An Interesting Read, The US vs Manafort Transcript

Goddess Of Justice
@BrittHume called the transcript an interesting read. I hate to give legal advice to Mueller’s elite team of attorneys but pissing off the judge in charge of your case is a dumb plan. Evidently, Judge Ellis holds the provisions of the Special Counsel to a much higher standard than the standards used to get indictments in the “drug area”. Like Trey Gowdy, he probably hoped that the Mueller team would go out of their way to make this case about following the law and not giving “a whit about politics“. That is the essence of the Special Counsel regulations and why the Special Counsel is an improvement over the Independent Counsel. For a high profile, highly politicized case like this, it was incredibly important that the Mueller team follow the law precisely so that there would be no doubt in the public eye that justice was blind to the politics. Both Judge Ellis and the Mueller team acknowledge that this case was an attempt to coerce justice out of nothing. Where they differ is that the Mueller team is repeating the worst aspects of the Independent Counsel rules and hoping they can get away with it.

Some Interesting Points Judge Ellis Made

1. Why did the prosecutors present a redacted version of the August 2 memo to the Judge?

Judge Ellis made it plain that he handled cases containing classified information(CIPA) before. He found it disrespectful that the prosecutors determined that the redacted information was not relevant to this case and did not seek out his opinion. This would have been a minor point except that the Department of Justice has been accused of stonewalling Congressional inquiries. I do not know if this influenced his questions but I think he made it perfectly clear that stonewalling the judge in charge of your case is just plain stupid.

2. Does the Special Counsel have unfettered power?

This question came from the expanded scope of the investigation. Judge Ellis was concerned that although the original scope was written by lawyers it was “not intended to be judicially enforceable”.  Judge Ellis questioned whether the Special Counsel has authority to make the scope of the investigation whatever he or she wants. He said:

What we don’t want in this country is we don’t want anyone with unfettered power. We don’t want federal judges with unfettered power. We don’t want elected officials with unfettered power. We don’t want anybody, including the president of the United States, nobody to have unfettered power. So it’s unlikely you’re going to persuade me that the special prosecutor has unlimited powers to do anything he or she wants.

3. Why is the Manafort case being prosecuted by the Special Counsel?

Manafort’s attorneys made the point that this case did not arise from the Mueller investigation. This case predates the Mueller investigation. Manafort’s attorneys argue that Mueller’s investigation of the alleged crime by Mr. Manafort in 2007 was illegal because it violated the “narrow jurisdiction on the special counsel”.   This is an example of the unfettered power that the Special Counsel regulations were designed to prevent. If Mueller’s investigation was illegal then prosecuting this case becomes difficult if not impossible.  Judge Ellis asks,

Let’s assume for a moment your argument that this delegation is in some way illegal. Why isn’t the right result simply to give to the Eastern District of Virginia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office — give it back to them and let them prosecute this indictment? Why isn’t that the right result?

MR. DOWNING: Well, the right result may be for the Department of Justice to finish the investigation they had started and make a determination as to whether or not to charge Mr. Manafort. But if, in fact, this order is defective, then Mr. Mueller did not have the authority of the U.S. Attorney to conduct a grand jury investigation, to get search warrants, or to return and sign an indictment.

 

As An Old IT Guy Who Was Skeptical Of The Original DNC Hack Explanation, I Am Looking Forward To The #DNCLawsuit

I'm a security monitorLike many other IT guys and gals, I was never sold on the original explanation of the DNC hack. There were so many loose ends.

  1. Why did the Russians hack the DNC servers? All of the embarrassing Clinton emails came from the Podesta emails that were acquired prior to the DNC Hack. It was the Podesta emails the Russians were using to taunt Trump and Clinton surrogates in London in May 2016. Yet most people think Ms. Wasserman Schultz was fired because of the DNC Hack. The DNC had plenty of reasons to fire Ms. Wasserman Schultz. The two biggest reasons were the way the DNC treated the Sanders campaign and the proportion of donations collected by the DNC given to the Clinton campaign. Obviously, the bad relations between the DNC and the Sanders campaign had nothing to do with the Russians.  If the Russians hacked the servers, why disclose the hack via Wikileaks so quickly? It was so out of character! It is almost as if the Russians hacked the DNC servers as a favor to the DNC.
  2. What was Crowdstrike doing during the DNC Hack? In a previous post, I remarked that Crowdstrike’s actions reminded me of a Lifelock commercial. I said, “If Crowdstrike knew the DNC was hacked in 2015 and information was transmitted back to Russia, why did they install a security monitor in May 2016? Why did they wait until June to actually fix the problem?”

If the DNC proceeds with the lawsuit there are two things I would like to find out.

1. Was Either Crowdstrike Or Fusion GPS One Of The Private Contractors Who Ran Unsupervised FISA-702 Queries In Early 2016?

The rumor is that Fusion GPS was the private contractor who ran unsupervised FISA-702 queries that resulted in the first FISA abuse of 2016. As I said in a previous post:

By April 18, 2016, the FBI they knew that their FISA-702 “Queries” irregularities had triggered a full Compliance Audit by the NSA. This would lead NSA to admit a non-compliance issue to the FISA court on October 26, 2016.

Most of the FISA-702 “Queries” irregularities occurred before April 2016. This was a really big FISA abuse that happened just days before the DNC Hack. I think the FBI and the private contractor took the risk because they did not think they would get caught. This would explain the arrogance that was displayed later in 2016 when the FISA court would be further abused with the Trump dossier. Considering the abuse the FISA court has taken, I wonder if they would be willing to disclose the name of the contractor if that contractor was found to be collecting information that could be used against political opponents.

  1. Did the private contractor have a relationship with the Democratic party?
  2. Was this unsupervised access to raw FISA data used to spy on political opponents?
  3. Was this unsupervised access to raw FISA data used to spy on the Sanders campaign or the DNC?
  4. Were they looking for previously unknown classified or top secret Clinton emails from her server that were not part of the emails she turned over?

2. What Was Crowdstrike Doing In May 2016?

This is a question that near and dear to old IT guys. In my world, if our systems are hacked on April 29th them my job is to have them fixed by April 30th. The idea that Crowdstrike did not fix the problem until June 10th is shocking.  Obviously, this was a lousy plan. Why let your systems be hacked for over 30 days? What did they learn that was so important?

Shredding Our Justice System

Goddess Of Justice
The self-destructive tendencies of the Justice Department are amazing. The alleged FISA abuses left the integrity of the FBI in tatters. The FBI is desperately trying to rebuild the public’s confidence and their best idea is a no-knock raid on President Trump’s personal attorney. Wow! Maybe the FBI will find something that justifies this unusual action but this is a really, big risk. This action is so weird that it has now become extremely unlikely that President Trump will sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller. Was that part of the plan? This type of justice is not only blind but deaf and dumb. The FBI is now in the unenviable position of defending their actions to an increasingly skeptical public. For a group that has become so dependent on public shaming and plea bargains to attain their idea of justice, it will be difficult for the FBI to convince the public that this time it is different. Really, this time they are going to follow the law? Maybe it is a good time “we” clean house in the Department of Justice.

Cleaning Up The Department of Justice

The best case scenario is that the combination of the Inspector General’s report and an internal investigation by Department of Justice will be sufficient to restore the integrity to the department. After the no-knock raid, I have begun to believe “we” need to do something more severe and sooner. Maybe some public shaming from the oversight committee. I am sure there are redacted documents that are far more interesting with the redactions removed.  Figuratively speaking, I would not be surprised that these actions will leave the Justice Department in ashes. From the ashes maybe we can leave the next generation a less corrupt justice system.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive. #CarterPage

I guess that Carter Page’s identity as an undercover FBI employee is the classified information that the Democrats are trying to hide from the #FisaMemo. Too bad that the NY Times revealed his secret identity in April of 2017.

Can we find out how many times the Trump dossier was used for a FISA warrant?

Jail CellAt about the same time the FISA warrant was authorized to surveil Carter Page, someone in the FBI or DOJ leaked information about a FISA warrant in connection with the investigation of Russian bank activity between the server in Trump Tower. Since the FBI reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the 2016 election, this leak looks like an “insurance policy” to protect the FBI’s reputation by making sure that Mr. Trump did not win the election.

The Democrats Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks #NunesMemo

Democrats complained that the memo:

  1. Impacted national security
  2. Attacked the institutions of the Department of Justice and the FBI
  3. Destroyed the trust with intelligence agencies

I read the FISA memo and did not see where it impacted national security or attacked the Department of Justice and the FBI as institutions. Mr. Comey needs to look no farther than himself to find someone who leaked and destroyed trust with intelligence agencies. A broader condemnation can be made of the intelligence agencies for the numerous leaks made in October, November, and December of 2016. This is a period Mr. Comey was in charge of the FBI. Due to the information that was leaked, people in the DOJ and FBI involved with the investigation are the likely leakers. Although these leaks are serious issues, the abuses described in the memo are specific to certain individuals in the DOJ and FBI who intentionally misled the FISA court in October of 2016.

The Tyranny of Good Intentions

History reminds us that this is not the first time prosecutors have abused their postion for what they perceive is the common good. Here is a quote from a book published in 2000, The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

When a prosecutor is intent on a frame-up or the Justice Department on a cover-up, not even money and exposure can stop the process. In high-profile cases, clever prosecutors protect themselves by first convicting their victims in the media. With the public aroused against the victim, the prosecutor has a free hand.

Five Boneheaded Things I Hope The FBI Will Stop Doing #ReleaseTheMemo #NotGiveAWhitAboutPolitics #IfIOnlyKnew

Goddess Of Justice

I hope that releasing the memo will help the FBI and Department of Justice become the organizations that as Trey Gowdy said, “do not give a whit about politics“. To achieve that goal they have to stop doing boneheaded things. Borrowing from a Forbes article, 5 Boneheaded Ways Smart People Fail, here are some examples that might help them achieve that goal.

1. Several People In The FBI Thought They Were The Smartest Person In The Room.

Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Stzrok, Mr. Ohr, and Ms. Page are all smart people but seem to be too self-absorbed to recognize how bad their actions look. As an example, Mr. Comey probably thinks he did the country a great favor by leaking information and forcing a special prosecutor to take over the investigation. While some people may approve of his actions, others will view his actions as those of a political hack using the FBI to crudely attack the President.  When you look at the actions of these four people, it is impossible to rationalize this investigation as one that does not give a whit about politics. As Travis Bradberry said in the Forbes article,

Your chance of failure is heightened when you don’t care to know what other people think.

2. The FBI Management Surrounded Themselves With Yes-men and Yes-women.

It is hard for me to imagine how Fusion GPS and the Trump dossier could have been so influential within the Department of Justice without Yes-men and Yes-women.

3. Several People In The FBI Viewed Themselves As Untouchable.

Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe come across as people who thought they were untouchable. Mr. Comey must have thought he was pretty special after keeping his job despite antagonizing both political parties with his extra-legal actions. Then he was shocked when President Trump fired him. I am still amazed that Mr. McCabe did not recuse himself from the Clinton investigation. A lot of Clinton money went to his wife’s political campaign. As Travis said,

These unrealistic expectations made failure inevitable. Leaders must continually question their positions, especially when they’re on top.

4. Several People In The FBI couldn’t tell where they stopped and the FBI began.

The best example of this Mr. Strzok comments about an “insurance plan”. Just do your job!

5. Several People In The FBI drove past red flags and warning signs.

I think the Top Secret FISA Court Order document obtained by Judicial Watch on May 23, 2017, shows that the FISA Court was livid at the FBI. By April 18, 2016, the FBI they knew that their FISA-702 “Queries” irregularities had triggered a full Compliance Audit by the NSA. That should have been a warning sign not to mess with the FISA court. The idea that people were pushing the Trump dossier within the Department of Justice should have been a red flag. Did the FBI use it to get a FISA warrant despite its origin? As Travis said,

Some leaders are so enamored with their personal visions that they’re willing to drive the company off of a cliff in pursuit of them. Many of these leaders solicit input and suggestions, but they just can’t take their feet off the gas. Persistence is a great quality in a leader but not if it means ignoring the facts.

Was The DNC Hack Set Up By Crowdstrike?

I'm a security monitor

As an old IT guy, I keep wondering what Crowdstrike was doing during the DNC Hack? It looks like a Lifelock commercial. Here is the Crowdstrike timeline.

Crowdstrike Timeline

  1. In 2015 Crowdstrike knows that DNC information was transmitted to Russia.
  2. On April 29th, 2016, the DNC suspects they have been hacked.
  3. On May 4th, 2016, Crowdstrike installs “monitoring software”.
  4. On June 10th, 2016, Crowdstrike changes passwords at the DNC.

If Crowdstrike knew the DNC was hacked in 2015 and information was transmitted back to Russia, why did they install a security monitor in May 2016? Why did they wait until June to actually fix the problem? It looks like Crowdstrike set up the DNC network as a “bad” honeypot. Traditionally a honeypot consists of a network site that appears to be legitimate but is actually isolated, monitored, and contains non-vital data.  Crowdstrike used the real DNC network as the lure. If Fusion GPS and Crowdstrike are the private contractors who had unsupervised access to raw FISA information on FBI systems, they had to know what the Russians were doing. Were their actions negligent, stupid, or an attempt to divert the attention from the damaging Podesta emails that the Russians were boasting about? Since the Podesta emails were far more damaging to the Clinton campaign, it looks like Crowdstrike felt it was more important to attribute the hack on the Russians than to protect the DNC data.

DNC Hack Timeline

Date Incident
6/1/2015 CrowdStrike had stated in its reports that the DNC server was penetrated sometime in the summer of 2015
11/1/2015 The FBI alerted the DNC information was being transmitted back to Russia
12/15/2015 NGP VAN released a code update to their Votebuilder application that allowed Sanders team looks at Clinton data
3/1/2016 Super Tuesday
3/9/2016 DOJ finds private contractor has access to raw FISA information on FBI systems
3/19/2016 Podesta email hacked, emails released by Wikileaks in October 2016
4/18/2016 FBI discontinued allowing their sub-contracted agent access to the raw FISA information effective April 18th, 2016
4/19/2016 Large Increase in DNC emails appearing in Wikileaks
4/24/2016 Sanders: Democratic Party hasn’t been fair to me(id:5477)
4/26/2016 Clinton and Trump Have Commanding Delegate Leads
4/29/2016 DNC Suspects Hack
4/30/2016 Mr. Papadopoulos says that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,”
5/4/2016 Crowdstrike Installs Monitoring Software(Falcon)
5/5/2016 Marshall No Shit email(id:7643)
5/17/2016 Wasserman Schultz Damn Liar email(id:7643)
5/21/2016 Re: Sanders: If I’m elected, DNC leader would be out(id:9999)
5/21/2016 Last email on Seth Rich’s laptop
5/22/2016 Bernie Narrative(id:11056)
5/25/2016 Last DNC Hack email in Wikileaks
6/10/2016 Crowdstrike changes passwords at DNC
6/12/2016 Julian Assange announces on June 12, 2016, that he had DNC documents
6/14/2016 DNC HACK MADE PUBLIC(Washington Post)
6/15/2016 Crowdstrike Report
6/15/2016 GUCCIFER 2.0 DNC’S SERVERS HACKED BY A LONE HACKER
6/18/2016 NEW DOCS FROM DNC NETWORK: LOTS OF FINANCIAL REPORTS AND DONORS’ PERSONAL DATA
6/21/2016 DOSSIER ON HILLARY CLINTON FROM DNC
7/5/2016 Second Guccifer 2.0 Hack
7/5/2016 First Copy of NGP VAN file
7/6/2016 TRUMPOCALYPSE AND OTHER DNC PLANS FOR JULY
7/10/2016 Seth Rich Death
10/7/2016 Wikileaks posts Podesta emails
10/26/2016 Admiral Rogers informs the FISA Court of numerous unauthorized FISA-702(17) “About Query” violations.”)

Shades Of J. Edgar Hoover – #ReleaseTheMemo #Obamagate

Hoover-JEdgar-LOCThe #FISA Collusion scandal reminds me of the tactics of J. Edgar Hoover. Wikipedia describes him this way.

He was found to have exceeded the jurisdiction of the FBI,[1] and to have used the FBI to harass political dissenters and activists, to amass secret files on political leaders,[2] and to collect evidence using illegal methods.[3] Hoover consequently amassed a great deal of power and was in a position to intimidate and threaten sitting presidents.[4]

Wow, doesn’t that sound familiar! Sara Carter says a classified report alleges extensive ‘FISA Abuse’ related to the controversial dossier. We already know from the Top Secret FISA Court Order that someone in the FBI allowed a private contractor run unsupervised “FISA-702 Queries”.  These are tactics J. Edgar Hoover would approve of. Maybe we can save FISA by firing some people. A good first step is to #ReleaseTheMemo.

The Politicization Of The FBI Has Consequences, My Position On The Patriot Act Has Evolved

Goddess of JusticeAs a person who has been selected for three juries, I am puzzled at the staffing decisions by Mr. Mueller. As a juror, I do not want my time wasted by a prosecution’s case tainted with apparent bias. Bias is a pretty good reason for a juror to say no to the “beyond a reasonable doubt question”. If Mr. Mueller is pursuing the same blind justice that does give a whit about politics, Mr. Mueller’s staff must be beyond reproach. This is not rocket science.

Why did Mr. McCabe, Ms. Rhee, Mr. Ohr, Ms. Page, and Mr. Strzok not recuse themselves from this case?

Although Glenn Kessler makes a good argument that Mr. Mueller “is legally barred from discriminating career appointees based on political affiliation”, there is nothing prohibiting the aforementioned people from recusing themselves because of apparent bias. This would have been the right thing for them to do. Since Mr. Mueller replaced them without much effort we have to assume that qualified lawyers exist without the political baggage. Why not start off with them? Are there any adults at the Department of Justice? Is this the same culture of corruption problem we have seen at the Department of Justice for the last eight years?

If the Department of Justice cannot police themselves should we allow Section 702 of the Patriot Act to be renewed without substantial reform?

In the past, I was willing to believe the Department of Justice would do the right thing and not abuse the special privileges granted in the Patriot Act. My position on the Patriot Act has evolved. Last year I wondered whether the Fusion GPS Dossier Weaponize The FBI? I now believe that the primary motive for FISA warrant in October of 2016 was to discredit the Trump Campaign. The FISA warrant was not about catching spies or terrorists.  It was about using the power of the government to punish a political opponent. If the folks at the Department of Justice cannot play nicely with these powers, we need some adults in the room to keep the kids out of trouble. Now is a good time to listen to Amash, Paul, and Others Trying to Stop Congress from Expanding Domestic Surveillance Powers.