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Allegra Kirkland

Allegra Kirkland is a New York-based reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked on The Nation’s web team and as the associate managing editor for AlterNet. Follow her on Twitter @allegrakirkland.

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Donald Trump Jr. has offered three different explanations over the course of three days for why he met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer two weeks after his father secured the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

That Trump’s eldest son took the meeting at Trump Tower, with his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in tow, in the hopes of digging up dirt on his father’s likely presidential opponent shows that some Trump campaign figures had no qualms about accepting help from a Russian national. The news comes as a special counsel, as well as four congressional committees, are probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives.

When The New York Times first broke the news Saturday about the meeting, which took place on June 9, 2016, Trump Jr. offered no indication that it was related to the presidential campaign.

“It was a short introductory meeting,” he said in a statement to the newspaper. “I asked Jared and Paul to stop by. We primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children that was active and popular with American families years ago and was since ended by the Russian government, but it was not a campaign issue at the time and there was no follow up.”

“I was asked to attend the meeting by an acquaintance, but was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand,” he added.

The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, has campaigned heavily against the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on 18 Russian officials believed to have committed human rights violations. It was named after a Russian lawyer and auditor who died mysteriously in prison after exposing wide-scale corruption in the Putin government. Russia retaliated against the United States for the law, imposing similar sanctions on 18 U.S. officials and banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

Though adoptions are a pet issue of Veselnitskaya’s, Trump Jr. conceded Sunday that issue was not why he actually agreed to the sit-down. After three unnamed advisers to the White House briefed on their meeting and two additional anonymous sources spoke to the Times, Trump’s son explained that he was told Veselnitskaya would have “information helpful to the campaign” to offer him.

Reiterating that he did not know Veselnitskaya’s name ahead of time, Trump Jr. gave a different account of what he said was a 20-30 minute meeting.

“After pleasantries were exchanged, the woman stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton,” he said in a Sunday statement to the Times. “Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act.”

As Trump Jr. himself clarified, once he learned that Veselnitskaya did not possess information relevant to the 2016 election, he felt that the meeting was a waste of time.

“It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting,” he said in the statement.

Veselnitskaya, for her part, told the Times that “nothing at all about the presidential campaign” was discussed during their conversation.

Trump Jr. divulged even more information about the motivation for his meeting on Monday, saying explicitly that he believed Veselnitskaya had “info about an opponent.”

He also denied that there was anything unusual about his differing accounts of the meeting, tweeting that, “In response to further Q’s I simply provided more details.”

Substance aside, the Veselnitskaya meeting also contradicts Trump Jr.’s assurance to the Times in March that he never attended any meetings “set up” with Russian nationals as a campaign surrogate or ever discussed government policies connected to Russia.

For now, it seems, the eldest Trump son will have to stake out his own defense. The President’s private legal team has denied that he had any knowledge of the meeting, and though he fired off a fusillade of tweets Monday morning, including one defending his daughter Ivanka, he made no mention of the reports about his son.

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As the special counsel’s investigation tasked in part with probing ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s Turkey lobbying work grinds away, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm is establishing some distance from Flynn’s former lobbying partner.

Jefferson Waterman International (JWI) has taken down its bio page for Robert Kelley, who served as general counsel for Flynn’s now-defunct consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, and was registered during the 2016 campaign as a lobbyist for the firm’s controversial contract with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin. Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent for that contract, acknowledging that his company’s work may have “principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” Alptekin told BuzzFeed last year that he worked primarily with Kelley, however.

Contacted by TPM this week, several employees at JWI expressed uncertainty about why the webpage listing Kelley as a “counselor” with the firm was removed or about whether he still worked there. Responses ranged from “I don’t believe that Bob Kelley’s ever worked at the firm” to “I don’t know where he is.”

Kelley’s since-deleted bio for JWI, accessed via the Internet Archive

Charles Waterman, the firm’s CEO, clarified Thursday that Kelley is not paid for his work for JWI and is “not an exclusive consultant” for the firm. He added that Kelley’s work with Flynn Intel Group was done “on his own,” and that Kelley’s bio page was taken down because JWI “decided it was probably the better thing to do.”

“He’s still a consultant—a loose consultant, let’s call it that,” Waterman told TPM.

“There’s no reason to sever ties but no reason to strengthen them, either,” he added with a low laugh.

Waterman said his firm had not been contacted in relation to the federal probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which includes Flynn Intel Group’s lobbying work. Reached by phone Friday at his home, where he is recovering from knee surgery, Kelley told TPM that he had not been contacted by the special counsel’s team, either.

Kelley described himself as being “full-time” at JWI.

“I’ll be back next week,” he said.

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The powerhouse team of lawyers assigned to the multi-pronged federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has expanded to include 15 members.

Plucked from the Justice Department and white-collar law firms by special counsel Robert Mueller, the attorneys boast years of experience prosecuting cases involving national security, fraud, money laundering, cybercrime and espionage. There are experts in witness-flipping, Russia, organized crime and public corruption. Several have worked with Mueller in the past.

Though the team is holed up away from the public eye in their office in the Patrick Henry Building on Washington, D.C.’s D Street, their previous work experience offers a window into where the investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the election outcome—and whether any members of the Trump campaign assisted that effort or committed any financial crimes—could be headed.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel, confirmed that the following 13 lawyers have been publicly identified out of the 15-member team, and told TPM that more were “in the pipeline.”

Here’s what we know about the legal team Mueller has assembled thus far:

ANDREW WEISSMANN

Most recently the chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section, Weissmann joins Mueller’s team with decades of experience prosecuting cases involving organized crime, corporate misconduct and criminal fraud.

Some of the blockbuster cases he has taken the lead on include the prosecution of executives from now-defunct energy company Enron for their elaborate schemes to conceal their firm’s financial woes, and his conviction of members of the Gambino, Colombo and Genovese crime families as a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn.

In the 1990s, Weissmann worked on a case involving Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman with organized crime connections who would go on to become a business associate of Trump’s. Weissmann signed a deal Sater struck to become a government informant after he pleaded guilty in a $40 million fraud scheme, according to the Financial Times.

Weissmann is also renowned for his expert in flipping witnesses, as Reuters has reported—a skill that could come in handy as the special counsel team tries to determine if anyone associated with the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives.

MICHAEL DREEBEN

The Justice Department’s deputy solicitor general is working part-time on the special counsel investigation, where he brings decades of experience in criminal law.

Dreeben has argued over 100 cases before the Supreme Court, and represented the federal government on cases including the public corruption probe into former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).

His addition to Mueller’s team was “widely seen as a sign that Mueller was investigating possible criminal violations by President Donald Trump or others,” according to the National Law Journal.

JAMES QUARLES III

Quarles kicked off his career working as an assistant special prosecutor on the special prosecution force investigating the Watergate scandal. After that investigation ended with the conviction of several of President Richard Nixon’s top aides for various abuses of power, Quarles joined the white-shoe D.C. law firm WilmerHale in the mid-1970s.

JEANNIE RHEE

Another WilmerHale veteran, like Mueller himself, Rhee has extensive experience working on criminal investigations. As a young lawyer, she served as an assistant US attorney for the District of Columbia, where she prosecuted Washington Teachers Union officials who embezzled some $5 million.

Rhee later served as deputy assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s office of legal counsel and, in private practice, focused on advising clients who were the subjects of federal investigations. Some of Rhee’s most high-profile cases involve the Clintons: She was on the legal team representing the Clinton Foundation in a racketeering lawsuit brought by Freedom Watch, a litigious conservative advocacy group, and represented Hillary Clinton in a lawsuit that sought to obtain access to her private emails.

Rhee, like several other special counsel attorneys including Quarles and Weissman, has been criticized for donating to political campaigns for Democratic politicians including Clinton and former president Barack Obama.

AARON ZEBLEY

A former FBI special agent on counterterrorism cases and assistant U.S. attorney in the National Security and Terrorism Unit, Zebley has had a long working relationship with Mueller. He served as Mueller’s chief of staff during his tenure at the FBI and then worked alongside him as a partner at WilmerHale.

Prior to joining WilmerHale, Zebley worked as senior counsel in the DOJ’s national security division. His expertise is in national security, terrorism and violent crime cases.

BRANDON VAN GRACK

Van Grack is a veteran prosecutor in the counterespionage section of the DOJ’s national security division. In two recent cases, Van Grack helped prosecute a former government contractor who stole classified national defense documents and a computer hacker who provided the Islamic State with the names and contact information of over 1,000 government and military workers.

Van Grack had led a grand jury inquiry in the Eastern District of Virginia into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn’s lobbying on behalf of foreign governments, which reportedly has since been picked up by Mueller.

RUSH ATKINSON

A trial attorney in the fraud section of the DOJ’s criminal division, Atkinson has worked on complex cases involving corporate malfeasance. Earlier this year, he helped indict a former top executive at Bankrate Inc., a financial services company, for manipulating the company’s statements and artificially inflating its earnings.

ANDREW GOLDSTEIN

Goldstein joins the special counsel team from his post as head of the public corruption unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. Under former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, a frequent critic of the administration who was fired by Trump earlier this year, the office burnished its reputation for aggressively prosecuting cases involving white-collar crime and public corruption.

Goldstein was a prosecutor on the team that convicted longtime State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver and other members of the state government of public corruption, according to the New York Times. He has experience working on money laundering and asset forfeiture cases.

ZAINAB AHMAD

An assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of New York, Ahmad served as the deputy chief of the national security and cybercrime section. As the New Yorker documented in a recent profile, Ahmad successfully prosecuted 13 international terrorism suspects for the U.S. government without losing a single case.

Some of her biggest cases include the prosecution of a Pakistani al-Qaeda operative planning a terrorist attack on a U.K. shopping center and of a Nigerian citizen convicted of providing material support to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

ELIZABETH PRELOGAR

An assistant to the solicitor general’s office, Prelogar previously clerked for Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan and worked in private practice at Hogan Lovells.

She appears to be fluent in Russian from her undergraduate and graduate studies, and served as a Fulbright Scholar in Russia, as the National Law Journal reported.

LISA PAGE

Page developed experience in money laundering and organized crime cases during her tenure as a trial attorney in the DOJ’s organized crime and gang section. She prosecuted a member of the Lucchese organized crime family and Bulgarian nationals who conducted a money laundering scheme using fake eBay ads.

ADAM JED

Jed has worked for the DOJ since 2010, most recently in the civil division, according to the National Law Journal. He defended the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive insurance requirement on behalf of the federal government in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Sebelius, and received an exceptional service award from the DOJ for helping implement the Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized gay marriage.

AARON ZELINSKY

An experienced line prosecutor who has worked on organized crime cases, Zelinsky has spent the past three years working as as assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland under Rod Rosenstein, who is now the deputy attorney general overseeing the special counsel probe. Zelinsky has taught constitutional and national security law at Peking University and the University of Maryland, respectively.

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A former business associate of President Donald Trump who has extensive ties to organized crime is cooperating with a money laundering probe that stretches across three continents, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

The Russian-born Felix Sater is working with a team of lawyers and private investigators who are pursuing civil cases against the Khrapunovs, a Kazakh family that Sater allegedly helped use shell companies to launder millions of dollars into U.S. real estate, five people with knowledge of the probe told FT.

One of the venues for that dirty money, according to the report, was a failed Manhattan real estate venture of the President’s, Trump SoHo:

It is unclear how much money has flowed from the alleged Kazakh laundering scheme to Mr Trump. Title deeds and banking records show that in April 2013 shell companies controlled by the Khrapunovs spent $3.1m buying three luxury apartments in Trump Soho from a holding company in which Mr Trump held a stake.

The FBI also was interested in whether the probe involved potential money-laundering in the United States, one anonymous source involved in the investigation told the FT.

Viktor Khrapunov and Mukhtar Ablyazov, two of the deep-pocketed individuals accused of money laundering by the Kazakh government, say they are innocent victims of a political vendetta, according to the FT. Sater declined to comment to the newspaper.

Alan Garten, a lawyer for the Trump Organization told FT last year that he had “no doubt” that “every legal requirement” was met in conducting due diligence on financial transactions involving Trump properties.

Trump’s business ties to Sater, who once served 15 months in prison for stabbing a stockbroker in the face with a broken martini glass and went on to became a government informant after pleading guilty in a $40 million fraud scheme, have long raised eyebrows.

Sater and Tevfik Arif, a Kazakh banker who worked in the Soviet Union, collaborated with Trump through their real estate company Bayrock to find buyers for the hotels and condos branded with the Trump name. Sater also visited Moscow with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. in the mid-2000s to scout a site for a Trump Tower there, a project that never came to fruition.

Earlier this year, Sater reportedly played a role in helping put together a “peace plan” drawn up by a member of Ukraine’s parliament. That plan, which called for lifting U.S. sanctions against Russia, was reportedly hand-delivered to the White House by Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

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A federal official dismissed concerns that it would pose a conflict of interest for President Donald Trump to serve as both landlord and tenant of his real estate company’s Washington, D.C. hotel, which is housed in a government-owned building, before approving Trump’s ongoing control of the lease.

As Bloomberg reported Monday, Kevin Terry, the General Services Administration’s contracting officer, emailed a Trump Organization executive three days after the 2016 election to brush off a BuzzFeed article about the possible conflict of interest.

“FYI – A fair amount of nonsense,” Terry wrote, according to documents the publication obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.

Terry later wrote in a decision reached March 23 that Trump’s company was “in full compliance” with the lease and could keep it.

Terry, the GSA, the White House and the Trump Organization did not respond to Bloomberg’s requests for comment.

Well before Trump took office, the Trump International Hotel became a rallying point for critics concerned that the President-elect was not taking appropriate steps to sever ties with his family business. They noted that the contract language explicitly says that no “elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom[.]”

The Republican National Committee, conservative groups and a number of foreign governments have held splashy events at the hotel—a significant source of revenue for the Trumps’ real estate empire. Last week, Trump himself held a $35,000-per-plate fundraiser there for his 2020 re-election, reportedly raising some $10 million for the campaign.

There are currently three lawsuits pending in federal court alleging that foreign governments’ spending at the hotel would violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In a May court filing, Trump’s lawyers said revoking ownership of the hotel “could result in enormous personal financial loss for the president.”

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Former Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo has been added to the
House Intelligence Committee’s busy July schedule for interviewing witnesses as part of its ongoing probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, CNN reported Friday.

Caputo, who spent six months providing communications advice to the Trump team, lived in Russia in the 1990s and previously worked for Gazprom Media, the press arm of the Russian oil giant.

Reached by TPM, a spokesperson for the House panel could not comment on or confirm witnesses who may come before the committee.

Caputo’s lawyer, Dennis Vacco, told CNN that his client plans to testify in a closed-door session and has already turned over records requested by the panel.

“We have agreed to appear voluntarily, without subpoeana, before the committee in closed session on Friday, July 14,” Vacco told the network.

The New York Times first reported that the Committee asked Caputo for any “documents, records, electronically stored information including email, communication, recordings, data and tangible things” related to their probe.

Caputo has called allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia “pure unadulterated bullshit” and a “witch hunt.”

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A Republican activist who sought to obtain and publicize emails he thought were hacked from Hillary Clinton’s private server cited senior Trump campaign officials in a document he circulated to recruit computer security experts to his effort, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

Officials named in the document compiled by the late Peter W. Smith, who launched his effort in September 2016, include Steve Bannon, then-campaign CEO and current chief White House strategist; Kellyanne Conway, then-campaign manager and now White House counselor; Sam Clovis, a former campaign policy adviser and now an adviser in the Department of Agriculture; and Michael Flynn, then a top campaign adviser and briefly Trump’s national security adviser, according to the Journal.

The report said the purpose of including those Trump aides in the document was unclear, and the recruitment document includes no indication that the campaign supported Smith’s efforts. The White House, Agriculture Department, and Flynn all did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

Bannon told the newspaper he never heard of Smith or KLS Research LLC, the company Smith founded to hunt for Clinton’s emails. Conway acknowledged knowing of the longtime GOP activist, who cut his teeth in the 1990s funding opposition research and lawsuits against then-President Bill Clinton, but said she “never met with him” during the 2016 campaign.

Smith, who died only 10 days after the Journal interviewed him, repeatedly claimed ties to members of Trump’s inner circle, particularly Flynn, to drum up support for his project. Smith was bent on obtaining Clinton’s emails and making them public before Election Day at all costs, and told computer security experts he contacted that Russian hackers would be the likeliest source, according to the newspaper.

How little he cared about the emails’ source was made plain in his phone communications with Matt Tait, a cybersecurity expert who wrote a post on LawFare recounting his involvement with Smith.

According to Tait, Smith was contacted by a source from the “Dark Web” who said he had emails ripped from Clinton’s private server, and he wanted Tait to validate whether they were real.

“Although it wasn’t initially clear to me how independent Smith’s operation was from Flynn or the Trump campaign, it was immediately apparent that Smith was both well connected within the top echelons of the campaign and he seemed to know both Lt. Gen. Flynn and his son well,” Tait wrote. “Smith routinely talked about the goings on at the top of the Trump team, offering deep insights into the bizarre world at the top of the Trump campaign.”

Tait, who passed the recruitment document from Smith citing Trump campaign officials on to the Journal, wrote that Smith repeatedly noted that he created KLS Research with the explicit intent of avoiding campaign reporting laws. He was left with the impression that “the group was formed with the blessing of the Trump campaign.”

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Susan Rice, the national security adviser under former President Barack Obama, has agreed to testify in closed session before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, CNN reported Thursday.

President Donald Trump and Republicans on the committee have accused Obama administration officials, including Rice, of improperly “unmasking” the names of Trump transition associates that came up in classified intelligence reports.

Rice has insisted that there was “not anything political” about her actions and that she “leaked nothing to nobody and never have and never would.” National security experts previously told TPM that it was her job to look into the extent of Russia’s interference in the election, and that knowing the identities of U.S. persons included in intelligence reports would have allowed Obama administration officials to see if those individuals engaged in inappropriate behavior. Rice would have had to run her requests past the National Security Agency, and would not have been able to know that the unmasked individuals were associated with the Trump campaign until the names were revealed.

In March, the House committee’s chair, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), embarked on a trip to the White House to review intelligence related to unmasking and subsequently held a series of press conferences where he said he was “troubled” by what he saw. Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers who viewed the same reports told various news outlets that they did not see anything improper.

Nunes temporarily stepped aside from the Russia investigation in April, after he became the subject of a House Ethics Committee probe into whether he revealed classified information.

As Nunes has made plain in recent interviews, he never actually recused himself from the probe and insists he is “fully read-in” on his committee’s activities on Russia.

“I can do whatever I want, I’m the chairman of the committee,” Nunes told CNN this week.

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In the midst of the 2016 campaign, a veteran GOP opposition researcher who said he had ties to ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn contacted hackers hoping to obtain emails that he believed Russian operatives had hacked from Hillary Clinton’s personal server, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Peter W. Smith reached out to computer security experts in the hopes of gaining access to the email trove and explicitly outlined his connection with Flynn in his recruiting emails, according to the report.

Smith, who died at the age of 81 just 10 days after the Journal interviewed him, told the newspaper that he never explicitly said that Flynn was involved with the project. Flynn and the White House did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment, and a Trump campaign representative said Smith had no involvement in the campaign.

In one recruiting email reviewed by the newspaper, Smith said Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, was helping with the effort. In another, Jonathan Safron, a law student who worked for Smith, included Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, at the top of a list of websites of people working with the team.

“He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?’” Eric York, one computer security expert who said he searched hacker forums on Smith’s behalf to try to dig up the emails, told the Journal.

What Smith hoped to unearth were the 33,000 emails that Clinton has said she deleted from her private email server because they were personal in nature, and which Trump infamously urged Russia to find and release during a July 2016 campaign rally.

Trump and his defenders in the media and his administration have referred to the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election as a “witch hunt” intended to hurt his presidency. They insist there is no evidence of collusion between Russian operatives and Trump campaign associates.

Smith acknowledged that the emails, if they existed, would likely have been hacked by Russian operatives. He ultimately received some emails from hacker groups prior to the election, he told the Journal, but urged those groups to pass the emails along to WikiLeaks so he would not have to personally vouch for their authenticity. Those emails have never surfaced, according to the report.

Though the bulk of the 2016 cyberhacking efforts focused on Democratic targets, some Republicans, including Smith himself, were apparently hacked as well.

Smith told the New York Times last December that he was unaware his emails had been hacked and published on the website DCLeaks.com until the newspaper’s reporter informed him.

“I’m not upset at all,” he said in a phone call with the Times. “I try in my communications, quite frankly, not to say anything that would be embarrassing if made public.”

Smith, a Chicago investment banker, has had his hand in previous messy political dealings involving the Clintons. During the 1990s, he helped subsidize a large-scale effort led by conservative donors to procure and publish damaging information about then-President Bill Clinton.

The Texas Observer reported at the time that Smith spent “$80,000 on private detectives and to subsidize American Spectator reporters in a hunt for the black baby that Clinton was rumored to have sired.”

He was a collaborator on what came to be known as the “Arkansas Project,” in addition to multimillionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, its main funder, and David Brock, then a reporter for the Spectator. Brock has since become one of the Clintons’ most ardent public defenders.

This post has been updated.

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The Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday highlighted a pair of dubiously-sourced conservative media reports to suggest that Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe may need to recuse himself from the federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

In a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) expressed concern about McCabe’s “apparent conflict in ongoing FBI investigations.” He requested an unredacted copy of an FBI memo from December, which he said the agency had provided in response to one of his previous inquiries, saying that McCabe’s “disassociation would be appropriate” in some matters handled by the bureau.

Grassley’s letter cites two articles from Circa, a site owned by conservative media group Sinclair, to claim that McCabe is “the subject of three separate pending investigations.” Only one of those purported investigations has been confirmed, a probe by the FBI’s Office of the Inspector General that relates to McCabe’s decision not to recuse himself from the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server although a political action committee affiliated with Virginia’s governor, an ally of the Clintons, donated some $500,000 to McCabe’s wife’s unsuccessful campaign for Virginia state Senate.

The reports cited in Grassley’s memo come from Sara A. Carter and John Solomon, a former Associated Press and Washington Examiner journalist who now serves as the chief operating officer of Circa. Their reporting has not been corroborated by other outlets, although other right-wing sites have been picking up the Circa articles.

Grassley cites one Circa report to claims that McCabe also is under investigation for potentially violating the Hatch Act by engaging in political campaign activities on behalf of his wife. The third purported investigation the Senate Judiciary chair mentions, again citing Circa, is a pending complaint against McCabe filed by a female former FBI agent who believes she was dismissed from the bureau for complaining about gender discrimination.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request about whether there is a Equal Employment Opportunity complaint pending against McCabe. Asked about an alleged Hatch Act violation investigation into McCabe, Karen Gorman of the Office of Special Counsel said in an emailed statement: “As a general practice, we do not comment or confirm if we have an active or closed case.”

The most inflammatory claim put forth by the Circa reports is that McCabe launched the bureau’s investigation into ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn in retaliation for Flynn’s support of the female agent who reportedly filed the complaint against McCabe. That report is based on interviews with three anonymous FBI employees as well as “documents” relating to the female agent’s firing. The investigation into Flynn originated in the Justice Department, however, and McCabe was not leading the FBI yet when the bureau assumed control of the probe.

The Circa article simply notes that McCabe was “in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn,” and that the three employees “personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.”

Grassley seemed to take the report at face value, writing that it “calls into question whether Mr. McCabe handled the Flynn investigation fairly and objectively, or whether he had any retaliatory motive against Flynn for being an adverse witness to him in a pending proceeding.”

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