Category Archives: Special Counsel

Mueller Team Had Lisa Page’s Phone It Claimed Was Lost

Anyone surprised that the Democrats are not clamoring for an investigation? Talk about a double-standard.  When in the past has this much evidence been “deleted”?  .. mrossol
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The Epoch Times –  Updated: September 17, 2020

An official who worked on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation wrote in a recently released email that he or she was in possession of an iPhone belonging to Lisa Page three days after the former FBI lawyer’s last day on the job and at a time when the device was thought to have been lost.

The special counsel’s office (SCO) and the Justice Department (DOJ) previously claimed to have no documents to show who handled Page’s iPhone after she turned it in on July 14, 2017, or who improperly wiped it two weeks later, before it could be checked for records, in violation of SCO policy.

But documents released by the DOJ on Sept. 11 tell a different story, with three officials certifying that Page turned over her phone and one claiming to have been in possession of it.

“I have her phone and laptop,” an administrative officer with the initials LFW wrote in a July 17, 2017, email to Christopher Greer, an assistant director at the DOJ Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO).

Beth McGarry, the executive officer at the special counsel’s office, told Greer in an email sent earlier in the day that Page “returned her mobile phone and laptop.”

On the same day, a property custodian officer, whose name is redacted in the documents, signed a form on which Page certified that she turned in her phone and the officer certified that “all government property has been returned or otherwise properly accounted for.”

The July 17 timing of the two statements and the signature is significant. The DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) previously concluded that there were no records of who had the phone after July 14.

The records about Page’s phone are part of a DOJ disclosure that revealed that members of the Mueller team improperly wiped at least 22 iPhones before they could be checked for records.

“These irregularities with the phones of Mueller investigators are either sloppiness or the deliberate destruction of evidence—and it’s probably not sloppiness,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Epoch Times in an email.

On July 14, Page’s last day at the SCO, McGarry met Page to fill out her exit clearance form. Page checked a box on the form to certify that she “surrendered all government-owned property, including … cellular telephones.” McGarry signed the same form but later told the OIG that “that she did not physically receive Page’s issued iPhone.”

Page told the inspector general that she “had left her assigned cell phone and laptop on a bookshelf at the office on her final day there.”

McGarry left the special counsel’s office for the private sector in March 2019, according to her LinkedIn profile.

“The DOJ OIG investigated the circumstances of the mobile phone issued to Lisa Page by the Special Counsel’s Office,” McGarry told The Epoch Times in an email, referring to the December 2018 OIG report. She didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up query about how to reconcile differences between the findings of the report and the new documents.

The OIG, which interviewed the records officer, McGarry, Page, and LFW for the report, told The Epoch Times that the new documents aren’t at odds with its findings.

“We stand by the information in our text message report about Page turning in the device on July 14,” Stephanie Logan, a senior public affairs specialist at the OIG, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

The report concluded that neither Mueller’s office nor the DOJ “had records reflecting who handled the device or who reset it after Page turned in her iPhone on July 14, 2017.”

Page’s phone notably never made it into the hands of the special counsel’s records officer, who told the OIG that she never received the phone to examine it for any government records that would need to be retained.

“Phone not found,” the records officer noted in a log she kept about the records on the phones assigned to the special counsel’s office staff.

The DOJ found the device more than a year later and turned it over to the OIG, which determined that all of the data was deleted from the device on July 31, 2017.

Wiped iPhones

The records officer’s log shows that Page’s iPhone wasn’t the only device to elude an examination for government records. A total of at least 22 iPhones with unique asset tags used by the Mueller team were wiped before the records officer could review the contents, according to an Epoch Times review of four inventory logs and various forms released on Sept. 11.

The Mueller team offered a number of excuses for the deletions. Two people claimed the phones wiped themselves. Others said they erased all the data by accident or had to do so because they forgot their passwords. Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor, wiped his iPhone twice.

Mueller’s team used a total of 92 iPhones, according to the documents. Four of the phones appear in the inventory logs, but not on the records officer’s log, suggesting they were either recorded without their unique asset tag or evaded the officer entirely. One of the four phones belonged to deputy special counsel Aaron Zebley. Another belonged to Zainab Ahmad, a special counsel attorney.

One phone was partially wiped. Four phones were improperly handed over to the OCIO and wiped before the records officer’s review. As many as seven phones with no asset tags noted by the records officer were either reassigned or wiped before the officer could assess the device for records.

The pattern of questionable deletions has drawn the attention of lawmakers. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairmen of the finance and oversight committees, respectively, sent a letter to the DOJ and the FBI last week asking for more information about what happened with the phones.

“It appears that Special Counsel Mueller’s team may have deleted federal records that could be key to better understanding their decision-making process as they pursued their investigation and wrote their report,” Grassley wrote. “Indeed, many officials apparently deleted the records after the DOJ Inspector General began his inquiry into how the Department mishandled Crossfire Hurricane.”

Crossfire Hurricane is the FBI codename for the investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign; Mueller took over the probe in May 2017.

Five months after Page left the special counsel’s office, the DOJ authorized a leak of 375 text messages between Page and Strzok, triggering a media firestorm over what the pair discussed. The initial and the subsequent releases of the texts showed that they expressed hatred for Trump and had a clear preference for his rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Strzok told Page that “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming president, discussed an “insurance policy” in case Trump won the election, and mused about impeachment around the time he joined the Mueller team.

Page’s attorneys didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

The OIG discovered the biased Page-Strzok texts during an inquiry into the handling of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. After the inspector general informed Mueller of the texts in late July, Mueller removed Strzok from the Russia investigation. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told lawmakers that he learned of the text messages on July 27 and made the decision to remove Strzok the same day. Someone wiped Page’s phone four days later.

Strzok and Page played key roles in the FBI’s investigations of both the Trump campaign and Clinton’s use of an unauthorized email server. The OIG concluded that their bias cast a cloud over the email probe but didn’t ultimately influence the outcome of the investigation.

The OIG began looking for the phones belonging to Page and Strzok after being informed of a six-month gap in the text messages it had recovered. The inspector general received the pair’s four FBI Samsung phones in late January 2018.

On Jan. 26, 2018, Greer reached out to LFW to ask where Page’s SCO iPhone was, because the OIG wanted to speak to the official about the device.

“Yes. I know it is missing. We discovered that first,” LFW wrote back.

The DOJ tracked down the phone eight months later, in early September 2018 and handed it over to the OIG. The records officer later contacted the inspector general to find out if the phone was wiped.

“Yes that’s correct, the device had been reset to factory settings,” the OIG official wrote back.

Three months later, in December 2018, the OIG released the report on its hunt to recover additional text messages Page and Strzok sent on six phones they used, four of which were assigned by the FBI. The effort resulted in the discovery of hundreds of text messages, but none came from the special counsel’s office phones, both of which were wiped before investigators recovered them.

The following January, DOJ officials reached out to Verizon with a request for billing statements to check how many messages Page and Strzok sent on their special counsel’s office phones. Verizon responded by saying no text messages were sent, with a caveat that data did leave the device. Verizon’s report didn’t cover the most common way to send a message on an iPhone—the iMessage app—which uses an internet connection rather than the carrier’s text service.

“Both numbers did have data usage so it could mean that if any messages were sent, it could have been through some type of app but we would not know for sure from our end,” a message from Verizon stated.

Mueller concluded his 22-month investigation having found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/mueller-team-had-lisa-pages-phone-it-claimed-was-lost-email-shows_3501024.html?ref=brief_News&utm_source=morningbrief&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=mb

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The Vindication of Michael Flynn

“If they [bad political, partisan actors] can do it to an honorable Army general, they can do it to you.”  I applaud this result, but my paranoia remains.  There remains much house cleaning yet to be done in the FBI and Justice Department.   mrossol

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WSJ  –  5/12/2020

The Justice Department dropped its case against Michael Flynn on Thursday, “with prejudice,” in a legal filing that should echo far beyond this tragedy of justice delayed. The latest evidence further undermines the credibility of James Comey’s FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller, and the entire “Russia collusion” investigation.

The retired Army general had initially pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI on Jan. 24, 2017, when two agents interviewed him at the White House shortly after he took over as Donald Trump’s national security adviser. But he later reversed his plea as new information emerged that the FBI may have tried to entrap him.

The documents filed on Thursday in federal court vindicate the general’s reversal. Justice said the FBI’s interview of Mr. Flynn was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn,” and that the interview was not “conducted with a legitimate investigative basis.”

We recommend the filing for readers who think this couldn’t happen in America. The filing recounts how the FBI had concluded in late 2016 that there was no evidence that Mr. Flynn had colluded with Russia. But the FBI kept the investigation open after it received a transcript of Mr. Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.

Mr. Comey and his loyalists then set up Mr. Flynn in an interview despite having no legal basis. The documents show that Mr. Comey told his deputies not to inform the White House general counsel of the visit and not to tell the White House about his conversation with the ambassador. They also show that Mr. Comey worked around senior Justice officials, including Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who thought the White House should be informed. As he did with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Hillary Clinton’s emails, Mr. Comey acted as if he was a law unto himself.

At the time the agents admitted they did not think Mr. Flynn was lying to them. But as the Justice filing notes, without a legitimate investigative purpose, whether Mr. Flynn was lying was immaterial. He should never have been prosecuted.

Yet Mr. Mueller, who knew all this soon after becoming special counsel, pursued Mr. Flynn, threatening him and his son with ruin until he got the guilty plea. The prosecutor on the case, Brandon Van Grack, was part of Mr. Mueller’s team and consistently denied there was relevant material the government had not turned over to the defense.

But surely the lack of a legal predicate for the interview was exculpatory. Mr. Van Grack told the court Thursday he is withdrawing from the case, but an investigation is warranted to see if he lied to the court. Mr. Mueller’s reputation also stands self-besmirched, and the entire Russia collusion probe looks even more illegitimate and political.

All of this came to light after Attorney General Bill Barr assigned another U.S. Attorney, Jeffrey Jensen, to look at the Flynn case anew. The partisan press will portray this as a political decision done to please Mr. Trump. But Mr. Jensen is a long-time veteran of Justice and the FBI. He is not someone who would seek to damage those institutions for political purposes.

Mr. Jensen put it this way in a statement Thursday: “Through the course of my review of General Flynn’s case, I concluded the proper and just course was to dismiss the case. I briefed Attorney General Barr on my findings, advised him on these conclusions and he agreed.”

Messrs. Jensen and Barr deserve credit for a brave decision that will not be popular with some prosecutors and certainly not with the Democratic media. But as the filing notes, the cause of justice is paramount, even after a guilty plea has been made, if the evidence demands a reversal.

There is still much we don’t know, and many Russia-related documents we still do not have, and we hope Mr. Barr will continue to make them public as he cleans up after one of the most shameful episodes in FBI and Justice Department history. For now, at least Michael Flynn can get his life and reputation back.

Source: The Vindication of Michael Flynn – WSJ

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What Ails the U.S. Press? – WSJ

A timeworn TV commentator and professor of politics, in the moments before Robert Mueller ’s testimony began last week on MSNBC, told the audience that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was an “act of war” by a “sworn enemy of the United States.”

Notice how each word is the sheerest nonsense. There is no forum in which countries “swear” their enemyhood. Congress has not declared war on Russia. Our $27 billion in annual trade with Russia does not implicate thousands of Americans in trading with the enemy. If Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic emails, this is a crime, not an act of war, and has been treated as such by the special counsel. And heaven help us if Facebook ads are an act of war. The U.S. conducts, and has for decades, espionage, disinformation, propaganda and other kinds of influence campaigns in numerous countries around the world. Thankfully we do not consider ourselves at war with them.

Don’t get me wrong. The Russian actions during the election, and especially their flagrancy, were an insult to U.S. power, and likely offered as such. I doubt the Kremlin is much pleased with the result, but a response is still required to deter such actions in the future. But what can it mean when grey-haired commentators are employed to speak childishly of these matters to the public?

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Or take a sentence in the New Yorker magazine, known for its care with writing. A staff writer positively disdains any interest in who promoted the Steele dossier or why. “There are questions worth exploring about the Steele dossier, having to do with, say, the transparency of campaign spending. But they are not the questions congressional Republicans are asking,” she sneers.

This evasion is so trite as to have a name: the red-herring fallacy, or pretending to refute an argument by changing the subject. That such a sentence passed muster with an editor is an embarrassment (and no favor to the writer). At least be the truth teller you presumably got into journalism to be, and say you don’t wish to know any truths that might tend to incriminate anyone other than Donald Trump.

Ditto the several cable hosts who shrilly promoted the theory that President Trump was an actual traitor and now, with equal shrillness, insist he’s a traitor for not echoing their partisan exaggerations about Russian meddling. In any other time, this dodge would not be enough to keep them in their jobs.

The U.S. is not in a position to get in a moral snit about such meddling, but we are certainly in a position to exact a price for it, and should. At the same time, let us stop lying to ourselves: 99.99% of the consequential effect of Russia’s low-budget actions arose from the panting eagerness of U.S. partisans to weaponize those actions against their domestic opponents. Indeed, if we were to parse the meanings of the word “collusion,” it would not reflect well on Rep. Adam Schiff, who objectively has been invaluable to any supposed Russian desire to confound and embitter U.S. politics (though my real guess is that Russia wants nothing so much as sanctions lifted, and has only shot its foot off).

It needs to be understood whether the Mueller report, and the Mueller investigation itself, was essentially a product of disinformation (and whose disinformation). Did the Steele dossier’s lies really originate with Russian sources, and to what purpose? Was the dossier embraced by members of the U.S. government because they believed it or because it was useful against a presidential candidate they disapproved of? (Pretending to believe false intelligence may not be an actionable dereliction, but the question needs to be asked.)

We need to know whether the secret Russian intelligence that James Comey used as justification for his improper, protocol-violating actions in the Hillary Clinton case was, in any sense, real intelligence. Did it bear any intelligible, logical relation to his actions, or was it a cipher, a piece of digital flotsam, that he seized upon disingenuously as an excuse to clear Mrs. Clinton’s path to the nomination?

These questions are not just necessary for historical accuracy. They are of scintillating journalistic interest. If you’re a reporter who can’t simultaneously disapprove of Mr. Trump (as many journalists do) and see their urgency, you should rethink your career choice. (I believe it was the psychoanalyst Karen Horney who said the professions function partly to attract those least capable of exemplifying their values.) News consumers might marvel that so many journalists at least are so devoted to their partisan allegiances, but devotion has nothing to do with it. It’s just dumb conformism and lack of imagination. As in any field, one learns not to be surprised that so many unprepossessing persons are in positions of authority.

Happily, we don’t need to worry about one thing. The hysterical rhetoric on Russia will disappear instantly when it’s no longer useful against Donald Trump.

via What Ails the U.S. Press? – WSJ.

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Mueller’s Mole Hills

The clarity with which Mr Jenkins presents is refreshing.
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WSJ 2/21/2018

On Aug. 17, 2015, 63 days after Donald Trump’s escalator ride at Trump Tower, a lightbulb went on. Certain pro Trump emails that colleagues and I were receiving were coming from Vladimir Putin’s internet trolls. “The Kremlin is now in the Donald’s corner . . .?” I emailed a co-worker.

The most valuable thing said last week was said by Sen. Jim Risch during a hearing, when he pointed out that the American people “realize that there’s people attempting to manipulate them.”

The least valuable was the prediction by three intelligence chiefs that Russia’s meddling will continue through 2018 and 2020. It may or may not, but what else were they going to say? There’s no upside to “estimating” anything else. This is a big part of what’s wrong with our intelligence establishment, handling inherently ambiguous matters and overwhelmingly incentivized, at least at the top, to say whatever is most politically and institutionally expedient.

Let’s be realistic: The Russian propaganda activities detailed in Robert Mueller’s indictment last week had less impact on the election than 20 seconds of cable TV coverage (pick a channel) of any of Mr. Trump’s rallies.

Only the media’s beloved hindsight fallacy suggests otherwise. In fact, Hillary Clinton’s campaign made good use of Russia to discredit Mr. Trump in the eyes of voters. What was the net effect on the vote? The press doesn’t know. Worse, it doesn’t know that it doesn’t know.

Ditto the media’s new favorite song that the U.S. has done nothing to punish Mr. Putin’s provocations. The U.S. government does not tell the public everything it does. American warplanes recently killed dozens, perhaps as many as 200, Russian mercenaries in Syria employed by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a key figure in the Mueller indictment. For the first time in the Syrian theater, a man-portable antiaircraft weapon appeared in the hands of the Syrian opposition, shooting down a Russian jet. The U.S. government has denied a role, but the message, if that’s what it was, would be historically resonant. The U.S. used such missiles to raise the cost of Soviet adventurism in Afghanistan and Angola in the 1980s.

Let’s hope so, because such means will be necessary in Mr. Putin’s case, not just waving legal paperwork at him as Mr. Mueller has done.

That said, give Mr. Mueller credit. So far, we’ve relied on partisan leaks and memos to tell us what little we know. His court filings, insufficient as they are, at least contribute to the air-clearing.

His latest includes information that could only have come from U.S. intelligence intercepts. He cites reports that Russia’s alleged operatives filed with each other, and even an email one operative sent to a relative. But this also highlights a problem. Mr. Mueller is dependent on U.S. intelligence agencies, which share only what they want to share.

James Comey’s intervention in the Hillary Clinton email matter now is widely understood to have been prompted by a false, possibly planted, Russian intelligence intercept of some kind in March 2016.

News reports as well as basic logic suggest U.S. intelligence agencies, at some point, would have started monitoring Christopher Steele’s communications. They likely know more about his alleged Russian sources and their credibility than they are telling.

Both episodes have done far more to inflame U.S. politics than anything outlined in the Mueller indictment. Yet here’s betting a Battle Royal lies ahead before we get the truth out of U.S. intelligence agencies.

Remember your Watergate: The CIA is a natural, perhaps irresistible, instrument for pressuring the FBI. Did Obama intelligence chieftains John Brennan and James Clapper use their positions to lean on Mr. Comey to spy on the Trump campaign or protect Mrs. Clinton? Is the intelligence community even now trying to shape Mr. Mueller’s probe by what it decides to share with him? If we had to guess based on what we know today, the answer is yes.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act, the basis for many of Mr. Mueller’s charges against the Russians, was passed in 1938, aimed at Nazi propagandists, who were active in the U.S. in ways very similar to the Putin regime. Implicit was the idea that Americans can’t be insulated from foreign influence, but they can certainly understand who is trying to influence them.

The Washington Post, in a lengthy reconstruction last year, concluded that President Obama held back from doing more to inoculate the American people against Russian influence because he didn’t want to upset the apple cart of an expected Clinton victory. That’s one mistake future administrations will find it harder to make.

Even so, keep in mind that the most consequential Russian meddling may well have been via the administration’s own handling of the Steele dossier and the Hillary Clinton email controversy. If so, the real struggle is yet to come. It will involve pulling teeth to get information from the FBI and CIA that they don’t want us to know.

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