There Is A Big "CYA" Footnote In The Mueller Report Seeking to Put Distance Between FBI Attorney Clinesmith and Special Counsel Prosecutors (Updated)

FILE - In this June 21, 2017, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill following a closed door meeting in Washington. Mueller is willing to accept written responses from President Donald Trump regarding any potential coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

 

Never underestimate the duplicity of Andrew Weissmann in efforts to cover his own tracks and throw off the scent of ethical hounds pursuing him.

A “hat tip” on this point is owed to “Sundance” at “The Conservative Treehouse” for called attention back to a footnote in the Mueller Report that, at the time, seemed to serve no other purpose than to explain staffing of the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO), lines of authority, and lines of responsibility — drawing “circle” around who was in the SCO, and distinguishing them from other components of DOJ that assisted the SCO by assigning personnel but who not actually being a part of the SCO.  As Sundance noted, there seems to be a reference in that footnote to an unnamed government attorney with what seemed to be a benign, but now more meaningful claim that the attorney was not under the supervision of the SCO.

Here is the language used by the SCO at Page 13 of the Report, in a section that lays out the size and scope of the SCO organization and mission.

The Special Counsel attorneys and support staff were co-located with and worked alongside approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, a paralegal, and professional staff assigned by the FBI to assist the Special Counsel’s investigation. Those “assigned” FBI employees remained under FBI supervision at all times; the matters on which they assisted were supervised by the Special Counsel.1

  1. FBI personnel assigned to the Special Counsel’s Office were required to adhere to all applicable federal law and all Department and FBI regulations, guidelines, and policies. An FBI attorney worked on FBI related matters for the Office, such as FBI compliance with all FBI policies and procedures, including the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG). That FBI attorney worked under FBI legal supervision, not the Special Counsel’s supervision.

The calendar is important here, so let me first remind everyone of key dates here.

Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel on May 17, 2017.  At that time the Crossfire Hurrican investigation had been ongoing for nearly 10 months.  The Carter Page FISA warrant had been initially obtained in October 2016, first renewed in January 2017, next renewed in April 2017, and finally renewed in July 2017.  So the third renewal happened under the watch of the SCO.

As set forth in the Information, Clinesmith was first tasked by a Senior Supervisory Agent (SSA) to clarify Page’s status with the CIA, and to do so Clinesmith sent an email to the CIA on June 15, 2017.  The exchange of emails between Clinesmith and his CIA contact which included the email that Clinesmith later altered was on June 19, 2017.

On Dec. 4, 2017, it was announced that Strzok had been removed from the SCO investigation because of his anti-Trump messages — but he had been removed by Mueller in Aug. 2017.

In June 2018, the Inspector General issued the Report of his investigation into FBI actions in advance of the 2016 election.  During the course of that investigation, anti-Trump emails and text messages from a number of FBI and DOJ employees were uncovered.   In that Report, on pages 415-420, the following is attributed to Clinesmith, identified as “FBI Attorney 2” — Lisa Page  Sally Moyer is “FBI Attorney 1”. [Note — A Twitter follower pointed out this error — Page is actually identified by name earlier in the Report.  But the identity of “Attorney 1” does not change the nature of Clinesmith’s communications as set forth below].   Any and ALL efforts to minimize Clinesmith’s role must be read against this backdrop:

FBI Attorney 2 was assigned to the Midyear investigation early in 2016. FBI Attorney 2 was not the lead FBI attorney assigned to Midyear and he told us he provided support to the investigation as needed. FBI Attorney 2 told us that he was also assigned to the investigation into Russian election interference and was the primary FBI attorney assigned to that investigation beginning in early 2017. FBI Attorney 2 told us that he was then assigned to the Special Counsel investigation once it began. FBI Attorney 2 left the Special Counsel’s investigation and returned to the FBI in late February 2018, shortly after the OIG provided the Special Counsel with some of the instant messages discussed in this section.

There is no question that Clinesmith was NOT picked by Mueller to be an SCO prosecutor.   But Clinesmith said to the IG he was the “primary FBI attorney” assigned as of early 2017.  And he was removed from the investigation ONLY after his emails and text messages expressing anti-Trump bias came to the attention of the IG as it investigated FBI actions in the Clinton e-mail investigation.

But the Mueller Report wants everyone to believe that while Clinesmith was assigned to the SCO, he was not “supervised” by the SCO — at all times he remained under the “FBI legal supervision” according to the Report.  What is noticeably missing is any explanation as to how that was possible since the SCO operated independent of DOJ, and all investigative activity — including the work done by Clinesmith while assigned — was done under the authority of the SCO who answered only to the Attorney General — Rosenstein since Sessions was recused.

At the time the Mueller Report was drafted, Weissmann and the others knew what Clinesmith had done.  They knew that the Carter Page FISA — based nearly entirely on the Steele memos — was not supported by sufficient probable cause going all the way back to the initial application in October 2016.  That is why the SCO NEVER publicly claimed to have ever relied on the Steele Memos for any purpose.

Attempting to “disown” Clinesmith the way they did in the Report also helped Weissmann, et.al., in distancing themselves from what was revealed to them by the IG about Clinesmith’s anti-Trump views, which they realized would make him stick to them and their work like a “tar baby.”   This vehement anti-Trumper committed a crime, altering a key document supporting the issuance of the Page FISA affidavit when truthful information from that document would have likely stopped the initial warrant from being issued if the FISC had been informed.  Here are some of the highlights of what the IG wrote about Clinesmith:

FBI Attorney 2 stated that almost all of these messages were sent to co-workers he “considered to be” friends and he “was talking to them in that capacity,” and “[n]ot in a professional capacity.” FBI Attorney 2 reiterated that these messages or views had “absolutely” no impact on his work on investigations. He stated:

I, like most people, have particular views on, on politics. I’m a bit of a news junkie when it comes to government. It’s one of the main reasons I, I joined the federal workforce is because I’ve always found it so fascinating and interesting. But when it came to doing my work, I never injected this, this type of, of color commentary or this type of water cooler type talk into that. I, I maintained impartiality and just tried to work through the issues individually as they came through. So if they needed some assistance on a warrant or some assistance on, you know, potentially pursuing contacts with another government agency or something like that, like,  just, I assisted with the process more like, kind of like an XO type role I guess.

No impact on his work??  So his decision to alter a document so that it would not undermine a key investigative action was not impactful?

Among the general discussion of political issues by FBI Attorney 2, we identified three instant message exchanges that raised concerns of potential bias. The first of these exchanges was on October 28, 2016, shortly after Comey’s October 28 letter to Congress … reopening of the Midyear investigation. FBI Attorney 2 sent similar messages to four different FBI employees….:

“As I have initiated the destruction of the republic…. Would you be so kind as to have a coffee with me this afternoon?”

FBI Attorney 2 described these messages as reflecting his surprise and frustration that the FBI “was essentially walking into a landmine in terms of injecting itself [into the election] at that late in the process.”…

I think that, that there is some distinguishment between my frustration at the way that the Bureau is operating itself in October…. what’s not in here too is like, you know, we, at that point we had investigation, the Russia investigation was ongoing as well. And that information was obviously kept close hold and was not released until March. So, you know, it, it was just kind of frustration that we weren’t handling both of them the same way with, with that level I guess.  

Clinesmith wanted the Russia investigation — before anything was known about truth or falsity of the allegations — to have been a public matter in the same way the Clinton email investigation was a public matter.  He expressed a desire that FBI actions be as harmful to Trump’s election chances as he thought the reopening of the Clinton email investigation would be to Hillary Clinton’s election chances.  This is an expression of his view on how the FBI SHOULD OPERATE.

The Report continued:

The third exchange we identified was on November 22, 2016. FBI Attorney 2 sent an instant message to FBI Attorney 1 commenting on the amount of money the subject of an FBI investigation had been paid while working on the Trump campaign. FBI Attorney 1 responded, “Is it making you rethink your commitment to the Trump administration?” FBI Attorney 2 replied, “Hell no.” and then added, “Viva le resistance.”

We asked FBI Attorney 2 if “Viva le resistance” signaled he was going to fight back against President Trump. FBI Attorney 2 responded:

That’s not what I was doing…. I just, again, like that, that’s just like the entire, it’s just my political view in terms of, of my preference. It wasn’t something along the lines of, you know, we’re taking certain actions in order to, you know, combat that or, or do anything like that. Like that, that was not the intent of that. That was more or less just like, you know, commentary between me and [FBI Attorney 1] in a personal friendship capacity where she is just making a joke, and I’m responding. Like, it’s not something that, that I personally believe in that instance. FBI Attorney 2 acknowledged that both he and FBI Attorney 1 were assigned to the Russia investigation at this point in time and he “can understand the, the perception issues that come from” this exchange.

Sure, just “perception” issues — and 8 months later he altered the language of an email before forwarding it because he feared the actual language of the email would undermine the continuation of the investigation.

To circle back to the original point — the Mueller Report wanted everyone to know when the “excrement hit the rotary oscillator” with regard to Clinesmith that “He didn’t work for us”.

And when the Information was filed as a public document on Friday, Andrew Weissmann went into full-tilt spin mode on Twitter to beat back the implications that follow by claiming the Durham investigation found a “non-crime” to have taken place.  Weissman’s distortions of the alleged facts and the law in the issues of “creating a false writing” will be the subject of aother story analyzing many of Weissmann’s recent distortions — and outright lies — on Twitter that I’ll have ready to go in a couple of days.  But I would recommend the story written today by Jonathan Turley on the subject.

Suffice it to say that Andrew Weissmann’s efforts over the past 48 hours tells the public everything they need to know to confirm that the SCO investigation, capped off by the Mueller Report, was ALWAYS a partisan hit job on the Trump Presidency.  It only came to an end because Pres. Trump received probably the best advice of his term in office when someone told him he should appoint William Barr to be Attorney General.