Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) are calling for a special counsel to get to the bottom of Boris Badenov's fiendish plan to corner the market in upsidasium. I made that up, but it's not far from the truth. Norman Eisen and Noah Bookbinder are calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate possible Trump campaign ties to Russia. It so happens that Noah Bookbinder is Executive Director of CREW. Eisen and Bookbinder write:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Thursday that he is recusing himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.”
Good for him. But it’s not enough.
[I]t is important here that the investigation be strictly independent, which may require additional measures. For example, in 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from the investigation of alleged unauthorized disclosure of the identity of a CIA employee. Because Ashcroft recused, then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey (now director of the FBI) had authority over the matter; Comey in turn appointed a special prosecutor, then-United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, to handle it. Comey initially appointed Fitzgerald under the special counsel regulations, but later felt the need to give him even more independence than the regulations provide. So Comey extended Fitzgerald’s authority in a pair of letters, one in 2003 and again in 2004.
The fairy tale about Russia "hacking the election" was dreamed up for just such a purpose — to justify an "independent" investigation of the Trump administration. But there are two big reasons to doubt the validity of the Russian hacking story. First, according to reports, no one in our intelligence agencies got to see any physical evidence that Russia was involved in hacking Democratic National Committee servers. Since the DNC denied FBI access to them, agents were forced to accept the word of an outfit that was hired by the DNC, who said that the servers were hacked by Russians who wanted to help Donald Trump get elected.
According to one intelligence official who spoke to the publication, no U.S. intelligence agency has performed its own forensics analysis on the hacked servers.
Instead, the official said, the bureau and other agencies have relied on analysis done by the third-party security firm CrowdStrike, which investigated the breach for the DNC. “Crowdstrike is pretty good. There’s no reason to believe that anything that they have concluded is not accurate,” the intelligence official told BuzzFeed.
The second reason to doubt the validity of the Russian hacking story is the utter preposterousness of the notion that Russia would prefer President Donald Trump to a President Hillary Clinton. As Peter Schweizer describes, Hillary Clinton, through the Clinton Foundation, was the one who had business dealings with Russia, not Donald Trump.
Then there is the glaring fact that the Clinton Foundation also scored $145 million in donations from nine shareholders in a Canadian uranium company called Uranium One that was sold to the Russian government in 2010. The deal required the approval of several federal government agencies, including Hillary Clinton’s State Department. The deal allowed Rosatom, the Russian State Nuclear Agency, to buy assets that amounted to 20 percent of American uranium. Rosatom, by the way controls the Russian nuclear arsenal.
Equally troubling: some of those donations were hidden and not disclosed by the Clintons. President Obama required the Clinton Foundation to disclose all contributions as a condition of Hillary Clinton becoming Secretary of State. But that did not happen. The only reason the hidden donations ever came to light is because we uncovered them by combing through Canadian tax records.
Lest anyone be tempted to dismiss Schweizer as an unreliable source, this uranium story was reported by the New York Times in great detail in April of 2015.
As the Times reported, the deal that Hillary's State Department approved gave the Russian government control over "a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity." During her campaign Hillary also touted her opposition to completion of the Keystone Pipeline, supposedly for environmental concerns. By these actions Hillary stood in opposition to America taking full advantage of two of its key energy resources, uranium and oil. Unlike Hillary, Trump promised American energy independence through development of all American energy resources, especially oil and natural gas. So we have to ask, how will Russia benefit from the election of Donald Trump when it means increased worldwide supplies of oil and natural gas and the attendant downward pressure on world energy prices. Vladimir Putin and the Russians are heavily dependent upon oil and gas revenues.
Also consider that Trump has promised to rebuild the U.S. military, and in spite of all his bluster about NATO, his administration has declared its firm support, asking only that NATO member nations begin picking up their fair share of the cost.
To sum it all up, with Trump as president Vladimir Putin and Russia are looking at lower revenues from sales of their own oil and gas, a modernized and unified NATO on the Russian border, an upgraded U.S. military, increased American defense spending, and the possibility of an arms race with America that the Russians can't win. Again, the idea that Russia would prefer dealing with President Trump over a President Clinton is absurd.
Absurd though it may be, the Russian hacking story provides a rationale — a flimsy one — for launching investigations. By providing the example of James Comey and Patrick Fitzgerald and their work in the special investigation during the Bush administration, we can glean a sense of how Eisen and Bookbinder would like a special prosecutor to investigate the Trump administration. The case of I. Lewis Libby is quite instructive.
Let's begin with the New York Times column by Joseph C. Wilson which was said, by opponents of the Iraq War and critics of President George W. Bush to refute one of the claims the president made in his 2003 State of the Union address. In making his case for the invasion of Iraq Bush told the American people, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
A year earlier Joe Wilson was sent to the African country of Niger by the CIA to check out a forgery that falsely documented the sale uranium to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Wilson returned to report that no such transaction took place, and in his view, it was unlikely that such a transaction was even possible. He said as much in his New York Times column. But Wilson's column did not include all of the information that he passed on to his CIA debriefers. He left out this from a July, 2003 statement by CIA Director George Tenet.
He [Wilson] reported back to us that one of the former Nigerien officials he met stated that he was unaware of any contract being signed between Niger and rogue states for the sale of uranium during his tenure in office. The same former official also said that in June 1999 a businessman approached him and insisted that the former official meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Iraq and Niger. The former official interpreted the overture as an attempt to discuss uranium sales.
In the view of the Bush White House, this part of Joe Wilson's report to the CIA confirmed rather than refuted Bush's claim that Saddam Hussein made an attempt to acquire uranium in Africa. All the while, White House officials wondered, who is Joe Wilson and why did he go to Africa? Robert Novak answered their questions.
"Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me that Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report."
Novak's column set off the firestorm that ultimately engulfed Scooter Libby. Critics accused the Bush White House of vindictively and illegally leaking the identity of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame. The CIA would neither confirm nor deny that Ms. Plame was covert. Under pressure the Bush administration agreed to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the source of the leak. Acting Attorney General James Comey appointed his friend Patrick Fitzgerald to head the investigation.
Fitzgerald learned pretty quickly that Plame's identity was leaked by Richard Armitage, deputy to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Fitzgerald also decided at that time that no laws were broken, but rather than shut down the investigation, Fitzgerald sought and received permission from acting AG Comey to continue the investigation to look into potential mishandling of classified information.
The fishing expedition was under way. Fitzgerald zeroed in on a discrepancy between the testimony of Libby and that of NBC's Tim Russert. Libby testified that in his recollection he first heard the name of Valerie Plame in a phone conversation with Russert. Russert's recollection disagreed with Libby's. Later, away from the grand jury room, Libby consulted his notes and found that Plame's name appeared in notes of his that were dated earlier than his conversation with Russert. He went back into the grand jury to correct his testimony, but Fitzgerald said Libby's original testimony was a deliberate lie, not a case of faulty memory. Fitzgerald indicted Libby for perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements.
With no crime having been committed, what was the point, you may ask? It was political. Patrick Fitzgerald was really after Vice President Richard Cheney, and he wanted Libby to reveal or manufacture evidence that would convict Cheney — of something. Victoria Toensing explains in an April, 2015 article.
Consider that Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald knew from the beginning of his investigation that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage—not Scooter Libby—had “leaked” Plame’s name to Novak. Consider that Valerie Plame was not “covert” as defined by the criminal statute or Armitage would have been indicted. Thus, there was no underlying crime. Consider that in announcing the charges, Fitzgerald violated rules of professional conduct for prosecutors by going outside the words of the indictment by claiming that Libby had thrown “sand…in his eyes,” thus falsely insinuating that Libby had prevented him from knowing the leaker. Consider that Fitzgerald told Libby’s attorneys twice that unless he could “deliver” the vice president to him (i.e. provide evidence of Cheney’s criminal conduct), Libby would be indicted. Libby had no such evidence and so he was indicted.
Now we know from Judith Miller, former New York Times reporter, in her new book, “The Story: A Reporter’s Journey,” that Fitzgerald corrupted her testimony, which was key to Libby’s conviction. Miller says that Fitzgerald withheld critical information. As a result, she “misremembered” what she had discussed with Libby and testified falsely at trial, mistakenly incriminating him.
Democrats would once again like to execute from the Comey-Fitzgerald playbook. As with the case of I. Lewis Libby, there is no underlying crime to investigate, only a lot of partisan hyperventilation about ordinary and proper contacts, such as those between then Senator Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador. The element of intrigue is introduced only by the ridiculous and farfetched story that Russia interfered in the November election in order to help Donald Trump become president, and that the Trump campaign colluded with them. That fantasy hangs on because without it there is no rationale for conducting an investigation, and Democrats are desperate to investigate.
They are not really after Attorney General Sessions, though they would welcome his forced resignation if they could get it. They want Trump. He is their worst nightmare. Obnoxious and rude, he seems to blunder into what should be scandalous and fatal gaffes, but instead of suffering a political knockout, there he stands. When the bell rings at the end of the round, the Democrats slink back to their corner realizing they've punched themselves into near exhaustion and they're worse off for it than he is. He's something they've never seen — a politician inviting them to take their best shot on the chance that it will give him the opening to deliver a knockout of his own. And a knockout is what he intends.
Trump aims to strip power from the administrative state and restore it to the American people. If he is successful, he will also have stripped much of the power from the party of big government — the Democrats. The Democratic party will survive, of course, even if Trump is successful. But it will have to reform to do it. It will have to actually stand for things that help real American people. The old corrupt leadership, endlessly promoting politically correct platitudes solely to increase their own power, will have to go.
But they will do anything to survive and hang on. Players in the administrative state are at risk as well. The leaks that forced the resignation of General Flynn as Trump's National Security Adviser were very likely illegal. If the leakers are caught it could mean jail time. Washington wants Trump gone, and an investigation by special counsel is just the ticket.
Updated March 6, 2017, 8:33am