Saturday, April 21, 2018

Today: Funeral service held for former first lady Barbara Bush



Barbara Bush, the former first lady, lay in repose at
 St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston. Credit Pool
Photo by Richard Carson


A Program: May she rest in peace.


                          St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston


                      A mourner at Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston



Photo (Left to Right): 
Former Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank T. Brogan, 
Frances Rice, Peter Rice, Former First Lady Barbara Bush


Peter and I remember Barbara Bush with love and gratitude
 for all she did for our nation.

Revealed: Robert Mueller’s FBI Repeatedly Abused Prosecutorial Discretion


By Mollie Hemingway | The FEDERALIST
  


Establishment DC types who reflexively defend Mueller haven't explained how they came to trust him so completely. It's a question worth asking given the bumpy historical record of Mueller's tenure as FBI director.

Journalist Mike Allen of Axios recently said that one word described Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and that word was “unafraid.”

The context for his remarks on Fox News’ “Special Report” was that Mueller had just spun off to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York a bit of his limitless investigation into President Donald J. Trump. Allen’s comment was like so many others from media and pundit types since the special counsel was launched. If there’s one word to describe the media’s relationship to Mueller, it’s “unquestioning.”

Pundits and politicians have said, repeatedly, that he is “somebody we all trust” with “impeccable credentials.” No matter what his office does, from hiring Democratic donors to run the Trump probe to aggressively prosecuting process crimes, he is defended by most media voices. Criticism of Mueller by people who aren’t part of the Trump Resistance is strongly fought, with claims that disapproval of anything related to Mueller and how he runs his investigation undermine the rule of law.

The media and establishment DC who reflexively defend Mueller haven’t explained how they came to trust him so completely. It’s a question worth asking given the bumpy historical record of Mueller’s tenure as FBI director from 2001 to 2013.

For instance, as I noted to Allen, Mueller was also “unafraid” at completely botching the anthrax killer case, wasting more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars, destroying the lives of multiple suspects, and chasing bad leads using bad methods. Let’s look at that and other cases involving how Mueller and those he placed in positions of power used their authorities and decided what charges to pursue.

The Anthrax Bungling

Shortly after the terrorist attacks in 2001, letters containing anthrax were mailed to media outlets and the offices of Sens. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., killing five people and infecting 17 others.

The FBI quickly focused on an innocent man named Steven Hatfill, relentlessly pursuing him for years while the real killer walked free. As Carl Cannon wrote about the botched case, ridiculous and aggressive methods were used to go after the wrong man:

So what evidence did the FBI have against Hatfill? There was none, so the agency did a Hail Mary, importing two bloodhounds from California whose handlers claimed could sniff the scent of the killer on the anthrax-tainted letters. These dogs were shown to Hatfill, who promptly petted them. When the dogs responded favorably, their handlers told the FBI that they’d ‘alerted’ on Hatfill and that he must be the killer.

Mueller and his deputy James Comey were certain they had the right guy. They didn’t, and taxpayers had to pay Hatfill $5.82 million for the error. When that settlement was announced, Cannon noted:

Mueller could not be bothered to walk across the street to attend the press conference announcing the case’s resolution. When reporters did ask him about it, Mueller was graceless. ‘I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation,’ he said, adding that it would be erroneous ‘to say there were mistakes.’

The man the FBI decided was responsible for the anthrax killings killed himself as the FBI pursued him, but reports from the National Academy of Sciences and the Government Accountability Office were critical of the bureau’s scientific conclusions used to determine the man’s guilt.

Mueller placed Special Agent Van Harp in charge of the initial investigation. He had been “accused of misconduct and recommended for discipline for his role in a flawed review of the deadly Ruby Ridge standoff,” according to a Washington Post report. He had helped “prepare an incomplete report on the 1992 Ruby Ridge siege that had the effect of protecting high-level FBI officials, according to a confidential 1999 report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.”

After Hatfill sued the FBI, Harp admitted that he talked to the media about the anthrax case due to political concerns at the bureau. 

According to The Atlantic:

Special Agent Harp, who initially headed the anthrax investigation, conceded after Hatfill sued the government in August 2003 that the FBI had been sensitive to accusations that it had stumbled in other high-profile investigations, and that it had consciously sought to assure the public that it was working hard to crack the anthrax murders. Part of providing such assurance involved actively communicating with news reporters. 

Questioned under oath, Harp admitted to serving as a confidential source for more than a dozen journalists during the case, but he insisted that he had never leaked privileged information about Hatfill, or anyone else for that matter.
Hatfill’s attorney’s found the latter claim highly improbable.

The Democrat Berger Treated Gently

As aggressive as Mueller can be about pursuing the wrong man, he showed surprising leniency and laxity when it came to the case of Samuel “Sandy” Berger, a Clinton White House national security adviser. In the run-up to testifying before the 9/11 Commission that sought to examine the failures that led to those terrorist attacks, Berger visited the National Archives to review classified documents with his notes on them.

But instead he intentionally removed and destroyed multiple copies of a classified document the commission should have reviewed for national security purposes, and lied to investigators about it.

He was found to have stuffed the documents in his socks and otherwise hidden them. His punishment was that he was allowed to plead guilty in 2005 to a single misdemeanor. He served no jail time but had to give up his security clearance for three years.

The staff of Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., authored a 60-page report about the theft of the documents, in which he said “The Justice Department was unacceptably incurious about Berger’s Archives visits.”

Republican Scooter Libby Charged, But Not The Leaker

As lax and lenient as the Department of Justice was with Berger, the opposite was true in other cases. After Valerie Plame’s identity as a CIA employee was leaked, a special counsel operation was set up to investigate the leak. 

Mueller’s deputy Comey pressured John Ashcroft to recuse himself from the case on the grounds he had potential conflicts of interest.

Comey named Patrick Fitzgerald, his close personal friend and godfather to one of his children, to the role of special counsel. Mueller, Comey, and Fitzgerald all knew the whole time that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the leaker. 

Yet they set things up so Fitzgerald would aggressively investigate the Bush administration for three years, jailed a journalist for not giving up a source, and pursued both Karl Rove and Scooter Libby.

Comey even expanded the investigation’s mandate within weeks of setting up the special counsel. Libby, who was pardoned by President Trump last week, was rung up on a process charge in part thanks to prosecutorial abuse by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald encouraged a witness to give false testimony by not providing exonerating evidence to her and Libby’s attorneys. The Wall Street Journal and Commentary have write-ups on the saga.

Republican Ted Stevens Railroaded

In 2016, the FBI kept getting involved in the presidential election. Political considerations rather obviously played a role in Comey showing deference to Clinton in July 2016 in the investigation into her mishandling of classified information. Political considerations also played a role — he says subconsciously — in Comey’s decision to announce a probe into Clinton’s mishandling of classified information had been reopened shortly before the election.

It wasn’t the first time the FBI meddled in a U.S. election. In 2008, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was indicted by a federal grand jury following a lengthy investigation by the FBI and found guilty eight days before Election Day. Stevens narrowly lost his re-election bid as a result and died in a plane crash a couple of years later.

The prosecutors in that case repeatedly withheld exculpatory evidence that would have yielded a different verdict. The convictions were voided by U.S. District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivan, who called it the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct he’d ever seen. Stevens’ attorney complained about FBI abuses and said:

‘To us, while this is a joyful day and we’re happy that Sen. Stevens can resume a normal life without the burden that he’s carried over these last years,’ he said, ‘at age 85, it’s a very sad story too. 

Because it’s a warning to everyone in this country that any citizen can be convicted if the prosecutor ignores the Constitution of the United States.’

An Israeli Spy Ring That Wasn’t

Another black mark on Mueller’s record at the FBI was the pursuit of what the bureau dramatically claimed was an Israeli spy ring operating out of the Pentagon. The news broke in August 2004 that a spy working for Israel was in the Department of Defense.

It turned out that the bureau had gone after a policy analyst who had chatted with American lobbyists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Charges were also pursued against two AIPAC employees. Those charges were later dropped and the sentence of the first person was dropped from 13 years to 10 months of house arrest and some community service.

The Washington Post wrote:

The conspiracy case against two former AIPAC lobbyists came to an inglorious end in May when the government dropped all charges after 3 1/2 years of pre-trial maneuvers.

It was a curious case: First, the lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, were charged under an obscure section of the Espionage Act of 1917, a law that had been used only once before — unsuccessfully and never against private citizens for disclosing classified information. 

Second, they were targets of a bizarre sting in which they were fed false information suggesting that the lives of U.S. and Israeli operatives in Iraq were at risk and that American officials were refusing to take steps to protect them.

The accusation was not that they brokered this information to some foreign enemy but that they offered it to everybody they could, hoping, among other things, to get a reporter from The Post to publish it so that it might draw the attention of the right U.S. officials and save U.S. lives. In short, even if the two were guilty as charged, they look more like whistle-blowers than spies.

It turned out the probe was led by David Szady, the same man who notoriously missed Russian spy Robert Hanssen in his midst while he spent years targeting an innocent man named Brian Kelley, an undercover officer at the CIA. For this good work, Mueller named him assistant director for counterintelligence.

Incompetent Supervision

Many of these examples of prosecutorial misconduct and abuse were done not by Mueller but by underlings. He should have been aware of what they were doing, which means he should take responsibility for the errors. If he wasn’t aware, that’s a very bad sign regarding his competence to supervise his special counsel deputy Andrew Weissman.

If Mueller had no effective supervision against the abuses of the above underlings, why would anyone trust him to supervise his good buddy Weissman, whom he picked to run lead on his probe of Trump? 

Weissman destroyed the accounting firm Arthur Anderson LLP, which once had 85,000 employees. Thanks to prosecutorial abuse, jurors were not told that Arthur Anderson didn’t have criminal intent when it shredded documents. The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction, but it was too late to save the company.

Weissman also “creatively criminalized a business transaction between Merrill Lynch and Enron,” which sent four executives to jail. Weissman concocted unprecedented charges and did not allow the executives to get bail, causing massive disruption to the families before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed most of Weissman’s case.

One could also argue that the above failures, save the Stevens case, were actually Comey’s responsibility. That’s arguably true as well, but it also shows just how bizarre it is that Mueller was named to investigate a situation in which his friend and partner in prosecutorial abuse is so intimately involved.

This Is About More Than Trump

The media scoff in feigned outrage at President Trump’s claims that the FBI has a reputation that is in tatters. But the last 15 years of leadership of the FBI under Mueller and Comey have largely shown that to be true because of how the FBI handles it cases.

In recent months, the FBI lost a high-profile case against Omar Mateen’s widow Noor Salman, who was charged with material support of ISIS and lying to the FBI about it. The case was an absolute mess. 

The jury foreman said, “I wish that the FBI had recorded their interviews with Ms. Salman as there were several significant inconsistencies with the written summaries of her statements.” The jury felt that the widow had been bullied into signing a false confession.

On the day after the Pulse shooting, Comey promised the bureau would provide transparency as the case was handled. Almost immediately, the claim of transparency was shown to be false when the FBI redacted the killer’s statements about his Islamist terrorism beliefs in a transcript of his calls with Orlando 911. 

The bureau was also less than transparent about the fact that Mateen’s father was a long-time FBI informant. James Bovard has much more.

Or what about the recent mistrial declared in the Cliven Bundy standoff? Here’s The Oregonian:

A federal judge Wednesday declared a mistrial in the prosecution of Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy, his two sons and a co-defendant, citing the government’s ‘willful” failure to turn over multiple documents that could help the defense fight conspiracy and assault charges in the 2014 Bunkerville standoff…

The judge listed six types of evidence that she said prosecutors deliberately withheld before trial, including information about the presence of an FBI surveillance camera on a hill overlooking the Bundy ranch and documents about U.S. Bureau of Land Management snipers outside the ranch….
‘The failure to turn over such evidence violates due process,” the judge said…..

Yesterday, Comey told Meghan McCain on The View, “Public confidence in the FBI is its bedrock.” That’s true. And the lack of confidence in the FBI is not the result of Trump and his insults but a pattern of abuse of prosecutorial discretion going back 15 years or so. Mueller is responsible for 10 years of that.

The denizens of DC no doubt have had great interactions with Mueller and the men he put in charge of high-profile cases. But those who were wronged in the Anthrax, Libby, AIPAC, Enron, and other cases might have a different view. Those who observe how differing rules have been applied to people in seemingly partisan fashion should not be dismissed.

As former judge and Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote in the Wall Street Journal this week, “Mr. Mueller is not a bad man, nor is Mr. Comey. It’s just that both show particular confidence when making mistakes, which makes one grateful for safeguards like the attorney-client privilege.”

The media should not be so quick to gloss over these mistakes solely because of anti-Trump animus. Journalists who take their role seriously should be skeptical of powerful government institutions and how they can abuse their authority.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway

Friday, April 20, 2018

Historic? North Korea announces end to missile testing as Trump cites 'big progress'




North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced Friday that his country will be suspending missile testing and closing a nuclear test site, several reports said.

"From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles," the Korean Central News Agency said, according to Yonhap News.

"The North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country's northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear test."

The announcement comes amid preparations for a meeting later this year between President Trump and the North Korean dictator. During the summit, Trump said he expected to talk with Kim about denuclearizing the hermit kingdom.
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North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit.
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“North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site,” Trump tweeted following the announcement. “This is a very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit.”

News of the testing suspension follows the revelation earlier this week that Mike Pompeo, the current CIA director and secretary of state nominee, met with Kim in North Korea over Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for the prospective meeting with Trump. The meeting, Trump said, could occur by early June.

Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!

Trump said Pompeo's meeting "went very smoothly" and said a "good relationship was formed."

"Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea," he said.


However, Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he would walk away from talks with Kim if he thought they were "not going to be fruitful."

"I hope to have a very successful meeting," Trump said during a joint news conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. "If we don't think it's going to be successful, we won't have it. If I think it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting when I'm there is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting."

North Korea's decision Friday was made in a meeting of the ruling party's Central Committee, during which Kim, according to the Korean Central News Agency, said, "Nuclear development has proceeded scientifically and in due order and the development of the delivery strike means also proceeded scientifically and verified the completion of nuclear weapons.


"We no longer need any nuclear test or test launches of intermediate and intercontinental range ballistics missiles and because of this the northern nuclear test site has finished its mission," he said.

North Korea also vowed to actively engage with regional neighbors and the international community to secure peace in the Korean Peninsula and create an "optimal international environment" to build its economy.

The country's diplomatic outreach in recent months came after a flurry of weapons tests, including the underground detonation of a possible thermonuclear warhead and three launches of developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to strike the U.S. mainland.

Fox News' Christopher Jones, Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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A READER’S COMMENTS:

If Trump pulls this off, he will go down as one of the greatest presidents. He is already headed that way!

BREAKING: Justice Department Watchdog Probes Comey Memos Over Classified Information


By Byron Tau and Aruna Viswanatha

The Justice Department inspector general is conducting an investigation into classification issues related to memos written by former FBI director James Comey. PHOTO: RALPH ALSWANG/ABC/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Former FBI director has said he considered the memos, which he gave to a friend to release to media, personal documents

WASHINGTON—At least two of the memos that former FBI Director James Comey gave to a friend outside of the government contained information that officials now consider classified, according to people familiar with the matter, prompting a review by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog.


Of those two memos, Mr. Comey himself redacted elements of one that he knew to be classified to protect secrets before he handed the documents over to his friend. 

He determined at the time that another memo contained no classified information, but after he left the Federal Bureau of Investigation, bureau officials upgraded it to “confidential,” the lowest level of classification.

The Justice Department inspector general is now conducting an investigation into classification issues related to the Comey memos, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Mr. Comey has said he considered the memos personal rather than government documents. He has told Congress that he wrote them and authorized their release to the media “as a private citizen.”

Mr. Comey gave four total memos to his friend Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Columbia Law School, people familiar with the matter said. Three were considered unclassified at the time and one was classified.

As FBI director, Mr. Comey had the legal authority to determine what bureau information was classified and what wasn’t. Once he left government, however, the determination fell to other officials.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Mr. Comey of mishandling classified information in a bid to discredit the former FBI director, who he fired last year. The public feud between the two men has intensified this week, as Mr. Comey has granted several interviews while promoting a memoir that is highly critical of Mr. Trump.

“James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter Friday.

In interviews, Mr. Comey has called Mr. Trump “morally unfit” to serve in the White House. He and Mr. Richman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” Mr. Comey told ABC News this month.

The situation around Mr. Comey’s handling of his memos is analogous to the investigation the FBI under his leadership conducted of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

While serving as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton used a personal email server rather than a government account. After leaving government, thousands of her emails were determined to have contained classified information.

Mrs. Clinton’s defense was that they weren’t classified at the time she circulated them and were only upgraded to classified later. A small number of her emails were determined to have been classified at the time they were sent. Mr. Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation drew criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.

Republicans said Mrs. Clinton should have been charged, while Democrats said the investigation was without legal basis and was mishandled—particularly Mr. Comey’s decision to announce shortly before Election Day that he was reopening the probe. Mrs. Clinton lost the election to Mr. Trump.

No charges were ever filed against Mrs. Clinton or her aides and Mr. Comey said that his investigation found no evidence of intent to violate the laws governing the handling of classified information.

Mr. Comey’s memos were written contemporaneously to create a record of his interactions with Mr. Trump. He told Congress last year he hadn’t kept written records of his interactions with previous presidents but decided to do so with Mr. Trump because of the “nature of the person.”

Mr. Comey has said he intended to get the information to the public through the media by giving the memos to Mr. Richman—in part to prompt the appointment of a special prosecutor designed to continue the FBI’s investigation without political inference.

“My judgment was, I need to get that out into the public square,” Mr. Comey told Congress last year. “I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons. I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel.”

Those memos formed the basis for Mr. Comey’s testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, in which he accused the president of trying to shut down an investigation into purported Russian interference in the 2016 election. The president has denied trying to thwart the probe.

Mr. Comey’s tactics were successful—special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed shortly after he was fired as FBI director. Mr. Comey’s memos are now part of the wide-ranging probe being conducted by Mr. Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice when he fired Mr. Comey last year, allegations that Mr. Trump denies. Russia has denied interfering in the election.

“I was honestly concerned he might lie about the nature of our meeting so I thought it important to document. That combination of things I had never experienced before, but had led me to believe I got to write it down and write it down in a very detailed way,” Mr. Comey told the committee.

The memos were given to Congress this week. They were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets. Much of the material in the memos has been previously disclosed in congressional testimony and Mr. Comey’s book.


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A READEAR’S COMMENTS:

Paul Kriegh
:  
Now that the democrats have been caught trying to overthrow a sitting president. The DNC has just filed a lawsuit suing the trump campaign. They are backpedaling because they know there charade of trumps conspiracy has been found out to be them instead.
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Rudy Giuliani to join Trump’s legal team



Former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani is joining President Trump’s legal team, Fox News confirmed on Thursday.

Giuliani, who has been close friends with Trump for years and reportedly was under consideration for a cabinet post, told The Washington Post that he joined the team with the intent of bringing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe to a conclusion.

“I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,” Giuliani told the outlet.

Mueller, Giuliani told The Post, should be left to complete his investigation. "My advice on Mueller has been this: He should be allowed to do his job, he’s entitled to do his job.”

Before he was the mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001, Giuliani served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1983 to 1999.

"The President said, ‘Rudy is great.  He has been my friend for a long time and wants to get this matter quickly resolved for the good of the country,’" Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said in a statement.

"I have had the privilege of working with Mayor Giuliani for many years, and we welcome his expertise," Sekulow added. "Mayor Giuliani expressed his deep appreciation to the President for allowing him to assist in this important matter. 

In a statement, Mayor Giuliani said, ‘It is an honor to be a part of such an important legal team, and I look forward to not only working with the President but with Jay, Ty, and their colleagues.’"

Giuliani made the decision to join Trump's legal team in the past few days following a dinner with the president ealier this month at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the Post reported.

The former mayor, a vocal advocate for Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign, was reportedly being considered for secretary of state following Trump's victory. Giuliani, at the time, said he wasn't interested in becoming Trump's attorney general. 

Ultimately, the president picked Rex Tillerson for the State Department and Jeff Sessions for attorney general.

Fox News' John Roberts contributed to this report.