Posted by Curt on 25 March, 2017 at 7:53 pm. 1 comment.


Dan McLaughlin:

There is no ongoing criminal investigation of President Trump or his campaign. I realize that may not be what you expect to hear, if you’re only casually consuming the news. But it’s what FBI director Jim Comey told Congress, and no available evidence contradicts it.

Democrats are desperate to draw a parallel between Comey’s testimony Monday before the House Intelligence Committee — about an ongoing FBI investigation that includes any connections between the Trump 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election — and Comey’s statements in July and October 2016 about the criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. But if you listen to what Comey actually told Congress under oath, you get a very different picture. Let’s quote the key portion:

As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters, but in unusual circumstances where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so as Justice Department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances.

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

Because it is an open ongoing investigation and is classified, I cannot say more about what we are doing and whose conduct we are examining. At the request of congressional leaders, we have taken the extraordinary step in coordination with the Department of Justice of briefing this Congress’ leaders, including the leaders of this committee, in a classified setting in detail about the investigation but I can’t go into those details here. [Emphasis added.]

In short, the investigation Comey references is not a criminal investigation; it’s a counterintelligence investigation, and crimes will be investigated or charged only if they happen to be uncovered in the process.

Where does that leave us?

First, it means that nobody determined that there was a basis to think a crime may have been committed — or that investigators were likely to uncover a crime — before starting an investigation. That’s not what people usually assume when they hear “FBI investigation.”

Second, it means that the investigation has no target and no standards, and that there is no expectation it will have a public endpoint. Criminal investigations may be broad-ranging, but they are ultimately creatures of law: A crime may have been committed; investigators look to build an evidence-based case that one was, and by whom. There are witnesses, testimony, legal elements to satisfy, and often a statute of limitations that argues for wrapping things up. At the end, there’s a public accounting: an indictment and a trial or plea. If the investigation becomes publicly known, the FBI and DOJ may break from their usual practice in confidential grand-jury investigations and announce that it’s over. A counterintelligence investigation, on the other hand, seeks only information, which may be developed over a lengthy period of time, and because it carries no possibility of charges, it can never clear anyone of wrongdoing.

Third, because they have no expected public endpoint, counterintelligence investigations can drag on more or less indefinitely, for years and years, without witnesses being called or a case being built. This Q&A with a couple of the committee’s Democrats is illustrative:

HIMES: This committee, of course, is engaged in investigation about links, as you said, between the Trump campaign and the Russians, should there be any possible collusion. We’ve had a number of statements very early in the investigation that there was no evidence of collusion. This is still very early in our investigation, is it fair to say that you’re still relatively early in your investigation?

COMEY: It’s hard to say because I don’t how much longer it will take. But we’ve been doing this — this investigation began in late July, so for counterintelligence investigation that’s a fairly short period of time.

HIMES: So, you used the word coordination which to me suggests that you are in fact investigating whether there was coordination between U.S. persons and the Russians. Is it fair for me to assume that we shouldn’t simply dismiss the possibility that there was coordination or collusion between the Russian efforts and U.S. persons as an investigatory body?

COMEY: Well all I can tell you is what we’re investigating which includes whether there was any coordination between people associated with the Trump campaign and the Russians. . . .

SEWELL: Can you say with any specificity what kinds of coordination or contacts you’re looking at in your investigation generally when confronted with something like this?

COMEY: I can’t.

SEWELL: Can you discuss whether or not there was any knowledge by any Trump- related person and the Russians?

COMEY: I can’t.

SEWELL: So with respect to any ongoing investigation, whether the specificity of the person, U.S. person or otherwise, you can’t comment on any of that.

COMEY: Correct.

SEWELL: OK. Can you characterize what the nature of your investigation generally, wouldn’t — when you do an investigation of this sort, can you talk a little bit about the process, generally?

COMEY: Not a whole lot. I can tell you we . . . coordinate with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the intelligence community to see what they may know from around the world that might be useful to us and we use all the different tools and techniques that we use in all of our investigations. That’s probably the most — I’m not sure that’s useful to you, but that’s the most I can say.

SEWELL: How long does a counterintelligence investigation like this usually take? You said that it started in July.

COMEY: There is no “usually.” It’s hard — it’s impossible to say, frankly. [Emphasis added.]

All of this is why the FBI would normally never reveal to the public that it is conducting a counterintelligence investigation. Such an investigation is a matter of “Spy vs. Spy,” aimed not at a resolution but at evaluating vulnerabilities and probing potential assets. Because national security is at stake, innocent people can be freely investigated, there’s no due process, and there are effectively no rules. The only protection is that these investigations don’t become public. Until now.

This is not to say that the Trump campaign is wholly innocent here, or that no investigation should happen. Counterintelligence investigations are opened for a reason, too. But those reasons are fundamentally political rather than legal in nature. Which is why the voters, who on the Democratic side are drinking deeply of conspiracy theories about the 2016 election, deserve a public accounting by Congress rather than vague declarations that “an investigation is ongoing” from the FBI, followed by no public outcome or reckoning, ever. Of course, Comey added that “as with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.” But that’s just FBI-speak for “if we find anything, we’ll go after it.” It’s not a statement that they have any reason to expect that they’ll find anything, much less that they have any evidence.

The contrast with the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton and her inner circle in 2015–16 could not be more stark. That investigation involved a discrete, deliberate, publicly known event (the unprecedented establishment and use of an unsecure private e-mail server to handle a large volume of the official e-mail traffic to and from the secretary of state and her key advisers) and whether anyone involved had violated a specific federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 793(f):

Read more

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x