June 4, 2017, "Punishing The Real Russia Crime: Leaking," Angelo Codevilla, American Greatness
"The appointment of a special prosecutor, as well as the congressional proceedings to uncover and punish such associates of Donald Trump as may have colluded with the Russian government with regard to the 2016 campaign, are a combination of partisan and Intelligence-bureaucracy warfare. No one has mentioned any activity of anyone in that campaign that might qualify as a violation of any criminal statute. Moreover, these legal and pseudo-legal proceedings abstract from the patently obvious felonies that U.S intelligence officials have committed each and every time they have informed reporters of the Washington Post and New York Times about the targets, functions, and results of U.S communications intelligence.
18 U.S. code 798 is, a “strict liability” statute, and specifies ten years’ imprisonment and $10,000 fine for each count. Trump’s enemies, and Trump himself, treat this parody of law as a game. It is not.
Herewith a summary of how the parody grew to its current dimensions, and a straight-line projection of where it leads unless the distinction between law and politics is re-established.
A minor defensive maneuver at the time, the “Russia interference in the elections” narrative grew into the Democratic Party’s main explanation for the massive electoral rejection at all levels it ended up suffering on November 8, 2016.
To divert attention from Clinton’s assorted e-mail problems, the DNC hired its associated IT firm, Crowdstike, which concluded―without giving any evidence―that “the Russians” had been hacking Democrats, and that they had done so to help the Republicans. The intelligence agencies concurred.
Numerous intelligence officials have claimed to know who supplied the-mails to Wikileaks. No one has given evidence on the record. A minor defensive maneuver at the time, the “Russia interference in the elections” narrative grew into the Democratic Party’s main explanation for the massive electoral rejection at all levels it ended up suffering on November 8, 2016.
When Donald Trump became the Republican nominee, much of the U.S government, intelligence agencies included, conducted “opposition research” on him. This included tacitly validating a scurrilous report by a British source of Donald Trump with Russian prostitutes. At first, it targeted Paul Manafort, whom Trump had chosen to manage his campaign at the Republican convention, and Carter Page, a minor foreign policy advisor. The FBI and the Justice Department obtained a warrant from the secret court established under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to intercept their electronic communications. Both men had worked, legally, with Russian entities.
On May 24, 2017 Obama’s CIA Director John O. Brennan testified in that regard with language that reflected the “probable cause” assumption presented to the court that these were or could be “foreign agents”:
"I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals, and it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals."
Note well: Here is a U.S, official, excusing the “wiretapping” of his Party’s political opponents on the basis of the fact that Russians (like many foreigners) use their dealings with Americans to influence them and his assumption that said Russians had succeeded to some culpable extent. Under questioning, however, Brennan was forced to recant those assumptions: “I don’t know whether or not such collusion… I don’t know.” And: “we see contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons all the time.” Nevertheless Brennan tried to make a public policy case for surveilling these political opponents: “It is when it’s in the context that there is something else going on—and so we knew, at the time, that the Russians were involved in this effort to try to interfere in our election.”
Brennan was not asked for evidence of any such attempt, nor was he forced to confront the fact that Hillary Clinton had received millions of dollars from foreign entities, including Russian ones.
Nevertheless, he was forced to say that the wiretapping showed zero evidence of collusion between the Trump associates and the Russians with regard to anything, never mind criminal activity:
"Question: “But if someone left this hearing today and said that you had indicated that those contacts were evidence of collusion or collaboration, they would be misrepresenting your statements, correct?”
Brennan answered: “They would have misheard my response to the very good questions that were asked of me…I would say that it was not an accurate portrayal of my statement.”"
The essence of the story had already appeared in the New York Times on February 14 :
"Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation."
Simple facts: Already well before the election, intelligence officials―possibly including Mr. Brennan―had used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to do legally (though not a bit more properly) the kind of snooping into the political opposition that the 1972-74 Watergate burglars had done. But the legality of what they did ended the instant that they went to The New York Times and Washington Post with “Phone records and intercepted calls.” At that point, they became criminals.
After the election, as the Democratic Party scrambled to protect itself from the opposition’s victory and perhaps to reverse it, bureaucratic self-interest led the intelligence agencies, especially CIA, to become the spearhead of that effort. On December 15 U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News they had “a high level of confidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed how messages and other documents hacked from Democrats were used to influence the presidential election.
On January 5 The Washington Post’s Adam Entous and Greg Miller reported that “U.S. officials…said that American intelligence agencies intercepted communications in the aftermath of the election in which Russian officials congratulated themselves on the outcome. The ebullient reaction among high-ranking Russian officials—including some who U.S. officials believe had knowledge of the country’s cyber campaign to interfere in the U.S. election—contributed to the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Moscow’s efforts were aimed at least in part at helping Trump win the White House.”
There followed a public report by the agencies of their “high confidence”―but zero evidence―that Putin preferred Trump. Predictably, already in mid-December The Hill reported that, according to a poll: More than half of Americans bothered by Russian interference in election. No surprise then that on January 19 The New York Times reported that American intelligence officials “are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump.”
There was never doubt about the CIA’s bureaucratic motivation. Early on, Trump had found Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (USA-ret) to be his favorite spokesman on foreign policy and let it be known that Flynn would be his National Security Adviser. As the Defense Intelligence Agency’s director, Flynn had fought bitter bureaucratic battles with the CIA and with the Obama administration. Worse, as the Wall Street Journal reported on January 4, Flynn harbored plans for reforming the intelligence community’s structure in ways that threatened CIA’s status.
Even less surprising, then, that the agencies “wiretapped” Flynn to see what they could “get on him.” What they got was a series of phone calls between the prospective National Security Adviser and the Russian ambassador. The Times reports:
"The calls began on Dec. 29, shortly after Mr. Kislyak was summoned to the (Obama) State Department and informed that, in retaliation for Russian election meddling, the United States was expelling 35 suspected Russian intelligence operatives and imposing other sanctions. Mr. Kislyak was irate and threatened a forceful Russia response, according to people familiar with the exchange. But a day later, Mr. Putin said his government would not retaliate, prompting a Twitter post from Mr. Trump praising the Russian president—and puzzling Obama White House officials. On Jan. 2, administration officials learned that Mr. Kislyak — after leaving the State Department meeting—called Mr. Flynn, and that the two talked multiple times in the 36 hours that followed. American intelligence agencies routinely wiretap the phones of Russian diplomats, and transcripts of the calls showed that Mr. Flynn urged the Russians not to respond, saying relations would improve once Mr. Trump was in office, according to multiple current and former officials."
Since Obama, the Democratic Party, and CIA had given dicta but zero evidence concerning “Russian meddling,” the advice that Flynn gave and Trump endorsed made the Obama administration and its Russophobia look silly.
That is when the Obama administration’s/CIA’s rage, the media’s complicity, and the “attentive public’s” gullibility therewith, went into high gear to turn ordinary, garden-variety actions in international affairs―if conducted by opponents―into pseudo crimes.
In real life, foreign affairs means dealing with foreigners. Every day in every way, just about everybody who is involved in international relations practically or academically―never mind persons who are about to undertake official responsibilities―communicates with foreign officials to the maximum extent possible testing possible new approaches to policy. Hence, as Michael Flynn was dealing with the Russian ambassador, he was doing his job, and doing it just right. So did then Senator Jeff Sessions and every other Senator who meets with representatives of foreign governments.
Nevertheless, a March 1, 2017 Times article depicts the “finding” by Obama administration officials that people close to Trump had many contacts with Russians as something of a smoking gun of culpability.
This sort of thing should be dismissed by comparing it to the old joke about the college dean who was accused of lascivious behavior for having insisted on his female undergraduates showing him their theses before letting them graduate. Except that the U.S. intelligence officials who have purveyed the Trump/Russia stories have done so by citing U.S. communications intelligence. That is not a joke. It is a crime.
On May 17, acting under Section 28 Chapter VI part 600, Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Robert Muller as Special Counsel to “determine whether and to what extent to inform or consult with the Attorney General or others within the Department about the conduct of his or her duties and responsibilities” specifically about “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump” as well as “any other matters that arose or may arise from the investigation.” Ominously however, the Special Counsel’s specific charge concerns the joke, not the crime.
In this regard, Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems poised to follow the path of his immediate predecessor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who was appointed pursuant to the CIA’s urging to ferret out and punish whoever had “outed” its employee, Valerie Plame. But since the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 specifically de-criminalized any “outing” that occurred in the course of political controversies, there was no crime to prosecute.
Moreover, the “outer’s” identity, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, was already known. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald focused his attention on Vice President Cheney’s office and snared his chief of staff, Scooter Libby for perjury for having had a different recollection of a conversation than had the other party to that conversation.
In the present case as well, there is no suggestion, never mind evidence, of relations with “the Russians” that break any U.S. laws.
As for “collusion” against the interests of the United States, former CIA director Brennan testified that he has no evidence of any. Nor has anyone else pointed to any. Nor is there any suggestion even of Trump associates discussing changes to U.S policy as radical as those which Obama promised to President Dimitry Medvedev in March 2012 on a “hot mike” regarding U.S missile defense
What, then is Special Counsel Mueller to uncover and punish? Unfortunately, Mueller is likely to do exactly what Counsel Fitzgerald did: focus on“any other matters that arose or may arise from the investigation.” In other words, he is likely to focus on discrepancies between who said what to whom when. This is a corrupt parody of justice, aimed at crushing opposition to the ruling class. That is why, for example, Michael Flynn―or anyone in a similar position―would be foolish to answer any questions whatsoever, even regarding the time of day.
The deepening levels of corruption in our legal system and our politics may be seen in what appears to be the disregard that the media, the legal system, the Trump administration itself, and the Special Counsel’s charge are showing for the one and only violation of law that has occurred: namely, the revelations of communications intelligence operations as well as of results therefrom, by unnamed but authoritative intelligence officials, to such as the Times’ Michael Schmidt and the Post’s Adam Entous
Since the number of those who possessed the information in question is small, ascertaining the identity of those who divulged it poses no problem to serious investigators. Since Messers Schmidt and Entous could not help but know that communications intelligence is protected by a strict liability statute, they could also be held responsible for their participation in the crime.
Instead, we have a ruling class, led by the Democratic Party, that is trying to reverse the effects of an election that repudiated it by alleging a conspiracy―evidence for which is limited to the allegation itself. We have a Republican Party and President so frightened of their political enemies that they play along, in the forlorn hope of being granted legitimacy. Hence, both sides play at politics and law.
But contending on the basis of insubstantial allegations while tolerating flagrant crime kills respect for law. It augurs a future in which the only punishable crime will be to stand with the less bloody-minded side."
"Angelo M. Codevilla is a fellow of the Claremont Institute, professor emeritus of international relations at Boston University and the author of To Make And Keep Peace, Hoover Institution Press, 2014."