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9 things to know about James Comey’s testimony

Former FBI Director Comey’s evidence to the Senate Intelligence Committee confirms that there was no obstruction of justice by the President, either of the Russiagate probe or of the Flynn investigation.

Alexander Mercouris

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Former FBI Director Comey has concluded the open part of his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The quality of the questioning – both by Republicans and Democrats  – struck me as extremely poor.  I found Comey’s written testimony to the Committee published yesterday far more informative than his answers today.

This was largely the result of the Senators’ collective failure to ask pertinent questions or – given the short time for questioning permitted to each Senator – to coordinate their questioning properly with each other.

Here are the main points that came out from Comey’s testimony as I see them:

(1) Comey’s written testimony makes it clear what were the primary topics on the President’s mind in his discussions with Comey.  They were

(a) his desire for a statement by the Justice Department or the FBI that he was not personally under investigation; and

(b) his desire for an investigation of the leaks, which were destabilising his administration.

(2) Comey provided no evidence that the President interfered in or sought to interfere in the conduct of the Russiagate investigation.  On the contrary the details of that investigation do not seem to have been discussed by Comey and the President at all.

At one point in their discussions the President said that if any of the people in his campaign team were guilty of any wrongdoing then the law should take its course.  In light of this the whole obstruction of justice allegation in relation to the Russiagate investigation collapses.  I cannot see how it can be sustained any further.

I would add that Comey in fairness to him was at pains to say both in his verbal and in his written testimony that the FBI’s Russiagate investigation is a counter-espionage investigation into Russia’s alleged role in the US election not a criminal investigation.  I have discussed the relevance of this here.

(3) Comey confirmed that the President is not under under investigation as part of the FBI’s Russiagate probe.

(4) Comey resisted the President’s wish for a public statement saying that the President is not under investigation in the Russiagate probe.  His reasons for doing so were that the President might hypothetically come under investigation in the future, which might require a future statement contradicting any previous statement that he was not under investigation as part of the probe.

That is a totally wrong reason for refusing the President’s request whose logic is totally flawed.  I will discuss this in detail below.

(5) Unfortunately it is impossible to discuss Comey’s response to the President’s requests for an investigation of the leaks because shamefully the Senators showed no interest in this subject.  Comey’s written testimony wrongly downplays the importance of this issue.

Those are the main points to come out of Comey’s testimony.  There are two further points of less importance, though they seem to obsess the media commentators.  I will briefly touch on them.

(6) the President wanted the FBI to end its investigation of General Flynn, provoked by General Flynn’s now notorious telephone conversation with the Russian ambassador.  However the President did not tell or order or threaten Comey to end this investigation, which continued regardless despite the President’s wish, and which does so still.  Comey’s later sacking was wholly unconnected to the President’s wish that the FBI end this investigation.

A point which is completely missed in all discussions of this question – and which none of the Senators brought up in their questioning of Comey today – is that this investigation commenced in December 2016 and relates to a single telephone call between the Russian ambassador and General Flynn.  The only criminal offence anyone has suggested General Flynn may have committed in connection with this call is one under the Logan Act, under which no one has been prosecuted in the two hundred years of its existence.

Notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding that the investigation has been underway for 6 months, there is still no sign of it ending, or of any decision being made whether to prosecute General Flynn or not.  That is a scandal, a much greater one than the fact that the President expressed a wish back in February that this absurd investigation be brought to an end.

(7) the President’s request to Comey for “loyalty” is so ambiguous and so open to differing interpretations – a fact admitted by Comey himself – that I don’t think anything turns on it.

Paul Ryan is almost certainly right in seeing this request as just another example of the President’s inexperience and lack of understanding of the proper etiquette he needs to follow in his interactions with senior officials.  Certainly I do not think this request is evidence of any intention by the President to interfere in the course of the Russiagate investigation, and since we now know from Comey that no such interference ever took place, there is no basis for using this request in any charge against the President for obstruction of justice.

There are two other points of factual interest that came out of Comey’s testimony today.

(8) Comey has admitted that it was he who leaked quotes from his attendance note of his meeting with the President on 14th February 2017, when the subject of the Flynn investigation was discussed.

This is very much Comey’s style.  He likes to give the impression of being an honest and straight talking cop, and this was very much a theme of his testimony today.  In reality he has all the deviousness of a long standing veteran of bureaucratic infighting, selectively quoting from his own attendance note so as heighten the drama of his own testimony, and so as to ensure that the focus during this testimony is on those topics that he wants it to be.

(9) It is now clear that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the Russiagate investigation was under active consideration two weeks before it was announced.  Comey admits this in his written testimony.

The publication of news of Sessions’s meetings with Russian ambassador Kislyak therefore had nothing to do with Sessions’s decision to recuse himself, which had already been taken before the publication of this information took place, and which he was about to announce anyway when the publication of this information took place.  Sessions’s statement announcing his decision to recuse himself all but said as much, and we now know from Comey that what it said was true.

That means that the publication of the information about Sessions’s meetings with the Russian ambassador was leaked so as to put Sessions’s announcement in a false light, and so as to create an impression that there was something sinister about Sessions’s meetings with the Russian ambassador, when this was not the case.

That is my summary of what we have learnt from Comey today.  Has Comey’s testimony taken us any further forward?

Firstly, though we can expect the usual lurid headlines, I cannot see anything which remotely amounts to a convincing case for obstruction of justice in anything that Comey said during his testimony today.  Even allowing for the fact that impeachment is a political rather than a legal process, I cannot see how in the absence of any case for obstruction of justice impeachment proceedings can get off the ground, and I expect those claims to fizzle out over the next few weeks.

Secondly, it should be said clearly that the President’s requests to Comey that there be a public statement confirming that he was not personally under investigation were perfectly proper and legitimate, even though the President was wrong to address them to Comey personally, and should have done so through the Department of Justice.

The President was perfectly right to say that the constant insinuations in the media that he might be under investigation for colluding with the Russians was putting his Presidency under “a cloud” and was interfering with his ability to conduct foreign policy, and given that he was not under investigation the President was fully justified in wanting to have the fact that he was not under investigation made public.

As for Comey’s resort to hypothetical scenarios in order to deny the President’s request, it should be said clearly that this was wholly inappropriate, and the fact that Comey during his testimony hid behind the alleged opinions of one of his investigators in order to justify his refusal shows that he knows it.

As to the reason Comey gave for refusing the President’s request, that an announcement that the President was not under investigation might have to be publicly contradicted if the President ever were to come under investigation in the future, it should be said clearly that the reasoning here is fundamentally flawed, for reasons which are not difficult to explain.

Obviously should the President ever come under investigation then the FBI and the Justice Department must make the fact public, and it would be wholly wrong if they did not.  That should happen irrespective of whether or not there had been a previous announcement that the President was not under investigation.   The one should in no sense be dependent on the other.

Comey’s implication that there would only have to be a public announcement of an investigation of the President if a previous announcement had been made that the President was not under investigation – so that this previous statement would have to be ‘corrected’ – is not only completely wrong.  It is actually utter nonsense and Comey knows it.  It is astounding – and lamentable – that it seems that none of the Senators do.

Comey is an enigma is in the Russiagate case.  There is some evidence that initially he resisted the hysteria which is driving it.  For example he refused to sign Clapper’s notorious October 2016 statement accusing the Russians of meddling in the US election.

At some point however Comey seems to have let himself become swept along by the hysteria, possibly because he was unnerved by the criticisms of his decision to drop the case against Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server, and wanted to make up with the Democrats – who he probably thought would win the election – by taking their Russiagate claims seriously.

The result is a series of bad decisions which have been central in driving the Russiagate case, and which show that despite Comey’s tortuous denials by the time of the election he had clearly become totally committed to the Russiagate case, and was conducting it in a grossly partisan way.

Firstly, there was the truly bizarre decision to accept the opinion of a private company – CrowdStrike – that Russia was behind the hacking of John Podesta’s and the DNC’s computers, rather than have the FBI investigate the fact for itself.

Secondly is the credence shown to the ludicrous Trump Dossier, which Comey is now known to have been instrumental in adding as an appendix to the classified ODNI report shown to Trump in January, and which has been an essential part of the Russiagate investigation ever since.

Thirdly there was the truly bizarre decision to accede to Acting Attorney General Sally Yates’s paranoid demands for a criminal investigation under the Logan Act of General Flynn’s telephone conversation with Russian ambassador Kislyak.

That Comey’s relations with the President subsequently collapsed in acrimony in light of all this is hardly surprising.  Moreover it is clear that Comey could see what was coming, and that within days of the inauguration he was busy preparing his defence for the inevitable falling out with the President he must have known was bound to come.

I do not believe Comey’s claim that it is not his usual practice to make attendance notes of his meetings with senior officials.  On the contrary, both as a state official and a lawyer, I am sure Comey makes such attendance notes as a matter of course.

However it is clear that in this case he prepared his attendance notes and circulated them amongst his colleagues in a particular way in order to use them in the battle with the President which he knew was coming.  The fact that he selectively leaked quotes from the attendance notes in order to bolster his case before he gave his testimony confirms as much.

In the event, though the President acted extremely unwisely in his interactions with Comey, Comey ultimately has nothing to show.

The worst that can be said about the President is that his personal loyalty to General Flynn – and possibly his feelings of guilt about the way he dismissed him – led him to speak very indiscreetly about Flynn’s case to Comey.  However since he did not tell Comey to drop the case against Flynn or in any way pressure Comey to do so, and since the case continues anyway despite being totally absurd, I cannot see how a scandal – let alone grounds of impeachment – can be conjured up out of this.

In all other respects Comey’s evidence today was a damp squib, revealing nothing truly sinister or new.  Once the hysteria dies down more and more people will start to see that.  Already the President’s legal team are making that very point.

Once again, because of his own mishandling of Comey, the President faces some difficult headlines over the few days.  If he handles them sensibly, and leaves it to his legal team to respond to them, he has nothing however to worry about.

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EU leaders dictate Brexit terms to Theresa May (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 115.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how EU leaders have agreed on a plan to delay the the Article 50 process which effectively postpones Brexit beyond the 29 March deadline.

The UK will now be offered a delay until the 22nd of May, only if MPs approve Theresa May’s withdrawal deal next week. If MPs do not approve May’s negotiated deal, then the EU will support a short delay until the 12th of April, allowing the UK extra time to get the deal passed or to “indicate a way forward”.

UK PM Theresa May said there was now a “clear choice” facing MPs, who could vote for a third time on her deal next week.

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Theresa May outlines four Brexit options, via Politico

In a letter to MPs, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May set out the four options she believes the country has in light of Thursday’s decision by EU leaders to extend the Brexit deadline beyond next Friday.

The U.K. is faced with a four-way choice, May wrote late Friday.

The government could revoke Article 50 — which May called a betrayal of the Brexit vote; leave without a deal on April 12; pass her deal in a vote next week; or, “if it appears that there is not sufficient support” for a vote on her deal in parliament next week or if it is rejected for a third time, she could ask for an extension beyond April 12.

But this would require for the U.K. taking part in European elections in May, which the prime minister said “would be wrong.”

May wrote that she’s hoping for the deal to pass, allowing the U.K. to leave the EU “in an orderly way,” adding “I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action.”

“I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision,” she wrote.

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US media suffers panic attack after Mueller fails to deliver on much-anticipated Trump indictment

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

RT

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Via RT


Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment.

The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Showing true integrity, journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. They are, after all, true professionals.

“How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on CNN’s ‘Hardball’.

Dilanian tried to comfort the CNN host with some of his signature NBC punditry.

“My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused.

Actually, there were several Serious Journalists who used their unsurpassed analytical abilities to conjure up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious.

Revered news organs were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings.

“What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s tragic announcement.

Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

But perhaps the most sobering reactions to the no-indictment news came from those who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Mueller’s investigation, aimed at uncovering a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, ended without digging up a single case of “collusion.”

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison.

“You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery.

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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Canadian Lawmaker Accuses Trudeau Of Being A “Fake Feminist” (Video)

Rempel segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career

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Via Zerohedge

Canada’s feminist-in-chief Justin Trudeau wants to support and empower women…but his support stops at the point where said women start creating problems for his political agenda.

That was the criticism levied against the prime minister on Friday by a conservative lawmaker, who took the PM to task for “muzzling strong, principled women” during a debate in the House of Commons.

“He asked for strong women, and this is what they look like!” said conservative MP Michelle Rempel, referring to the former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has accused Trudeau and his cronies of pushing her out of the cabinet after she refused to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.

She then accused Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”.

“That’s not what a feminist looks like…Every day that he refuses to allow the attorney general to testify and tell her story is another day he’s a fake feminist!”

Trudeau was so taken aback by Rempel’s tirade, that he apparently forgot which language he should respond in.

But Rempel wasn’t finished. She then segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career. This from a man who once objected to the continued use of the word “mankind” (suggesting we use “peoplekind” instead).

The conservative opposition then tried to summon Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Commons for another hearing (during her last appearance, she shared her account of how the PM and employees in the PM’s office and privy council barraged her with demands that she quash the government’s pursuit of SNC-Lavalin over charges that the firm bribed Libyan government officials). Wilson-Raybould left the Trudeau cabinet after she was abruptly moved to a different ministerial post – a move that was widely seen as a demotion.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he put in a good word on the firm’s behalf with Wilson-Raybould, but insists that he always maintained the final decision on the case was hers and hers alone.

Fortunately for Canadians who agree with Rempel, it’s very possible that Trudeau – who has so far resisted calls to resign – won’t be in power much longer, as the scandal has cost Trudeau’s liberals the lead in the polls for the October election.

 

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