Posted tagged ‘fbi’

Russian Troubles

August 4, 2017

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s “special investigator” status has been questioned directly and and the subject of tweets.  Is the special prosecutor’s tenure in doubt?

The President, of course, sees the investigation as “witch hunt” and “totally a fabrication”. And, the President who gratuitously leads his campaign style audiences to chant “lock her up”, prefers to deflect any personal involvement, other than being a victim. So, what might be really happening?

Anyone who has been awake since January 20th when Donald Trump became the 45th US President must know one thing. The President is pathologically incapable of telling the truth on even the simplest of subjects. On that basis, one must assume there is substance to the “Russian Collusion” charges, what exactly the breadth and width of collusion remains to be shown.

Some suggest that the Mueller investigation will lead to “obstruction of justice” charges rather than actually collusion with the Russians. Again, anyone who has been watching or listening to the White House shenanigans knows there has been obstruction. What the lay person does not know is whether President Trump’s actions rise to the level of criminality.

Unlike the greedy bankers or ethically corrupt subcontractors with whom businessman Trump is used to dealing, Director Mueller is no fool when it comes to investigations, and can tell a bluff when he sees one. If there is a case, Mueller will find it.

But what happens if Mueller finds grounds for criminal charges?

Many might say “impeach the bum and good riddance”. Others might caution that a President Mike Pence will bring less dysfunction but his extreme views on religion and his ease with imposing them on others is as great a danger or even greater than President Trump.

The game is in motion and the “cards” will speak. If the charges are weak, Mueller’s report to Congress will go no where. If, on the other hand, Mueller’s charges are substantive, then impeachment becomes a real possibility.

Under these circumstances, America needs a modern day Solomon. Why, wouldn’t cards speak?

President Trump was narrowly elected by a surprisingly divided country. His supporters despite copious examples of mistruths, boorish behavior, and unprincipled threats, still are fully in the President’s corner. President Trump can do no wrong for these voters.

Therefore to impeach and remove the President could be seen by 30-40% of Americans as a coup and one more example of the unfairness of the Federal Government. It is unimaginable that President Trump would resign and urge his followers to support what ever followed. More likely would be a movement to change the Constitution and allow ex-President Trump to be reelected at the next general election. Not only would the country face a Constitutional crisis, it would face a schism so strong that armed militia reprisals are not out of the question.

And for what reason?

Trump supporters in one way or the other see the American pie as not fairly being divided. Political correctness makes no sense to them other than as an unjustified power grab. Taxes only take money from them (factually not true) and give it to the lazy, immigrants, and undeserving. Congress members (except theirs) are just stuffing their pockets with cash while ignoring working people’s problems. But not President Trump, he cares about them. Hmmm.

Well, cards do speak. The Mueller investigation will go where it will go. If the case is strong enough President Trump may be impeached.  The ex-President will not only have brought America the most unprepared and temperamentally unfit President, he may provoke a Constitutional crisis of unknown dimensions.

If the Trump “35%” learns from this Pied Piper and recognize Trumpism is not the answer for their dissatisfaction, all will not be for naught.

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The Eastern Front?

May 22, 2017

Most historians cite Hitler’s decision to attacked Russia and opening a second front on the East as the crucial event which ultimately lead to Germany’s defeat in World War II. The argument goes that Germany spread its resources too thin and consequently could not win either in the west or the east. I wonder if history will repeat.

President Trump has a serious political and legal fight on his hands with regards to Russian Government involvement in the 2016 election. According to American security agencies, Russian entities did engage in hacking and dissemination of fake news during the campaign. After denying there was any Russian involvement, President Trump now asserts there was no “collusion” between his campaign and the Russians. The FBI and both the House and Senate have now investigations underway with the potential for serious political and criminal determinations. To make a matters worse and in true Roy Cohn style, the President fired FBI Director James Comey and told the Russian Foreign Minister that he had fired the “real nut job” (James Comes) and that would take pressure off this investigation. Hmmm.

Surprisingly this Russian investigation is not either the western or eastern front. Hmmm.

Instead, President Trump’s “western front” lays in his (and the Republican controlled House’s) tax cut proposals. The President is proposing “huge” cuts which will gift million and maybe billions to the wealthiest Americans. And, this Trump tax cut budget hole will need to be offset by budget cuts.

Therefore, the “eastern” (second) front will be Trump’s budget proposal itself.

Reports today say the President will propose sharp cuts to Medicaid in his budget proposal. Medicaid covers healthcare for the poorest of Americans and in many States covers millions of Obamacare newly covered Americans. While most Americans do not receive Medicaid benefits, these proposed Medicaid cuts signal the beginning of a wider attack, an all out attack upon healthcare coverage (America Health Care Act), followed by Medicare, and ultimately Social Security.

While tax cuts for the wealthy are shameful and unnecessary, offsetting these corporate and individual windfall tax gifts with cuts to programs used by the other 99% of Americans is mean spirited to the max.

Going for tax cuts is a mighty lift. Going for a huge reduction in government spending, particularly safety net and entitlement spending is an even bigger challenge. Going for both is likely to resemble a war with two fronts.

The Russian meddling investigation is a complication even Hitler did not have. While it is unlikely the President ever engaged directly with the Russians, it is not unlikely that several of his key staff and advisors did. The irony might turn out to be that any contacts with the Russians was really about potential future business deals (making money). not intent to sway the election.

The even larger irony might turn out to be that the President gets ensnared by coverup or obstruction activities (wanting the FBI investigation to simply go away) and not collusion with the Russians.  One would think the President would want, if only as an insurance policy, to boast high popularity ratings if the investigations were to turn political.  Offsetting tax cuts for the wealthy with entitlement cuts for everyone else may not appear popular as Americans think about things.  Hmmm.

It will certainly be hard fighting a war on two fronts.

Authority Versus Right

May 16, 2017

It is only Tuesday and President Trump has already opened another can of worms. In what is becoming a pattern of behavior, the Washington Post reported President Trump revealed to the Russian Foreign Minister, super secret US intelligence. The President’s aides (namely National Security Advisor H R McMaster) denied the Post article. “It” never happened, McMaster told a news conference. Twelve hours later, the President himself tweeted that he had in fact shown the Russian top secret classified material and as President, he had the authority and right to do so. Hmmm.

The Post report indicated that President Trump boasted about how much intelligence he receives daily and pointed to information pinpointing the where abouts of ISIS senior officials. The media speculated that the Russian could quickly figure out where the intelligence came from and most likely the methods used to obtain it. “Means and methods” have traditionally been completely “no-no” when reporting highly classified intelligence information. Hmmm.

President Trump has again conveniently conflated “authority” and “right”. Clearly the President has the authority to declassify any classified information regardless of whether declassifying is prudent or not. Once declassified, the intelligence is legally discoverable through freedom of information requests or through unauthorized “leaks”.

In other words, if the President opens Pandora’s box, what comes next will be what it will be.

In the President’s mind, apparently, authority gives him the right to act as he pleases. President Trump in essence is saying because I have the authority, I also have the right to act regardless of the consequences. IMO, Presidential actions must include reasonable diligence and consideration of consequences as well as gains to be made.

(For example, the President has the authority to use nuclear weapons.  Do you feel comfortable with the President making such a decision without a thorough discussion with senior military and intelligence officials?)

The President claims his purpose was to increase Russia’s engagement in pursuing ISIS. Sounds like a worthy objective especially if the other Country was an ally like Great Britain, France or Germany. One is left wondering when instead the Country is Russia who routinely supports interests opposed to those of the US.

President Trump has the right also to fire (remove from office) the FBI Director and under normal circumstances, the President is given wide latitude in justifying his decision. Obstruction of justice is not an accepted “right”.  Recklessly sharing secret intelligence could be a dereliction of duty.

It could also be brilliant negotiating tactic. Only subsequent events will determine.
Between dereliction and brilliance lies a sea of other possibilities. Ignorance, deceit, mistake, test, quid pro quo, gamble, and instinct to name a few.

As a one off, this release of classified information is unlikely to meet the test of impeachment, “The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” (Article II, Section 4).

President Trump had clear authority, but only with more information will Americans know whether the President had the right.

A TrumpComey-D

May 12, 2017

This week President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. One might well say “so what”. Pundits claim the optics are terrible, and others say the White House explanation simply does not pass the smell test. Now, many are asking, “does the firing pass the hearing test”?

At first, sources claimed Comey’s firing stemed from newly confirmed Justice Department second in command, Rod Rosenstein’s review and recommendation. Then the narrative progressed to President Trump’s dissatisfaction with Comey’s listening skills. President Trump is said to have been privately lobbying for Comey’s replacement for a few weeks because Director Comey seemed obtuse to hints to end the alleged Russian investigations. Now in an interview with NBC, President Trump said the decision to fire Director Comes was his alone because Comey was a “showboater”. Why would the President say that?

The White House was quick to remind everyone that the Constitution grants the President those powers. (Sound familiar to words used with the two stayed Muslim travel ban executive orders? No need to provide a credible justification, just claim anything and rely on Constitutional powers.) Apparently the argument goes, “I have the authority and that’s all I need to tell you”. Hmmm.

Several pundits say that Director Comey was fired because he was not loyal to the President (in Trump’s mind), and was prioritizing the Russian investigation too highly (this probably upset both Trump and Sessions). Both of these reasons should be troubling to thinking Americans. Et tu Brute, don’t you remember the system of checks and balances?

In the first 100+ days of the Trump White House, Americans (and especially Congress) are seeing a very worrisome demonstration of executive authority combined with arrogance. Being decisive is no vice. Being decisive in the sense of temperamental outbursts represents a dangerous character flaw, and one that time in the job is very unlikely to improve. Director Comey’s firing, because of its impulsive nature and the lack of “why now” explanation, does not bode well for future decisions.  The firing looks too much like a “sick comedy”.

While it is true that President Trump has the right to fire the FBI Director, he does not have the right, even as President, to interfere with an investigation (obstruction of justice). At this point we must assume that the President was impulsive and not trying intentionally to retard a Federal investigation. What happens next in terms of a new Director nomination, and what steps Congress takes, will give a jittery public a good indication on the real Donald Trump and the real meaning of the Trump Comey-D.

So, Why Hillary?

October 31, 2016

The FBI Director’s recent announcement that new emails had been found which might be related to Hillary Clinton’s private email server has cast a hush over her campaign. While nothing incriminating has been revealed, innuendos are rife. And in an unintended (hopefully) consequence, her opponent Donald Trump, has significantly modulated his rhetoric and has made no new inflammatory (and fact checkable as untrue claims). Either as a consequence or a coincident, the polls are once again very close. One wonders whether the unthinkable might just come to pass.

Once again thoughtful Americans are asking themselves, “how can I vote for Clinton?”

Accordingly it is necessary to review the bidding. Is Donald Trump hands down the superior candidate with a clear cut better platform? Is Donald Trump free and clear of any improprieties or potential conflicts of interest? Is Donald Trump a role model for America’s youth and someone who can bring Americans together? Has Donald Trump provided any insight into how he would handle complex domestic and foreign policy issues?

If, at this point, one can affirm these questions, then clearly your candidate will be Donald Trump.

On the other hand, if one considers that as complex and complicated domestic and foreign policy seems today, history instructs us that in the coming years new and unexpected crises will come front and center. History also tells us that great Presidencies are made not by plan, but by how well a President responds to unforeseen and unplanned events.

The Trump campaign has explained that a President Trump will appoint competent subordinates (the best of the best) and he will provide broad direction and intervene to make things happen. While this approach is laudable, does anyone believe someone who makes almost all his campaign speeches somehow about himself could delegate anything?

There are three reasons why Hillary Clinton remains the superior choice:

  • She is not Donald Trump.
  • She favors progressive solutions to complex domestic problems and is slightly right of center on foreign policy.
  • Her Vice President running mate is a competent, well balanced person and would be a consensus builder should he need to assume the Presidency.

Thinking ahead and wondering what Hillary’s legacy might be is difficult. Her speeches reveal much that she thinks is needed and would bring benefits to many Americans. Her speeches, however, are thickly worded and leave the listener with not easy to recall objective. She is most likely destine to be remembered for how she handles events not of her making.

For example on just domestic issues, (1) Obamacare will need at the minimum modifications to take into account insurance company greed and their unwillingness to support many “exchange” operations. If government simply opens the check book and reimburses exchange participating insurance companies, healthcare costs will rise dramatically. US healthcare has and still does with Obamacare suffer from a fatal flaw, depending upon the good intentions of for profit medical service providers. In a capitalist system, increasing profits as much as is possible will bring down any other healthcare model, short of a European style universal healthcare system.

(2) Related to Obamacare is Medicare and Medicaid. Although both are totally separate systems from Obamacare, both are underfunded. With constant cost creep, Medicare and Medicaid must either receive more tax revenue, or must be cut back on services they provide (read, Americans on Medicare or Medicaid will need to pay more individually).

(3) Social Security is another government program which has looming financial difficulties. Similar options of either raising tax revenues or cutting benefits (or both) will likely arise during the next 4 years.

And lastly, (4) when another section of the interstate highway system collapses into a river or gorge, the President will have to lead Congress into action.

Oh, and maybe one more reason to elect Hillary. She will be the adult in the room and will act and appear Presidential representing the Country around the world.

FBI Trolling?

October 30, 2016

Two days ago, on a otherwise sleepy Friday (normally a slow news day), FBI Director James Comey, changed everything. Director Comey sent a letter to the Congressional oversight committee informing them that the FBI has discovered emails which might be related to the Clinton private server investigation. Consequently, the FBI was reopening the Hillary Clinton investigation. Hmmm.

Now, the Justice Department’s own policies preclude any criminal announcements within 60 days of an election so as to not unduly influence the outcome. And, Comey allowed that he could not tell Congress more because the FBI had not read the emails as yet. Hmmm.

The emails, according to press reports were discovered as part of an FBI investigation of Anthony Weiner over alleged sexting. Weiner’s wife is Huma Abedin is a close aide of Hillary Clinton and 10’s of thousands of her emails were found on the computer Weiner was using. So the FBI has begun its search for the needle in the haystack.

Over the past few weeks there has been a lot of mentions of the “alt right” and their tactics of stirring up anxiety, if not downright outrage. Alt rightists announce outlandish claims apparently designed to invoke outrage in the reader.  Journalists refer to much such activity as “trolling. Was Comey trolling to Congress or the Trump team? Or, was Comey confusing a responsibility to inform Congress with his duty to keep the FBI non-partisan?

In time, these newly discovered emails (which may just be copies of already reviewed ones) will be sorted and evaluated. I wonder what Director Comey will say then?

In the meantime, many will wonder whether this latest FBI announcement was designed embolden hard core Trump supporters or just to help down ballot Republican candidates?

Comey’s statements, however, are unlikely to change any minds already leaning or committed to Hillary. So, was there another purpose for this announcement?

Pundits describe Director Comey as a straight shooter, someone with enormous integrity. Earlier when Director Comey announced the FBI would not recommend prosecution over the confidential information held on Clinton’s private server while at the same time calling Clinton “sloppy” in handling classified information, one wondered why any additional qualifications were necessary.

With this seemingly unnecessary and uninformative announcement, many wonder again, was Comey trying to mollify Republicans and hedge his bets for the future?  Others may wonder whether Comey is in over his head in trying to play Caesar.  (Remember Antonin Scalia’s delight in 2000 weighing in on Florida’s recount.  Remember what it got the US.)

The Patriots, The Paranoid, The Zealots

January 7, 2014

Today most newspapers are running front page coverage of a crime committed over 50 years ago.  The crime was breaking and entry and burglary of a FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania.  The justification voiced by the “criminals” was to expose illegal FBI practices and in particular to expose the hand of J Edgar Hover in instigating the wholesale investigation of Americans without probable cause.

The early 70’s was a time of anti Vietnam War protests and cold war fears.  Many in government saw it their solemn duty to protect the rest of us from an enemy crouched and hidden in the shadows.  There was not an extra mile that these public servants would not go to execute what they saw as their duty.

Were these officials patriots, paranoids, or just zealots?

With the fullness of time Americans have come to know that Hover’s FBI did in fact exercise measures which were not lawful or were not necessary.  Due process was an overlooked protection and instead giving way to prevention at any cost.  Act now, ask questions later.

The more recent “whistle blowers” (Bradley Manning and Eric Snowdon) have brought civil disobedience back into the spot light.  Both claim their intentions were to show government illegal extremes which were being kept from American’s knowledge through secrecy classifications.  Manning’s “Wikileaks” disclosures caused embarrassment over very petty and trivial matters.  He was caught and the military threw the book at him.

Snowdon was cleverer.  He skipped town and subsequently has released highly classified but equally suspect classified information.  Much of Snowdon’s information many people guessed was being done but no one had proof.

In both cases, the public debate has been about the disclosure information, that is was it damaging to reveal or not.  Surprisingly there has been no charges brought against anyone over how these two very low level individuals could have gotten access to this information.  In other words, if this information was truly so highly classified, why were there not greater access controls?

Just as with the FBI break in 50 years ago, Wikileaks and the NSA disclosures probably contained some information that should have been kept secret.  The problem, however, that the bulk of the revelations paint an unflattering picture of those running the FBI, the State Department and the NSA.

The question of whether government agencies are patriots, or are composed mainly of paranoids or zealots is a question we must ask regularly.  The overuse of secrecy is a dead give away that some excess is taking place.

This 50 year old FBI break in is an important reminder.  Manning and Snowdon may deserve a second look with respect to just how serious their crimes may have been.