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Friday, May 26, 2017

Parsing Of What Appears To Be New Information on FBI Investigation of Hillary Clinton


How a dubious Russian document influenced the 

FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe

Taken from Washington Post


By Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett May 24 at 3:02 PM 
Reviewer Note:  We will be examining this article written by the above authors in the Washington Post (link to article will be provided above).  This is an exercise of reviewing new information coming into the public eye / open sourced, as well as new information that may affect public opinion on several topics.


In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received a purported Russian intelligence document describing a tacit understanding between the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.
Review Note:  Americans were never told this aspect of the Clinton Email investigation.  This is the first time that a "Russian Intelligence Document" has been introduced into the public arena / open sourced.  Why is this information being leaked out now, and how did WaPo grab this information?
The Russian document mentioned a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter — a conversation that if made public would cast doubt on the inquiry’s integrity.
Reviewer Note:  This is a correct statement to make;  if such a document existed, then yes, Americans writ large would cast doubt on the Justice Department as a whole.  The question this statement leaves out there is "WHO in the Clinton Campaign did Loretta Lynch say this to?"  This item is conveniently left out.
Current and former officials have said that document played a significant role in the July decision by then-FBI Director James B. Comey to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.
Reviewer Note:  This is not what FBI Director Comey has testified under Oath on more than one occasion.  Director Comey never made mention of any "Russian Documents" that formed his opinion to not pursue criminal charges against Hillary Clinton.  What he did testify to on May 3, 2017.  In his testimony, James Comey stated that his decision not to pursue charges was determined and sealed once he learned that Attorney General Loretta Lynch had met in private with former President Bill Clinton.  No mention of a "Russian Document."
But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable.
Reviewer Note:  WHAT Americans? Who?  And how would a fake Russian Document / Intelligence "confuse the bureau?"
The document, obtained by the FBI, was a piece of purported analysis by Russian intelligence, the people said. It referred to an email supposedly written by the then-chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and sent to Leonard Benardo, an official with the Open Society Foundations, an organization founded by billionaire George Soros and dedicated to promoting democracy.
Reviewer Note:  One can not simply dismiss the fact that Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz appears in nearly every Democrat "scandal."  At some point, there needs to be a true investigation into the circles and dealings of Rep. Wasserman Schultz.
The Russian document did not contain a copy of the email, but it described some of the contents of the purported message.
In the supposed email, Wasserman Schultz claimed Lynch had been in private communication with a senior Clinton campaign staffer named Amanda Renteria during the campaign. The document indicated Lynch had told Renteria that she would not let the FBI investigation into Clinton go too far, according to people familiar with it.
(Amanda Renteria is sought after by John Podesta)  
Reviewer Note:  If the above is true, why is this information just being reported now?  Is Congress aware of this?  Is the President and Department of Justice aware of this?  Inspector General?  And WHO are the "people familiar with it."   Again we see Wasserman Schultz name.
Current and former officials have argued that the secret document gave Comey good reason to take the extraordinary step over the summer of announcing the findings of the Clinton investigation himself without Justice Department involvement.
Reviewer Note:  Again this goes against James Comey's testimony on 5/3/2017.  Who are these current and former officials?  It against basic journalism principles to utilize anonymous sources without valid reason, and without explaining in some detail what those reasons are.  We are introduced to several "officials" but none are named, and at no time is the reason for anonymity explained.
Comey had little choice, these people have said, because he feared that if Lynch announced no charges against Clinton, and then the secret document leaked, the legitimacy of the entire case would be questioned.
Reviewer Note:  Once again, this contradicts the testimony of James Comey on 5/3/2017 where he stated specifically that his reason for his bizarre announcement was due to the meeting on the plane with Attorney General Lynch and former President Clinton.  
Bigger question:  WHO would be leaking such a document? Why would the FBI assume a secret document would be leaked?  By who?  And why would this discredit the FBI investigation?  If anything, the American public would likely understand the decision made if it was based off of this document.  Therefore, it is suspect that this article is written in such  a manner so as to suggest that the American public is unable to make important critical-thinking decisions based on evidence presented.
From the moment the bureau received the document from a source in early March 2016, its veracity was the subject of an internal debate at the FBI. Several people familiar with the matter said the bureau’s doubts about the document hardened in August when officials became more certain that there was nothing to substantiate the claims in the Russian document. FBI officials knew the bureau never had the underlying email with the explosive allegation, if it ever existed.
Reviewer Note:  Again, why keep reporting on a document that is deemed bad.  Who are the "several people familiar with the matter."  This is an example of steering opinion without a valid claim.  Citing ghost sources is improper reporting.
Yet senior officials at the bureau continued to rely on the document before and after the election as part of their justification for how they handled the case.
Reviewer Note:  Why even write the above.  It's been stated repeatedly, and again, does not provide sources or proof of validity.
Wasserman Schultz and Benardo said in separate interviews with The Washington Post that they do not know each other and have never communicated. Renteria, in an interview, and people familiar with Lynch’s account said the two also do not know each other and have never communicated. Lynch declined to comment for this article.
Reviewer Note:  "...and people familiar with Lynch's account..."  Vague and misleading.  Are we talking about her email account or her account (recollection) of what happened?  Who are the "people familiar with Lynch's account?"  Why again, are non-named sources used?
Moreover, Wasserman Schultz, Benardo and Renteria said they have never been interviewed by the FBI about the matter.
Reviewer Note:  This statement alone raises so many questions an entire article could be written on it alone.  The main question would be, why did the FBI fail to interview Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Loretta Lynch, or Benardo and Renteria?  Wouldn't the FBI want to know exactly what these four named individuals knew or didn't know since they were specifically named in a piece of "Russian Intelligence?"  
Comey’s defenders still insist that there is reason to believe the document is legitimate and that it rightly played a major role in the director’s thinking.
“It was a very powerful factor in the decision to go forward in July with the statement that there shouldn’t be a prosecution,” said a person familiar with the matter. “The point is that the bureau picked up hacked material that hadn’t been dumped by the bad guys [the Russians] involving Lynch. And that would have pulled the rug out of any authoritative announcement.”
Reviewer Note:  If you are confused by the above paragraph you are not alone.  Ignoring the fact that once again another unnamed source is used, if the "material" (I assume the Russian Document naming Wasserman and Lynch) had NOT been dumped by the (Russians) than who dumped it and how did the FBI obtain the information?  Was it an American source then?  And if it was NOT from Russia, and was a valid piece of intelligence, that brings us right back to why didn't the FBI investigate this evidence and question Wasserman Schultz, Lynch, Benardo and Renteria?  By not doing so, this does not lend credibility to the FBI and actually harms its case for being credible.  In addition, in what world does "valid" leaked intelligence become the backbone of NOT pursuing charges on someone not named in the document (Hillary Clinton)?  This statement by the Washington Post has a lot of flaws to it and truly needs to be clarified.
Other people familiar with the document disagree sharply, saying such claims are disingenuous because the FBI has known for a long time that the Russian intelligence document is unreliable and based on multiple layers of hearsay.
“It didn’t mean anything to the investigation until after [senior FBI officials] had to defend themselves,” said one person familiar with the matter. “Then they decided it was important. But it’s junk, and they already knew that.”
Reviewer Note:  WHICH Senior FBI Officials had to defend themselves?  When?  Where?  And why would they need to defend themselves against a document that is "... junk, and they already knew that."  This statement (which as this entire article does uses sources that are not named and no reasons given why they must remain anonymous) makes little sense;  it is hard to find a situation where any law enforcement official needs to "defend themselves" in terms of documents.  Even if there was such a situation, if the intelligence is "junk" then THAT is the defense.  This paragraph seems to be another item thrown in to try to persuade public opinion on the topic, without providing any valid sources or reasons for writing about the item without any proof.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment. Comey did not respond to requests for comment.
The people familiar with the Russian document spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss its contents. No one familiar with it asked The Post to withhold details about its origins to safeguard the source.
Reviewer Note:  This is the first time we are privy to the fact that sources wanted to remain anonymous due to not being authorized to talk about it.  We still are not sure if these are FBI officials, or officials from other Intelligence Community agencies.
Several of them said they were concerned that revealing details now about the document could be perceived as an effort to justify Trump’s decision to fire Comey, but they argued that the document and Comey’s firing are distinct issues. Most of the people familiar with the document disagree strongly with the decision to fire the director, but they also criticized current and former officials who have privately cited the document as an important factor in the decisions made by Comey and other senior FBI officials. Comey told lawmakers he would discuss it with them only in a classified session.
Reviewer Note:  Washington Post just spelled out the details of this "Russian Document" even though anonymous sources stated they didn't want the information out in the public.  It is not clear if the sources that are concerned with the document are the same ones that criticized FBI decisions based off of this mystery document.
Email not obtained
After the bureau first received the document, it attempted to use the source to obtain the referenced email but could not do so, these people said. The source that provided the document, they said, had previously supplied other information that the FBI was also unable to corroborate.
Reviewer Note:  So basically the FBI is admitting that they utilize bad informants in high-profile cases?
While it was conducting the Clinton email investigation, the FBI did not interview anyone mentioned in the Russian document about its claims. At the time, FBI agents were probing numerous hacking cases involving Democrats and other groups, but they never found an email like the one described in the document, these people said.y 
Reviewer Note:  So again, the FBI failed to interview those implicitly mentioned in Russian Intelligence information that, regardless if bogus, certainly named individuals that were likely suspects at some point and time.  And if not, then we really need to question why not.  FBI stating they were too busy with DNC "hacking" is funny, since Director Comey testified before Congress again, that the FBI had no access to FBI Email servers, and were relying 100% on a report given to them by a third-party DNC-hired computer forensics firm, without ever granting access to the DNC hardware.  Since when does the FBI relinquish such parts of a critical investigation?
Then on July 5, Comey decided to announce on his own — without telling Lynch ahead of time — that he was closing the Clinton email case without recommending charges against anyone. Aides to Comey said he decided to act alone after Lynch met privately with Bill Clinton for nearly a half-hour on an airport tarmac in Phoenix about a week earlier — and have since said privately the Russian document was also a factor in that decision.
Reviewer Note:  This seems to be the most accurate part of this article.
The appearance of possible conflict arising from the Phoenix meeting led FBI leadership to want to show it had reached the decision independently, without political interference from the Justice Department.
About a month after Comey’s announcement, FBI officials asked to meet privately with the attorney general. At the meeting, they told Lynch about a foreign source suggesting she had told Renteria that Clinton did not have to worry about the email probe, because she would keep the FBI in check, according to people familiar with the matter.
“Just so you know, I don’t know this person and have never communicated with her,’’ Lynch told the FBI officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion. The FBI officials assured her the conversation was not a formal interview and said the document “didn’t have investigative value,’’ the person said.
Reviewer Note:  Were ANY parts of the FBI investigation "formal interviews?"  As its been reported before Congress, there is an impression that almost all major witnesses and the target, Hillary Clinton, did not have "formal interviews" by any FBI Investigator.  If this in not an accurate statement, please feel free to correct my statement.
Nevertheless, the officials said, they wanted to give the attorney general what is sometimes referred to as a “defensive briefing’’ — advising someone of a potential intelligence issue that could come up at some future point.
The agents never mentioned Wasserman Schultz to Lynch but told her there was some uncertainty surrounding the information because of “possible translation issues,” according to a person familiar with the discussion.
Reviewer Notes:  Why not mention Wasserman Schultz?
Lynch told them they were welcome to speak to her staff and to conduct a formal interview of her, the person said. The FBI declined both offers.
‘I’ve never heard of him’
Renteria, a California Democrat, first heard of the Russian document and its description of her role when a Post reporter called her.
“Wow, that’s kind of weird and out of left field,’’ she said. “I don’t know Loretta Lynch, the attorney general. I haven’t spoken to her.’’
Renteria said she did know a California woman by the same name who specializes in utility issues. The Loretta Lynch in California is a lawyer who also did legal work for the Clintons decades ago involving the Whitewater investigation. Bloggers and others have previously confused the two women, including during Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general.
Wasserman Schultz and Benardo, the alleged emailers, were also perplexed by the Russian document’s claims.
Wasserman Schultz said: “Not only do I not know him — I’ve never heard of him. I don’t know who this is. There’s no truth to this whatsoever. I have never sent an email remotely like what you’re describing.’’
She added that she had met Lynch, the former attorney general, once briefly at a dinner function.
Benardo said of Wasserman Schultz: “I’ve never met her. I’ve only read about her.”
“I’ve never in my lifetime received any correspondence of any variety — correspondence, fax, telephone, from Debbie Wasserman Schultz,’’ he said. “If such documentation exists, it’s of course made up.’’
As for Renteria, Wasserman Schultz said she knew who she was from past political work but had “virtually no interaction” with her during the 2016 campaign. “I was definitely in the same room as her on more than one occasion, but we did not interact, and no email exchange during the campaign, or ever,’’ she said.
Reviewer Note:  This accounting of all parties named in the Russian Intelligence document all seem to be going above and beyond in the fact that they "don't know each other."  Generally, if someone is asked if they know someone and it's attached to some strange scandal, a simple "NO" would be the response.  Not an explanation of the rooms that they were in with the persons in question.
When asked, the individuals named in the document struggled to fathom why their identities would have been woven together in a document describing communications they said never happened. But others recognized the dim outlines of a conspiracy theory that would be less surprising in Russia, where Soros — the founder of the organization Benardo works for — and Clinton are both regarded as political enemies of the Kremlin.
“The idea that Russians would tell a story in which the Clinton campaign, Soros and even an Obama administration official are connected — that Russians might tell such a story, that is not at all surprising,” said Matt Rojansky, a Russia expert and director of the Kennan Institute at the Wilson Center. “Because that is part of the Kremlin worldview.”
Reviewer Note:  Why would the Russians plan a conspiracy theory that they know would never pass the smell-test by experts in the field of Russian Intelligence?
The secret intelligence document has attracted so much attention recently that Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) asked Comey about it during the director’s final public appearance in Congress as FBI director before he was fired.
Comey said that he had spoken with the heads of the congressional intelligence committees about the document privately but that it was too sensitive to discuss it in public.
“The subject is classified, and in an appropriate forum I’d be happy to brief you on it,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “But I can’t do it in an open hearing.”
No such briefing occurred before he was fired.
Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.