James Comey is a smooth-talker whose poker face and Grandma style colloquisms bely a man who excels in the art of the sting and who will not be deterred in his mission. Comey might well be the oiliest snake in the pit, the penultimate control freak, causing both Democrat leaders and the GOP faithful to detest him. Wrapped in that disdain is an acknowledgement of his power. Continue reading
One of the more puzzling questions in this political universe of odd affairs has to do with what’s called the Steele Dossier and when US officials knew about its existence.
This packet of information from Christopher Steele, a former spy with Britain’s M16 agency, contains 35 pages of data gleaned from his Russian sources over a six month period extending from June through December 2016.
The dossier is the key to #RussiaGate and all that term encompasses. Its many allegations – some confirmed and others under investigation – trace a connection between Donald Trump and key players in his campaign and Russian actors. It records alleged attempts by the Russian state to deliberately harm the presidential bid of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to Steele’s sources, the black op was coordinated, paid and enacted by the Kremlin and Trump campaign staff. Continue reading
Sometimes, there’s just too much to encapsulate.
Let’s start with Friday 28 October when FBI Director James Comey gave us all a big nothing bite of a paragraph with the magic words “Hillary Clinton” and “email.” That was enough to rock the cool heads and send the hot ones into a frenzy.
Over the weekend, Comey’s nothingburger announcement morphed into a Halloween monster burger called The Comey and it is oozing with criminality.
The Democratic Coalition Against Trump was the first to level a charge. (I may be wrong but I don’t have the resources for infinite research.) It filed a complaint against the FBI Director with the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility for “interfering in the Presidential election.”
Comey’s megaphone, Jason Chaffetz, Republican House member from Utah, was likewise hit with an ethics complaint from the Coalition. That complaint was reinforced yesterday (31 October) when Richard Painter, the former Bush White House counsel, joined forces in a statement damning to both Comey and Chaffetz.
James Comey used his power as head of the FBI to attempt to influence a Presidential election. This is drastic violation of the Hatch Act that extends beyond party lines. When Comey was pressured by members of the United States House of Representatives to send a letter detailing the (sic) his investigation into Secretary Clinton’s emails, he should have known that the contents would be made public. The Members who released this letter placed partisan politics above the integrity of the FBI. We hope that investigations into Comey’s actions begin swiftly and are resolved with the same expediency.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Comey accusing him of a double standard in his Friday release. Reid warned the FBI chief that he may have violated the Hatch Act and demanded Comey immediately balance the brouhaha by telling the world about the agency’s investigation into Donald Trump and players in the Russian Federation.
That letter in itself is enough to leave many aghast. Lots of black-and-white and very little grey.
Reid’s charges included a sentence that has long been simmering in Democratic circles. The FBI, wrote the long-time Senator, has “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government.”
Now is a good time to pause and remind readers of a forecast from Rick Wilson.
I wrote about this yesterday in a post called “Oppo Bombs: When and What But Not If.” Wilson was tweeting about it too. He also said:
How might Wilson, who is in divorce proceedings from the GOP while courting independence (Evan McMullin), be in-the-know? Maybe because McMullin is ex-CIA, and as most people know, you’re never ex-CIA (just ask John Shindler).
So here we are, the first of November, and the story bombs are firing out of pens, pointing at a cast that includes Donald J. Trump, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, a Russian bankster and oligarch, and a fellow by the name of Vlad. But to be complete, let’s not overlook Tad Devine, Bernie’s senior advisor, former Manafort partner and the force behind the deposed Putin puppet in Ukraine. Because it all began a long time ago when the comic book club “inadvertently” stole the guts out of the DNC’s computer cache. Remember that?
Back to the present.
Last night, Mother Jones gave David Corn the go ahead to roll out his undocumented article that purportedly nails Trump for the tramp that many people call him. However, Corn claims The Donald is answering to Pimp Putin.
Corn, who has built a reputation for cutting edge journalism, cites “a former senior intelligence officer for a Western country who specialized in Russian counterintelligence” for his material. The magazine stands behind Corn by stating that it has viewed material from this anonymous source – material that was forwarded to Comey’s FBI.
Here’s the bombshell:
The first memo, based on the former intelligence officer’s conversations with Russian sources, noted, “Russian regime has been cultivating, supporting and assisting TRUMP for at least 5 years. Aim, endorsed by PUTIN, has been to encourage splits and divisions in western alliance.” It maintained that Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his Democratic and other political rivals.” It claimed that Russian intelligence had “compromised” Trump during his visits to Moscow and could “blackmail him.” It also reported that Russian intelligence had compiled a dossier on Hillary Clinton based on “bugged conversations she had on various visits to Russia and intercepted phone calls.”
Hot damn. If this has any connection to reality, we know Trump is indeed Putin’s puppet. But. No named sources. And a screaming headline worthy of The National Enquirer: “A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump.”
There are just too many premature conclusions, potential ramifications, and other qualifiers to fit into this blog post. However, if the Corn report is connected to fact then the Franklin Foer article in Slate certainly moves this scenario closer to reality.
Foer’s piece, “Was A Trump Server Communicating With Russia?” was also released on 31 October. Significantly, it does use named sources as well as a cyber expert who goes by the handle “Tea Leaves”. It charts an investigation into a single server in the Trump Tower that appeared to be communicating with a Russian billionaire who also runs Alfa Bank, that country’s largest private banking institution.
Foer’s sources investigated this connection for months, examining the DNS activity logs of the Trump server. Their conclusion was inconclusive. However the investigators suggested a “digital hotline” between the Trump and the bank servers. It concluded that this hotline was a secretive channel.
…the logs suggested that Trump and Alfa had configured something like a digital hotline connecting the two entities, shutting out the rest of the world, and designed to obscure its own existence.
Meanwhile, the Halloween horror story simmered down with a report from the New York Times. Once again, no named sources. Info comes from anonymous “FBI officials” who said “Nyet!” to the Russia-Trump connection.
At face value, the Times story downplays the allegations made by Corn and Foer. And yet, there are nuances. Its report gives a blow-by-blow of every possible way in which such foreign influence could be executed. Some people might read it in the same light as Yale’s “non-endorsement” of Hillary Clinton.
For example, “FBI officials” claim the computer logs showing pings between Alfa Bank and the Trump organization server are probably just “spam.”
Computer logs obtained by The New York Times show that two servers at Alfa Bank sent more than 2,700 “look-up” messages — a first step for one system’s computers to talk to another — to a Trump-connected server beginning in the spring. But the F.B.I. ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.
Nothing to worry about, folks. It’s just the largest Russian bank under Putin’s thumb spamming Donald Trump’s organization.
Perhaps these two former Facebook execs are hyping things as well.
Trick or Treat? Should voters take this gossip seriously or is it another nothingburger? Will Early Voting decide this election or will the ballots of 8 November be free of digital trickery from Russian “spam”?
Our POTUS says: Ride it out. Everything’s OK. Politics as usual.
There’s still a week to go. Will the October Surprise be dwarfed by a November to Remember?
So many questions.
|Qualifier: I stole the headline of this post from Julia Ioffe’s Twitter feed. It seems perfect.|