Week 12: Putting the Squeeze on Paul Manafort – JACK SHAFER August 12, 2017

The FBI tightens the screws in the Russia investigation.

Donald Trump and Paul Manafort are pictured. | Getty Images.
Brooks Kraft/Getty Images

At the rate Robert S. Mueller is going, he will soon have enough material to write an eight-volume biography of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with enough material left over to construct a Manafort Broadway musical, a Manafort video game and a Manafort theme park. According to news reports this week, the special counsel has hoovered up practically every document, receipt, international bank transaction, tax record and perhaps grocery list connected to Manafort that pertains to the Russia investigation. The Mueller stash includes the tax and financial documents seized in a July 26 FBI raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia, condominium, news of which surfaced in the Washington Post this week.

Given this prosecutorial quickening, the scandal that still has no name should have commanded greater attention this week. Instead, interest in the Manafort story fell by the wayside as the vacationing president commenced jabbering the United States into 1) a possible nuclear war with North Korea and 2) a possible conventional one with Venezuela. How can one concentrate on a political scandal when a misplaced word at a New Jersey golf club might culminate in many of us choking to death on radwaste?

If you did steady your mind against visions of the apocalypse, the week’s development gave you a new understanding of where the Mueller investigation might be going. Prosecutors love to start low and work up the investigative ladder, flipping smaller suspects like Manafort to provide evidence and testimony that will convict the biggest perpetrators. Squeezing Manafort by scrutinizing his paper trail to nail President Donald Trump fits that model perfectly.

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In Secret Court Hearing, Lawyer Objected to FBI Sifting Through NSA Data Like It Was Google – Alex Emmons April 21 2017, 4:01 a.m.

In her first appearance representing the American public before the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2015, Amy Jeffress argued that the FBI is violating the Fourth Amendment by giving agents “virtually unrestricted” access to data from one of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs, which includes an untold amount of communications involving innocent Americans.

The NSA harvests data from major Internet companies like Facebook and from huge fiber optic backbones in the U.S. without a warrant, because it is ostensibly “targeting” only foreigners. But the surveillance program sweeps up a large number of Americans’ communications as well. Then vast amounts of data from the program, including the domestic communications, are entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer at the 2015 hearing described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.”

The FBI routinely searches this database during ordinary criminal investigations — which gives them to access to Americans’ communications without a warrant.

Jeffress, a former federal prosecutor now serving as an independent “friend of the court,” expressed frustration over the casualness with which the FBI is allowed to look through the data. “There need be no connection to foreign intelligence or national security, and that is the purpose of the collection,” she told Thomas Hogan, then the chief judge of the court. “So they’re overstepping, really, the purpose for which the information is collected.”

The ACLU obtained the hearing transcript and other legal documents related to the secret court proceedings under the Freedom of Information Act, and released themto the public on Friday.

The FISA Court has been widely criticized for its secrecy, its extreme tendency to defer to the government, and the fact that until recently it only heard the government’s side of the case. In 2015, Congress passed a law establishing the position of “amicus curiae” to represent the interests of the public and civil liberties, and Jeffress is one of five amici now serving.

Jeffress, who is now a partner at the law firm Arnold and Porter, declined an interview request, citing the sensitivity of the FISA Court’s proceedings.

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FBI obtained FISA warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page – By Ellen Nakashima, Devlin Barrett and Adam Entous April 11 at 7:11 PM

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.

The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.

This is the clearest evidence so far that the FBI had reason to believe during the 2016 presidential campaign that a Trump campaign adviser was in touch with Russian agents. Such contacts are now at the center of an investigation into whether the campaign coordinated with the Russian government to swing the election in Trump’s favor.

Page has not been accused of any crimes, and it is unclear whether the Justice Department might later seek charges against him or others in connection with Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The counterintelligence investigation into Russian efforts to influence U.S. elections began in July, officials have said. Most such investigations don’t result in criminal charges.

The officials spoke about the court order on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of a counterintelligence probe.

‘Bro, I’m Going Rogue’: The Wall Street Informant Who Double-Crossed the FBI – by Zeke Faux March 23, 2017, 2:00 AM PDT

‘Bro, I’m Going Rogue’: The Wall Street Informant Who Double-Crossed the FBI – Bloomberg
More stories by Zeke FauxMarch 23, 2017, 2:00 AM PDTOn the night he cut a deal with the FBI, Guy Gentile was on his way to a Connecticut casino for his cousin’s bachelor party. He’d jetted up from the Bahamas, where he was running an online stock brokerage that cleared a million dollars a year without much effort on his part. Then 36, he was a working-class kid who’d finagled his way into the dicier edges of finance, and he dressed the part, with neatly trimmed stubble, designer jeans, a silver Rolex, and sunglasses that hung from the collar of his tight T-shirt, just below a few tufts of chest hair.

Gentile was feeling edgy about traveling stateside. It was July 2012, and regulators had been making calls about a stock play he’d been involved with a few years earlier. He’d been part of a group that the FBI suspected had suckered investors out of more than $15 million by manipulating the market for shares in a Mexican gold mine and a natural gas project in Kentucky.

As Gentile’s plane landed in White Plains, N.Y., he saw the flashing lights of police cars on the tarmac, confirming his fears. Before passengers could disembark, uniformed men came on board. Gentile dialed his lawyer, but the men grabbed the phone out of his hands, handcuffed him, and marched him off the plane.

Soon, two FBI agents picked him up from an airport detention room and drove him to a neon-lit diner in Newark, N.J., near their office. They bought Gentile a bacon cheeseburger and a Diet Coke and told him he had two options: Either they could throw him in jail, seize his assets, and hand his case to a prosecutor with a 95 percent win rate, or he could help them catch a bigger fish—and maybe make his problems go away. Gentile didn’t need to think it over. Whatever you want, he said, I’ll do it.

Normally the identity of an FBI cooperator would be kept secret, but sometime last year, a website called Rogue Informant went live. It bore the tagline “They said he had ice flowing through his veins,” a picture of a man getting off a private jet, and no identifying information. A trader told me who was behind it.

When I called Gentile, it was as though he’d been waiting for me. He said he had an amazing story to tell, promising that it included celebrities and a government coverup. “Remember the movie American Hustle? It’s kind of like that, with way more dirt and twists and f—ed-up shit,” he said.

He told me that the information he’d gathered across three years had led to dozens of arrests and helped prevent hundreds of millions of dollars in potential fraud losses. That made sense, in a way. Most stock market scams are easy to spot but hard to prove—even promoters of the most dubious schemes can operate for years, taking advantage of legal loopholes, offshore hideouts, and anonymous shell corporations. Yet the Department of Justice often claims in its press releases that since fiscal 2009 it has “filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants.” Gentile offered a rare chance to see how the FBI is making these cases—even though, if his website is any indication, something went dramatically wrong.

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The story of the week is POTUS, Russia and the FBI. The rest is a distraction – Malcolm Nance Saturday 25 February 2017 12.51 EST



‘Any investigation involving Trump advisers and Russian intelligence is serious stuff. If born out, it has the potential to become the greatest political scandal in American history.’ Photograph: Dmitri Lovetsky/AP

Narrative switching. That is what the POTUS’ administration is desperately trying to do around Russia right now. The White House reportedly interfered with the FBI in the middle of an active investigation involving counter-intelligence. This was not only foolhardy but also suspicious, as it directly undermined their apparent objective: distracting us.

On 14 February, the New York Times reported that advisors and associates of Donald Trump may have been in direct and continuous contact with officers of the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, during a tumultuous election campaign in which the American democracy itself was hacked. A major party – now in opposition – was the victim of an unprecedented cyber attack.

According to the Times, intercepted telephone calls and phone records indicated to American counter-intelligence officers direct contact with the Russians.

The stakes are high. Most Democrats and more than a few Republicans believe this investigation could unearth details that could plunge the nation into a political and constitutional crisis not seen since the secession of the South in 1860 and 1861.

The Trump administration has repeatedly denied the characterization and defended the campaign’s conduct. However, its denials have always been couched in the most legalistic terms and each falls apart with every new revelation. It doesn’t help that Trump himself calls the allegations “fake news” then validates the reporting by attacking the leaks – suggesting that they are true.

Now, thanks to CNN, we learned on Thursday that Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus had reportedly contacted the deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, and requested that the bureau publicly characterize the Times story as not being serious – in McCabe’s reported words, “total BS”.

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The FBI Is Building A National Watchlist That Gives Companies Real Time Updates on Employees – Ava Kofman February 4 2017, 6:19 a.m.

The establishment that President Donald Trump railed against in his inaugural address will be well represented in his administration,

Source: The FBI Is Building A National Watchlist That Gives Companies Real Time Updates on Employees

FBI Says the Democratic Party Wouldn’t Let Agents See the Hacked Email Servers – Lily Hay Newman 01.05.17. 7:23 pm


James Comey: FBI has found no criminal wrongdoing in new Clinton emails – Alan Yuhas in San Francisco, Sabrina Siddiqui in Cleveland, Ben Jacobs in Sterling Heights, Michigan and Spencer Ackerman in New York Monday 7 November 2016 02.10 EST


Current Time 0:00 / Duration Time 0:34 Loaded: 0% Progress: 0% Mute Clinton campaign ‘glad that FBI email investigation has been resolved’

Clinton campaign ‘glad that FBI email investigation has been resolved’

The FBI has determined that a new batch of emails linked to Hillary Clinton’s private email server “have not changed our conclusion” that she committed no criminal wrongdoing, FBI director James Comey told congressional leaders in a letter on Sunday.

As campaigning continued ahead of Tuesday’s presidential election, a Clinton spokeswoman said the candidate was “glad this matter is resolved”.

The Democratic nominee’s opponent, Donald Trump, reacted with anger at the news, and cast doubt on whether the FBI had even carried out its work. “You can’t review 650,000 emails in eight days,” Donald Trump told a campaign rally in Sterling Heights, Michigan on Sunday evening.

On 28 October, only 11 days before the presidential election, Comey sent congressional leaders a letter informing them that agents had discovered emails “that appear pertinent” to a prior investigation, into Clinton’s use of a private server while she was secretary of state. It was later reported that as many as 650,000 such emails were in question.

The move, so close to an election, proved tremendously controversial. In July, Comey had announced that Clinton and her aides were “extremely careless” but that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring a case against them.

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The anti-Clinton insurgency at the FBI, explained – Updated by Yochi Dreazen Nov 5, 2016, 9:30am EDT


Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It’s come to this: The FBI, America’s premier law enforcement agency, just had to decide whether to investigate one of its own Twitter accounts to see if it had an anti-Hillary Clinton bias.

The account in question, @FBIRecordsVault, burst into the news earlier this week after abruptly posting records related to Bill Clinton’s last-minute — and deeply controversial — pardon of financier Marc Rich. An FBI official said in an interview that the bureau’s Office of Professional Responsibility referred the matter to its Inspection Division for a possible investigation into whether anyone in the FBI had intentionally released the documents to hurt Hillary Clinton.

The official said the bureau’s internal watchdog opted against opening a formal investigation. Still, the fact that such a decision even had to be made highlights the crisis engulfing the bureau in the days since FBI Director James Comey stunned observers inside and outside the bureau by notifying Congress just 11 days before the election that he was renewing the dormant probe into Clinton’s private email server.

Comey has since come under sustained criticism from law enforcement veterans and lawmakers from both parties who believe he broke with longstanding Justice Department policies by directly intruding into the presidential race — and potentially impacting its outcome.

“There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election,” George J. Terwilliger III, a deputy attorney general under President George Bush, told the New York Times. “Those guidelines exist for a reason. Sometimes, that makes for hard decisions. But bypassing them has consequences.”

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The Theory That the FBI Is Out to Get Clinton Is Becoming More Plausible – By Ben Mathis-Lilley NOV. 3 2016 4:10 PM

Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

When Democrats reacted to FBI director James Comey’s letter to Congress about the sort-of-reopened investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server by accusing Comey of trying to meddle in the election on behalf of the Republican Party, the accusation seemed far-fetched. Comey was, until last Friday, generally despised by Republicans for his earlier decision to recommend against prosecuting Clinton. But while there’s been of yet no evidence revealed that Comey himself has an axe to grind, a number of data points have emerged indicating the presence of a politically motivated anti-Clinton faction within the agency.

For one, leaks keep coming out of the FBI that are unflattering to Clinton. First there was the revelation that the Clinton emails the FBI is currently checking for classified info came from Anthony Weiner’s computer. (A good rule of thumb is that no political candidate wants his/her name anywhere near a headline that also involves the notorious A-Weens.) Then there was a story on Fox News (and a much more measured one in the Wall Street Journal) about the existence of an investigation into potential corruption at the Clinton Foundation. And the FBI also tweeted about a document release related to Bill Clinton’s controversial pardon of Marc Rich.

On a parallel track, there was a report today in the Guardian about FBI agents actively supporting Trump:

“The FBI is Trumpland,” said one current agent … The currently serving FBI agent said Clinton is “the antichrist personified to a large swath of FBI personnel,” and that “the reason why they’re leaking is they’re pro-Trump.”

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