Wednesday, May 10, 2017

That Pesky FBI

People mark their lives with events that will be remembered and taught in history classes. Where were you for victory in Europe, Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon, JFK's assassination, Challenger disaster, or the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Some events in my life seem like huge milestones that likely won't be discussed outside of a few generations like the flood of '93 or the O.J. Simpson trial.

And then there's events 911 which is going to be the focal point of so many conflicts, the fall and rise of new empires, and the reason the global economy has gone the way it has.

As someone who is enthralled with history, the firing of F.B.I. director James Comey feels like part of one of those events that is taught in American History classes for generations to come.

Who is James Comey

The short story, he was a very high-profile and successful US Attorney. He took over the investigation of Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich. He was the prosecutor on one of the largest identify theft cases in history. He's taken on multiple high-profile corporate fraud cases and we even the guy to take down Martha Stewart.

He was Deputy Attorney General under George W. Bush and made F.B.I. Director under Barack Obama.

The Clinton Emails

You might first remember Comey's name attached to the election last year.

Essentially, in July 2015, the FBI opened a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton because she used a family email server to conduct Secretary of State business. At first, there were 110 emails sent from these private servers that were considered some form of classified. After the FBI went through them, they retroactively classified 2100 emails as Secret or Top Secret.

However, Comey and the FBI did not find a solid case to bring charges against Clinton. He called her careless and reprimanded her publicly, but ultimately closed the investigation.

In October, while investigating Anthony Weiner and his sexting to an underage girl, the FBI found additional emails to a Clinton staffer that were relevant to the original investigation.

Comey decided to inform congress that the investigation was re-opened, a move that was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats and the Justice Department because of how close it was to the election (violating FBI policies and procedures of not interfering so close to an election).

Comey's intention was just to inform Congress, but once he sent his letter to Congress, it immediately leaked to the media.

Essentially the conclusion to the investigation was that none of the emails were relevant or they were duplicates of emails the FBI had already read. Trump made this one of his campaign cornerstones toward the end of the election.

Famous statistician Nate Silver said Comey's announcement and the earlier Wikileaks cost Clinton the election.

The Russian Investigation

In July 2016, the FBI started an investigation into the Trump Campaign and links to many Russian officials after receiving a dossier with evidence.

In October 2016, it was announced that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked by two Russian groups and they leaked DNC emails to Wikileaks.

Outside of the Trump campaign's ties, it was found that Russian groups created fake news (second story) and spread it across social media platforms to influence the election.

In the coming months many people close to Trump were found to have Russian ties: Paul Manafort (campaign chairman) had alleged contact with Russian intelligence officials, Jared Kushner (Trump's son-in-law) failed to disclose contact with a Russian ambassador and head of a Russian bank, Micheal Flynn (National Security Adviser) met with Russian ambassador to discuss sanctions and then allegedly met with two other Russian officials to open up lines of communication for the Trump cabinet, Jess Sessions (US Senator, Attorney General) denied having any contact with Russian officials during confirmations hearings but didn't bring up meeting with several Russian officials in July and October of 2016, Carter Page (former foreign policy adviser) met with several Russian ambassadors at the Republican National Committee he admitted after first denying, and Roger Stone (former adviser) admitted to being in contact with Russian hackers involved in the DNC hacking and having insider knowledge of the hacking.

In January 2017, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released their findings that Russia did interfere in the US election and that they favored Trump over Clinton.

In March, FBI Director Comey admitted there was an investigation into the Trump campaign and collusion with Russia in the same speech where he told Trump there was no wiretapping evidence by Obama.

In May, Comey made a statement saying Russia is "the greatest threat to any nation on Earth..." and asked for further funding into the Russian / Trump investigation and daily briefings on progress.

Less than a week later, and only two days before Comey was supposed to testify in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he found out that he was fired... via a TV... behind the crowd that he was speaking to. President Trump fired Comey at the behest of Attorney General Jeff Sessions (the guy that had to recuse himself from the Russian probe because of his Russian ties) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

What does it all mean?

We're not sure right now.

Everyone is assuming and making allegations. Many representatives, both Republican and Democratic have called for an independence inquiry.

There's a lot of smoke and everyone is trying to find out if there's fire.

The second paragraph of President Trump's letter seems damning as to any personal involvement he may have with the Russians.

The timing of Comey's dismissal after asking for more funds and manpower, Trumps meeting with Russian diplomats, and Comey's scheduled hearing in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee all seem suspect considering Trump has wanted this Russian monkey off his back for months now.

Either way, Comey is being asked to testify as a private citizen now. Meaning, he can inject his own opinions into his statements rather than just sticking to the facts. This will be the most interesting and possibly the most watched testimony since Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky or the hearings on the Weapon's of Mass Destruction.

And one thing I keep seeing pop up on websites over and over again is, "Why do you care about Trump but you didn't seem to care about Hillary?"

  1. I did. Unfortunately we had two main candidates and they both had serious allegations against them during the election. 
  2. I care much less now. Clinton is a private citizen. Sure, if she did wrong, nail her. Capture all criminals. But when it comes down to it, she is much less in my life than President Trump.
The one thing we do know is Russian's played a huge role in our election. And beyond the US, Russians are alleged to be involved in other populist campaigns such as Brexit and the French Election. (Thank God that turned out for the best)

This is a war against our democracy. And while we're fighting left vs right, snowflakes vs bible thumpers, Democrats vs Republicans on our social media pulpits, there's an old foe waging a war we thought we were done with and they are winning.