Updated at 4:34pm EST:
- Halfway into the article read about possible investigations into Senator Bernie Sanders possible influence by foreign nationals (scroll down)
- Towards the bottom of the article, read about the information leaked by the late Senator John McCain that lead to the entire investigation being launched in the first place.
Washington D.C. has been on edge all weekend long – along with many Americans – awaiting the release of the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s completed Russia probe.
Today, Attorney General William Barr dropped a four-page letter to Capitol Hill lawmakers with the “principal conclusions”.
The letter definitely stated that Mueller did NOT find evidence that President Trump’s team or any associates of the Trump campaign had conspired with Russia — “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
Mueller’s team specifically dove into two Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election.
The first was the work by a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency (IRA). That effort was to “conduct disinformation and social media operations” designed to “sow discord” in the U.S.”
Barr’s letter stated:
“The special counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its effort” to interfere with the 2016 presidential election in that manner.”
Second, Mueller’s team investigated whether the Trump team was involved in the hacking of emails. Many of those emails were released publicly and belonged to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“The Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated” with Russians who worked on those hacking efforts, according to Barr’s letter, “despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.”
As far as “obstruction of justice”, Mueller’s report didn’t reach a conclusion and left that decision to Barr and officials at the Department of Justice to determine.
With that said, Mueller “recognized,” according to Barr’s letter, that the lack of evidence that Trump was involved in collusion would undercut any obstruction case. That case, he said, would depend on showing a corrupt intent by the president.
“The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion – one way or the other – as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction,” according to Barr’s letter. “Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as ‘difficult issues’ of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction.”
Here’s how Barr’s letter concluded:
“After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues… Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
“Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president,” Barr stated.
“The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does no exonerate him.'”
It’s a nearly complete vindication for President Donald Trump, who has tweeted more than 230 times that he and his team did NOT collude with Russians.
Barr said he was satisfied that Mueller’s team had “thoroughly” investigated allegations that Trump’s team sought to conspire with Russians or obstruct investigators.
It was not for lack of effort. Mueller had employed 19 laywers and 40 FBI agents. He executed 10 pen registers, hundreds of search warrants and interviewed some 500 witnesses… to the tune of millions of dollars in taxpayer money and the demands of Democrats. The investigation, which took 22-months and ensnared six former Trump advisors and associates, resulted in no indictments related to collusion with Russia.
Democrats on Sunday didn’t care. They vowed to press on with other investigations. Both parties are pushing for the public release of as much of the Mueller report as possible.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He said Sunday he doesn’t care. He believes there’s “significant evidence of collusion” linking the Russian government with President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and said Democrats will probably subpoena Mueller if the full report isn’t released.
House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., also doubled down today:
“So we know a lot of things and maybe it’s not indictable, but we know there was collusion. The question is the degree.”
On Saturday, a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee conceded that the release of Mueller’s conclusions will most likely lead to a huge celebration of Trump’s supporters, who have stood by the President for more than two years despite unceasing and unproven allegations that his campaign worked with Russia.
“It’s the end of the beginning but it’s not the beginning of the end,” Delaware Sen. Chris Coons said. But he said it’s time to dive into other probes of Trump’s financial dealings.
“Once we get the principal conclusions of the report,” he added later, “I think it’s entirely possible that that will be a good day for the president and his core supporters.”
He said it’s now up to Congress.
“The job of Congress is much broader than the job of the special counsel,” Nadler said. “The special counsel is looking and can only look for crimes. We have to protect the rule of law, we have to look for abuses of power, we have to look for obstructions of justice, we have to look for corruption in the exercise of power which may not be crimes.”
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga., said good luck in uncovering things that Mueller couldn’t.
“As we’ve seen in the first two months of this Congress, [Democrats] really don’t have a policy agenda,” Collins said. “They have an agenda against the President. They have an agenda to try and win 2020. And so, what we’re seeing is, they think that they can go into the Judiciary Committee or any other committee and have a limited budget, limited subpoena power, limited staff and go up against an investigation that lasted 22 months, had unlimited power, unlimited subpoena power, had plenty of investigators — and they think they can find something more than what they did, then I think they’re sadly mistaken.”
Who Should Really Be Investigated? Clinton? Sanders? Democrats?
In the meantime, many conservatives are arguing that it’s Democrats who now need to come under increased scrutiny for their contacts with foreign nationals.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) were the ones who hired the firm Fusion GPS, which employed Britsh ex-spy Christopher Steele. He’s the guy who produced an anti-Trump dossier that the FBI used to justify surveillance on a top Trump aide. And that’s what kickstarted the Russia probe, despite the fact that the DOJ had raised “repeated” concerns that Steele, who was widely known for being anti-Trump, was politically biased.
Then there’s Bernie Sanders, who might himself be under investigation for “collusion” with foreign nationals – despite saying President Trump has been.
This week, Bernie Sanders was hit with a complaint that claims his presidential campaign violated federal election laws by employing non-Americans in advisory positions.
The complaint was filed by the Coolidge Reagan Foundation with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
It noted that three members of the Sanders campaign are foreign nationals, and that’s a clear violation of federal election laws that prohibit foreign interference.
Among those staffers named in the complaint was Maria Belén Sisa, Sanders’ deputy national press secretary who joined the campaign last month.
Sisa says she’s an illegal immigrant whose residency is protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is an Obama-era program for assisting illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children.
You may recall hearing about Sisa in the news recently. This, after she invoked an anti-Semitic “dual allegiance” trope of Jewish Americans while defending Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and questioning whether American Jews, including Sanders, were loyal to the United States.
According to the complaint, Sisa didn’t just receive a salary from Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, she also donated to it and is now serving in “an advisory position” in the 2020 campaign. According to the complaint, these are all “direct and serious violations” of federal election laws.
“Senator Sanders and Bernie 2020 is permitting a foreign national, Ms. Sisa, to serve in an advisory position which allows her to directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process of persons with regard to election-related activities in violation of FEC regulations,” the complaint reads.
“Senator Sanders and Bernie 2020 is permitting a foreign national, Ms. Sisa, to serve in an advisory position which allows her to directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process of persons with regard to election-related activities in violation of FEC regulations.”
FEC rules are very clear that foreign nationals, who aren’t lawfully admitted permanent residents, cannot directly or indirectly participate in political campaigns. They also aren’t allowed to make political contibutions.
Two other foreign nationals on the Sanders’ 2016 campaign are also named in the complaint. They are immigration activists Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas, who worked as the campaign’s national Latino outreach strategist and press secretary for Latino outreach.
The complaint goes on to state:
“Due to the high profile of Cesar Vargas, Erika Andiola, and Maria Belén Sisa as leading activists in the undocumented community, there is reason to believe that respondents are ‘foreign nationals’ within the meaning of 52 U.S.C. § 301219b)(2), and in violation of 11 C.F.R. § 110.20 (i) and A.O. 2004-26, directly or indirectly participated in the decision-making process of persons with regard to the election-related activities of Bernie 2016.”
“There is reason to believe, having previously employed Ms. Sisa, that Bernie 2020 is currently, and knowingly, permitting a ‘foreign national’ … to directly or indirectly participate in the decision-making process of persons with regard to the election-related activities of Bernie 2020.”
The complaint asks the FEC to investigate both the 2016 and the current presidential campaigns and take action to curb the violations.
“The Commission should determine and impose appropriate sanctions for any and all violations,” the complaint read. “Further, the Commission should enjoin respondents from any future violations and impose any necessary and appropriate remedies to ensure respondents’ future compliance with the Federal Election Campaign Act.”
Last February, Sanders was mum on revelations that Russian actors tried to boost his presidential primary campaign to sink Hillary Clinton in 2016. Instead of addressing the accusations, he put out a statement blaming President Trump:
“It has been clear to everyone (except Donald Trump) that Russia was deeply involved in the 2016 elections and intends to be involved in the 2018 elections. It is the American people who should be deciding the political future of our country, not Mr. Putin and the Russian oligarchs,” Sanders said. “It is absolutely imperative that the Mueller investigation be allowed to go forward without obstruction from the Trump administration or Congress.”
His statement came shortly after Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities for helping the Kremlin interfere in the last presidential election starting as early as 2014.
That indictment revealed at the efforts included “operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”
Russian “specialists were instructed to post content that focused on ‘politics in the USA’ and to ‘use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them.),’” the indictment continued.
The indictment said the message was sent around February 10, 2016, the day after both Sanders and Trump won their respective parties’ all-important New Hampshire primary contest.
Clinton and her spokesman didn’t comment on the indictments.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez did.
“This indictment gives us a chilling look at just how sophisticated, well-funded and wide-ranging this attack on democracy really was. It should send chills up the spine of every American.”
Documents Were Leaked By Sen. John McCain That Started Investigation
And earlier this month, new court documents were unveiled showing the role that McCain and an associate played in unleashing an unverified dossier during the election.
The document was shared with the FBI and a host of media outlets, and it alleged that the Russians had compromising information on now-President Trump
The document was leaked to BuzzFeed, which published shortly after it was received. McCain acknowledged giving it to the FBI but denied giving it to BuzzFeed.
Here’s the thing about that dossier. It was actually funded by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It’s the same document that was then used to begin the “collusion” investigation. No conflict of interest there, right?
Former senior counterintelligence FBI agent Bill Priestap confirmed that the FBI received a copy of the first 33 pages of the dossier in December 2016 from McCain. That information was just released in a newly unsealed declaration from September.
In another unsealed document, it was shown that David Kramer, who was a former State Department official and McCain associate, said in a December 13, 2017 deposition that the dossier was given to him by author and former British spy Christopher Steele. He said he then provided it to more than a dozen journalists at outlets that include BuzzFeed, The Washington Post and CNN. The details were first unveiled in The Daily Caller.
That report was also shared with State Department official Victoria Nuland, Obama National Security Council official Celeste Wallander and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois.
All of these filings were unsealed as part of what’s an ongoing libel case by a Russian businessman against BuzzFeed.
Kramer said in his deposition that McCain gave a copy of the dossier to then-FBI Director James Comey on December 9 , 2017. Interestingly he admitted to investigators that it was the belief from Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson that “having Senator McCain provide it to the FBI would give it a little more oomph than it had had up until that point.”
“I think they felt a senior Republican was better to be the recipient of this rather than a Democrat because if it were a Democrat, I think that the view was that it would have been dismissed as a political attack,” he said.
In his deposition, he described how BuzzFeed News reporter Ken Bensinger got the dossier before the outlet became the first to publish it in its entirety.
Kramer said that in December of 2017, he showed Bensinger the dossier at the McCain Institute but didn’t allow him to take pictures of it. But then he left him alone to read the memos. Surprise, surprise… during that time, Bensinger took pictures of the dossier.
Kramer claims he panicked when he saw that BuzzFeed News had published the document in its entirety online on Jan. 10. He claims he immediately tried to have it taken down.
“I called Mr. Bensinger, and my first words out of my mouth were ‘you are gonna get people killed,’” he said.
That document is the very one that the FBI relied on in its warrant applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court in seeking to surveil Trump aide Carter Page.
This, despite the fact some of the dossier’s claims have been called into question, including a claim that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen traveled to Prague to pay off Russian hackers and other more salacious claims about Trump himself.
Just to summarize:
- DNC and Clinton campaign hire company to create fake dossier on now-President Trump.
- Dossier given to McCain and team to make it seem legit.
- McCain and team give it to the FBI and leak it to the media.
- FBI uses fake, DNC and Clinton-contracted document to get warrant applications to surveil Trump campaign.
- Dossier proven to be bogus.
- Mueller report shows no collusion.
- Democrats vow to fight on because… Trump.