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McCarthy Blasted For Fresh Lies About FBI Russia Probe

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy pushed blatantly false allegations about the FBI investigation into four associates of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign over the weekend — lies that were retweeted more than 34,000 times at the time of this writing.

He claimed that the recent Justice Department inspector general report showed that “The FBI broke into President Trump’s campaign, spied on him, then tried to cover it up.” In fact, the report demonstrated clearly that McCarthy’s claim wasn’t true.

In the Fox News video clip accompanying the tweet, McCarthy explained what he meant by saying the FBI “broke into” the campaign: “They broke into his campaign by bringing people into it. They have been trying to cover it up for the whole time.”

But this is false. As CNN’s Daniel Dale noted, Inspector General Michael Horowitz found no evidence to support this idea:

Horowitz’s report said that “all” of the witnesses his team interviewed said “that the FBI did not try to recruit members of the Trump campaign as CHSs (confidential human sources), did not send CHSs to collect information in Trump campaign headquarters or Trump campaign spaces, and did not ask CHSs to join the Trump campaign or otherwise attend campaign related events as part of the investigation.”

Horowitz added that “we found no information indicating otherwise.”

The report also clarifies that the investigation initially focused on four individuals — George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Flynn, and Paul Manafort — not the campaign itself. And there’s no support for McCarthy’s claim that the FBI spied on Trump himself. There was an incident in which a member of the FBI’s investigatory team helped brief the Trump campaign on intelligence matters — which is a typical function of the FBI — and Horowitz recommends that policymakers should consider barring this practice in the future. But Trump was still not a target of the investigation, and there’s no sense in which this FBI official “broke into” the campaign.

What’s particularly egregious about this lie is how blatant it is. McCarthy’s not only making wild accusations — he’s making accusations that are contradicted by the report that he cites for the accusation.

His comparison to Watergate is also galling because in 2016, it was the Democratic National Committee that was once again, just like in Watergate, illegally burgled, this time by Russian hackers who stole and leaked private emails. And it was Trump who, at the time, encouraged these hackers to go after Clinton personally, and they apparently listened to this command.

“These claims are false,” said CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti in response to McCarthy’s tweet. “The Inspector General did not *find* evidence of this during his investigation.”

John Harwood of CNBC said: “House GOP leader McCarthy, who three years ago said Putin was paying Trump ‘swear to God,’ now joins Trump in disseminating Russian propaganda.”

McCarthy was additionally dishonest in the video when he said of the Horowitz report that the report showed a “modern-day coup” — a completely nonsensical idea, since Trump wasn’t in office at the time of the investigation. And the evidence suggests that the FBI actually undermined Hillary Clinton’s chances in the election, not Trump’s.

McCarthy further claimed, “Now the question rises, just like Watergate, who knew, when did they know it, and how high did this go up?”

The implication here seems to be that, like Watergate, the conspiracy went up to the top — to President Barack Obama. But this isn’t really an open question. Horowitz said he found no evidence that there was improper political influence in the investigation of Trump campaign associates. And though he found significant problems, particularly in the surveillance of Carter Page, these problems were largely the result of lower-level officials within the FBI not reporting enough information up the chain to give higher-ups a better sense of the facts of the case. So the evidence for wrongdoing that exists doesn’t raise questions about how much officials at the top knew, but why they didn’t know more.

This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but it doesn’t fit Trump or McCarthy’s narrative, and their conspiracy theories and lies actually distract from the real issues in the FBI.

Watch the clip of McCarthy’s comments below:

Russians May Have Monitored Sondland Call With Trump

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

When Ambassador William Taylor (top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine) testified during the first day of public hearings for the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, much of his testimony confirmed things that had already been reported. But there was one important revelation that hadn’t been previously reported: Taylor testified that one of his staffers, David Holmes, overheard a phone conversation in which Trump expressed to Gordon Sondland (U.S. ambassador to the European Union) a strong desire for an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Sondland was in a restaurant in Kyiv, Ukraine during that July 26 conversation with Trump — and according to a report by the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima, it is quite possible that Russian intelligence officials infiltrated the call and were listening in.

According to Larry Pfeiffer (a former senior director of the White House Situation Room and a former chief of staff at the Central Intelligence Agency) such a call was a major breach of security.

Pfeiffer told the Post, “The security ramifications are insane: using an open cell phone to communicate with the president of the United States. In a country that is so wired with Russian intelligence, you can almost take it to the bank that the Russians were listening in on the call.”

That July 26 conversation, according to Taylor’s testimony, occurred only one day after Trump’s now-infamous phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In 2014, Nakashima points out, a phone conversation between two Obama-era diplomats was intercepted in Ukraine, recorded, and posted on YouTube. The diplomats were Victoria Nuland (who, at the time, was assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian matters) and Geoffrey Pyatt (who was serving as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine). On a recording of their conversation, Nuland was heard complaining to Pyatt about how slow-moving the European Union could be and saying, “Fuck the EU.”

Nuland later apologized to EU officials, and Nakashima notes that the leaked call “appeared to be an effort by Moscow to drive a wedge between the United States and the European Union.”

Trump has been known to use his personal cell phone for conversations with foreign leaders or officials.

FBI Opened Counter-Intelligence Probe Of Giuliani

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rudy Giuliani is the subject of a counterintelligence probe by the FBI, according to a new CNN report on Wednesday.

The story built on previous reports that indicated that Giuliani is under investigation in connection to activities with his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were indicted last week by the federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. On Wednesday, a third person, David Correia, was arrested as part of their alleged schemes, which include conspiracy and campaign finance crimes. Correia, like Parnas and Fruman, was reportedly arrested at the airport.

Giuliani has said he received $500,000 from Parnas. Despite federal prosecutors’ allegation that Parnas and Fruman carried out a plot to launder foreign money into American elections from an unnamed Russian, Giuliani claimed the source of the money he received was American. He would not say where it came from, though.

Giuliani’s financial dealings and business ties to Parnas and Fruman have come under federal scrutiny, according to multiple reports, though the former New York mayor and lawyer for President Donald Trump has denied any knowledge of an investigation into him. He and his associates’ ties to Ukraine, which are tangled up in the scandal at the center of the House of Representatives’ presidential impeachment inquiry, also raised “counterintelligence concerns,” according to the CNN report. It cited “people briefed on the matter.”

One person, New York attorney Kenneth McCallion, spoke to CNN on the record and said that he has spoken to FBI counterintelligence agents about Giuliani and his associates’ Ukrainian ties. The report explained:

The counterintelligence probe hinges in part on whether a foreign influence operation was trying to take advantage of Giuliani’s business ties in Ukraine and with wealthy foreigners to make inroads with the White House, according to one person briefed on the matter.

“I was just asked whether I or any of my clients knew of any dealings that these two guys had with Giuliani,” McCallion said. “They were on the radar with regard to possible counterintelligence issues.”

A New York Times report found that Giuliani was also under investigation for potential violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Multiple reports have indicated that he lobbied to have former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch removed from her post. The State Department did, in fact, have her recalled ahead of schedule, an event that is now under scrutiny in the impeachment inquiry. In their indictment, Parnas and Fruman were charged with trying to oust Yovanovitch “at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.”

However, Giuliani has claimed that he couldn’t be charged with violating FARA because he was working on the president’s behalf. That defense itself may actually just cause more trouble for Trump.