podesta hack, Mueller’s wave of indictments detailed just how massive the Russian campaign was. The Russian campaign often had the resources of a presidential campaign, with the added advantage of being bolstered by the immense capabilities of Russia’s intelligence services.
Russia had a digital team the size of a modern presidential campaign: Housed in the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian campaign had a digital wing that was roughly the size of the Clinton campaign’s digital team based in Brooklyn. The Russians exploited the openness of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to spread disinformation online and helped to promote Trump.
Estimates indicate that the IRA employed anywhere from hundreds to a thousand They also had 80 people just devoted to influencing the US population, which was about the same size of the Clinton campaign’s digital team.
Russia’s digital campaign had a multi-million dollar budget,funded by a close Putin ally, who has been indicted and sanctioned. The project to interfere in the US had a $1.25 million monthly budget in 2016.
Russia’s digital campaign was influential on social media, with some accounts gaining more than 100,000 followers. The IRA set up fake personas on social media platforms, deploying politically-driven messages that sought to bolster Trump, sow discord, and amplify extremist voices. For example, the IRA-twitter account @TEN_GOP falsely claimed to be the Tennessee Republican party and gained more than 100,000 followers.
They also created issue specific groups on Facebook and Instagram that amassed “hundreds of thousands of followers.” These include IRA-created groups like “Secured Borders,” “South United” and “United Muslims of America.”
Russia’s digital campaign organized at least eight political rallies in the U.S. This included demonstrations titled “March for Trump” and “Miners for Trump.”
For example, the IRA used the Facebook group “Being Patriotic” and the Twitter account @March_for_Trump to coordinate a series of rallies in Florida.
They even paid people to build a cage and wear a prison uniform pretending to by Hillary Clinton.
Russia’s digital campaign bought ads on social media, spending “thousands of U.S. dollars every month.” One advertisement in May read, “Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.” Another in October said “Among all the candidates Donald Trump is the one and only who can defend the police from terrorists.”
Russia’s digital campaign sought to depress Clinton’s turnout by targeting African Americans. The IRA leeched off the popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement, setting up dozens of fake activist social media pages, including the Facebook group “Blacktivist.”
Russia’s digital campaign conducted reconnaissance missions to prepare for the election. Operatives from the IRA visited the U.S. as early as 2014 to prepare for the election, going to and collecting intelligence in Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, New York, and Georgia.
Russia also used traditional propaganda outlets like Russia’s state-owned channels RT and Sputnik. These were used to elevate and amplify stories, spread disinformation, and to provide a platform for third-party candidates like Jill Stein.
Russian intelligence engaged in a massive cyber hacking campaign, targeting 76 Clinton campaign staffers. Russian hackers conducted extensive cyberoperations during the 2016 election cycle. They stole information from both Democratic and Republican targets – but only released information on Democrats.
In April, Russian hackers breached DNC servers. They stole field operations research, DNC analytics, donor lists, and emails. Russian hackers were able to take screen shots and capture key strokes when DNC staff were at their computer.
Russia released some, but not all, of the stolen content through WikiLeaks in a manner designed to help Donald Trump.
The DNC emails were released on the Friday before the DNC convention, massively disrupting what was supposed to be a unifying event after a divisive primary.
John Podesta’s emails were leaked on a Friday afternoon, just 29 minutes after the release of the Access Hollywood video.
Russia used its intelligence assets as part of its campaign, particularly to liaise with the Trump campaign. Some were clear Russian agents knowingly working on Russia’s behalf, while others with previously known links may have acted unwittingly.
The Trump campaign passed polling data to a suspected Russian intelligence agent. Konstantin Kilimnik was Paul Manafort’s right hand man and is suspected to have ties with Russian intelligence.
Maria Butina sought to infiltrate the NRA and connect with key Republican leaders. According to her guilty plea, Butina said “circumstances were favorable for building relations with” the GOP, predicting in 2015 that whoever the Republican nominee was would win the election.
The June 9th, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower that included Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner was also attended by Rinat Akhmetshin, a Washington lobbyist and alleged former Soviet counter-intelligence officer, as well as a Russian government lawyer with ties to the Russian Prosecutor General.
Joseph Mifsud, a “Maltese professor,” informed the Trump campaign in April 2016 that the Russians had “thousands of emails” and had “dirt” on Clinton.
A suspected Russian agent was on the Trump campaign. Carter Page, according to the FISA warrant released in the Nunes memo, was suspected by the FBI to be a Russian agent. He traveled to Moscow during the campaign, delivering a foreign policy speech that parroted Kremlin talking points.
These three lines of effort created a powerful and robust Russian campaign to elect Donald Trump. And there was no bright line separating the Russian campaign from the Trump campaign. They were in constant contact, with at least 28 meetings and more than 100 contacts between Trump officials and Kremlin-linked figures. Three years since the Podesta hack, the Trump administration’s inaction in response to such a massive attack on our democracy continues to be a national security risk.
Former FBI Director James Comey explains why it’s so hard to prosecute white-collar criminals, as 2020 Democrats slam ‘two systems of justice’ CNBC WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Democratic presidential contenders want Wall Street executives locked up for crimes committed on their watch — but former FBI … “political crimes” – Google News Crime and Criminology from Michael_Novakhov …
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Democratic presidential contenders want Wall Street executives locked up for crimes committed on their watch — but former FBI Director James Comey, once the top prosecutor in Manhattan, said it might not be so easy.
Comey, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the days after the dotcom meltdown of the early 2000s, weighed in on the matter on Friday during a rare question-and-answer session at his alma mater William & Mary.
Responding to a student who asked about the lack of major prosecutions after the 2007 financial crisis, Comey said that unlike drug prosecutions, white-collar cases require prosecutors to demonstrate that the person they are charging knew what they were doing was wrong at the time.
“Show me that these bank CEOs, when they engaged in these transactions, knew they were involved in a fraudulent transaction. It is incredibly difficulty to do,” Comey said.
He said that the difficulty was at times dispiriting, but defended his record and the record of those who followed him.
Some of Comey’s successors as Manhattan’s U.S. attorney, including Preet Bharara, who took the job in 2009, have been criticized for failing to go after those responsible for the financial crisis and instead taking on cases that were easier to prosecute.
“It’s frustrating to me, but I can’t imagine the country being any different,” Comey said. “I don’t want to change the burden of proof, I don’t want to lower any of those things. There’s lots of things I want to do to try to make it harder for bad people to do bad things, but my reaction is: I’m proud of what I did.”
Attention on white-collar crime has heated up as a result of the Democratic presidential primary, which features a number of lawmakers who have made addressing inequities in the criminal justice system a central element of their pitch to voters.
The nation’s attention was focused on the matter earlier this month, after President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort received a sentence of about seven years for a slew of crimes including fraud, a duration that fell far short of what federal sentencing guidelines recommended
The sentence drew scrutiny not just from liberal Democrats like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has vowed to increase the criminal liability of big bank executives, but also from more moderate contenders like Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a former prosecutor. Klobuchar at the time slammed what she called “two systems of justice.”
“Crimes committed in an office building should be treated as seriously as crimes committed on a street corner,” Klobuchar wrote in a post on Twitter.
But Comey said that, in effect, crimes committed in an office building are fundamentally harder to prosecute.
“It’s very, very hard to make cases against senior people,” Comey said.
Comey said that, in a drug case, prosecutors have a mission to connect individuals to the transaction. He said that, for instance, if there is a kilo of heroin on the table, “and we are all sitting around it, and the DEA kicks in the door, everybody is going to jail.”
“It’s not open to anybody to say, ‘My lawyer has looked at this kilo.’ Or, ‘My accountant has reviewed this kilo.’ Or, ’If you look at footnote 17 of our disclosure, this kilo is mentioned,” he said.
Comey said that the process for white-collar cases was the reverse.
“At the end of the white collar investigation, I will know everyone who was at the table,” Comey said. “Mortgage backed securities out the wazoo, we will untangle it. But then, we have to prove that everybody involved in the transaction knew it was wrong. And then they can say, well, ‘Moody’s looked at this.’ Or, ‘My law firm looked at this. It never occurred to me that this might be wrong.’”
Experts have said that other reasons also account for disparities in the frequency of prosecutions and the length of sentencing for white-collar crime, versus drug offenses and other criminal violations.
Career ambitions on the part of the prosecutor often play a role, according to Brett Curry, a professor at Georgia Southern University who recently co-authored the book “U.S. Attorneys, Political Control, and Career Ambition.”
“There has been an increase in the propensity of former prosecutors to pivot into the white-collar defense bar,” Curry said in an interview. He said that prosecutors “want to seem serious” — so they don’t avoid white-collar prosecutions entirely — but that they also “look across the table at the people who might want to hire” them.
The reporter Jesse Eisinger made a similar argument in his 2017 book, “The Chickensh-- Club,” which describes a “symbiotic” relationship between top law firms and the Department of Justice.
That book got its title from Comey, who used the phrase pejoratively to describe young prosecutors who had never lost a case and feared taking on challenging prosecutions that could blemish their record.
“Jim Comey was saying to young prosecutors that their job was not about winning, that they couldn’t be focused on just getting their best record that they could get — taking the low hanging fruit,” Eisinger said in a 2017 radio interview.
“Their job was about more than that. It was about doing justice. And so he was urging his prosecutors to [try] ambitious cases, righteous cases, and not to worry about winning and certainly not to behave as if winning was the only thing that mattered.”
Jan 9, 2019 - M.N. | "Had Deutsche sold any part of Trump's debt to foreign entities? ... Did Trumpaccept Russian sources of funding during these times? ... Jared Kushner, Ivanka, and Kushner'smother Seryl Stadtmauer were all ..... A Kremlin bank, VTB, had seemingly captured Deutsche Bank'sMoscow outpost.
U.S. President Donald Trump's combative envoy to Germany, Richard Grenell continues to draw fire from German officials for trying to intervene in the country's affairs.
"Mr Grenell is a total diplomatic failure," Carsten Schneider, head of the Social Democratic Party (SPD)' s parliamentary caucus, told the dpa in Berlin after ambassador Grenell criticized Berlin's decision to move more slowly toward the NATO spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product.
Grenell's tone had long been inappropriate to relations between close allies, Schneider said, charging the ambassador with failure to recognize Germany's contribution within the alliance, in Afghanistan for example.
"Mr Grenell is harming transatlantic relations with his repeated heavy-handed remarks," he said.
Grenell has also faced criticism for his handling of U.S.-German disagreements over trade, a 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
The envoy last week warned German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier in a letter that security concerns could throttle U.S. intelligence sharing with Berlin if Huawei got a role in Germany's 5G next-generation mobile infrastructure.
Merkel told reporters the German government was keenly focused on security of digital networks, including the 5G mobile infrastructure, but Berlin would keep its own counsel.
Michael Grosse-Broemer, a conservative leader in parliament, said Germany was competent to address its own security, adding, "There is no need for pointers from the U.S. ambassador."
Grenell also sparked controversy in Germany when he warned German firms to start closing down their business operations in Iran.
His threat to slap sanctions on German firms involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline also proved counterproductive, shutting down potential critics of the project as German politicians are reluctant to be seen as bowing to U.S. pressure, experts said.
"Political smoothness is not his thing and he's proud of that. You could say he was the most undiplomatic diplomat Washington ever had here," said Ruediger Lentz, executive director the Aspen Institute Germany.
A just-released blockbuster report by the New York Times is shedding light on just how far Deutsche Bank went to vouch for Donald Trump, despite numerous red flags. New York Times Finance Editor David Enrich joins Stephanie Ruhle to break it all down.March 19, 2019
Post LinkC-SPAN has launched a new web page, c-span.org/impeachment, devoted to Congress' impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.The goal is to provide one-stop shopping for all of C-SPAN's coverage of the inquiry, including the latest Hill tweets, various news conferences and hearings, and the Trump Administration's response.