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Most headlines about today’s joint hearing will focus on the firefights between Peter Strzok and Republicans. The goal thus far is to portray Republicans as either pawns of Russian President Putin or as bitter partisans who are just upset that Hillary isn’t wearing prison uniform. Either that or they’ll be portrayed as hyper-partisan hatemongers who just don’t understand the context surrounding his texts with Lisa Page.

That’s how the MSM is portraying today’s hearing. The truth, however, is that buried within the intramural catfights are major helpings of important substance that demolish Agent Strzok’s credibility. One such interlude is John Ratcliffe’s interrogation of Agent Strzok:

Ratcliffe sets Strzok up, saying “On page 400 of the Inspector General’s report, someone tells the Inspector General quote — there is a line — a bright and inviolable line between what you think personally and believe and the conduct of your official business. Who said that?”

Agent Strzok replied “I believe I said that.” Here’s the rest of that exchange:

Rep. Ratcliffe: You did say that. I heard you say similar things last week and I heard you say similar things today. You said it very clearly today. You said it very clearly, very unequivocally in your opening remarks. You said that you never crossed that inviolable line in 26 years. Earlier today in response to a question, you said “I took my personal belief out of every official act.” So you’re asking us to believe that when you say things like “f— Trump” and “Stop Trump” and “Impeach Trump”, that those are just personal beliefs and that when you say those things, you never crossed that line and that bright, inviolable line and allowed that to impact your official judgment. That’s what this really comes down to. You said that “I took my personal belief out of every official action.” So you’re asking us to believe that when you say things like ‘F— Trump’ and ‘Stop Trump’ and ‘Impeach Trump’, that those are just personal beliefs and that when you said those things, you never crossed that line, that bright, inviolable line and allow it to impact your official conduct. That’s really what this comes down to that you’re asking to believe, isn’t it?
AGENT STRZOK: Sir, what I’m asking you believe is that I’m offering you evidence…
REP. RATCLIFFE: Listen, you’ve been absolutely clear under oath, as clear as a bell on it. You’ve said it over and over again and because of this, I’m almost embarrassed to ask you this question. Of the approximately 50,000 text messages that I’ve seen with your personal beliefs with things like ‘F— Trump’ and ‘Stop Trump’ and ‘Impeach Trump’, go ahead and confirm on the record that none of those were done on an official FBI device or on official FBI time. Go ahead and do that.
AGENT STRZOK: Sir. No sir, some of them did…
REP. RATCLIFFE: Oh they did? So what you really meant to say when you said that you’d never crossed that bright, inviolable line, what you meant to say is ‘Except for the hundreds of times a day when I went back and forth expressing my personal opinions about ‘F—ing Trump’ and ‘stopping Trump’ and ‘impeaching Trump’ on official FBI phones and official FBI time, other than that, you never crossed that line.

This is how you interrogate a rogue FBI agent. For all his hours or moral preening and saying all the right words, Agent Strzok couldn’t avoid the truth that he’d crossed “that bright, inviolable line” hundreds of times.

The NYTimes’ bias shines through in this article. It starts in a paragraph that says ‘In the lead-up to the report, Trump’s allies agreed that this was paramount. The central question in my opinion,’ David Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager, wrote this week on the Fox News website, ‘is did Hillary Clinton and her cronies get preferential treatment in her email server investigation for political reasons?’ And the report’s answer is clear: No.”

One of the findings of the 568-page report is that there is proof that Hillary’s emails were accessed by hostile actors. Contrary to Jim Comey’s declaration of July 5, 2016, that’s a violation of the Espionage Act. The fact that most of her top campaign people got immunity suggests that the FBI didn’t pursue them with the same vigor that Special Counsel Robert Mueller pursued Paul Manafort or Carter Page.

Then there’s this:

Federal investigators and prosecutors did not give preferential treatment to Clinton. They pursued the case on the merits. They were guided by, as the inspector general’s report puts it, “the prosecutor’s assessment of the facts, the law, and past Department practice.”

Right. Tell that to David Petraeus and Gen. Flynn. Mueller’s team couldn’t find the political mainstream if they were given a GPS and a year’s worth of gasoline. Mueller’s prosecutorial team looks more like Hillary Clinton’s donor list than a team of skilled prosecutors. Trey Gowdy and Bob Goodlatte disagree with the NY Times:

Chairman Goodlatte stated emphatically that well-established DOJ and FBI procedures weren’t followed in investigating Hillary. That says it all. Goodlatte then said that there’s a stark contrast in the procedures used in the Hillary email investigation and the Trump-Russia collusion investigation. No grand jury was impaneled for the Hillary ‘investigation’. There was a grand jury impaneled for the Trump-Russia investigation. Again, that says it all.

The most significant mistake in the investigation didn’t help Clinton. It hurt her, badly. It was James Comey’s decision to violate department policy and talk publicly about the investigation. If it weren’t for that decision, the polling data suggests Clinton would be president.

This is disgusting reporting. If Hillary had followed government procedures, there wouldn’t have been an investigation. Hillary acted like this nation’s laws didn’t apply to her. The fact that she’s now gotten bit by the FBI is karma. What comes around goes around.

Jim Comey’s NYTimes op-ed is so filled with spin that it’d make half the nation dizzy. In his op-ed, Mr. Comey wrote “I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism. All of our leaders need to understand that accountability and transparency are essential to the functioning of our democracy, even when it involves criticism. This is how the process is supposed to work. This report is important for two reasons. First, the inspector general’s team went through the F.B.I.’s work with a microscope and found no evidence that bias or improper motivation affected the investigation, which I know was done competently, honestly and independently.”

This IG report dealt solely with Comey’s Clinton email scandal. This isn’t a report on the FBI’s activities as a whole. It isn’t just important to remember that. It’s essential to remember that. Let’s put this in context. The title of the op-ed is “James Comey: This Report Says I Was Wrong. But That’s Good for the F.B.I.”

The FBI is everything except exonerated. Trey Gowdy is as sincerely pro-FBI as anyone in Congress. He isn’t convinced that the FBI is exonerated:

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said in a statement the report shows “an alarming and destructive level of animus displayed by top officials at the FBI. Peter Strzok’s manifest bias trending toward animus casts a pall on this investigation…His bias impacted his decision making and he assigned to himself the role of stopping the Trump campaign or ending a Trump Presidency,” Gowdy said. “This is not the FBI I know.”

Included in the report is this bombshell:

The Washington Post reported that Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report includes an August 2016 text message exchange between Strzok and then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page about Trump’s chance of being elected president. “[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok.

“No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded.

With all due respect to Mr. Horowitz, I don’t know how you can discover the Strzok-Page texts, then conclude that there’s no bias in the FBI. Further, it’s impossible to think that there wasn’t extreme animus inside the FBI’s upper ranks.

Check out this exchange between Strzok and Page:

But remember, there’s no bias within the FBI. Seriously, Democrats spewing that nonsense are destroying what little is left of their credibility. The good news for Democrats is that destroying what’s left of their credibility is light duty work. It can be finished in a New York minute.

First, today isn’t President Trump’s birthday. June 14th is. The reason I’ve titled this post is because Michael Horowitz has announced that he’s releasing the much-anticipated DOJ Inspector General’s report on President Trump’s birthday.

According to Fox News reporting, “In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Horowitz said ‘we anticipate releasing the report on June 14, 2018.’ That day is also President Trump’s birthday. The inspector general also told committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in the letter that he has accepted the invitation to testify about the report on June 18, meaning his scheduled appearance before the committee is being delayed again.”

If Andrew McCabe, Jim Comey and Loretta Lynch aren’t worried, they should be. It’s already been reported that McCabe wants immunity to testify against Comey. Lawmakers are already hesitant to grant him immunity. If McCabe’s attorney can’t offer an impressive proffer, then McCabe shouldn’t get immunity. If he’s subpoenaed to testify, he can plead the Fifth and take his chances with a DC jury:

Horowitz’s review has already put top FBI official Andrew McCabe in legal jeopardy. The Justice Department’s internal watchdog sent a criminal referral for McCabe in April to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington.

Good luck with that, Andy.

The inspector general’s review uncovered the anti-Trump texts from FBI official Peter Strzok, who famously called Trump an ‘idiot’ and texted about an ‘insurance policy’ against a Trump presidency. Strzok had been assigned to Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe, but has since been reassigned.

I suspect that Mr. Horowitz’s investigative findings will lead to several people in the DOJ and FBI wearing prison uniforms.

Judge Mukasey’s op-ed helped open the floodgates questioning the Mueller investigation. Mark Penn’s op-ed is actually more damning because Penn is a Democrat. Penn’s op-ed connects lots of dots that Mueller, Comey and Rosenstein don’t want connected.

For instance, Penn wrote “At this point, there is little doubt that the highest echelons of the FBI and the Justice Department broke their own rules to end the Hillary Clinton ‘matter,’ but we can expect the inspector general to document what was done or, more pointedly, not done. It is hard to see how a yearlong investigation of this won’t come down hard on former FBI Director James Comey and perhaps even former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who definitely wasn’t playing mahjong in a secret ‘no aides allowed’ meeting with former President Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac. With this report on the way and congressional investigators beginning to zero in on the lack of hard, verified evidence for starting the Trump probe, current and former intelligence and Justice Department officials are dumping everything they can think of to save their reputations.”

This isn’t the outcome they were hoping for. They were hoping to take down a president they thought wasn’t qualified. Instead, Mueller, Lynch, Rosenstein and Comey have ruined their reputations and their legacies. Straight shooters like Judge Mukasey and Mark Penn are asking all the right questions and making the right observations while putting this puzzle together.

But it is backfiring. They started by telling the story of Alexander Downer, an Australian diplomat, as having remembered a bar conversation with George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. But how did the FBI know they should talk to him? That’s left out of their narrative. Downer’s signature appears on a $25 million contribution to the Clinton Foundation. You don’t need much imagination to figure that he was close with Clinton Foundation operatives who relayed information to the State Department, which then called the FBI to complete the loop. This wasn’t intelligence. It was likely opposition research from the start.

Contributing to the Clinton Foundation isn’t illegal by itself. It’s just convenient for this contributor to point the finger at Mr. Papadopoulos. With the Clintons, it isn’t wise to think that coincidences are truly coincidental. More often than not, these ‘coincidences’ are manufactured with precise intent.

This isn’t flattering to Mueller:

Flush with 16 prosecutors, including a former lawyer for the Clinton Foundation, and an undisclosed budget, the Mueller investigation has been a scorched-earth effort to investigate the entirety of the Trump campaign, Trump business dealings, the entire administration and now, if it was not Russia, maybe it’s some other country.

I’ll put this simply. It’s time to wrap this fishing expedition up. It’s been spinning its wheels for over a year.

In the past, politicians, mostly senators, have warned President Trump not to fire Robert Mueller. This morning, a legal heavyweight wrote this op-ed offering a different opinion. Michael Mukasey’s opinion isn’t coming from a politically-motivated standpoint. It’s coming from a legal standpoint.

He wrote “Recall that the investigation was begun to learn whether the Trump campaign had gotten help unlawfully from Russia. Justice Department regulations permit appointment of a special counsel only if (i) there is reason to think that a federal crime has been committed, and (ii) investigating it would present a conflict of interest for the Justice Department or there is another overriding public reason to take the investigation outside DOJ.” In other words, based on DOJ guidelines, there wasn’t a legitimate basis for launching this investigation.

Judge Mukasey continued, saying “Although Rosenstein apparently tried to correct his mistake in a new appointment memo, he has thus far refused to disclose, even to a federal judge, a complete copy of it. In other investigations supposedly implicating a president, Watergate and Whitewater come to mind, we were told what the crime was and what facts justified the investigation. Not here. Nor have any of the charges filed in the Mueller investigation disclosed the Trump campaign’s criminal acceptance or solicitation of help from the Russians. The one indictment that relates to Russian criminality charges that the Russians hacked Democratic Party computers and committed other social media abuse, but says specifically that if the Trump campaign got the benefit of it, that was ‘unwitting’ — i.e., without criminal intent.”

The harm this fishing expedition is doing is to the Intelligence Community’s reputation. The Deep Staters have tarnished the FBI’s and the DOJ’s reputations. Who knows how long it will take to repair that damage? The political heat is increasing on Mueller to wrap things up. First, it was Judge T.S. Ellis III who questioned the Mueller investigation’s scope. Now, it’s former Attorney General Michael Mukasey questioning Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of a special council.

Sprinkle in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s letter demanding production of Rosenstein’s scope memo. Combine these things and you have pressure building from people who aren’t seen as overtly partisan. That, more than anything, will hurt Mueller’s credibility.

If you’re wondering why Robert Mueller’s ‘investigation’ is allowed to continue, it’s because the conventional wisdom says that forcing him to shut down would create more headaches than it would solve. Since I don’t buy into the theory that people buy into Washington’s conventional wisdom, I’d argue that it’s time to fire Rod Rosenstein, install an acting Deputy Attorney General with integrity and a no-nonsense approach, then give that acting Deputy Attorney General orders to bring in Mueller for a visit.

Truthfully, that ‘visit’ would feel more like an interrogation. If Mueller admits that he hasn’t found proof of collusion between Putin’s Russia and the Trump campaign, that acting Deputy AG should tell Mueller he has 2 options. The first option is to hand off any unrelated crimes found in Mueller’s fishing expedition to the appropriate US Attorney or to Justice Department lawyers. The other option is to prepare to be fired.

Supposedly, we needed a special counsel to determine whether the Trump campaign colluded with Putin’s Russia to steal the 2016 election away from Hillary Clinton. After a couple of years of digging into that theory, there isn’t a scintilla of proof that happened. Mueller’s team of hyperpartisan investigators haven’t found a bit of evidence proving collusion or obstruction of justice. Despite all the threats of ruining the targets’ financial situation, nothing has popped.

Make no mistake. Official Washington will throw a weeklong hissy fit. The media wing of the Democratic Party, Chuck Schumer and Adam Schiff will be positively apoplectic. Jerry Nadler and Maxine Waters will be, too. That’s fine. If this is a fight between President Trump and common sense on one side and these Democrats on the other, President Trump will win that fight. (It’s wise to pick your opponents wisely.)

The key is firing Rosenstein. He’s done nothing to supervise Mueller’s investigation. He’s been more like a potted plant than a supervisor.

The truth is that the things Mueller is investigating are things that the DOJ or the US Attorneys are tasked with investigating. We don’t need a special council to prosecute Paul Manafort for tax evasion. If the media wing of the Democratic Party throws a hissy fit, that’s just fine. Each time they do that, Trump’s approval rating improves.

Finally, the truth that the DC echochamber won’t admit is that there’s no longer a justification for Mueller’s investigation.

Saying that U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III was fed up with Mueller’s team of lawyers is understatement. Judge Ellis rebuked them, saying “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort. You really care about what information Mr. Manafort can give you to lead you to Mr. Trump and an impeachment, or whatever.”

That wasn’t the only bombshell coming from Judge Ellis’s courtroom. Later in the hearing, “where Manafort’s team fought to dismiss an 18-count indictment on tax and bank fraud-related charges, took a confrontational turn as it was revealed that at least some of the information in the investigation derived from an earlier Justice Department probe, in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.”

The special counsel argues that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein granted them broad authority in his May 2, 2017 letter appointing Mueller to this investigation. But after the revelation that the team is using information from the earlier DOJ probe, Ellis said that information did not “arise” out of the special counsel probe, and therefore may not be within the scope of that investigation. “We don’t want anyone with unfettered power,” he said.

That’s definitely pushing the envelope. Saying that Judge Ellis wasn’t amused is understatement. Things got more interesting when Judge Ellis asked for the unredacted “scope letter”:

The judge also gave the government two weeks to hand over the unredacted “scope memo” or provide an explanation why not after prosecutors were reluctant to do so, claiming it has material that doesn’t pertain to Manafort. “I’ll be the judge of that,” Ellis said.

If Judge Ellis rules that Mueller doesn’t have the authority to prosecute Manafort, that doesn’t mean Manafort is off the hook. It simply cripples Mueller’s investigation, both from a political and legal standpoint. From a political standpoint, Mueller will have been exposed as overstepping his authority. Also politically, it’ll cast doubt on Rod Rosenstein’s letter authorizing the special counsel investigation. If Judge Ellis rules that the Rosenstein letter amounts to a blank check, Judge Ellis has the authority to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation.

This wasn’t a good day for the prosecutors or Mueller. It doesn’t end things but it gives the Trump administration and legal team the ammunition to attack Mueller’s propriety with regards to this investigation.

Robert Mueller’s ‘investigation’ is a sham that should be shut down. The truth is that the investigation violates 28 CFR 600.1, which says “The Attorney General, or in cases in which the Attorney General is recused, the Acting Attorney General, will appoint a Special Counsel when he or she determines that criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and –
(a) That investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances; and
(b) That under the circumstances, it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.”

I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me that Mueller’s investigation wasn’t started to investigate a crime. I’ll stipulate that it’s in search of a crime but that doesn’t meet the criteria for appointing a special counsel. Mark Penn, one of Bill Clinton’s pollsters, did some thinking in this op-ed. In fact, he’s got a list of questions he’d like to ask Robert Mueller:

When you interviewed for FBI director with President Trump, had you had any conversations with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director James Comey or any other current or former officials of the U.S. government about serving as a special counsel? Didn’t you consider going forward with the interview or being rejected as FBI director to create the appearance of conflict?

When you picked your team, what was going through your mind when you picked zero donors to the Trump campaign and hired many Democratic donors, supporters of the defiant actions of Sally Yates, who at the time was deputy attorney general, and prosecutors who had been overturned for misconduct? What were you thinking in building a team with documented biases?

When you were shown the text messages of FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, why did you reassign them and not fire them for compromising the investigation with obvious animus and multiple violations of procedure and policy? Why did you conceal from Congress the reasons for their firing for five months and did you discard any of their work as required by the “fruits of a poisonous tree” doctrine?

I’d like to add just one question to the list:

When you were appointed to be the special counsel, what crime were you assigned to investigate?

What has it taken so long for anyone to question Mr. Mueller? Democrats have, for the most part, been silent on the justification for the special counsel. The list of questions that Mueller supposedly wants to ask President Trump certainly don’t hint that he’s investigating a crime.

This question from Penn is particularly hard-hitting:

Do you consider firing the FBI director, thinking about pardons, considering firing you, and any conversations questioning your methods, bias or the foundation of your investigation to be matters you believe you can investigate, even though they are within the clear constitutional and First Amendment rights of the president? If you think you can question the president on these matters, then why should you not be subject to the same questions about your thought process, conflicts, possible bias and conduct in office?

Frankly, it isn’t difficult to make a case that Mr. Mueller is an out-of-control prosecutor who is politically and ethically challenged. Some of the questions he intends to ask are none of his business. Other questions pertain to things he has the constitutional authority to do.

If Mueller wants to push things, don’t be surprised if Trump’s legal team takes him to court to limit the scope of Mueller’s questions. That’s certainly within the realm of possibility. Imagine what’d happen if the judge ruled in Trump’s favor. It’d all but officially stop Mueller’s investigation in its tracks.

CNN just announced that they’ll air a townhall meeting featuring Jim Comey, the former FBI Director. According to CNN’s press release, “The one-hour primetime Town Hall, moderated by CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, will be live from Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall at Comey’s alma mater, William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and will be co-hosted by the Student Assembly at William & Mary. Following the release of Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies & Leadership, Cooper will moderate a conversation between Comey and a live audience as they discuss his FBI career, his public firing and the high profile cases he oversaw including the bureau’s handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

Director Comey isn’t being shy with his feelings about President Trump, saying “Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not.” Realistically speaking, there won’t be much middle ground in public opinion. Comey’s apologists will defend his questionable half-hearted investigation of Hillary. President Trump’s supporters won’t flinch in their support of President Trump.

Though public opinion isn’t likely to sway much during his book tour, the best chance for a significant shift will happen when Bret Baier interviews Comey. Jake Tapper, Baier and ABC’s George Stephanopoulos will be the highest profile anchors to interview Comey. Of that trio, only Baier has a reputation of consistently asking difficult questions.

The potential for ruining Comey’s book tour is high because IG Michael Horowitz’s report will likely be published after the initial wave of book tour interviews. Saying that Horowitz’s report likely won’t flatter Comey is understatement.

Alan Dershowitz highlights the importance of being able to trust major institutions in this interview:

Dershowitz reminds us that either Comey is lying or that McCabe is lying about leaking. When the Horowitz report comes out, it’s possible that there’s evidence that both have lied. That’s why the Horowitz report is a potential powder keg.

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