(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Rex Tillerson may be gone, but he hasn’t forgotten.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
Rex Tillerson may be gone, but he hasn’t forgotten.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN)President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed him, replacing his top diplomat ahead of a potential high-stakes sitdown between the US President and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)
(Title quote is from Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee)
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday laced into Senator Bob Corker, a Republican whose support the president will need on tax reform and the future of the Iran nuclear deal, saying on Twitter that the senator had decided not to run for re-election next year because he “didn’t have the guts.”
“Senator Bob Corker ‘begged’ me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee,” Mr. Trump wrote. “I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement).”
Mr. Trump also said that Mr. Corker had asked to be secretary of state. “I said ‘NO THANKS,’” Mr. Trump wrote.
Mr. Corker offered a barbed response. “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center,” he wrote on Twitter. “Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”
The Tennessee senator has been a favorite target of Mr. Trump’s for months, after the senator, who was once a campaign supporter, became increasingly critical of Mr. Trump’s performance in the White House.
After a report last week that Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had once referred to Mr. Trump as a “moron,” Mr. Corker told reporters at the Capitol that Mr. Tillerson was one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.”
In August, Mr. Corker had told reporters in Tennessee that the president “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”
Mr. Trump’s feud with Mr. Corker is particularly perilous given that the president has little margin for error as he tries to pass an overhaul of the tax code — his best hope of producing a major legislative achievement in the coming months.
If Senate Democrats end up unified in opposition to the promised tax bill, Mr. Trump would be able to lose the support of only two of the Senate’s 52 Republicans in order to pass it. That is the same challenging math that Mr. Trump and Senate Republican leaders faced in their failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Mr. Corker, who is outspoken about the nation’s mounting debt, has already signaled deep reservations about the Republican effort to pass a tax overhaul, saying he would not vote for a tax bill that adds to the deficit.
In addition, Mr. Corker, who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, could play a key role if Mr. Trump follows through on his threat to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal, kicking to Congress the issue of whether to restore sanctions on Tehran and effectively scuttle the pact.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF POLITICO MAGAZINE)
In our combined 50-plus years at the State Department, neither of us ever witnessed as profound a humiliation as a sitting president handed his secretary of state Sunday morning.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” the president tweeted. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
Even if they’re playing good cop-bad cop, this is a shocker: Donald Trump is basically announcing that any negotiations with North Korea are worthless. This not only undercut Tillerson personally, but also undermines U.S. interests and the secretary of state’s sensible decision to talk to the North Korean regime. To make matters worse, all of this is occurring while Tillerson is in Beijing to prepare for the president’s trip to China next month—so the president kneecapped his own top diplomat in front of America’s chief rival in Asia.
Is this the final straw for Tillerson? The secretary of state clearly has not helped himself. Through his budget cuts, his focus on departmental reorganization at the expense of appointing assistant secretaries, his reliance on a tiny inner circle of outsiders and his maladroit use of the press, Tillerson has isolated himself within his own department. The Beltway foreign policy blob has already written him off as the worst secretary of state in history, and clearly others are hovering (U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley says she doesn’t want the job, but if you believe that, or if John Bolton make similar protestations, we have an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal to sell you).
But in all fairness, the former ExxonMobil chief has never been empowered by his president. He’s been undercut repeatedly by this White House—see Kushner, Jared—and by Trump personally, even (especially) when he’s making the right diplomatic moves. And there’s no sign that any one of the vultures circling around Tillerson would be able to change or transcend this dynamic.
So for those of you calling for Tillerson to resign after Trump’s latest humiliation, we suggest you lie down and wait quietly until the feeling passes. Sunday’s tweets—and the past nine months, frankly—are exhibits A-Z that in Trump land, it might not matter whether Tillerson resigns or who replaces him. Here’s why:
Who speaks for America?
There are many peculiarities about how foreign policy is made (or not) in the Trump administration. Trump is the first president in our memory who has not at least gone through the motions of making it clear that his secretary of state is the sole repository of authority and the administration’s public voice on foreign policy. Not every secretary of state carries the same influence with the president. But never have the world and Washington faced a situation where there was no single go-to address (below the president, of course) to understand what U.S. foreign policy is, who’s articulating it and who to turn to for guidance or direction in trying to interpret it.
In Trump land, either by design or default, a cacophony of multiple voices are not just competing for the president’s time, attention and favor in private (which is very normal)—they’re actually carrying out the policy and shaping it publicly (which is not so normal). Kushner, for instance, grabbed or was given the primary lead on the Arab-Israeli issue and has played a major role in shaping U.S. interactions with China and Saudi Arabia. Gary Cohn seems to have the lead on Trump’s climate policy, such as it is. Wilbur Ross is playing an unusually substantive diplomatic role for a commerce secretary. Foreign capitals listen closely to Pentagon chief James Mattis, whose pronouncements are often interpreted as brushbacks of the president. And over at the U.N., the hawkish Haley has emerged as the nation’s loudest voice on foreign policy, largely by speaking unscripted about everything from Syria to Iran to North Korea.
And then of course there’s Trump, the ultimate blooming flower who in tweets, phone calls and speeches makes his own foreign policy on the fly, frustrating and confounding his top advisers. On issues from Qatar to North Korea to Iran, Trump contradicts his own secretary of state or ignores what is almost always his sound advice—for example: urging the United States to stay in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accord, taking a hard-line on Russia, advocating negotiations and dialogue to defuse the mounting crisis with North Korea, advocating for continued U.S. adherence to the Iran nuclear deal, taking a neutral position in the dispute between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and reassuring jittery allies, from South Korea and Japan to our NATO partners, that America still has their back.
The painful reality is that should Tillerson depart, his successor would likely confront the same series of problems, and a president who is unwilling to send a clear signal on where his secretary of state stands in the foreign policy pecking order. There are three keys to success for a secretary of state: opportunities abroad to exploit; the negotiating and political skills to do it; and, most important, the backing of the president. Sure, Tillerson has made some rookie mistakes and unforced errors in running the State Department. But his credibility and effectiveness have largely been undermined by his treatment by Trump.
A world in chaos
No matter how capable a secretary of state may be, success also turns on a cooperative world. Without the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, there would have been no opportunity for Henry Kissinger to demonstrate his formidable mediation skills and to produce three disengagement agreements within 18 months. Had Iraq not invaded Kuwait, James Baker would have been deprived of the opportunity to pull off the Madrid peace conference. Sure, secretaries of state can make some of their own luck. But the truly big diplomatic breakthroughs really do require consequential changes in the neighborhood first; then, a talented negotiator backed by a willful president can exploit them.
Sadly, the world in which America operates today has many serious problems, but almost none that offer opportunities for transformative or heroic outcomes. Even successful transactional outcomes, such as managing the Iranian nuclear issue, seem improbable. The cruel reality is that Tillerson has inherited a set of extraordinarily difficult problems that can only be managed and not solved. Just as Tillerson has reportedly come to hate his job, his successor would come to see going to the office—or the White House—the same way most people feel about a trip to the dentist.
Take a look around: From North Korea, where only somebody completely unhinged from reality would be talking about military options and denuclearization of Kim Jong Un’s regime; to managing an aggressive and crafty Vladimir Putin with a president who either has a blind spot for or is beholden to Russia; to an Israeli-Palestinian conflict trapped between a two-state solution too important to abandon but too hard to implement and a clueless president who likens a deal to buying and selling real estate in New York City; to a divided Europe that finds Trump mercurial, erratic and incomprehensible (and that’s on a good day); to an Iran that is expanding its influence in the Middle East and sitting atop a potential nuclear program one screwdriver’s turn away from a weapon while the president seems bent on making this problem infinitely worse.
These are forbidding challenges. Even if you had a secretary of state in a class of a Kissinger or a Baker, we’re far from certain the outcomes of any of these problems could be shaped in a way that were determinative, let alone favorable to the United States. We don’t have a secretary of state of this caliber, and we’re not going to get one if Tillerson leaves. What we do have is a president who has compounded the degree of difficulty of even managing these issues and created longer odds for whoever sits on the seventh floor at Foggy Bottom.
A hollowed-out Foggy Bottom
Those who are calling for Tillerson’s scalp miss another important point: The State Department, institutionally, is only a shell of its former self, and it’s not just because a few good men and women have bolted over the secretary’s reform and reorganization plans. The problems run much deeper than what the department’s org chart looks like. Over the past couple of decades, dozens of missions and authorities have steadily migrated from State to other agencies of the federal government, or disbanded altogether; at one time, the department housed the U.S. Information Agency, the foreign agricultural service and the foreign commercial service. More recently, the Defense Department has been given increased authorities—to go along with its massive resources, which State cannot match—to run its own security assistance programs, seriously encroaching on State’s statutory authorities for controlling the allocation of resources to help other countries train and equip their forces. Adding to the loss of the department’s clout has been the Balkanization of U.S. foreign assistance, as more and more domestic agencies run their own boutique foreign aid programs. Whether Tillerson stays or goes, these missions, authorities and programs are long gone—and they ain’t coming back.
Even more importantly, the State Department is no longer primus inter pares in the foreign policy and national security cosmos, and it has been this way for some time. No matter who is in the Oval Office, the National Security Council staff and the president’s national security adviser now run all the most sensitive foreign policy issues out of the White House. Foreign economic and foreign trade policy, though larded with foreign policy implications, are also managed either out of the White House, in the Treasury Department or elsewhere. Mattis and the Pentagon are the big dog on the block, running three major wars and a host of lesser military operations with a budget that makes State’s puny appropriations look like chump change. The war on terror, the preoccupation with homeland security and keeping out what the White House considers undesirables, and the need for actionable intelligence to prosecute all these enterprises has moved DHS and the intelligence community toward the top of the national security food chain. And above all this sits a president who has shown nothing but contempt and lack of understanding for the State Department, its mission and the dedicated men and women who work there.
So, belittle poor Secretary Tillerson if you must; close your eyes and make a wish that after T. Rex we’ll get another secretary who has the vision of Dean Acheson, the toughness of George Shultz, the diplomatic panache of Kissinger or the political and tactical instincts of Baker. But it’s magical thinking to believe that Tillerson’s successor could fundamentally alter the downward trajectory of the State Department or do much more to fix the world’s problems. As long as Donald Trump is president, more likely than not, the Department of State is going to remain closed for the season.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SALON NEWS)
It is difficult to tally how many conversations I have had with someone making extreme, paranoid and hateful remarks about Hillary Clinton. Often the accuser’s eyes open wide, spittle begins to form at the corner of his lips, and he declares that the world’s greatest monster is the former senator and secretary of state.
Once in a bar, two acquaintances rambled at torturous length about the email “scandal.” They had no clue what the then-presidential candidate had plotted with her private server, but they knew it was diabolical. No evidence is necessary if the suspect is Hillary Clinton — a villain who rivals Professor Moriarty and Saddam Hussein.
My simple questions regarding Clinton’s exoneration by the Justice Department, internal State Department review and FBI report made it painfully clear that if these two men were not obsessed with a minor email storage procedure, they would find another reason to cast Clinton into the fires of hell. First on the fringes of the right wing and eventually the general population, Americans since the early 1990s have condemned the woman for unprovable offense upon unverifiable innuendo. It is likely that no modern public figure has faced greater hostility, slander and scrutiny.
A close friend of mine, whom I immensely admire, enthusiastically supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary, but was reticent to vote for Clinton. “She is deceitful by default,” he said. The problem with adopting an absolute position is that it creates circular logic. If Hillary Clinton is incapable of telling the truth, then every statement she utters is a lie. The axiom eliminates the need for investigation of thoughtful evaluation. The case is closed before it opens.
Susan Bordo, a Pulitzer Prize nominee and feminist literary critic, interrogates the American media and political discourse in her new book, “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton,” with the hope of discovering how and why the flawed but largely noble political figure became the subject of such widespread scorn that survey respondents have consistently found her “less trustworthy” than her 2016 opponent, Donald Trump, a compulsive liar and snake oil-soaked con man.
The result is an important but incomplete examination of the strange political life of Hillary Clinton. Bordo has provided an interpretively annotated campaign narrative, re-creating the horror show of 2016 almost week by week. Due to no fault of Bordo, who writes in an accessible and enjoyable style, the reading experience is as sickening as ingesting medicine meant to induce vomiting because we know how awfully the story ends.
Bordo sharpens her focus most clearly and closely on sexism, exposing how gender stereotypes, misogynistic assumptions and chauvinistic typecasting have made it nearly impossible for Clinton or her supporters to influence, much less control, public perceptions about her ideology and candidacy.
In the 1990s, Bordo reminds readers, commentators objected to Clinton, calling her “Lady Macbeth of Little Rock” and an “aspiring philosopher queen.” Critics abhorred her radical feminism, believing she was an unsympathetic moralist. In 2016 she was cartoonishly amoral. For the far left or hard right, she didn’t seem to possess any redeeming virtues and appeared to be a self-serving elitist who counted “Clinton cash,” to quote the title of a best-selling book, while watching Americans die in Benghazi and her Wall Street friends liquidate middle class wealth.
Millions of Americans also believe without awareness of cognitive dissonance, Clinton is a master manipulator of the political pair of aces — the woman’s card and victim card — and simultaneously an enabler of her husband’s adulterous affairs.
The incoherence of Clinton hatred becomes more decipherable when Bordo cites polling data demonstrating that in 2015 Americans routinely ranked “least trustworthy” alongside Clinton, Carly Fiorina — an obscure Republican candidate with no prior experience in politics. A recent poll, not yet available when Bordo took to writing, has showed that any Democrat but Elizabeth Warren would currently defeat Donald Trump in an election. Can anyone guess what Clinton, Fiorina and Warren have in common?
Bordo explores familiar territory when she illustrates her feminist thesis with powerful examples about misperception. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both appeared as if their jugulars would explode mid-speech as they bellowed at rallies, their faces turning red, but only Clinton faced relentless mockery and criticism for her “shrill” and “loud” delivery.
Many Americans, committed to nothing but blindness, still insist that sexism played no role in the outcome of the 2016 presidential race. That’s even with the knowledge that 13 women accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment and assault, after leaked footage of his boasts of similar criminal behavior, failed to resonate with the same power as questions surrounding Clinton’s email decisions and habits as secretary of state.
Bordo deftly handles the email issue to cast her story with identifiable culprits responsible for the “destruction of Hillary Clinton.” James Comey, a chronic abuser of his power and the hideously perfect personification of the FBI’s right-wing culture, is the head snake, but there are other important characters slithering around the wreckage.
Bernie Sanders, the progressive revivalist and faith healer, began his campaign with the famous exhortation, “Enough with the damn emails,” but soon began castigating Clinton as a counterfeit progressive firmly resting underneath a manhole of Wall Street. With clever, roundabout phrasing, he would find a way to pair the word “integrity” with the email triviality and to reference the popular classification of Clinton as “lesser of two evils.” The Sanders doctrine, assigning authenticity to him alone, was not something his religiously fervent supporters would soon forget. It did not help that, for reasons of ego or something else as yet unexplained, Sanders stayed in the race long after it was all but impossible for him to win.
Various members of the media contributed to the destruction. Bordo makes the most of a Harvard University study of the primary showing that even aside from the email “scandal,” 84 percent of the television news coverage of the Clinton campaign was negative, compared with 43 percent for Trump’s and 17 percent for Sanders’.
The avalanche of attacks on Clinton followed the mass media’s fixation on, what Daniel Boorstin, called “pseudo-events.” “A pseudo-event,” Bordo writes, “is something that acquires authority not because it is accurate, but simply because the media has reported it, repeated, exaggerated it, replayed it, and made a mantra of it.”
The most absurd pseudo-event, among many possibilities, was the “serious” discussion regarding Clinton’s health after she almost collapsed during a spell with pneumonia. Speculation that Clinton was near death dominated social media, while media outlets asked what Clinton was hiding. As of the time of this writing, Hillary Clinton is still alive.
The existence of Hillary Clinton is objectionable to many Americans. In a strange and self-serving review of “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton,” Sarah Jones, the social media editor at the New Republic, accuses Susan Borno of “canonizing and infantilizing” Clinton before mawkishly defending millennials who refused to support the Democratic nominee for president.
Jones is correct that Bordo undermines her credibility by entirely ignoring the failures, errors and injurious decisions of the Clinton campaign, but the crucial choice is one of emphasis. In telling the story of Donald Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, and in attempting to explain an outspoken buffoon and bigot’s rise to the office of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy, is it really best to focus on how Clinton should have spent more time in Wisconsin? Jones actually devotes attention to how Clinton supported raising the minimum wage to $12, while Sanders went for the full $15. The $3 difference will surely comfort elderly people, who may no longer receive Meal on Wheels services, and the poor teenagers who, thanks to Trump, may not be able to apply for Pell grants for college.
It is on the matter of accountability for the suicidal populism of the American people that Bordo also fails. The entire time I spent reading “The Destruction of Hillary Clinton,” I kept asking, but why? Why did so many people — especially men — believe all the smears and fall for all the tricks against Clinton? The power of propaganda is awe-inspiring, and the influence of the mediocre mass media is immeasurable, but there are flaws of character and intelligence among large swaths of the general public rendering people susceptible to the allure of pseudo-event reporting.
Gore Vidal recalled a private conversation he had with Hillary Clinton when he asked her why so many people, “especially the most ignorant of the population,” to use his words, “straight white men,” hate her. She laughed, and with a jocular delivery answered, “I remind them of their ex-wives.” Vidal added that Clinton has a sardonic sense of humor much too witty and sharp for the American people.
Bordo approaches Vidal’s depth of insight when she wonders if the young women who despise Clinton do so because she reminds them of their mothers. Bordo tosses out this gem and pulls it back after only a paragraph, like a rock band playing a few seconds of a classic riff only to abandon the song altogether.
It is easy to undress Comey for his obvious and odious misdeeds, just as it is straightforward business to ridicule the mainstream television media for sexist reportage. The real task awaiting the bold writer is to inspect a large percentage of the American people for the deformities and defects of intellect that would allow them to select Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. In this same population, large numbers disbelieve evolutionary biology but support the torture of terrorism suspects.
During one of my conversations with a rabid opponent of Lucifer — I mean, Hillary — I noticed that he used the exact same language to bash and brand the politician as he did to insult his wife. I told him I was appalled by the language he used to describe his spouse, but never followed up on the Clinton connection.
I have a feeling that the real story behind the “destruction of Hillary Clinton” is visible at that intersection.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)
Donald Trump’s new administration understands the need to deal with Russia in a “very guarded way”, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said.
Following his first meeting with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson during the G20 summit in Germany, Mr Johnson, referring to Russia, said “you’ve got to beware of what they are up to”.
Neither side wants to see a return to the days of the Cold War, he said.
But Moscow’s current behaviour cannot be allowed to continue, he added.
Mr Johnson’s comments come amid intense scrutiny in the US of the administration’s attitude to Russia following the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn over his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US before Mr Trump’s inauguration last month.
Mr Johnson told the BBC: “I think Rex Tillerson is absolutely clear in his view, which is the same as mine. You have got to engage with Russia, but you have got to engage in a very guarded way. You have got to beware of what they are up to.
“There is no question that, when you look at Russian activity on the cyber front, when you look at what they are doing in the western Balkans, when you look at what has been happening in the Ukraine, you’ve got to be very, very cautious.
“I think it is entirely right to have a dual track approach.
“We don’t want to get into a new Cold War. That’s something London and Washington are completely at one on. But nor do we want Russian behaviour to continue as it is – and Rex Tillerson has been very clear about that.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)
Published December 24, 2016
Secretary of State John Kerry is defending the Obama administration’s decision to effectively allow the United Nations to condemn Israeli for attempting to build more settlements in the disputed West Bank, saying the “unprecedented” effort has spawned terrorism and violence that jeopardizes lasting peace in the region.
The United States on Friday abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote to adopt a resolution condemning the Israel’s settlement expansion, which allowed for the measure’s passage and disapproval from incoming Republican President Donald Trump.
“Things will be different after Jan. 20,” Trump tweeted minutes after the vote.
Kerry said Israel’s continued and stepped-up attempt to build more settlements, or communities, in the region, which includes East Jerusalem, risks the so-called “two-state” solution between Israelis and the Palestinians, who also lay claim to the region.
“The United States acted with one primary objective in mind: to preserve the possibility of the two state solution, which every U.S. administration for decades has agreed is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Kerry said Friday. “Two states is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors, and freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people.”
He also said the administration does not agree with “every aspect” of the resolution but that it “rightly condemns violence” and calls on both sides to take constructive steps to reverse current trends and advance the prospects for a two state solution.”
The resolution was put forward by four nations a day after Egypt withdrew it Thursday under pressure from Israel Trump.
The U.S. not vetoing the measure is being considered a snub to the country’s key Middle Eastern ally and attributed to outgoing Democratic President Obama, who has had chilly relations with Israel throughout his eight-year tenure.
Reaction from U.S. Republicans and Jewish leaders around the world was swift and sharp.
“It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share and that they would have vetoed this disgraceful resolution,” said Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon. “I have no doubt that the new U.S. administration and the incoming UN Secretary General will usher in a new era in terms of the UN’s relationship with Israel.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., blasted the administration for undermining America’s historic Middle East ally.
“This is absolutely shameful,” Ryan said. “Today’s vote is a blow to peace that sets a dangerous precedent for further diplomatic efforts to isolate and demonize Israel.”
Former GOP presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said called the administration’s move “a big mistake.”
Anne Bayefsky, director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust and president of Human Rights Voices, said the contention that settlements, and not Palestinian terrorism, is the obstacle to peace is false.
“This UN resolution represents the Big Lie of modern anti-Semitism,” Bayefsky said. “Palestinians’ backers on the Council, New Zealand and Malaysia, made today’s slander clear, claiming Jews living peaceful, productive lives on Arab-claimed land was the ‘single biggest threat to peace’ and “primary threat to a two-state solution.’
“Seven decades of violent Palestinian rejection of a Jewish state prove otherwise.”
The measure was adopted with 14 votes in favor, to a round of applause, after U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power abstained. It is the first resolution the Security Council has adopted on Israel and the Palestinians in nearly eight years.
Powers said the U.S. used its veto power in 2007 on a similar matter but that “circumstances have (since) changed dramatically.”
“One cannot simultaneously champion Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution,” she said. “One has to make a choice.”
The Obama White House, under heavy pressure from the Israeli government and its supporters to veto the resolution, kept everyone guessing until the vote whether it would stop shielding Israel from council resolutions and permit it to pass by abstaining.
After the vote, White House officials acknowledged on a conference that Obama made the decision himself after several rounds of discussions with top administration officials.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said afterward that the U.S. has only one president at a time.
Israel believes it has the right to expand settlements in the disputed territories as populations within them expand. Palestinians do not believe the settlements should exist at all, and world condemnation of expansion is seen as a possible first in that direction.
The resolution calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activity in occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.” And it repeated the longstanding U.N. position that all settlements on land Israel conquered in 1967 are illegal under international law.
A senior Israeli official accused the U.S. of a “shameful move” after learning that it did not intend to veto the text, the BBC reported.
As one the council five permanent members of the council, the U.S. has veto power and has used it to sheltered Israel from condemnatory resolutions. But the Obama administration has long made clear its opposition to Israeli settlement-building in occupied territory, even though it gives Israel tens of billions annually in assistance.
“This last minute political maneuvering is shameful,” said Ric Grenell, former spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the U.N. and a Fox News contributor. “Today’s abstention by the Obama administration will make it harder to find a peaceful solution because it imposes outside positions on Israel without letting them negotiate directly.”
Fox News’ Eric Linton and Jonathan Wachtel contributed to this report.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE DAILY MAIL.COM’)
The extent to which Hillary Clinton’s key advisers are now the focus of major FBI investigations is becoming clear.
The Clinton’s’ long-term inner-circle – some of whom stretch back in service to the very first days of Bill’s White House – are being examined in at least five separate investigations.
The scale of the FBI’s interest in some of America’s most powerful political fixers – one of them a sitting governor – underlines just how difficult it will be for Clinton to shake off the taint of scandal if she enters the White House.
There are, in fact, not one but five separate FBI investigations which involve members of Clinton’s inner circle or their closest relatives – the people at the center of what has come to be known as Clintonworld.
The five known investigations are into: Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin’s estranged husband sexting a 15-year-old; the handling of classified material by Clinton and her staff on her private email server; questions over whether the Clinton Foundation was used as a front for influence-peddling; whether the Virginia governor broke laws about foreign donations; and whether Hillary’s campaign chairman’s brother did the same.
The progress of the Clinton Foundation investigation and that into McAuliffe was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The FBI does not generally comment on investigations, so it is entirely possible there are more under way.
Here are the advisers and consigliere – and how the FBI is looking at them
Huma Abedin: secrets and access – and perjury?
Probes: Clinton emails; Clinton Foundation
Who is she: Currently vice-chair of the Clinton campaign she was has worked with Clinton for 21 years, since she was 19, as among other things, intern, ‘body woman’, chief of staff and senior adviser.
Huma Abedin is now represented by attorneys as the FBI begins the lengthy process of examining a laptop seized in the inquiry into her estranged husband’s sexting relationship with a 15-year-old.
It is the most recent stage in the Clinton emails investigation in which the FBI has looked into whether Clinton and her staff broke strict laws on the handling of classified material while she was Secretary of State through their use of the now notorious Clintonemail.com server.
The case appeared to be closed in July when James Comey, the FBI director announced that Clinton would not be prosecuted. It was later made clear there would be no other prosecutions.
However last week’s bombshell announcement that new emails were being examined put the focus squarely on 40-year-old Abedin.
Although the decision had been made not to prosecute, that was on the basis of the existing evidence at the time. But if the search finds new evidence of breaking laws about the handling of classified material, there is nothing to stop a prosecution of Abedin – or anyone else.
That, however, is not the only potential for a brush with the law for Abedin.
The FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation also drags her into the spotlight.
The probe, the Wall Street Journal reported, is into whether the Foundation was involved in financial crimes or influence-peddling.
That would directly draw in Abedin. Her overlapping series of roles while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State has been unmasked by emails published either as a result of lawsuits against the State Department, or hacked from John Podesta’s account.
She was at various times Clinton’s White House deputy chief of staff; her senior adviser; a consultant for Teneo Holdings; working for the Clinton Foundation.
It was also revealed that while she was at the State Department where she was Clinton’s gatekeeper, Abedin received emails from Doug Band – Bill Clinton’s right-hand man at the Clinton Foundation – asking for help and access for ‘friends’ or ‘friend of ours’.
And finally there is the possibility of a federal perjury case.
The discovery of a laptop during the Anthony Weiner sexting investigation by the FBI appears at odds with testimony she gave under oath as part of a deposition in a federal case that she had passed on all relevant devices to the FBI.
Terry McAuliffe: Clinton cash from China
Probes: Clinton Foundation; links to foreign donations
Who is he: Currently Democratic governor of Virginia. Has previously been prolific Clinton fundraiser and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and chairman of Hillary’s failed 2008 run for the White House.
McAuliffe was a board member of the Clinton Foundation from at least 2004, so he will surely be caught up in investigations conducted by the FBI’s Washington DC field office into whether it was used as a front for influence-peddling.
But the overlaps between him and the Foundation go further than that and into his own campaign for governor and related campaigning.
The Washington Post reported in 2015 how he and the foundation had 120 overlapping donors, who had given him, his campaign or his political action committee $13.8 million.
That political action committee then went on to fund another campaign – that of Dr Jill McCabe, whose husband Mark is currently the deputy director of the FBI. He was the assistant FBI director when Jill McCabe was running for state senator in Virginia.
The PAC controlled by McAuliffe, which had received money from Clinton Foundation donors, gave Jill McCabe more than $500,000, prompting her husband to stand back from the Clinton Foundation investigation.
Chinese government front? Wang Wenliang, the billionaire McAuliffe at first claimed he had never met, filmed entering a fundraiser attended by the governor at Clinton’s home
Part of the $13.8 million is, however, involved in a second FBI investigation which focuses on McAuliffe personally regarding donations of $120,000 from a Chinese man called Wang Wenliang.
The FBI is investigating whether donations made were in breach of a ban on foreign governments influencing US elections. Wenliang, a billionaire according to Forbes, is a member of the one-party state’s parliament – as well as a donor to the Clinton Foundation.
He is also a US permanent resident and his donations came through a US firm.
This weekend’s tidal wave of revelations also shed new light on a FBI investigation into the donations.
McAuliffe’s attorney was reported by the Wall Street Journal to have said that the investigation focused on whether he had previously failed to register as an agent of a foreign entity.
In May, when the revelation of the FBI foreign donations probe emerged, McAuliffe denied ever meeting Wenliang. Then he backtracked – saying ‘I did not deals’ – when told by his staff that there were ‘likely’ several meetings.
DailyMail.com revealed footage of him going to a fundraiser also attended by Wengliang.
The venue was Hillary Clinton’s Washington DC home and the attendees included Huma Abedin.
The governor’s lawyer told the Wall Street Journal the probe is focused on ‘whether he failed to register as an agent of a foreign entity’.
Cheryl Mills: Woman at center of Clintonworld
Cut a deal: Cheryl Mills gained partial immunity from the FBI in return for opening her laptop
Probes: Clinton Foundation; Clinton emails
Who is she: Long-term Clinton lawyer who advised Bill during impeachment then Hillary over emails; Foundation director; State Department chief of staff.
Cheryl Mills is unusual among Clinton insiders; she has already cut a deal with the FBI.
She exchanged partial immunity from prosecution in return for opening her laptop to FBI review during the Clinton email investigation.
Mills was chief of staff under Clinton at the State Department and communicated extensively on the Clintonemail.com private server.
The deal with the Justice Department – headed by Attorney-General Loretta Lynch – was hugely advantageous as it also limited the search to no later than January 31, 2015, the point at which the server’s existence became known to a Congressional committee.
In March backups of Clinton’s emails were destroyed by a technician, a move which could have been seen as illegal destruction of evidence.
And the deal allowed for the destruction of Mills’ laptop. Heather Samuleson, another more junior aide, cut the same deal.
Mills went on to sit in with Clinton on her FBI interview in early July as her attorney, an unusual arrangement given that she had previously been a focus of the investigation.
However the renewed move by the FBI to examine the Huma Abedin emails on the Weiner laptop could set the immunity aside.
If they find new emails, those could open the way for prosecution. Equally, if they examine emails already seen on her laptop and conclude that they represent a case for prosecution over the handling of classified material, that too would be unlikely to be covered by the immunity deal.
Foundation role: Cheryl Mills was deeply involved in the Clinton family charity during a war between Chelsea and Doug Band, her father’s right-hand man
In fact, any part of Mills’ role in setting up the server could now be back in play. She was clearly identified in one of the Wikileaks emails as part of the reason for secrecy around Clinton.
That is only one of Mills’ roles in Clintonworld which the FBI are concerned with.
The other is her role as director of the Clinton Foundation for two periods, 2004 to 2009 and then from 2013 on.
The influence-peddling investigation has not been the subject of public commentary by the FBI but would involve anyone who held a high-level role.
Mills was heavily involved in the Foundation not just as a director, but while she was working at the State Department.
During that time it was at the center of a fierce battle between Chelsea Clinton and Doug Band, in which Band was effectively forced out.
Mills drew up a new structure for all of Bill Clinton’s operations – at the time it was the William J. Clinton Foundation – and, Wikileaks publication of John Podesta’s email shows – took part in a number of exchanges about it.
The State Department has previously said that Mills paid her own way to go to Clinton Foundation meetings in New York.
But neither the department nor the Clintons have addressed whether the FBI is looking at whether the Clinton Foundation monetized access to the Secretary of State through the overlapping roles of, among others, Mills and Abedin.
At her side: Phillipe Reines was effectively Hillary Clinton’s chief spin doctor when she was Secretary of State – the point at which the email and Foundation probes center on
Phillipe Reines: What does he know of emails and access?
Probes: Clinton emails; Clinton Foundation
Who is he: Hillary Clinton press secretary when she was senator; press secretary to failed 2008 presidential campaign and spokesman for Chelsea during it; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Hillary; played Donald Trump in debate prep.
As one of her inner circle at the State Department, Phillipe Reines was one of those – he told the FBI – who Clinton turned to for help with her IT issues.
He also bought her an iPad in June 2010, when the technology was new.
Clinton was to go on to claim she only had ‘one device’. Reines meanwhile used both his state.gov email and his personal gmail for government business while in office.
Reines was also deeply involved in responding to the Benghazi committee’s demands for information about the server and the public relations response to it, Wikileaks emails from John Podesta’s gmail have revealed.
However the other Clinton Foundation probe could also drag in Reines.
Reines was a key member of the inner circle when Clinton was Secretary of State.
His official title was ‘deputy assistant undersecretary’ for strategy, effectively her most powerful public affairs adviser.
That means that any knowledge he has of how the Clinton machine in the State Department interacted with the Clinton Foundation and Bill Clinton Inc machines in Manhattan would be crucial to the FBI investigation
Key role at center of the Clinton web: John Podesta, whose leaked emails were leaked. He took the helm of the Clinton Foundation, which is being probed on whether it peddled access
John Podesta: ‘Dean’ of Clintonworld
Probes: Clinton Foundation
Who is he: Bill Clinton’s first White House deputy chief of staff and later chief of staff; founder of DC lobbying firm Podesta & Podesta, now the Podesta Group; took charge of the Clinton Foundation in 2011 ; now Hillary campaign chairman; at 67, often seen as the ‘dean’ of the Clinton political machine.
The leaks from John Podesta’s emails revealed by Wikileaks have shown how he was a key player in the Clinton Foundation – at precisely the time that the focus of the FBI influence-peddling investigation is likely to be.
At the time Clinton was Secretary of State and Doug Band, who had effectively run the foundation, wrote a memo which emerged in Podesta’s leaked emails.
In it, Band detailed the overlap between the commercial activities of Bill Clinton and the charitable fundraising of the William J. Clinton Foundation (now the Clinton Foundation) – material which is likely to be pertinent to the influence-peddling case.
Podesta’s role at Foundation lasted into 2012, so his knowledge of how it interacted with Hillary Clinton’s aides – particularly Cheryl Mills, with whom he was in frequent contact, according to the emails – would be relevant to the FBI probe.
Lobbyist: Tony Podesta is the brother of Clintonworld ‘dean’ John Podesta but is being investigated by the FBI over taking a contract from a firm which may have been a front for corrupt cash from Ukraine’s deposed president Viktor Yanukovych – an ally of Vladimir Putin
Tony Podesta: Dined with Hillary, lobbied for Putin’s ally?
Probe: Undeclared lobbying for foreign government
Who is he: Older brother of John Podesta, with whom he founded what is now The Podesta Group of which he is chairman; social acquaintance of the Clintons; Democratic fundraiser
The FBI and the Justice Department are investigating possible ties to alleged corruption involving the former president of Ukraine – and Podesta’s firm is one of those targeted.
Perhaps surprisingly, the investigation also lapped at the Trump campaign, as its then chairman Paul Manafort stepped down in August when it was revealed that his company was also being investigated.
The broad-based investigation is looking into whether U.S. companies and the financial system were used to enable corruption by the party of former pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, CNN reported.
The Podesta Group hired an independent legal firm to investigate whether it had been misled by the Center for a Modern Ukraine, a not-for-profit group linked to the ousted Ukrainian government, a spokeswoman for the group said in a statement to Reuters in August.
The key to the FBI investigation is that Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates may have been paid by the Yanukovych government to push its case in Washington without declaring that the money came from abroad.
One of the firms Gates appears to have hired to help push the Center for a Modern Ukraine was The Podesta Group.
The FBI will therefore look at whether Podesta knowingly or negligently breached laws requiring all foreign attempts to influence U.S. politics to be registered.
Yanukovych was ousted as Ukranie’s leader in 2014 – and is exiled in southern Russia, after long-term accusations that he was a friend of Vladimir Putin.
The older Podesta, his brother’s emails disclosed, remains extremely close to John, sharing the use of an apartment in New York until earlier this year. Official records also show he is a ‘bundler’ for Clinton who had raised $62,000 by the end of June.
It is a long-standing relationship. One email forced out of the State Department showed how in 2012 the Clinton Foundation used the then Secretary of State to host a dinner at her home where attendees included donors – and Podesta.
Body man: Doug Band was Bill Clinton’s personal aide at the White House but went on to effectively run the Foundation – then boasted in a leaked memo of making the ex-president rich
Doug Band: Man who made Bill rich
Probe: Clinton Foundation
Who is he: Bill Clinton’s ‘body man’ in the White House; his chief aide after leaving office until 2011; CEO of Teneo Holdings.
The FBI investigation into whether the Clinton Foundation committed financial crimes or was involved in influence-peddling will inevitably focus on one man in particular: Band.
Band was at Bill Clinton’s side to the same extent as Huma Abedin was at his wife’s, starting as his ‘body man’ in the White House, putting himself through law school in the evenings, and then running Bill Clinton’s post-presidency life.
His emails to Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin which have emerged in lawsuits forcing publication by the State Department show how he sent messages asking for meetings for people described as ‘friend’ or ‘good friend of ours’.
Any influence-peddling or financial crimes committed by the Foundation appear to have some connection to them, if they were to exist.
His explosive memo detailing the project to make Bill Clinton rich which he sent to John Podesta made clear how involved he was in 2011 in the Clintons’ lives and finances.
‘Independent of our fundraising and decision-making activities on behalf of the Foundation, we have dedicated ourselves to helping the President secure and engage in for-profit activities – including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements,’ he wrote.
‘In that context, we have in effect served as agents, lawyers, managers and implementors to secure speaking, business and advisory service deals.’
It also put a figure on Bill Clinton’s personal gains via Band.
‘Since 2001, President Clinton’s business arrangements have yielded more than $30 million for him personally, with $66 million to be paid out over the next nine years should he choose to continue with the current engagements,’ it said.
His current exact status in the Clinton inner circle appears unclear. On the one hand he has not been pictured with the Clinton’s in many years or listed at their events.
On the other hand, he continues to donate to the Clinton cause and to those of its allies – he was one of the donors to Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe’s PAC which was used to pay $500,000 to the FBI assistant director’s wife for her failed campaign bid.
And in 2013 he asked John Podesta to help remove any stain on his reputation with a glowing letter of reference. Podesta obliged by redrafting it for him.
Inner circle: Justin Cooper set up the Clinton email server and edited Bill’s autobiography – but the FBI is also looking into the Foundation he was involved in
Justin Cooper: Smashed BlackBerry with a hammer
Probes: Clinton Email; Clinton Foundation
Who is he: Staff assistant for Oval Office operations in Bill’s White House; Doug Band’s right-hand man; edited Bill’s memoir My Life; registered the notorious Clintonemail.com server; now works for Teneo with Band.
Justin Cooper’s role in the Clintonemail.com secret server started at the very beginning of its operation: he registered its existence.
At the time he was being paid by the Clintons as a family aide and through the Clinton Foundation.
He told one Congressional Committee – the Oversight and Government Reform Committee – that he had no security clearance.
However as the man with complete control over the server, he had unlimited access to its contents. He also destroyed devices which had been linked to the server, including a BlackBerry smashed with a hammer.
He was not prosecuted under the initial inquiry but if the Huma Abedin-Anthony Weiner record leads to new evidence, such a deal would be off the table.
He was also at the very center of the Foundation’s operations during much of the time Hillary Clinton was in office.
He frequently appears in the leaked John Podesta emails as ‘[email protected]’ and is involved in a series of key meetings.
That would make him a key focus for the other investigation into the foundation he was so intimately involved in was a front for influence-peddling or financial crimes.
Anthony Weiner: Sexual sleaze
Probe: Sexting 15-year-old girl
Who is he: Former New York congressman when Clinton was senator; estranged husband of her key aide Huma Abedin; notorious serial sexter.
The FBI probe into Anthony Weiner is unlike any of the other Clinton associates and their family members.
Weiner is being investigated after DailyMail.com revealed how he had a sexting ‘relationship’ with a 15-year-old girl who told him he was underage.
Notorious image: This is the picture Weiner sent a girl, 15, which was part of the DailyMail.com bombshell which prompted the FBI probe
The girl told DailyMail.com that Weiner spoke about rape fantasies with her. She showed messages in which he spoke about being ‘hard’ and how he ‘would bust that tight p****’.
The revelations came a month after Abedin had announced that her six-year-old marriage to him was over when he was caught sexting a woman in her 40s to whom he sent a picture of himself in bed, apparently aroused, with his son by Clinton’s chief aide sleeping by his side.
The FBI moved on Weiner in the wake of the DailyMail.com revelations and seized all his mobile and electronic devices.
It was on a laptop he had used that they found emails ‘relevant’ to the discontinued Clinton email server investigation – setting off a bomb under the presidential election.
Weiner’s computer was apparently being searched for child pornography at the time of the discovery.
The FBI now have a fresh search warrant which will allow them to examine the material found on the laptop which had apparently been stored by Huma Abedin.
The material could impact almost every one of the investigations listed by DailyMail.com.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME) (How else could the Clinton’s go from a net worth of under 1 million dollars when Bill left office to over 300 million dollars by the time Hillary did 4 years as Secretary of State? I’m just saying…)(TRS)
A 2011 memo made public Wednesday by Wikileaks revealed new details of how former President Bill Clinton made tens of millions of dollars for himself and his wife, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, through an opaque, ethically messy amalgam of philanthropic, business and personal activities.
The memo was written by Bill Clinton’s longtime aide, Doug Band, and is among tens of thousands of emails apparently stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief, John Podesta, in what U.S. officials believe is part of a massive Russian-backed attempt to disrupt the U.S. election.
The Band memo came in response to an investigation undertaken by a law firm, Simpson Thatcher, into the activities of the Clinton Foundation at the behest of its board. The board was concerned that some of the activities undertaken by Band and others on behalf of the President could threaten the Foundation’s IRS status as a charity, according to Band’s memo. Chelsea Clinton had also reported concerns to Podesta and other Clinton adviser’s that Band and his recently launched consulting firm, Teneo, were using her father’s name without his knowledge to contact British lawmakers for clients, including Dow Chemical.
In the 12-page memo, Band describes how he and several colleagues spent much of the years after Bill Clinton’s presidency working to fund the Clinton Foundation, which has raised nearly $2 billion from individuals, corporations and governments for charities focusing on climate change, economic development, health, women and girls issues and other causes. Band claims in the memo that from 2006 to 2011, he and a colleague, Justin Cooper, raised $46 million for the Foundation through the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual networking conference that is one of the Foundation’s big sources of income.
But the Foundation work was just a part of what Bill Clinton did during his wife’s time as a Senator and Secretary of State, and it wasn’t always clear where the former president’s non-profit activities ended and his for-profit ones began. Five months before he wrote the memo, Band joined forces with a recently retired State Department envoy, Declan Kelly, to form Teneo, which Band said provided merchant and investment banking services, corporate restructuring, public relations and communications services and strategic advising services to 20 clients, including Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, UBS, Barclays and BHP Billiton, among others. Over that period, Band says in the memo, Teneo raised $8 million for the Clinton Foundation.
And Band was also organizing personal income directly for Clinton. Under the heading, “For-Profit Activity of President Clinton (i.e. Bill Clinton, Inc.),” Band wrote, “We have dedicated our selves to helping the President secure and engage in for-profit activities—including speeches, books, and advisory service engagements… In support of the President’s for-profit activity, we also have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the President and his family—for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like. Neither Justin nor I are separately compensated for these activities (e.g., we do not receive a fee for, or percentage of, the more than $50 million in for-profit activity we have personally helped to secure for President Clinton to date or the $66 million in future contracts, should he choose to continue with those engagements).”
Band mentions four such “arrangements” without naming them. Bill Clinton was paid nearly $18 million to be “honorary chancellor” of a for-profit college, Laureate International Universities, according to reports and the family’s tax returns. A Dubai-based firm, GEMS Education, paid Bill Clinton more than $560,000 in 2015, according to the tax returns. Band also lists a variety of speaking fees, previously disclosed by the Clinton’s, including hundreds of thousands of dollars each from UBS, Ericsson, BHP and Barclays. In 2011 alone, according to the Clinton’s tax returns, Bill Clinton earned $13,454,000 in speaking fees.
No evidence has been found to support allegations of a quid pro quo of official acts by Hillary Clinton as senator or Secretary of State in exchange for the money received by the Clinton’s or the Clinton Foundation. However the messiness and opacity of the relationship between Clinton’s personal, business and philanthropic undertakings detailed in the memo raises new questions about Bill Clinton’s activity. In the email to which Band’s draft memo was attached, Band tells Podesta he has removed the “lasry section all together.” Marc Lasry is a hedge fund manager and Clinton donor who funded an unsuccessful investment vehicle launched by Chelsea Clinton’s husband Marc Mezvinsky.
Other questions arise in the penultimate paragraph of the memo, entitled “Other Matters.” Without providing details, Band writes that since the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency he and Cooper had served as the primary contact and point of management for President Clinton’s activities, including political, business and Foundation matters, speeches, books, and family/personal needs, including “securing in-kind private airplane travel, in-kind vacation stays, and supporting family business and personal needs.”
Calls and emails to Band, Teneo and the Clinton Foundation were not immediately returned. The Hillary Clinton campaign declined to confirm that the memo, or other emails released by Wikileaks, are in fact un-doctored documents stolen from Podesta’s personal email account. However a campaign spokesperson, Glen Caplin, tweeted on Wednesday that Wikileaks was advancing a “clear political agenda” by “dribbling out” Podesta’s emails. “If Podesta dump was about high-minded transparency @wikileaks would release all at once,” Carlin tweeted.
Podesta has said he is cooperating with the FBI in an investigation of the hack. The Clinton Foundation has said it will stop accepting foreign and corporate donations if Hillary Clinton is elected president.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK POST)
Veteran FBI agents say FBI Director James Comey has permanently damaged the bureau’s reputation for uncompromising investigations with his “cowardly” whitewash of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information using an unauthorized private email server.
Feeling the heat from congressional critics, Comey last week argued that the case was investigated by career FBI agents, “So if I blew it, they blew it, too.”
But agents say Comey tied investigators’ hands by agreeing to unheard-of ground rules and other demands by the lawyers for Clinton and her aides that limited their investigation.
“In my 25 years with the bureau, I never had any ground rules in my interviews,” said retired agent Dennis V. Hughes, the first chief of the FBI’s computer investigations unit.
Instead of going to prosecutors and insisting on using grand jury leverage to compel testimony and seize evidence, Comey allowed immunity for several key witnesses, including potential targets.
The immunity agreements came with outrageous side deals, including preventing agents from searching for any documents on a Dell laptop owned by former Clinton chief of staff Cheryl Mills generated after Jan. 31, 2015, when she communicated with the server administrator who destroyed subpoenaed emails.
Comey also agreed to have Mills’ laptop destroyed after the restricted search, denying Congress the chance to look at it and making the FBI an accomplice to the destruction of evidence.
Comey’s immunized witnesses nonetheless suffered chronic lapses in memory, made unsubstantiated claims of attorney-client privilege upon tougher questioning and at least two gave demonstrably false statements. And yet Comey indulged it all.
What’s more, Comey cut a deal to give Clinton a “voluntary” witness interview on a major holiday, and even let her ex-chief of staff sit in on the interview as a lawyer, even though she, too, was under investigation.
Clinton’s interview, the culmination of a yearlong investigation, lasted just 3½ hours. Despite some 40 bouts of amnesia, she wasn’t called back for questioning; and three days later, Comey cleared her of criminal wrongdoing.
“The FBI has politicized itself, and its reputation will suffer for a long time,” Hughes said. “I hold Director Comey responsible.”
Agreed retired FBI agent Michael M. Biasello: “Comey has singlehandedly ruined the reputation of the organization.”
The accommodations afforded Clinton and her aides are “unprecedented,” Biasello added, “which is another way of saying this outcome was by design.” He called Comey’s decision not to seek charges “cowardly.”
“Each month for 27 years, I received oral and computer admonishment concerning the proper protocol for handling top-secret and other classified material, and was informed of the harsh penalties, to include prosecution and incarceration,” for mishandling such material, he pointed out. “Had myself or my colleagues engaged in behavior of the magnitude of Hillary Clinton, as described by Comey, we would be serving time in Leavenworth.”
Former FBI official I.C. Smith knows a thing or two about Clinton corruption. After working at FBI headquarters as a section chief in the National Security Division, he retired as special agent in charge of the Little Rock, Ark., field office, where he investigated top Clinton fundraisers for public corruption and even Chinese espionage.
“FBI agents upset with Comey’s decision have every reason to feel that way,” Smith said. “Clearly there was a different standard applied to Clinton.”
“I have no doubt resourceful prosecutors and FBI agents could have come up with some charge that she would have been subject to prosecution,” the 25-year veteran added. “What she did is absolutely abhorrent for anyone who has access to classified information.”
Smith said Congress should subpoena the case’s agents to testify about the direction they received from Comey and their supervisors: “It would be interesting to see what the results would be if those involved with the investigation were questioned under oath.”
Comey made the 25 agents who worked on the case sign nondisclosure agreements. But others say morale has sunk inside the bureau.
“The director is giving the bureau a bad rap with all the gaps in the investigation,” one agent in the Washington field office said. “There’s a perception that the FBI has been politicized and let down the country.”
Comey has turned a once-proud institution known for its independence into one that bows to election pressure, hands out political immunity to candidates and effectively pardons their co-conspirators. He’s turned the FBI into the Federal Bureau of Immunity and lost the trust and respect of not only his agents but the country at large. He ought to step down.
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