Fascinating but unsurprising. Rep. Adam Schiff says it’s the first he’s heard of the “good FBI agents” immediately leaking news of the Anthony Weiner laptop to Rep. Devin Nunes.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) June 17, 2018
Big states have big ambitions. The backdrop to what we call the “Trump/Russia” story is how Russia has suborned a whole web of business and political elites in the US and Europe using money corruption and in some cases blackmail to serve Kremlin interests. Here’s a new nugget at the heart of the Brexit and Trump efforts which is simply remarkable, though the names of the players are so little known that it likely won’t get the attention it deserves.
We know that Russian diplomats and intelligence officers were supporting the Brexit campaign in the UK in much the same way they were funding and supporting the Trump effort in the US. We also know that the two campaigns ended up intertwining. Once Brexit was successful in the UK, its top campaigner and top money man, Nigel Farage and Arron Banks literally went to the US and started campaigning for Trump.
It turns out that an aide to Farage, George Cottrell, was arrested by the FBI just after attending the GOP convention in July along with Farage. He was charged with a series of crimes related to money laundering, wire fraud, bribery, blackmail and more. He was also something of a denizen of the so-called “dark web.” Cottrell had a close personal relationship with both Farage and Banks, though both sought to diminish the extent of that relationship after Cottrell’s arrest.
Yesterday I posted this lengthy post about a critical shortcoming in the 2016 election IG Report. Despite specifically being to requested to address the issue, Inspector General Horowitz basically ignored lots of evidence about bias against Secretary Clinton. Indeed, he didn’t so much ignore evidence as ignore the question itself, specifically about anti-Clinton sentiment in the FBI’s New York field office and specifically whether the fear of leaks out of that office was the driver of the October 28th Comey letter which clearly damaged Clinton significantly in the final days of the campaign. It turns out that I simply missed some of the clearest evidence for that anti-Clinton bias in the report itself.
Before looking at that, let’s address another point. The IG Report is in a sense of a masterpiece bureaucratic document. If the effort were to hide evidence of bias out of the New York field office it does a poor job. It simply draws no inferences from that evidence. So, for instance, much of the report is framed around examining whether pretty good evidence of hostility toward candidate Trump (though by no means only Trump) affected the actions of lead agent Peter Strzok. But whether the abundant evidence of bias and actions by those hostile to candidate Clinton had an effect is just passed over.
Once a week, TPM’s Matt Shuham is rounding up examples of the administration’s abuse of power, conflicts of interest, and corruption. Many of these stories deal with executive branch agencies, and don’t receive the same amount of press as the scandals that directly involve the White House. But his round up — one of our Weekly Primers for Prime subscribers — is a fascinating read. Take a look.
A few weeks ago I explained in a post that the reason the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails was so freely publicized in 2016 while the Russia probe remained firmly under wraps was, paradoxically, precisely because it was an essential political and procedural probe. Indeed, this was understood by all involved. Yet this false equation of the two investigations remains embedded in the Inspector General’s report itself. Indeed, the IG Report is at war with itself at various points about the nature of the investigation and whether the recovery of the Weiner/Abedin emails in late September 2016 did or should have mattered.
The Inspector General was troubled by the fact that the FBI was prioritizing the Russia probe in the fall of 2016 over the Clinton email probe. The key passage comes on page 329 of the report where the Inspector General writes that in light of Strzok and Page’s texts showing hostility to Donald Trump, “we did not have confidence that Strzok’s decision to prioritize the Russia investigation over following up on the Midyear-related investigative lead discovered on the Weiner laptop was free from bias.”
In light of the fact that the Inspector General’s report ignored the questions about anti-Clinton bias in the FBI’s New York field office and questions about whether Comey’s actions were driven by fears of leaks from that same office, this seems highly relevant. Last night on Fox News, Rep. Devin Nunes explained that in late September 2016, “good FBI agents” came to him and told him they’d found the Weiner laptop with Huma Abedin’s emails with Secretary Clinton.
In light of IG's failure to look at leaking/anti-Clinton bias among agents in NYC field office, this seems quite relevant. Nunes says "good FBI agents" told him about Weiner laptop in late September 2016. pic.twitter.com/BU6ysY7Xwn
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) June 15, 2018
Note that the reference to late September 2016 makes it clear that the agents in question basically went to Nunes and other Capitol Hill Republicans immediately after they found the laptop.
I wanted to share some background information on just what’s happening with Michael Cohen. CNN is reporting that Michael Cohen is now telling family and friends that he’s open to cooperating with prosecutors. This follows ABC’s report from a couple days ago, and joins other subsequent reporting that paints an amorphous yet generally consistent picture of a man getting ready to become a cooperating witness. But there are some additional details that are important to understand.
The government has recovered 731 pages of encrypted text messages from the devices seized from Michael Cohen – from WhatsApp and Signal. They’ve also reassembled 16 pages of documents from inside Cohen’s paper shredder. (Paper Shredder best practices fail.) They’re still working on one of the Blackberries they seized.
Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, the President’s lawyer, apparently felt it was necessary to explicitly reassure Paul Manafort that a pardon could be in the cards for him after he was sent to jail today.
Sometimes it is important to step back and see the larger picture. On Fox News this morning, President Trump called the former leadership of the FBI “scum.” The former deputy director of the FBI, a longterm target of the President, has already been fired and seems to be in legitimate danger of being charged with crimes. Peter Strzok, the former high-ranking FBI Counter-Intelligence agent with the texts, is now likely to be fired, according to press reports this morning. Last night on Sean Hannity’s show, the President’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that to “redeem” themselves Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions had one week to jail Strzok.
Tierney Sneed reports in from the federal courthouse in D.C. where a judge is considering whether to revoke former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s bail, amid allegations he tampered with witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller’s pending criminal case against him.
The hearing is in recess while the judge apparently contemplates her ruling on whether to move Manafort from house arrest to jail.
More as soon as we have it from Tierney …
Soon after the Charlottesville white nationalist rally, a man in Indiana posed online as an alt-right activist, and told other activists he was going to go to an upcoming alt-right rally and start shooting attendees. He said it would be a “false flag” operation that would discredit the left. The goal seems to have been to scare people away from the rally.
The man took no steps to put his plan into action. But now he’s facing federal charges that could send him to prison for several years. Some experts in extremism tell TPM’s Allegra Kirkland that doesn’t make much sense — especially when actual white nationalists who have carried out actual violence aren’t being charged.