Some Matters Domestic and Foreign

Attorney General William Barr earlier this week signaled that there would be a development in the ongoing Durham investigation into official misconduct relating to the Russiagate confection.  Friday, that came true with news that attorney Kevin Clinesmith, formerly with the FBI, was going to plead guilty to one count of feloniously altering an email from the CIA in order to support an application for a FISA warrant that permitted the government to spy in Carter Page. 

Page had for years provided information to the CIA about his contacts with Russian officials. In CIA jargon, he was known as an operational contact -- someone who agrees to be debriefed by agency personnel but cannot be assigned to collect information.

That relationship might have given law enforcement officials reason to be less suspicious of him. And the FBI was told about it: A CIA lawyer provided a list of documents in the August 2016 email at the heart of the case against Clinesmith that explained Page’s relationship with the agency.

But an FBI case agent who learned about Page’s ties to the CIA played them down while preparing the first wiretap application, according to the inspector general’s report. At the time, Clinesmith was not involved in determining whether Page was a CIA source, people familiar with the case said.

But later in 2017, a supervisory FBI agent handling the third and final renewal application asked Clinesmith for a definitive answer on whether Page had been an agency source, according to Horowitz’s report.

Clinesmith incorrectly said Page was “never a source” and sent the CIA’s information to the supervisor. He altered the original email to say Page had not been a source -- a material change to a document used in a federal investigation.

The agent relied on the altered email to submit the application seeking further court permission to wiretap Page, the inspector general wrote. By changing the email and then forwarding it, Clinesmith misrepresented the original content of the document, which prosecutors said was a crime.

The alteration was substantial, hiding the fact that Page had been a confidential informant for the CIA. Had this been known to the Department of Justice lawyers who drafted the warrant application, it is certain it would not have been forwarded to the FISC. Had the  FISC been properly informed, no warrant would have been issued, and the spying on Page which opened the sluice gates to permit spying on all his contacts, in particular the Trump campaign, would never have been permitted by law. Mollie Hemingway dissects the NYT report and shows clearly how deliberate and meaningful the altered email by Clinesmith was.

(It appears he was not the first to play games with Page’s history. Note, there was a case agent before him who played down Page’s contacts, and we await his identity.)

Once again, all the best-considered legislative schemes to preclude wrongdoing are useless against human corruption.

The legions of us weary of waiting for criminal action should be somewhat assuaged by this news.  After all, we’ve known about this for eight months, since the report of Inspector General Michael Horowitz was made public. Horowitz also alleged dozens of such abuses. Can we expect to see more prosecutions?  My crystal ball says yes.

Durham has in fact telegraphed that this is the case: 

But Durham also reveals in the filing that the FBI Crossfire Hurricane team -- led by since-fired Agent Peter Strzok -- had already been told of Page's relationship with the CIA all the way back in August 2016 and failed to tell the FISA court that essential information about Page before the three prior FISA warrants were approved.

Such a failure is known as a material omission because the FBI was claiming they believed Page was an agent of Russia when in fact he was an asset of the U.S. government helping to inform on Russ

ian intelligence targets. In other words, had the FBI not omitted the truth, the judges would have known before they approved even the first FISA warrant that Page was a CIA-handled source, not a Russian stooge.

Here's how Durham worded the account:

"On Aug 17, 2016, prior to the approval of FISA #1, the OGA (CIA) provided certain members of the Crossfire Hurricane team a memorandum indicating that Individual #1 (Page) had been approved as an operational contact for the OGA (CIA) from 2008 to 2013 and detailing information that Individual #1 (Page) had provided to the OGA (CIA) concerning Individual #1's prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers. The first three FISA applications did not include Individual #1's history or status with the OGA (CIA)."

Several experts said Durham's inclusion of the earlier notification signals he has concerns others may also have been involved in deceiving the court.

"It's more than an oversight. Whether the omission was purposeful or not, it is a fraud on the court," said Kevin Brock, the FBI's former assistant director for intelligence and the man who created many of the procedures the bureau still uses to investigate intelligence threats.

The Sound of Silence

Will Comey be in the dock soon? Catherine Herridge offers a clue:

Catherine Herridge

@CBS_Herridge

#Durham In Clinesmith docs page 1, Durham says FBI opened a “Foreign Agents Registration Act” case called “Crossfire Hurricane,” July 31, 2016. FARA is criminal. But when Comey disclosed the probe’s existence in 2017, he emphasized its “counter-intelligence” nature to gather info

If he’d properly classified it as a criminal matter, he’d have had to file for a warrant in a regular court, not FISC, and establish probable cause to do so.

Interestingly Clinesmith, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page not only worked together to concoct the Russian fable, they also worked on Mueller’s team investigating the very sham they cooked up.  Strzok was fired when his partisan emails turned up. Lisa Page resigned then and Clinesmith, who also worked on the make-believe FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails on an unsecured server, was removed by Mueller after Horowitz found evidence of extreme partisanship like this on Clinesmith‘s texts:  

“the crazies won finally,” disparaged Mr. Trump’s health care and immigration agendas, and called Vice President Mike Pence “stupid.” In another text, he wrote, in the context of a question about whether he intended to stay in government, “viva la resistance.”

Even more interestingly, at the time Clinesmith altered the  original email he was wearing two hats. He was working simultaneously under the direction of the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Had the false predicate for the widespread surveillance been known, the Mueller expedition might have had to fold its tent because the information they had was illegally obtained by Clinesmith's deception. In his report, Mueller was careful to note the double hat Clinesmith wore and thereby distance himself from this conniving.

I expect he’s talking and revealing the names and conduct of all he worked with to cover up the truth of the baseless spying on the man they despised and his team.

Curiously, Comey, Strzok, and Page, who up to now have been tweeting quite a bit, seem in the past two weeks to be silent on that venue.

The Middle East

Making monkeys of the corrupt officials in the DoJ and FBI who tried to frame him was just one of Trump’s victories this week. He turned the tables on the foreign policy establishment that coddled Iran under the numbskull impression that this would mollify the mullahs, who grabbed more and more power. The UAE publicly announced recognition of Israel and it’s expected that Bahrain and others will follow suit. One wag online said Barack Obama finally merited his Nobel Peace Prize. You see, by coddling the mullahs, he awakened their neighbors into realizing how dangerous Iran was to their existence, how foolish it was to expend so much money and influence into supporting the corrupt Palestinians, and how significantly in their interests it was to align with Israel instead.

Palestinian leaders were reportedly taken by surprise. A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas said the deal amounted to "treason", and the Palestinian ambassador to the UAE was being recalled. 

President Trump called the deal between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan "a truly historic moment". It marks only the third Israel-Arab peace deal since Israel's declaration of independence in 1948, after Egypt and Jordan. 

"Now that the ice has been broken I expect more Arab and Muslim countries will follow the United Arab Emirates," he told reporters in the Oval Office, saying there would be a signing ceremony at the White House in the coming weeks.

Like the two parties UAE and Israel, I think this shift will spur economic growth and enhance technological innovation. The Arab nations get nothing from the costly Palestinian albatross around their necks. It was just a means to distract their people from their own issues, not the least of which was the failure to keep up with the rest of the world.