No Getting Inside the Dark Heart of the Mueller Report!

IT MAY BE CALLED ‘SPY HUNTING’, BUT . . .



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by Selvam Canagaratna


"Treason doth never prosper: whatʼs the reason? / For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."


– Sir John Harrington, Epigrams, 1615.


Abigail Tracy, of Vanity Fair magazine, chose to disclose it up-front: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s secret counter-intelligence findings may be the key to fully understanding the Russiagate scandal and its implications for US national security. AND YET THE PUBLIC MAY NEVER SEE THEM!


"On Friday, March 29th," wrote Abigail, ‟after a week of recriminations, soul-searching, and wide-eyed hysterics over William Barr’s four-page summary of the Mueller report, the Attorney General issued a correction of sorts. "My March 24 letter was not, and did not purport to be, an exhaustive recounting of the Special Counsel’s investigation or report," he wrote to Congress, though his letter was widely interpreted as such. Instead, Barr explained, his summary merely outlined the "principal conclusions" of the Russia probe – the "bottom line," as it were.


Mueller’s full report, Barr revealed, was nearly 400 pages long. By "mid-April, if not sooner," the public will learn why Mueller "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."


Or maybe not, she hinted. ‟In his letter to Congress, Barr said he is working with Mueller to make a number of redactions. There is material that "by law cannot be made public", he added; material that would compromise sensitive intelligence sources and methods; material that could affect other ongoing investigations; and information that would "unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties."


That prompted Abigail to immediately conclude: ‟This, of course, is the dark heart of the Mueller probe: classified intercepts of phone calls with the then-Russian Ambassador, secret meetings in London and the Seychelles, cryptic communications featuring Kremlin agents and a mysterious professor and Middle Eastern fixers worthy of a John le Carré novel. These are the connections that define the Russiagate conspiracy. Yet a full accounting of their linkages and significance may never be made public."


It was in May 2017, just after Donald Trump fired James Comey, that the FBI launched a counter-intelligence probe into whether Trump was under the influence of Russia against American interests. As Andrew McCabe, who was the acting head of the Bureau at the time, explained in an interview with The Atlantic, "We were concerned, and we felt like we had credible, articulable facts to indicate that a threat to national security may exist." Put simply, explained Abigail, top American intelligence officials feared that the President of the United States was acting as a Russian agent.


Many of the most astonishing episodes involving Trump or his associates colluding with Russian agents, explained Abigail, are in the public record. On the campaign trail, Trump called for Russian hackers to target Hillary Clinton; his son, son-in-law, and campaign manager met with a Kremlin-linked attorney at Trump Tower to secure "high-level and sensitive information" on Clinton, as part of what they were told was "Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump."


During the White House transition, there was a flurry of contacts between Trumpworld and Moscow, including an effort by Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner to establish a secret back channel with the Kremlin. Later, as President, Trump bragged about firing Comey to Russian officials in the Oval Office, sought out private meetings with Putin, and has sided with Russian intelligence over the assessments of his own agencies.


According to the Special-Counsel guidelines set forth by the Justice Department, Mueller was only required to provide an explanation to the Attorney General for why he did or did not decide to bring indictments against various targets in his probe.


Mueller’s mandate, as defined by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump." But Barr’s memo to Congress only said the Special Counsel’s investigation "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." He did not address "links" more broadly. And these "links" might tell a different tale of ‘collusionʼ. The absence of a criminal conspiracy does not mean that Trump or his associates were not unwittingly aiding the Russian government in its election interference, or that they are not still compromised.


Added Abigail: ‟Intelligence veterans I spoke with cautioned that the American public may never learn what Mueller uncovered in his counter-intelligence investigation. "This is spy-hunting, and the American public doesn’t need to know who the FBI is investigating until it is brought into the public arena, which is the criminal courts, because that could expose procedures and practices, and may be used to alert other people on how the FBI conducts business," they told me. Counter-intelligence investigations will often rely on secret intelligence obtained through warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is different than a criminal warrant. "It is not a criminal charge – again, it is intelligence . . . And when that information is put out in the public, that sort of hurts the FBI’s ability to do their job."


Mueller’s counter-intelligence findings are expected to be shared with a select group of lawmakers known as the ‘Gang of Eight’ – the leaders of the House and the Senate, and the chairmen and ranking members of the intelligence committees. Robert Grant, a former FBI agent and friend of Mueller, told Abigail the FBI would likely present "an oral briefing without a written report, and try to answer the questions the leadership of both parties might have" about the investigation. From that, the Gang of Eight might learn "how deep, in this case, the Russians may have been – what are their techniques and practices? How are they targeting people? Who are they targeting?" If there is a national-security threat, lawmakers need to know.


Whether Mueller’s counter-intelligence findings will see the light of day beyond the ‘Gang of Eight’ is unclear. But Democrats, for their part, are prepared to fight for it. Hours after Barr announced Friday that he was making "the redactions that are required" before the public release of the report, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler responded by demanding more. "Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence, by April 2," he wrote. "That deadline still stands."


That may be a tall order, given the sensitivities involved. But Democrats are prepared to point to precedents set during the Watergate scandal and the Ken Starr investigation to support their push for total transparency, without redactions, including all the grand-jury material that the Special Counsel collected over the course of his investigation. They will also seek to exploit the precedents set earlier in the Trump administration, when Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee compelled the Justice Department to turn over hundreds of thousands of pages of sensitive investigatory records and evidence related to the Clinton e-mail investigation and the Mueller probe, including FISA applications and renewals.


"The President has repeatedly sought to interfere in this investigation," a Democratic staffer told Abigail. "And if the Department fails to make the Mueller report public in its entirety and turn over the underlying evidence to Congress, it may


be actively facilitating a cover-up."


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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