BREAKING: Trump To Continue Love-Hate Relationship With FBI’s Comey

Donald Trump has had a love-hate relationship with FBI Director James Comey. The new president alternately criticized and praised the chief of the FBI during the campaign and post-election Russian hacking scandal, but now it seems that all is forgiven. Numerous sources are reporting that President Trump plans to keep Director Comey on the job in the new administration.

Back in July, after the FBI declined to recommend an indictment for Hillary Clinton, Trump accused Director Comey of corruption on Twitter, “FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! #RiggedSystem.” He also tweeted, “The system is rigged. General Petraeus got in trouble for far less. Very very [sic] unfair! As usual, bad judgment.”

In October, when Comey sent a letter to Congress advising them of newly discovered emails in the Clinton case, Trump praised the director. “I have to give the FBI credit,” Trump said in Politico, “It took guts for Director Comey to make the move that he made in light of the kind of opposition he had where they’re trying to protect her from criminal prosecution. You know that. It took a lot of guts.”

A few days later, Trump reversed course again when Comey excused Clinton a second time. Trump accused Comey of lying to cover Clinton, telling The Sun, “You can’t review 650,000 emails in eight days. You can’t do it, folks.” Trump added, “Right now she’s being protected by a rigged system. It’s a totally rigged system. I’ve been saying it for a long time.” Trump even explicitly accused the FBI of covering for Hillary saying, “Hillary Clinton is guilty, she knows it, the FBI knows it….”

After the election, Trump also had sharp words for the FBI over the agency’s conclusion that Russia purposefully worked to help Trump win the election. “I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it… No, I don’t believe it at all.”

Now, four days into the Trump Administration, President Trump is apparently past all his concerns about Director Comey’s competence and integrity. Although the Trump Administration has not publicly confirmed that Comey will continue his 10-year term which began in 2013, the New York Times reports that Comey told top agents at the FBI that he had been asked to stay in his position. If true, there may be future chapters in the love-hate saga between President Trump and his FBI head.

BREAKING: DOJ Told FBI to ‘Stand Down’ in Clinton Foundation investigation

 

Hillary Clinton is being hammered in the final days before the election. The news of renewed interest in the FBI probe of her handling of classified information shook the campaign last week. Now comes a new report that FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation thought that they had enough information to warrant more aggressive measures, but were allegedly told to “stand down” by the Justice Department.

The Wall St. Journal reports that the investigation into the Clinton Foundation began as a result of the book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” by Peter Schweizer. The investigation began in the summer of 2015 and is ongoing.

Citing multiple sources from several different agencies, the Journal reports that there was a conflict between the FBI and the Department of Justice over the strength of the case.  The investigation into whether Clinton Foundation donors received favorable treatment from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was perceived as weak by the upper levels of the FBI and DOJ, but investigators believed that there were promising leads that they were not allowed to follow.

The discovery of a trove of emails on a computer belonging to Anthony Wiener, the husband of Huma Abedin, a top aide to Hillary Clinton, may have revealed some of the limits placed on FBI investigators. Politico reported that the agents had never asked Clinton staffers for their personal email devices and may have even lacked subpoena power.

Much of the debate stemmed from secret recordings of a suspect in a public corruption case. In a recorded conversation, the suspect, whose identity was not disclosed, discussed alleged deals made by the Clintons. The investigators could not corroborate the details of the deals, but wanted to investigate further. Prosecutors disagreed. The Justice Department felt that the information was hearsay and too weak to warrant a more aggressive investigation.

The FBI agents and the DOJ became more frustrated with each other as the investigators continued to try to pursue the case. The FBI pushed for more leeway while DOJ officials were irritated by the failure of the FBI to act discreetly and follow instructions. In February, the DOJ allegedly told FBI investigators to “stand down” according to the Journal sources.

The Journal reports that Robert Capers, the US Attorney for Brooklyn, was at the center of the brouhaha. Sources say that Capers told both sides what they wanted to hear, which exacerbated tensions. At one point, Capers allegedly told DOJ officials that the FBI “won’t let it go,” prompting a call to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Aug. 12. In the call, an unnamed senior DOJ official complained that the FBI was not following instructions on the case. McCabe allegedly asked, “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” The DOJ official answered, “Of course not.”

Regardless of whether the case was truly too weak to pursue or the Justice Department was actively running interference to protect the Clintons, the result is the same. Both the DOJ and the FBI have egg on their face and the reputation of their agencies have been tarnished. Rather than having the problems of the Clinton Foundation aired a year before the election, Mrs. Clinton’s once-assured victory may be fading with yet another October surprise.

FBI Never Asked Clinton Staff For Email Devices

The FBI’s on-again-off-again investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information has shaken the presidential race. Now new revelations are coming out about the way that the investigation was handled last spring that shed light on how the normally efficient FBI could have missed 650,000 emails on a computer belonging to the husband of Secretary Clinton’s closest aide.

According to a report in Politico, the FBI never asked for devices used by staffers when Clinton was Secretary of State. The report, based on an anonymous source, said that while agents did try to obtain the computers that were part of Clinton’s private server as well as laptops where Clinton received and reviewed emails, they never made an effort to gather the smartphones and computers that were used by staffers in her State Department office.

“No one was asked for devices by the FBI,” Politico quoted the source, who is familiar with the investigation.

There had been speculation as to why the Huma Abedin, Clinton’s top aide, never turned the computer containing the emails over to the FBI. There had been speculation that Abedin had withheld the computer. Politico reported earlier that Abedin claimed to be unaware of how the emails came to be on her husband’s computer and now it seems that the FBI may have never asked to examine the computer. The email trove was found in a separate investigation of former congressman Anthony Weiner who was allegedly sexting a 15-year-old girl.

Republicans are asking how the FBI could have made such an obvious error. “The more we learn about the FBI’s initial investigation into Secretary Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private email server, the more questions we have about the thoroughness of the investigation and the administration’s conclusion to not prosecute her for mishandling classified information,” Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told Politico.

One possible answer is that there was interference in the investigation. The Wall St. Journal reported last week that a PAC associated with Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) gave more than $600,000 in donations and support to the Senate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe. Jill McCabe is the wife of Andrew McCabe, then an associate deputy director of the FBI. After the McCabe campaign ended in defeat, Andrew McCabe was promoted to deputy director where he an oversight role in the Clinton investigation.

The Wall St. Journal also reported that the FBI had found the new emails in early October and that agents had notified Mr. McCabe, who instructed agents on the two investigations to get together to determine whether the emails were relevant to the Clinton investigation. A decision was made to let the Weiner investigators proceed with their examination of the laptop’s metadata. McCabe apparently did not inform Director Comey at the time.

According to the Journal report, the Department of Justice refused to authorize aggressive investigation techniques such as subpoenas, formal witness interviews or a grand jury. Opinions differ on whether the resistance from the Justice Department was due to lack of compelling evidence presented by the FBI or whether it was present from the beginning of the investigation.

McCabe seems to have been caught in the middle. The Journal article reports a call on Aug. 12 from a “senior Justice Department official” who was unhappy that agents were still pursuing the investigation of the Clinton Foundation in the middle of the campaign. McCabe’s defenders say he asked, “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?” and was answered, “Of course not.”

Opinions differ on whether the call was simply trying to make sure that the FBI remained neutral in the election as longstanding policy dictated, was based on the prosecutor’s opinion that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict or was a move to protect Clinton. Some sources told the Journal that McCabe ordered the investigators to continue with the nonaggressive investigation. Others said that field agents were told to “stand down” based on orders from McCabe.

Whatever the reason, the FBI’s failure to mount a full investigation last year led directly to the Director Comey’s October surprise for the Clinton campaign last week. If Clinton used influence within the Department of Justice to stymie investigators, the sudden reappearance of the FBI investigation may be poetic justice.

BREAKING: FBI expediting review of Clinton emails after criticism of Comey letter

After facing a storm of bipartisan criticism for his cryptic message about “emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” of Hillary Clinton, the FBI is attempting to accelerate its examination of hundreds of thousands of emails that may or may not implicate Mrs. Clinton for the improper handling of classified material. Comey’s letter to Congress to “supplement” his previous testimony has upended the presidential election, bringing complaints from both sides of the aisle and rejoicing from Trump supporters.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), wrote to Comey, “While I disagree with those who suggest you should have kept the FBI’s discovery secret until after the election, I agree that your disclosure did not go far enough.” Grassley continued, “Without additional context, your disclosure is not fair to Congress, the American people, or Secretary Clinton.” Grassley called for a response to congressional queries on the emails by Friday, November 4.

CNN reported that former Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Good men make mistakes. In this instance, he [Comey] has committed a serious error with potentially severe implications.” Holder said that Comey’s letter “violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition” that prevent officials from commenting on ongoing investigations and politically sensitive matters for 60 days prior to an election. “I fear he has unintentionally and negatively affected public trust in both the Justice Department and the FBI,” Holder added.

Former Bush Administration Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agreed. “If you delay the announcement, hopefully it’s not going to jeopardize an investigation, it’s not going to jeopardize the pursuit of justice, and voters will have the opportunity to vote on Election Day without information that may in fact be incomplete or untrue,” Gonzales said on CNN.

In the wake of Comey’s letter, it seemed that the FBI was feeling little urgency in the investigation. The Washington Post reported that agents investigating the Wiener case knew of the emails several weeks ago, even though Comey said he only learned of them on Thursday, the day before his letter to Congress. ABC News reported that it was not until Sunday night, three days after Comey learned of the emails, that the FBI finally received a warrant to begin reviewing their contents.

Now that the review is underway, the Los Angeles Times reports that the Justice Department has promised to “dedicate all necessary resources and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible.” The investigators are using a computer program to flag emails that require individual review. The number of emails pertinent to the investigation is likely to be a small fraction of the estimated 650,000 emails. Even with expedited handling it is unlikely that the review will be completed before the election.

In the end, there may be nothing new to be found in the pile of emails. In a letter to FBI employees, Comey wrote, “We don’t ordinarily tell Congress about ongoing investigations, but here I feel an obligation to do so given that I testified repeatedly in recent months that our investigation was completed.” He continued, “Given that we don’t know the significance of this newly discovered collection of emails, I don’t want to create a misleading impression.  In trying to strike that balance, in a brief letter and in the middle of an election season, there is significant risk of being misunderstood.”

It seems that Comey has definitely been misunderstood and has created a misleading and confusing situation for both the voters and the candidates only a week and a half prior to the election. Ronald Hosko, a former senior FBI official, told the LA Times, “I don’t envision a circumstance where this changes dramatically [for Clinton],” but many, including Donald Trump, have received a different impression. Regardless of the content of the emails, the mere announcement of the review can impact the election.

After vague and contradictory statements about the email investigation over the past several months, the FBI owes voters a full and rapid explanation of its findings and the contents of the emails. Voters should not be forced to choose a president based on incomplete and misleading information.

What Goes Around Comes Around: Hackers Release Emails From Putin Aide

In what might seem to some like poetic justice after Russia was implicated in the hack of Democratic National Committee emails, a group of Ukrainian cyber-warriors has released a trove of emails hacked from the account of a top aide to Russian president, Vladimir Putin. The hack appears to be much more serious than the penetration of the DNC because it reaches directly into Putin’s Kremlin offices.

A group calling itself “Cyber Hunta” has so far released more than a gigabyte of emails from Vladislav Surkov. According to “Foreign Policy,” Surkov has been a senior official in the Russian government since 1999 when Putin assumed the presidency after the resignation of Boris Yeltsin. Called the “gray cardinal” of the Kremlin, Surkov has served many key roles for Putin and is believed to been instrumental in Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea.

“This is a serious hack,” said Maks Czuperski, head of the Digital Forensic Research Lab of the Atlantic Council (DFRL) on NBC News. “We have seen so much happen to the United States, other countries at the hands of Russia. Not so much to Russia. It was only a question of time that some of the anonymous guys like Cyber Hunta would come to strike them back.”

The emails provide a “smoking gun” that confirms that Russia was actually controlling the Ukrainian separatist movement in the forgotten war that has killed 10,000 people. NBC News cites an unnamed U.S. official who said that the emails confirm what U.S. intelligence has long believed, that the Kremlin was “running the separatists at the micro-level.”

One email contains a list of candidates for a local election, some with asterisks indicating they were “checked by us” and “especially recommended.” These candidates were “elected” a few days later. Other emails contain casualty lists, expense reports and a proposal for a propaganda office in the heavily contested city of Donetsk.

Vladislav Surkov was among the Russian officials singled out by the United States and the European Union for individual sanctions for their roles in invasion and annexation of Crimea. At the time Surkov told The Independent that Obama’s action would not affect him since “The only things that interest me in the US are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

Earlier this month, the Obama Administration said in Politico that it would deliver a “proportional” response against Russia for its alleged role in cyber-attacks against the United States. The U.S. has denied any involvement in the hack of the Surkov emails.

The Cyber and How The Government Uses It

The government doesn’t need a warrant to obtain and read your emails. Unlike other forms of communication that do require law enforcement and other government agencies to get a search warrant, emails are open to government inspection with only a court order or subpoena – neither of which require proof of probable cause.

Fortunately, this lax standard of inspection and examination only applies to emails that are older than 180 days. Put another way, if an email was sent or received during the past 180 days, the government would have to show probable cause and get a search warrant to access it, but for any email older than 180 days, the probable cause standard disappears.

The 180-day requirement dates back to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which became law in 1986. Back then, data companies routinely deleted emails that were older than 180 days and the concept of a “cloud” where internet users could store vast amounts of data – including archived emails – was inconceivable. The vast quantities of data storage that come with iCloud, Gmail or any number of digital services have made it possible to save emails well beyond 180 days, and many people do just that.

But the law hasn’t been updated to reflect changing technology.

A recent high profile court case between Microsoft and the FBI proved the need for an overhaul of email privacy laws. Seeking information for a drug case, the FBI demanded that Microsoft, a U.S.-based company, turn over emails stored on a company server in Ireland, outside the jurisdiction of warrant the bureau had obtained. A federal appeals court ruled that, like it or not, tech companies don’t have to turn over data stored outside the U.S. if they don’t obtain a local warrant (or the equivalent). The case was a win for internet privacy, but only stressed the confusing nature of current U.S. internet privacy laws.

In Wisconsin, there is an up-close example of what can happen when government obtains emails for a questionable purpose. Called the John Doe II probe, and initiated by liberals at the state Government Accountability Board and the Democratic district attorney of Milwaukee County, it obtained sweeping search warrant powers and confiscated the computers and digital files of numerous conservative individuals. Also targeted were conservative non-profit groups.

Using pre-dawn raids, investigators obtained literally millions of pieces of digital information and communications for a prosecution that never happened because state and federal courts ruled prosecutors were pursuing an un-constitutional and illegal theory of legal violations.

Now, years after the probe started, and well after their case was dismissed by multiple courts, prosecutors are suspected of being behind leaks of the confiscated (and confidential) material to a British newspaper, which has published some of the information online.

To end the current “Wild West” of regulation surrounding government access to emails older than 180 days, the International Communications Privacy Act has been proposed. Although it shows no signs of passing during this session of Congress, starting next year it is likely lawmakers will take up the measure. A key component of the legislation protects all digital communications from government review regardless of whether they are 180 minutes old or 180 days or 180 months old. Under ICPA’s provisions, law enforcement would always need to obtain a search warrant before it obtained and reviewed any emails. Additionally, the legislation reforms procedures for obtaining information held by U.S. companies overseas for clients by establishing a reciprocity process that respects the laws of other sovereign nations and synthesizes the efforts of across-border law enforcement.