Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton reacts to Robert Mueller’s comments on the Russia probe.
At a remarkable press conference on Wednesday – at which he refused to take questions – Mueller sank the theory that Attorney General William Barr somehow misinterpreted his report, and sent a clear message to House Democrats eager to have him testify about the probe that “the report is my testimony.”
Despite years of work, millions of dollars and near-unlimited powers, Mueller’s special prosecutors found zero evidence of collusion or conspiracy – and absent that underlying crime, no grounds to charge the US president with obstruction of justice, even as they wrote up 240 pages of tortured reasoning as to why they wanted to. Case closed, conspiracies put to bed, lots of people with egg on their face, time for the republic to move on, right?
Did you honestly expect people who have gone all in on a conspiracy theory about Russia somehow “stealing” the election from Hillary Clinton – investing not just the past three years, but their entire political and media capital into it – to give up just because there isn’t a grain of truth in it? Instead, they latched onto Mueller’s carefully weasel-worded declaration:
That was no mere misstep, either. Mueller followed that line up with a passage about how his office did not make a determination whether Trump committed a crime because the standing policy of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) is that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Not their fault, you see, they had no choice.
Except they did, and they had the avenue to make their claim – but chose not to, knowing that Barr would shoot it down, because he disagreed with their interpretation of obstruction laws long before he became AG. But those are details known to lawyers and honest legal analysts, not the propagandists and conspiracy-peddlers who have spent years whipping the American public into a hysteria not seen since the 1950s.
Mueller’s was a weasel statement, worthy of former FBI boss and his personal friend James Comey – who actually admitted to Congress that he hoped to force the appointment of a special counsel by leaking the memos of his meetings with Trump to the press.
It also seems to have been a dog-whistle to Democrats, who have been arguing ever since the Mueller report was published that it totally proved obstruction of justice and gave them the pretext for impeachment. A variety of party luminaries, such as House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-New York), presidential candidate Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), now doubled down on the claim.
What happens next is anybody’s guess: Democrats may hope enough Republicans will break ranks to successfully impeach and convict Trump, though that’s no more likely to succeed than any of the schemes to overturn the 2016 election result so far. Or they might hope that impeachment proceedings will mobilize their voters for 2020. Either way, the opposition party and the media aligned with it are determined to keep flogging the dead horse of Russiagate, hoping it will deliver them victory.
Those who believe Mueller’s mission was to “get Trump” will no doubt be happy with the former special counsel’s last move. But Americans who hoped he would clear the air clogged by endless conspiracy theories have every right to feel disappointed.
Mueller delivered his public statement on Wednesday, and offered very few surprises. His final report, which cleared President Donald Trump of colluding with Russia in 2016 and found insufficient evidence to bring obstruction charges against the president, “speaks for itself,” Mueller said. The Special Counsel also stated that Attorney General William Barr has already “made the report on our investigation largely public,” and that he would not testify on anything beyond the publicly available information.
So a bland statement of Justice Department policy? On the surface, yes. But that didn’t stop Democrats from clamoring for further investigations, or viewing Mueller’s declination to prosecute as a dog-whistle for impeachment.
Journalist Mark Ames joked that “Putin has a Mueller pee tape,” a reference to one particularly lurid tale presented in the ‘Steele Dossier.’ Ironically, the Steele Dossier – though completely uncorroborated – was used by the FBI to justify surveilling the Trump campaign and played a central role in kick-starting the investigation that Mueller eventually took over.
Ames added: “If Maddow doesn’t air a segment tonight claiming Putin has a Mueller pee tape, it can only mean one thing – Putin has a Maddow pee tape.”
Actually, the idea that Maddow would air such a segment on Mueller is not a far-fetched one.
In the two years since Mueller took over the ‘Russiagate’ investigation, Maddow has flung dung-heaps of conspiratorial Russian nonsense at viewers every night. There was her warning that the Kremlin could “flip the off switch” on the US power grid and freeze Americans to death last winter, the suggestion that Trump personally paid for the services of “Russian hackers,” and the insistence that Vladimir Putin would use the (then debunked) ‘Pee Tape’ to force Trump to withdraw US troops from Eastern Europe (the exact opposite happened).
Of course, Maddow is not the only peddler of Russian hysteria out there. Nor is MSNBC the only outlet to do a little mind-reading in its coverage of Mueller’s statement.
“He seems to think that the president committed a crime,” one talking head offered on Wednesday, adding that perhaps “future prosecutors” should re-examine the president’s conduct once he leaves office.
CNN correspondent Sara Murray weighed in with her own Mueller lip-reading: “Mueller was telling everybody ‘Look at what I’m saying, I couldn’t do it (prosecute), because the law would not allow me to, but, even if the law did not allow me to charge him, I still could not clear him and I am telling you that.”
No idea is too wild or unbelievable for Maddow or the CNN talking heads to entertain. Tune in, but bring the tinfoil hat and the rubber sheets.
Published on May 29, 2019
By Joshua Caplan
Mueller will speak at the Justice Department at 11 a.m. EST and will not take any questions.
It was not clear what he intended to say, but the statement comes amid demands for Mueller to testify on Capitol Hill about his findings and tension with Attorney General William Barr over the handling of his report.
Mueller’s report into Russia meddling in the 2016 election did not find that Russia and the Trump campaign coordinated to sway the presidential election. It did not reach a conclusion on whether the president had obstructed justice. Barr has said he was surprised that Mueller did not reach a conclusion, and decided with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that the evidence did not support an obstruction of justice allegation.
The attorney general is currently in Alaska for work.
According to CNBC’s Eamon Javers, the White House was told Tuesday evening that Mueller was planning on issuing a statement Wednesday.
The development comes after negotiations about Mueller’s tentative testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on May 15th fell through.
The House panel’s chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said earlier this month that talks will continue with Mueller and the Justice Department about the testimony. The New York Democrat wouldn’t characterize those talks, though he said he expects Mueller to eventually appear, and if he won’t agree the committee will attempt to compel him.
“If necessary we’ll subpoena him and he’ll come,” Nadler said.
The negotiations over Mueller’s appearance come as Democrats are clashing with the Justice Department over access to Mueller’s full report on the Trump-Russia investigation. The Judiciary panel on recently voted to hold Barr in contempt of Congress after he defied the committee’s subpoena for an unredacted version of the report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Streamed live 38 minutes ago
By Aaron Klein
The argument erupted into the open with a Brennan surrogate being quoted in the news media opposing Comey not long after Attorney General William Barr appointed a U.S. attorney to investigate the origins of the Russia collusion claims.
A former CIA official, clearly defending Brennan, shot back at the assertion, instead claiming that it was Brennan and Clapper who opposed a purported push by Comey to include the dossier charges in the ICA.
The dossier was also cited as evidence in three successful FISA applications signed by Comey to obtain warrants to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The first was signed in October 2016; the second and third were renewal applications since a FISA warrant must be renewed every 90 days.
The dossier, authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, was produced by the controversial Fusion GPS firm. Fusion was paid for the dossier work by Trump’s main political opponents, namely Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) via the Perkins Coie law firm.
“Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report,” the official told Fox News.
“They opposed this because the dossier was in no way used to develop the ICA,” the official added. “The intelligence analysts didn’t include it when they were doing their work because it wasn’t corroborated intelligence, therefore it wasn’t used and it wasn’t included. Brennan and Clapper prevented it from being added into the official assessment. James Comey then decided on his own to brief Trump about the document.”
The official was addressing the reported email from Comey fingering Brennan as insisting that the dossier be utilized in the ICA report on Russian interference.
Discussing the issue during a segment on Fox News, former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy said on “The Story with Martha MacCallum” that “Comey has a better argument than Brennan, based on what I’ve seen.”
One day earlier, Gowdey stated on Fox News, “Whoever is looking into this, tell them to look into emails” from December 2016 concerning both Brennan and Comey.
Gowdy told Fox News, where he is now a contributor, that his comments on the matter were based on sensitive documents that he reviewed while he served as chairman of the Republican-led House Oversight Committee.
Contrary to the ex-CIA official’s assertion that the dossier was not included in the intel community’s ICA Russia report, there have been testimony and media statements involving key players saying that it was part of the overall assessment.
Last December, Comey outright contradicted Brennan’s own testimony that the anti-Trump dossier was, as Brennan put it, “not in any way used as the basis for the intelligence community’s assessment” that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
In testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees, Comey stated that material from the Steele dossier was indeed utilized in the IC report. Internally, the FBI referred to the dossier as “crown material.”
“So do you recall whether any quote, crown material or dossier material was included in the IC assessment?” Gowdy asked Comey at the time.
“Yes,” Comey replied. “I’m going to be careful here because I’m talking about a document that’s still classified. The unclassified thing we talked about earlier today, the first paragraph you can see of exhibit A, is reflective of the fact that at least some of the material that Steele had collected was in the big thing called the intelligence community assessment in an annex called annex A.”
Annex A in the report was titled, “Russia—Kremlin’s TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US.”
The annex, like the rest of the report, contains the following disclaimer:
This report is a declassified version of a highly classified assessment; its conclusions are identical to those in the highly classified assessment but this version does not include the full supporting information on key elements of the influence campaign.
Comey went on to describe a conversation that he said he had with Brennan about how to include the dossier material in the IC assessment:
Gowdy: Do you recall the specific conversation or back and forth with then-Director Brennan on whether or not the material should be included in the IC assessment?
Comey. Yes. I remember conversation — let me think about it for a second. I remember there was conversation about what form its presentation should take in the overarching document; that is, should it be in an annex; should it be in the body; that the intelligence community broadly found its source credible and that it was corroborative of the central thesis of the intelligence community assessment, and the discussion was should we put it in the body or put it in an attachment.
I’m hesitating because I don’t remember whether I had that conversation — I had that conversation with John Brennan, but I remember that there was conversation about how it should be treated.
Comey’s descriptions are at direct odds with a statement Brennan made during May 2017 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in which Brennan claimed the dossier was “not in any way used as the basis for the intelligence community’s assessment” on alleged Russian interference. Brennan repeated that claim during numerous news media interviews.
Comey is not the only former top official involved in the IC report to say that the dossier played a role in the report’s conclusions.
As RealClearPolitics.com documents, former NSA Director Rogers wrote in a classified letter that the dossier played a role in the IC’s assessment and a dossier summary was included in an initial draft appendix:
In a March 5, 2018, letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Adm. Rogers informed the committee that a two-page summary of the dossier — described as “the Christopher Steele information” — was “added” as an “appendix to the ICA draft,” and that consideration of that appendix was “part of the overall ICA review/approval process.”
Meanwhile Clapper, who served as director of National Intelligence under the Obama administration, conceded during a previous CNN interview that the IC assessment was able to corroborate “some of the substantive content of the dossier,” implying that the dossier itself was a factor.
“I think with respect to the dossier itself, the key thing is it doesn’t matter who paid for it,” Clapper said. “It’s what the dossier said and the extent to which it was — it’s corroborated or not. We had some concerns about it from the standpoint of its sourcing which we couldn’t corroborate.”
“But at the same time, some of the substantive content, not all of it, but some of the substantive content of the dossier, we were able to corroborate in our Intelligence Community assessment which from other sources in which we had very high confidence to it,” he added.
It was Clapper’s agency that released the Intelligence Community report.
The purported inclusion of the dossier may help to explain why Rogers’ NSA assessed the conclusion that Russian President Vladimir Putin favored Trump and worked to get him elected only with a classification of “moderate confidence,” while the FBI and CIA gave it a “high confidence” rating.
The dispute comes as U.S. Attorney John Durham has been charged by Barr with conducting a probe of the origins of the Russia investigation. In addition to ICA report tactics, Durham’s probe is likely to also focus on the use of the dossier in obtaining a FISA warrant to spy on Page.
John Brennan Fueled the Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theory
Regardless of his role in the ICA assessment and the dossier, Brennan was still a central player in fueling the anti-Trump dossier that spread unsubstantiated, conspiratorial claims of collusion with Russia.
As Breitbart News previously documented, Brennan helped lead official classified briefings to then-President Obama and President-elect Trump on the discredited dossier even though the questionable document was funded by Trump’s primary political opponents.
Those two classified briefings were subsequently leaked to the news media and set in motion an avalanche of anti-Trump news media coverage on the dossier’s wild allegations.
Brennan’s CIA also co-authored the questionable ICA report saying Russia’s intentions for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election included the goal of ensuring Trump was victorious over Hillary Clinton. An extensive House report later accused the CIA and the two other agencies that co-authored that report of politicizing intelligence and other analytical failures.
And, as Breitbart News documented, Brennan reportedly convened a highly compartmentalized unit of CIA, FBI and NSA analysts to conduct operations related to what eventually became the allegations of Russian interference and controversial claims that Putin worked to elect Trump. The secretive unit was reportedly housed in the CIA’s headquarters.