Thursday, May 2, 2019

Questions About The Russian Collusion Story

There are many unanswered questions about the Russia Collusion story, mostly for the investigators now that we know the Trump campaign was not coordinating its activities with the Russians and the Steele Dossier could not be verified. What is remarkable is how little we would have ever known about the pre-election investigation, the dossier, and even the Clinton email investigation, if Hillary Clinton had won the election. I’d like some answers. And they better get cracking! If it isn’t completely wrapped up by the summer of 2020 and Trump loses the election, this whole matter will disappear like it never happened.

For more background on the Russia Collusion story see my prior posts.

The questions are broken down into five categories;

The FBI Investigation (July 2016-May 2017)
Obama Administration Surveillance Programs 
Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian Interference (Jan. 2017)
Mueller Investigation (May 2017-March 2019
Clinton Email Investigation (2015-6)
The last is included as part of the Russia collusion story because many of the same players at the FBI and DOJ were involved in both, and without Clinton being cleared in that matter the 2016 election might have played out very differently.

The FBI and Intelligence Community Investigation 

Did the FBI and DOJ really begin their investigation of the Trump campaign and Russian collusion on July 31, 2016? Was there a preliminary investigation already under way? Was the CIA undertaking any relevant activity prior to that date? According to the Mueller Report it was information obtained from a friendly foreign government in late July 2016 regarding George Papadopolous’ (P) discussion in May 2016 regarding Russia having damaging emails regarding Hillary Clinton that initiated the investigation. The Mueller Report mentions no U.S. government activity prior to that date.

In April 2017 The Guardian (UK) reported that "British spies were first to spot Trump team's ties with Russia".   According to the article, the agencies became aware in the  fall of 2015  of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents.  It claims that several other western agencies developed similar information but " at no point" carried "out a targeted operation against Trump or his team or proactively seeking information".  What information was spotted by the British?  Was there any targeted operation against Trump by any western intelligence agency?  How and when was this information conveyed to the U.S.?

Who is Joseph Mifsud? Mifsud, a professor in London, approached P in March 2016 shortly after it was announced P was a Trump foreign policy advisor. In April, Mifsud told P the Russians had damaging emails regarding H Clinton. It is likely that some intelligence service became aware of this conversation leading to two Australians reaching out to meet with P the following month. If so, how did they become aware? Was Mifsud a Russian intelligence asset? Was he working for American or another Western intelligence service? Was he a freelancer trying to puff up his importance? Did the FBI really not learn about P’s information regarding Clinton until late July 2016?

According to the Mueller Report, when Mifsud was interviewed by the FBI on February 10, 2017 he denied telling P anything about the Clinton emails and even denied knowing anything about them at that time.  The Mueller Report does not characterize his response as false and he faced no criminal false statement charges.  Why?

Is it true that two military personnel at the U.S. Embassy in London (Terrance Dudley and George Baker) were with the Defense Intelligence Agency and reached out to P on May 6, 2016? If so, why?
How did P’s meeting with Australian Erika Thompson on May 6, 2016 come about? Was Thompson associated with Australian intelligence? Why did she introduce P to Alexander Downer? Although it is obscured by the language in the Mueller Report it appears it was at this meeting, and not the Downer meeting on May 10, that P mentioned the Clinton emails, though even this is unclear.

Did Australian diplomat Alexander Downer approach P on behalf of an intelligence service? At their May 10, 2016 meeting did P mention the Clinton emails?

P believes his conversation with Downer was recorded.  Does a recording exist of the conversations with Downer or Thompson?

How was Downer or Thompson's conversation with P described in the July 26 memo to the U.S. government which started the official investigation?

Why was Bill Priestap, senior FBI official and Peter Strozk’s boss, in London at the same time as P’s meetings with Thompson and Downer?

What, if any, connections did Felix Sater have with Russian, American or other friendly government intelligence services?  Is Sater the "Individual 2" referenced multiple times in the charging statement regarding Michael Cohen?  It was Sater who approached the Trump Organization in September 2015 on behalf of Russian investors about pursuing a Trump Tower project in Moscow.  There are conflicting reports on Sater's intelligence connections.  In 1998 Sater pled guilty to criminal charges filed by the United States and agreed to cooperate with the government.  The cooperation agreement is signed on behalf of the government by Andrew Weissman, who was Mueller's chief deputy in the Russian collusion investigation.

Under what circumstances did the Obama DOJ admit Natalia Veselnitskaya into the U.S.? Was she under surveillance while in the U.S.? Veselnitskaya, who met with Trump Jr and Kushner at the Trump Towers, was banned from the U.S. and needed special approval from DOJ to enter.

Was any government agency or individual aware of the Trump Towers meeting of June 2016 before it occurred?

Did, as has been widely reported, Glenn Simpson meet with Veselnitskaya on the same day as the Trump Towers meeting, both before and after the meeting? If so, what was the purpose of the meeting? Were Simpson and Fusion GPS retained by Veselnitskaya to lobby on behalf of a Putin connected oligarch?

What communications regarding the alleged Trump campaign/Russia connection did Glenn Simpson, Nellie Ohr, or anyone else associated with Fusion GPS have with DOJ or the FBI prior to the 2016 election? Nellie Ohr is the wife of senior DOJ official Bruce Ohr; a Russian expert, she was hired by Fusion GPS.

What is the accurate date on which Nellie Ohr obtained a ham radio license? Is there anything relevant about the date, or the use of the ham radio?

Did Stefan Halper reach out to P and Carter Page on behalf of an American intelligence service?  If so, was, as his first attempt to reach out to Page prior to July 31, 2016, as Page has asserted?

When did the Intelligence Community first become aware of any of the allegations contained in the Steele Dossier?

What occurred during the two meetings between Christopher Steele and Michael Gaeta of the FBI, the first in Rome in June 2016 and the second in London on July 5?

Was, as has been reported, Serge Millian a source for the dossier?  Did Millian approach Papadopolous in October 2016 as P has claimed?  If so, why?

What information, other than the Steele Dossier, was used to obtain the FISA warrant on Carter Page?

What did the FBI know about the source of funding for the Steele Dossier and when did it learn it?

What type of verification did the FBI and DOJ have regarding the allegations in the Steele Dossier at the time it applied for the FISA warrant, and upon each of the three subsequent applications for its renewal?

What was the role of current FBI GC Dana Boente in the approval of the Page FISA Warrants?

There are reports that the FISA Court denied three FISA applications related to the Russia investigation during 2016. Is this correct and, if so, on whom were they sought and why were they denied?

Why didn't the Obama Administration provide a defensive briefing to Candidate Trump in 2016?  Defensive briefings are designed to alert officials of potential intelligence breaches within their staffs.  For instance, when the intelligence community discovered that Sen Diane Feinstein's long-time staffer was also a long-time Chinese spy, she was privately briefed and the staffer dismissed.  Was the failure to do so based upon intelligence community suspicions that Trump was directly involved with Russia?  If so, what was the evidence that prompted this suspicion and how, and by whom, was the evidence evaluated?

On November 17, 2016 NSA Director Mike Rogers went to see President-elect Trump at Trump Towers, without informing DNI Clapper. On November 18 it was announced the Trump Transition Team was moving its operations from the Towers to New Jersey. Were these events connected? What was the substance of the Rogers discussion with Trump?

Who leaked to the media the contents of Michael Flynn’s call with Russian Ambassador Kislyak? This leak was of classified information and illegal.

Is it true that, at some point between January 6 and January 10, 2017, DCI Clapper leaked to the media that President-elect Trump had been briefed on the Steele Dossier, a leak which triggered widespread media reporting on the dossier?

Is it correct that the FBI agents who interviewed Michael Flynn believe he was not lying? Why was there a three week interval between their interview and their 302 memo? Were there any prior drafts of the memo? FBI agents do not record interviews, instead summarizing them later in what is called a 302 memo.

At their dinner meeting on January 26, 2017 why did Comey try to dissuade President Trump from asking the FBI to investigate the allegations made in the Steele Dossier?

Obama Administration Surveillance Programs

Were the FBI and NSA using access to the Section 702 database in order to illegally obtain information on domestic political opponents of the Obama Administration from 2012 until early 2016? If so, who were the contractors who had access to the information, who were the targets, and how was the information used? Several conservative publications have speculated, or even asserted, there was a linkage between the documented Section 702 abuses (85% of certain searches done improperly at NSA, and FBI contractors having improper access to data on Americans, as confirmed by a 2017 FISA Court ruling) and whether the purpose of at least some of the illegal data collection was for use against political opponents and also linked to the alleged widespread “unmasking” by Obama administration officials. To date, I have seen no credible documents establishing this linkage but it is important to find out the answers to these questions.

Did “unmasking” of communications regarding political opponents of the Obama Administration occur in 2016? Usually when confidential intelligence reports are circulated within the government, the identity of any U.S. citizens inadvertently picked up while surveillance of non-Americans was occurring would be redacted. It has been widely reported that in the last year of the Obama Administration there was a high volume of requests for unmasking the identity of Americans.

Was Samantha Power telling the truth when she said she did not make unmasking requests that are shown as being under her name in official records? If so, who did? According to documents, former UN Ambassador Power made more than 200 requests for unmasking but she denied making such requests in Congressional testimony.

What did Strozk’s August 2016 text stating “the White House is running this” refer to?

What was the purpose of President Obama’s January 2017 directive widening the scope of those who could see intelligence information?

Why did NSA Susan Rice write a memo to herself at 1215pm on January 20, 2017 regarding a Jan 5, 2017 meeting involving President Obama, Rice, and the Intelligence Community about the Russia investigation, the focus of which was to tell the IC to operate “by the book”?

In March 2017 then House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes stated that after reviewing intelligence reports:
1.) …”On numerous occasions the [Obama] intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition.”
2.) “Details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration; details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting.”
3.) “Third, I have confirmed that additional names of Trump transition members were unmasked.”
4.) “Fourth and finally, I want to be clear; none of this surveillance was related to Russia, or the investigation of Russian activities.
Are these assertions correct?

Intelligence Community Assessment on Russian Interference (January 2017)

Did President Obama’s desire to obtain Russian support for the Iran nuclear deal and his Syrian policy affect his reaction, or lack thereof, to Russian efforts to influence Americans, efforts reported publicly in a lengthy article in the New York Times in June 2015?

The January 2017 Intelligence Assessment states that at a specific point the Russians switched supporting Trump to damaging the anticipated Clinton presidency. When did that occur and why did they make that assessment?

Why was the FBI and CIA conclusion made with high confidence while the NSA with only moderate confidence?

In selecting the analysts for the assessment was the normal process followed? There are reports DNI Clapper did not follow the normal process.

The January 2017 Intelligence Assessment states that Russia’s 2016 effort to impact the election was a continuation of a pattern from the Soviet Union and since the establishment of Russia in 1991. What are the details of those earlier efforts? What evidence does the FBI, CIA, and NSA have regarding Russian attempts to influence the 2008 and 2012 elections?

The Mueller Investigation 

What did Andrew Weissman know about the source of funding for the Steele Dossier and when did he learn it? It has been reported that Weissman was part of a DOJ briefing on the dossier in the fall of 2016, months before Mueller was appointed Special Counsel.

Same question for Robert Mueller about what he knew about the dossier and when.

The day before Rosenstein announced he was appointing Special Counsel and that it would be Mueller, he brought Mueller to the White House to meet with Trump. Is it true that the President was told Mueller was a potential candidate as FBI Director? If so, was the President told that Congress would have to pass special legislation to allow the appointment? Was there any discussion of Russia or the Comey firing at the meeting? When did Rosenstein decide to appoint Special Counsel and decide it would be Mueller? Did Rosenstein and Mueller have any discussions, directly or indirectly, regarding that decision prior to the meeting with the President? Is it true that, as described in McCabe’s recent book, Mueller left his cell phone in the President’s office and had to return later to retrieve it? If so, did the device record anything while it was left in the office?

Did Rosenstein ever consider recusing himself from the investigation since he was a potential fact witness in any obstruction case involving the President?

Why did Rosenstein not consider Mueller’s long and close relationship with Comey as grounds for not appointing him as Special Counsel?

Why did Mueller appoint Weissman as his chief deputy in light of his Democratic partisanship and ethical record in such a politically charged investigation?

What efforts were made to try to validate the Steele Dossier?

Why did the Mueller Report not directly address the accuracy of the allegations in the Steele Dossier or even mention it in Volume I of its report? Did Mueller conclude that the dossier was not relevant to Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election?

What did Peter Strozk mean in his May 2017 text to Lisa Page, regarding whether he should take Mueller’s offer of a job, when he wrote, “there’s no big there there”?

Was James Comey interviewed by the Mueller investigation? If so, was the interview recorded and/or transcribed?

Same questions regarding Stefan Halper, Christopher Steeler (and his contractors), Glenn Simpson, Peter Strozek, Andrew McCabe, Carter Page, Brennan, Clapper, FBI GC Baker, Nellie and Bruce Ohr.

An inquiry into every document requested from DOJ, the FBI, or the Special Counsel since January 20, 2017 until the submission of the Special Counsel report to include when the request was made; when it was fully responded to, if it was partially responded to what was omitted, what was the legal basis for any failure to fully respond, and who was responsible for making such determination.
Did anyone on the Mueller team tip off CNN regarding the raid on Roger Stone’s house?

Why did Mueller not seek a renewal of the FISA Warrant on Carter Page when it expired in September 2017?

Did Mueller seek other FISA warrants during his investigation? If so, on whom, and were they approved or denied?

Clinton Email Investigation

After President Obama stated on national TV that Hillary Clinton had not committed a crime, did DOJ consider appointing a Special Counsel to conduct the investigation? Did any DOJ or FBI official make, or discuss, such a recommendation, or the appropriateness of the President’s remarks regarding an ongoing investigation?

Did DOJ ever consider bringing charges against Hillary Clinton or anyone associated with her for the destruction of emails?

Why were potential fact witnesses like Cheryl Mills allowed to sit in on interviews of other fact witnesses?

Why were the four references to Hillary Clinton’s “grossly negligent” handling of emails in Director Comey’s draft of his statement on the conclusion of the email investigation deleted in the final version and why was the phrase “extremely careless” substituted for “grossly negligent”? Did Comey receive any instructions or guidance from DOJ that “grossly negligent” was not sufficient to justify charges?

Why, if the statute under which Clinton was being investigated did not require intent in order to violate, did Comey interpret it as requiring intent? Did he receive any guidance from DOJ in support of that conclusion?

Is it correct, as reported, that when AG Lynch announced she would not make the decision on the Clinton investigation she already knew Comey would not recommend charges?

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