Russian Probe Rx: Investigate the FBI
Terry H. Schwadron
Dec. 29, 2017
The new year is bringing into focus the degree to which the Trump coalition and Republican leadership are seeking to undermine confidence in the FBI and the special counsel’s investigation of possible misdoings by the administration.
In fact, polling suggests that the undermining efforts are having some success.
These efforts, of course, are aimed at exploiting legitimate questions to turn the whole investigatory process into a partisan stew so as to defang any charges that may result from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
I still put my faith in Mueller as an independent, tough, and professional investigator, who, I believe, will build the questions and any resulting case so bullet-proof as to withstand criticism. However, I have always said that the issue at hand is not whether Donald Trump, candidate, businessman and president, actually has crossed legal lines, but what anyone (Hey, Congress!) will be willing to to do about it.
As things stand, even with an obstruction of justice finding against people in the White House over the firing of James B. Comey Jr., it is a toss-up as to whether this Republican-majority House would even bring impeachment charges. In the end, unless now 18 Republican senators will support eventual impeachment charges, that route seems doomed. And if 2018 brings about a miraculous change in Congress, we are still in for rocky times if the answer is impeachment.
Nevertheless, the combined effort to undermine the workings of the FBI are almost stunning in their breadth, and in their statement that partisanship is more important than justice. At one point, a Fox anchor referred to varied parts and pieces as having amounted to a “coup” in our government by the FBI. Then Fox disowned the comment. Sheesh! Still, if you remain a believer in fact, we at least must hear these things, and then exert effort to put them in context. Whatever excesses there have been among those who criticize Donald Trump, there are still some central questions facing his own behavior and that of his team. Though these all are pointed mostly at muddying the investigative waters, there seem at least three or four separate efforts under way:
— An attack on perceived anti-Trump partisanship by a pro-Clinton FBI
— A Justice Department effort to reopen seven-year-old questions about the Uranium One sale as a diversionary attack on Hillary Clinton, as well as a decision to review whether Barak Obama approved dropping pursuit of charges against the terrorist group Hezzbollah to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.
— And a probe trying to link the anti-Trump “dossier,” the document produced by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, as being funded by Clinton forces, and used to obtain other information that has led to the Mueller investigation.
PARTISANSHIP: The partisanship campaign is loud and short, amplified by Republican Rep. Jim Jordon of Ohio, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Fox TV and Breitbart News, and presidential tweets, based on Mueller’s dismissal of at least one staffer for having participated more than a year ago in anti-Trump tweets in his personal correspondence. That has been appended to yipping about campaign funds from Clinton associates to the wife of Andrew McCabe, a deputy attorney general. The irony that the complaints about partisanship are in themselves partisan doesn’t seem out of line to these Republican proponents. Nor do they see irony in the idea that the staffer had been removed by Mueller as a perceived partisan issue, and that McCabe now says he will step down. The goal here is to stir the pot to make it easier for President Trump to slide on whatever may emerge from the inquiries.
URANIUM ONE: The Justice Department itself acknowledged that it may reopen the government approval in 2010 of the sale of a Canadian company called Uranium One to a Russian company that gave access to American uranium ore. The approvals were by a nine-member, interdepartmental commission representing a variety of agencies, including the State Department, while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. The accusers in this case say subsequent donations from a principal in Uranium One to the Clinton Foundation proves that Hillary Clinton was behind allowing Russians to have access to American nuclear fuel in return for a donation. There is no evidence that Clinton ever was involved in the review of the deal, but, in any case, that she was connected other than by marriage to the operations of the foundation at that time. In other words, for Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to re-open this investigation is a blatant use of exactly the kind of political partisanship that all say they are trying to stop.
HEZZBOLLAH: Likewise, has ordered a review of decisions against prosecuting Hezbollah’s drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations during the Obama administration. Sessions ordered Justice “to evaluate allegations that certain matters were not properly prosecuted and to ensure all matters are appropriately handled.” As first surfaced by Poltiico.com, the Obama administration is said to have hindered a Drug Enforcement Administration campaign known as Project Cassandra in order to avoid derailing a nuclear deal with Iran. This probe followed calls for an investigation by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) and Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), chairman of a House Homeland Security Committee .
DOSSIER: The main contention here is that the FBI and U. S. intelligence agencies launched their investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election because of an “opposition research” dossier that has been unverified and disputed by Republicans, and that was paid for, in part, by a lawyer once connected with the Clinton campaign. The dossier was the product of a business called Fusion GPS, the business of reporter Glenn Simpson, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, who hired British agent Steele. Parts of the dossier, which has nnever been made public, have been used to support the credibility of Russian ties with Trump’s world. Congressional Republicans have charged that the dossier remains unverified, and was used to gain warrants to emails and surveillance of people in Trump’s orbit. Complicating matters, Fusion hired Nellie Ohr, the wife of senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. The argument is not about what the dossier says, but over whether the effort to create it has tainted the whole of the Mueller operation.
Here’s my oversimplified advice to Republicans: Let the Mueller investigations spin out and consider the evidence before you just shoot the investigators.