Donald Trump’s new “fixer,” Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr, has been globetrotting around the world in his personal review of the origins of the intelligence communities’ investigation into the the Trump campaign in 2016. This is in addition to John H. Durham, the federal prosecutor whom Barr assigned to review the origins of the Russia investigation. And Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s review of the handling of the Russia investigation.
Some recent headlines you may have missed while the media is fixated on the impeachment hearings indicates that the next “scandal” is about to drop in the middle of the impeachment hearings.
The Washington Post recently reported, Justice Dept. trying to finish report on Russia probe before Thanksgiving:
Justice Department officials are trying to release in the coming weeks a potentially explosive inspector general report about the FBI’s investigation into President Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to multiple people familiar with the effort.
One person involved in the discussions said the target date for the report’s release has been Nov. 20, but another indicated that the Justice Department is unlikely to deliver it by then and that it is more likely to come after Thanksgiving because of the complicated and contentious mix of legal, classification and political issues at play.
The report’s findings will mark a major public test of Attorney General William P. Barr’s credibility, given his past suggestions of significant problems with the investigative decisions made by former FBI leaders involved in the case.
The findings by Inspector General Michael Horowitz also will set the stage for the separate but related investigation led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who is investigating how U.S. intelligence agencies pursued allegations that Russian agents might have conspired with Trump associates during the 2016 campaign. Officials have recently said that investigation is pursuing potential crimes.
Barr has spent weeks working on the declassification decisions, as Horowitz scrutinized large volumes of classified information to assess how the FBI launched and pursued the investigation and related cases, people familiar with the matter said. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report is not yet public.
Remember that Trump gave Barr carte blanche to declassify classified information earlier this year.
The Post followed up with this report, Justice Dept. inspector general invites witnesses to review draft of Russia report, signaling public release is close:
The Justice Department inspector general has begun scheduling witnesses to review draft sections of his report on the FBI’s investigation of President Trump’s 2016 campaign — the clearest indication yet that the long-awaited document will soon be released publicly, people familiar with the matter said.
Several witnesses have been scheduled or are in talks to review sections of the report dealing with their testimony in the next two weeks, the people said on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. That could mean public release is imminent, though the witnesses will be allowed to submit feedback — which could spark more investigative work and slow down the process.
* * *
The Associated Press first reported witnesses were being asked to review draft sections of the report.
Inspector General Michael Horowitz has been meticulously examining various aspects of the FBI’s probe, with a keen eye on the FBI and Justice Department’s applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. It is unclear precisely what Horowitz has found.
Conservatives hope the report will give them ammunition to argue the FBI was corrupt in its pursuit of Trump and his alleged ties to Russia, and Republican lawmakers have been pressing the Justice Department to make the report public next week.
Politico reports today, Barr says watchdog report on Russia probe’s origins is ‘imminent’:
Attorney General William Barr confirmed on Wednesday that an internal watchdog’s report on the origins of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia during the 2016 election is “imminent.”
The highly anticipated report, led by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, seeks to establish whether the bureau violated laws and policies that govern the surveillance of American citizens.
“It’s been reported and it’s my understanding that it is imminent,” Barr said at a news conference in Memphis, Tennessee. “A number of people who were mentioned in the report are having an opportunity right now to comment on how they were quoted in the report, and after that process is over which is very short, the report will be issued. That’s what the inspector general himself suggests.”
* * *
Horowitz had previously indicated, in an Oct. 24 letter to Congress, that he was in the process of finalizing his report. He said he had turned over a draft of his findings to the Justice Department and the FBI for a classification review.
“The goal from my standpoint is to make as much of our report public as possible,” Horowitz wrote. “I anticipate that the final report will be released publicly with few redactions.”
Barr has said little about Horowitz’s report, but in a May interview with CBS News, he described the inspector general’s inquiry as limited in scope. “He’s looking at a discrete area that is- that is you know, important, which is the use of electronic surveillance that was targeted at Carter Page,” Barr said, referring to the unpaid Trump campaign adviser whose meetings with Russian officials drew FBI scrutiny during the 2016 campaign.
* * *
Horowitz’s report is wrapping up while a broader investigation into the Russia probe, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, remains ongoing. Former top CIA officials, including John Brennan, have said they expected to be interviewed and pledged to cooperate.
Barr has said he had instructed Durham to determine whether there was an “adequate predicate” for the Russia probe, which resulted in a special counsel’s report that ultimately did not establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow.
Durham’s probe recently became a criminal inquiry, though it’s not clear precisely when or whether Horowitz has made any criminal referrals arising from his work on the FISA issue.
Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman at Politico warned what this investigation is really all about: Trump’s quest for vengeance against John Brennan:
President Donald Trump’s obsession with former CIA director John Brennan could be on a collision course with an ongoing Justice Department probe as Attorney General Bill Barr takes a more hands-on approach to examining the intelligence community’s actions in 2016.
Barr has been meeting with the U.S.’ closest foreign intelligence allies in recent months, making repeated overseas trips as part of an investigation he is overseeing into the origins of the Russia probe and whether any inappropriate “spying” occurred on Trump’s campaign.
As part of that investigation, Barr and John Durham, the federal prosecutor he appointed to conduct it, have been probing a conspiracy theory for which there is little if any evidence, according to several people with knowledge of the matter: that a key player in the Russia probe, a professor named Joseph Mifsud, was actually a Western intelligence asset sent to discredit the Trump campaign — and that the CIA, under Brennan, was somehow involved.
The New York Times reported, Italy Did Not Fuel U.S. Suspicion of Russian Meddling, Prime Minister Says:
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy said his country’s intelligence services had informed the American attorney general, William P. Barr, that they played no role in the events leading to the Russia investigation, taking the air out of an unsubstantiated theory promoted by President Trump and his allies in recent weeks.
“Our intelligence is completely unrelated to the so-called Russiagate and that has been made clear,” Mr. Conte said in a news conference in Rome on Wednesday evening after spending hours describing Italy’s discussions with Mr. Barr to the parliamentary committee on intelligence.
Mr. Conte publicly acknowledged for the first time that Mr. Barr had twice met with the leaders of Italy’s intelligence agencies after asking them to clarify their role in a 2016 meeting between a Maltese professor and a Trump campaign adviser on a small college campus in Rome, Link Campus University.
Trump, meanwhile, has become “obsessed” with Brennan, who frequently gets under the president’s skin by publicly questioning his mental acuity and fitness for office, according to a former White House official. On Brennan, “it was always, ‘he’s an idiot, he’s a crook, we ought to investigate him,’” this person said, characterizing Trump’s outbursts.
Since the beginning of his presidency, Trump has also repeatedly attacked Brennan publicly, tweeting about the former CIA director more than two dozen times. He’s questioned Brennan’s mental acuity and called him a liar, a leaker and blamed him for having “detailed knowledge of the (phony) Dossier,” a reference to the raw intelligence reports on Trump’s alleged Russia ties by British former MI-6 officer Christopher Steele. He also tried to unilaterally strip Brennan of his security clearance — a process the White House reportedly never went through with — and urged the House to call him in for questioning.
The emerging focus of the Barr-Durham investigation — the CIA and intelligence community’s work with the FBI on the Russia probe — emphasizes the increasingly blurred lines between politics and law enforcement in the Trump era. In May, Trump gave Barr unprecedented authority to review the intelligence community’s “surveillance activities” during the 2016 election, issuing a sweeping declassification order that granted Barr “unprecedented” powers over the nation’s secrets, former officials said.
It was a break with protocol that Trump’s allies see as a necessary check on the so-called “deep state” but that critics have lambasted as an attempt to create the impression of scandal—especially given Barr’s comments earlier this year hinting at a predisposed belief that inappropriate “spying” occurred in 2016 and that the Steele dossier may have been Russian disinformation.
Barr’s evidently close involvement with the Durham probe is in keeping with his reputation as a micromanager—and a fierce advocate of presidential prerogatives. As attorney general during the George H.W. Bush administration, he described later for an oral history interview, he comes across as a seasoned, bare-knuckled bureaucratic brawler who closely coordinated his actions with the White House counsel’s office.
Durham’s report is likely to land well after the results of an inquiry by the Justice Department’s Inspector General, who is examining the FBI’s applications to a secret court in 2016 and 2017 to obtain surveillance warrants on a Trump campaign aide. Trump-friendly commentators have been raising expectations about the IG report, predicting that it will show the FBI purposefully misled the court to surveil Trump’s campaign, and have expressed frustration in recent days over its delayed release.
But former FBI officials on the receiving end of that probe say the president’s allies are setting themselves up for disappointment.
“Is the IG report going to say we made mistakes? Yes,” said one of the former officials. “But it won’t say we did so for some nefarious purpose. So the report will be a dry hole for Trump and his supporters. Which is why [Barr and Durham] have now gone to this other theory, positing that the CIA was engaged in some rogue operation to overthrow Trump and therefore feeding the FBI bullshit,” he said. “It’s complete nonsense.”
“Haven’t you heard?” said another former FBI official, sarcastically. “Brennan was a puppet-master and we were just his puppets.”
* * *
The FBI launched its counterintelligence probe after learning that a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, was offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from a Russian proxy — Mifsud — and had told an Australian diplomat about it. Australian officials tipped off their American counterparts to Papadopoulos’s admission, though it’s still unclear who was initially tipped off, and that’s reportedly a subject of Barr’s investigation. The bureau then flew former FBI agent Peter Strzok over to London to interview Alexander Downer and an associate about his interactions with Papadopoulos.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his relationship with Mifsud, but he has since claimed, without evidence, that the professor was actually an intelligence plant sent by the CIA to entrap him and give the FBI an excuse to open an investigation.
This is part of the “deep state” conspiracy theory of a “coup” against Trump.
UPDATE: Joseph Mifsud went to ground days after his identity as the unnamed “overseas professor” at the center of the Trump–Russia probe was revealed — and his whereabouts have been unknown ever since. But Buzzfeed News reports today, An Italian Newspaper Has Published An Audio Recording From Someone Claiming To Be Joseph Mifsud:
An Italian newspaper has received an audio recording from someone who claims to be Joseph Mifsud, the Maltese professor who allegedly delivered word of Hillary Clinton’s stolen emails to Donald Trump’s campaign.
Corriere della Sera said it received the recording through an anonymous email account late on Tuesday night.
“Today is the 11th of November 2019. I am Joseph Mifsud, speaking, this is my voice,” the audio begins.
He categorically denies any wrongdoing or links with intelligence services.
“I have been a networker all my life. This is what I am good at. I try to bring one group in contact with another.” He goes on to say that none of his contacts were with any “secret service” or “intelligence service.” He adds that if he had made contact with people in such agencies, he would not have known. “So this is extremely important,” the man says.
Initial analysis by Bellingcat suggests that the voice in the recording is likely to belong to Mifsud. The record includes mispronunciations that match publicly available audio of the Maltese professor, and these would be hard to achieve for someone trying to imitate his voice.
BuzzFeed News also spoke to Mifsud’s former girlfriend and shared a link to the audio with her. She said she was certain that the voice in the recording published by Corriere della Sera belonged to the Maltese academic.
Mifsud concludes: “It is extremely important that I am given the possibility of coming back to life. It has been very very difficult for me to live like this without any human contact, without a human experience. I believe I should be given the opportunity to do that. It is extremely important that somebody somewhere decides to let me breathe again.”
There is no indication in the recording of Mifsud’s current whereabouts, nor is an explanation provided for the timing of the release.
Mifsud remains one of the mysteries of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election. He has been described as “a Russian agent” by former FBI director James Comey. And in recent weeks he has become the central character of an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory after Attorney General Bill Barr began reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation.
Some of Trump’s allies and right-wing media outlets have laundered the unfounded theory that the Maltese professor is a Western intelligence asset who was used to entrap the Trump campaign. Barr was in Italy earlier this year to meet with Italian intelligence agencies to ask about the fate of the missing professor, adding further fuel to the theory.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte categorically said last month that Italy had nothing to do with the Trump probe.
Brennan allies and skeptics of the Durham investigation note that the CIA played no role in the probe involving Americans, and was narrowly focused on determining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations and how the Kremlin was carrying out its election attack in 2016.
“The CIA was focused on Russia’s interference in the election and the role that Russian officials played,” said Nick Shapiro, who served as Brennan’s chief of staff at the CIA and is now his spokesman. “In our government, the FBI is who conducts counterintelligence investigations on U.S. citizens. What Barr and Trump are reportedly up to not only doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but it is yet another dangerous abuse of power, something that seems to now happen on a daily basis in this administration.”
“Any investigation into John Brennan by this corrupt administration must — on its face — be viewed with a minimum with maximum skepticism,” said former CIA spokesman George Little. “The intelligence community deserves the respect of the president and his Cabinet, not politically motivated investigations.”
A source close to the White House said the president has been “warned repeatedly by smart legal minds around him to stay out of” the investigation. But he also claimed that “a big chunk of the Barr-Durham investigation” is believed to involve “top Obama administration officials, including Brennan.”
Another person close to the president said that Brennan is a “topic of conversation” in the White House. He said he didn’t know for sure whether Trump told Barr to focus on Brennan, but “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
* * *
Brennan has in the past called Durham a “very well-respected individual.” But he largely wrote off the ongoing Durham-Barr probe in an interview earlier this month. “I’m supposedly going to be interviewed by Mr. Durham as part of this non-investigation,” Brennan said on MSNBC. “I don’t understand the predication of this worldwide effort to try to uncover dirt” on the 2016 Russia probe.
One former White House official acknowledged that Brennan’s rhetoric has made him a target. Trump “is hyper-sensitive about any type of criticism of any kind, he’s always got to be the smartest guy, he’s always got to know more than everybody else,” he said.
* * *
What little Barr has said about the Durham probe is directly at odds with Brennan’s language. “How did the bogus narrative begin that Trump was essentially in cahoots with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election?” he said in July, describing one of the questions he hoped to answer.
As with the IG report, Trump’s allies have been raising expectations for the Durham investigation for months, predicting that he will uncover a deep state plot to stage a “coup” against the president. Durham and Barr have been focusing primarily on the intelligence community—reportedly seeking interviews with the CIA analysts who drew conclusions about Putin’s motivations in 2016—and have not requested interviews with any of the senior FBI or DOJ employees who were directly involved in the opening of the Russia investigation in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.
Barr has also been fixated on the question of how the intelligence community determined that Russia intervened specifically to help Trump win rather than to just sow chaos and distrust in the Democratic process, according to the New York Times. But as POLITICO first reported, that question has already been asked and answered at the CIA’s highest levels — by Mike Pompeo, a Trump loyalist.
Just after Pompeo took over as CIA director in 2017, he conducted a personal review of the CIA’s findings, grilling analysts on their conclusions in a challenging and at times combative interview, people familiar with the matter said. He ultimately found no evidence of any wrongdoing, or that the analysts had been under political pressure to produce their findings.
The intelligence community also released a joint assessment in January 2017 concluding that Putin directed a wide-ranging interference campaign aimed at harming Clinton’s candidacy, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report detailed dozens of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians in 2016.
Trump has refused to accept the intelligence community’s conclusions, however, instead pointing the finger at Ukraine, the Obama administration, and the private cybersecurity firm [Crowdstrike] that confirmed the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee.
Republicans reject the unanimous conclusion of the report by the U.S. intelligence community in January of 2017 which concluded that Russian operatives reporting to Putin interfered in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump. They also reject the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report in July 2019 which confirmed and expanded upon the intelligence community report. Senate Intelligence report on Russian meddling sounds alarm for 2020. And Republicans, of course, reject the Mueller Report, in which the Special Counsel filed indictments against specified Russian intelligence agents and the Russian troll farm, Internet Research Agency. Mueller also found the Russians sought to aid Donald Trump.
Instead, Republicans, including our corrupt Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr, are chasing unfounded conspiracy theories down rabbit holes in an effort to show that “Paul Manafort was framed!” “The Russians were innocent!” “It was Ukraine and Democrats who hacked themselves and attacked Hillary Clinton!” “The ‘deep state’ intelligence community set up Donald Trump to finger him for it!”
This is exactly what Vladimir Putin and the Russian intelligence agencies would want you to believe, and the Republicans are carrying Vlad’s water for him. These “useful idiots” are doing the Russian intelligence agencies’s work for them.