DOJ Witness Charges Malfeasance in Flynn Probe

DOJ Witness Charges Malfeasance in Flynn Probe

The looming indictment of Donald Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, was improperly known outside law enforcement and top Obama administration officials in 2017, according to a recently published account.

The claim comes from a witness in a controversial federal investigation into the origins of the Russia probe.

Steven Schrage, the person behind the claim, is a longtime Republican foreign affairs and trade official who interviewed a key figure in the so-called Russiagate scandal in January 2017.

Schrage is a witness in the investigation being run by John H. Durham, the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation that began in 2016.

Durham was asked to lead the probe by Attorney General William Barr who has been a vociferous critic of how the FBI and the Obama administration investigated Russian interference in the 2016 election. Democrats have repeatedly charged that Barr has played politics with the issue, including his selective release of excerpts of the report by former FBI Director Robert Mueller. Mueller criticized Barr’s characterization of the report as exonerating Trump.

According to Schrage, Stefan Halper, a British academic and key intermediary in the Russia story as well as his former thesis advisor, predicted that Flynn, then president-elect Donald Trump’s national security advisor, wouldn’t be “around long.”

Schrage interpreted that to mean that Halper had special access to the electronic monitoring of Flynn that led to the former Army General’s plea bargain. In December 2017, Flynn admitted to perjury and obstruction of justice charges but earlier this year he sought to withdraw his plea and the Department of Justice has reversed its stand and is now backing Flynn after prosecuting him. At least one career prosecutor resigned from the department to protest the startling turnaround. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. is considering the case.

Schrage claimed the minute-long recording is a snippet of his conversation with Halper, a former professor at the University of Cambridge in England and himself a veteran of Republican administrations,

In the recording, the man who is purportedly Halper predicts that Flynn would not be in the administration for long and cautions Schrage against working for him.

“I don’t think Flynn’s going to be around long. I mean, that’s just my guess,” Halper said.

“He’s really fucked. I mean, I don’t where he goes from there,” Halper said, according to Schrage.

Halper and others, Schrage alleges, did “a miraculous job in pushing fake Trump-Russia conspiracy stories that undermined America’s democratically-elected government and sparked investigations still ripping us apart today.”

That position is at odds with the voluminous report by Mueller and several congressional probes.

On Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released information that Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort was being used by a Russian intelligence operative.

The conversation, which Schrage said Halper knew was recorded, allegedly occurred Jan. 10, 2017, days after an Oval Office meeting where top Obama officials discussed Flynn’s intercepted calls with the Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak where the two discussed recently imposed American sanctions on Moscow over interference in the U.S. elections.

Then-Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn speaks at the Defense Intelligence Agency change of directorship at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, July 24, 2012. Army Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess Jr. turned over directorship of DIA to LtGen Flynn after serving in the position since 2009. (Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/DOD)

A few weeks after his inauguration, Trump fired Flynn, later explaining he did so because Flynn “lied” to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI about his conversations with Kislyak, denying that sanctions had been discussed.

“Halper would not have independently known Flynn, Trump’s most trusted security advisor, was about to go down,” Schrage wrote.

It’s possible, though, that Halper was referring to something else that might end Flynn”s tenure including what was then his much condemned and recently detailed work for the Turkish government and its efforts to deport a cleric who opposed the regime of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

A federal appeals court is considering Flynn’s efforts to take back his plea and his admission of guilt. The original judge in the case rejected his claim and chided the Justice Department for its reversal.

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote about Flynn’s calls on Jan. 12, 2017 citing a “senior U.S. government official.” The column was published two days after Schrage’s recorded conversation with Halper.

“This led to Flynn’s downfall and reignited the Trump-Russia investigations still tearing our nation apart. 48 hours before the leak was published, my former supervisor Halper eerily laid out what was about to happen to Flynn, something he had no independent reason to know,” Schrage wrote.

Schrage suggested but provides no evidence that Halper was Ignatius’ source.

“With both Flynn’s hearing and the election approaching, whatever the consequences, everyone impacted deserves to know the truth,” Schrage wrote.

Schrage made his claims in a post published by journalist Matt Taibbi, a longtime critic of the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Moscow.

President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on March 14, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Schrage teased that he would have more information to release in the coming weeks.

(Edited by Matt Cooper and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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Donald Trump mocks Joe Biden, says former VP can’t find Minnesota as he tightens race to a coin-flip

Donald Trump mocks Joe Biden, says former VP can’t find Minnesota as he tightens race to a coin-flip

Donald Trump mocked rival Joe Biden in Minnesota on Monday, joking that the former vice president doesn’t know where the state is.

The president is trying to keep the state within his reach with Election Day less than three months away.

“I don’t know what Minnesota is. Where is that, please?” Trump said, lampooning the former vice president. He ridiculed Biden for sometimes mistaking what state or city he is in during campaign speeches.

 

Trump also branded Biden a “puppet of left-wing extremists.”

The president’s visit to Minnesota came on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. He spoke to a small crowd at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, then flew to Mankato for another campaign event.

Minnesota has long leaned to the political left. But an Emerson College poll released Tuesday showed Biden’s lead over Trump shrinking to just three percentage points, a number within the poll’s margin of error. Biden has 50% support statewide, compared to Trump’s 47%.

The poll surveyed 733 likely registered voters Aug. 8-10. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Biden’s lead in that survey is smaller than in previous Minnesota surveys. A July 23-25 Trafalgar Group poll had him ahead by 5 points, with a 2.8 percentage point margin of error. A Fox News poll from July 18-20 had Biden up 13 points with a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

Minnesota has supported the Democratic presidential candidate for the past 11 elections. The last Republican to win there was Richard Nixon in 1972.

Democrats’ dominance was threatened in 2016 when Hillary Clinton beat Trump by just 1.5 percentage points. That was a narrowing of Barack Obama’s win in 2012 over Mitt Romney by more than five times that margin.

Trump traveled to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for another campaign event later in the day before heading back to the White House shortly after the Democratic National Convention keynote speeches begin, according to his daily schedule released by the White House.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former first lady Michelle Obama are some of the big names delivering speeches Monday. Obama pre-recorded her speech, an indication of the low-key nature of party conventions in the year of Covid-19.

(Edited by David Martosko.)



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Kamala Chameleon: VP Hopeful Harris is a ‘Phony,’ Trump Says

Kamala Chameleon: VP Hopeful Harris is a ‘Phony,’ Trump Says

Joe Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as his running mate.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked [Kamala Harris] — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden tweeted Tuesday.

Biden’s selection makes the California senator, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, the first black person and first Indian person to appear on a major-party presidential ticket. She would also be the first female vice president.


Biden, a former vice president, had promised to pick a woman as his No. 2 and was under pressure to select a woman of color amid racial unrest that has metastasized into rioting in several U.S. states.
Harris first ran for office in 2003, defeating an incumbent district attorney in San Francisco after accusing him of not sufficiently addressing a crime increase. She ran for California attorney general six years later, narrowly beating Republican Steve Cooley, a popular district attorney from Los Angeles.
She won her first U.S. Senate race in 2016, becoming the first Indian American to serve in the Senate and the second black female senator. President Donald Trump tweeted a campaign ad following the annoucement, painting Harris as part of the “radical left.”

“Biden calls himself a transition candidate,” the ad said. “He is handing over the reins to Kamala while they jointly embrace the radical left. Slow Joe and phony Kamala. Perfect together. Wrong for America.”

Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, praised his former second-in-command.

“Joe Biden nailed this decision. By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character,” Obama said in a statement.

Trump criticized Harris during a press briefing hoursafter the Biden campaign’s announcement, and suggested he believes the choice bodes well for his re-election.

“She was my No. 1 draft pick and we’ll see how she works out,” Trump said.

He said he was surprised Biden picked Harris because she did “poorly” in the primaries. She was also “nasty” to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, the president said, and “I won’t forget that soon.”

Minutes later the president tied Harris to initiatives that are hostile to gun rights and friendly to criminal illegal immigrants. “I would have thought he would have gone a different way,” he said of Biden.

 

Biden said Harris’s friendship with Beau Biden, his son who died of brain cancer in 2015, boosted her above other contenders.

“I first met Kamala through my son Beau,” the former vice president wrote in an email to supporters on Tuesday. “They were both Attorneys General at the same time. He had an enormous respect for her and her work. I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”

Biden hasn’t always had a cozy relationship with Harris. She confronted him during the first Democratic primary debate in June 2019 about his record on race. She attacked him for promoting his work with segregationists during his Senate career and for opposing federally mandated busing in the 1960s and 1970s.

But she couldn’t hang on to the momentum, ending her presidential campaign in December. She endorsed Biden in the wake of his commanding Super Tuesday performance.

Biden was also considering President Obama’s former national security adviser Susan Rice, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, California Rep. Karen Bass and Florida Rep. Val Demings.

“Senator Harris is a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail,” Rice said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting the Biden-Harris ticket will all my energy and commitment.”
Bass also praised Harris: “Her tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now,” Bass said.

In Arizona, Vice President Mike Pence told a crowd that Biden and the Democratic Party “have been overtaken by the radical left. So given their promises of higher taxes, open borders, socialized medicine, and abortion on demand, it’s no surprise that he chose Senator Harris.”

(Edited by David Martosko.)



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Historic UAE-Israel deal boosts Trump, hurts Iran and Russia

Historic UAE-Israel deal boosts Trump, hurts Iran and Russia

The announcement of the third peace treaty between Israel and an Arab state came as a complete surprise to the international community Thursday. No dialogue leaked, no statements floated to the press ahead of time, no countermeasures deployed to interfere, and no traditional diplomacy—only President Donald Trump’s blackjack-like brinksmanship and his son-in-law Jared Kushner’s calm.

But the sound of throats clearing Friday in Abu Dhabi was followed by cautious gloating, and efforts to point out how the Israelis will no longer be “annexing” the West Bank.

“The UAE has long been a champion of the Palestinian cause, their dignity and right to self-determination and peaceful coexistence,” said Hend Al Otaiba, the director of strategic communications at the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “We cannot act on behalf of the Palestinians or the Israelis, but we hope this agreement gives them space and support in which to negotiate a lasting peace treaty that will secure broader regional peace and stability.”

“We believed the two-state solution was existentially threatened by annexation and we had an opportunity to put a stop to it,” she told Zenger News.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pointed out in a Jerusalem address after a signing ceremony that the text of the agreement called for Israel to “suspend” its annexation, not cancel its plans.

“There is no change to my plan to extend sovereignty, our sovereignty in Judea and Samaria,” Netanyahu said, referring to the West Bank by its Biblical names,” in full coordination with the United States.”

Otaiba said her government made the right deal even knowing some would disagree with it. She said achieving peace in the Middle East must involve Israel, Palestine, the UAE and the U.S. if it is to provide stability and prosperity to the region.

“There will always be those who prefer violence to peace, but overall this deal makes the region safer and more stable,” said Otaiba. “It is an achievement centered around diplomacy and dialogue, an opportunity to move forward on numerous fronts: political, economic, and cultural.”

Hamas, the Islamic Jihad movement, and other entities that antagonize Israel describe the deal as a betrayal to the Palestinians.

And other, more subtle pessimists who tried to sabotage Thursday’s agreement expressed suspicion that Israel would never commit to halting its plans to annex parts of the West Bank. That assumption was rejected by the Mayor of Efrat, Oded Revivi—who had been in talks with representatives from the U.S. administration about the deal. Efrat is a Jewish settlement in the Judean Mountains of the West Bank.

Revivi said postponing the application of the Israeli law which declared sovereignty over the West Bank is a fair price to pay for a peace agreement with the UAE.

In an exclusive interview with Zenger, Reviv said: “Netanyahu has agreed to postpone the application of Israeli sovereignty in order to formalize Israel’s relationship with the Emiratis and hopefully other Gulf States. With Netanyahu saying that, and the Administration indicating that it would not recognize the move right now, it is hard to see how credible an argument that Israel would do so anyway at this time.”

The Efrat mayor stressed that new developments allow Israel the opportunity to present the reality of life in Israel without the filter of a corrupt and repressive Palestinian Authority.

“In due time I would expect the Emiratis and others to recognize the huge distinction between Palestinian people and the corrupt PA extends even to the controversial issue concerning Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.”

Reviv said he has high hopes that Thursday’s deal will start a new era in the region. “I certainly hope it is the beginning of a peaceful era, and a recognition that there are bigger priorities in the Middle East than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said, adding that terrorist organizations that reject any kind of normalization with Israel have found themselves humiliated by more practical and cooperative Arab Middle East states.

Saudi writer Ahmad al-Farraj emphasized on importance of the Israeli commitment to the Arab world, stressing that this historic deal would pave the way for a new dialogue to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.

Farraj described the general sentiment in the counties of the Gulf Cooperation Council as overwhelmingly positive, pointing out that the Saudi Arabian people are beginning to shed their old, habitual frame of the Middle East. “The Saudis are changing their perspective of who their real enemy is. It is not Israel anymore,” he said.

The Saudi political analyst said Iran and Turkey are now the threats in the region.

“Iran has been trying to seize control of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen while the Muslim Brotherhood via Turkey is expanding its influence in Syria, Lebanon and Libya. These are the real enemies, especially for the people of Saudi Arabia, U.A.E. and Bahrain,” Farraj said.

He said the people who oppose the deal are watching Qatar closely because it was the first Gulf country to normalize its relations with Israel—and also watching Turkey and the Muslim brotherhood for negative reactions designed to inflame tensions again.

The historic Abraham Accords also put Russia on its back feet: Its negotiations to form trade alliances across the Arab world have largely failed. Some of the Trump administration’s have succeeded.

(Edited by David Martosko and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)



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VP hopeful Kamala Harris isn’t making history, she’s fighting it

VP hopeful Kamala Harris isn’t making history, she’s fighting it

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Is the fourth time the charm? Sen. Kamala Harris isn’t the first woman to be named for a vice presidential slot by a major political party leader. Each of the three women previously nominated received initial press and public support; all lost. The California Democrat has a lot of history to overcome.

Though women make up a majority of registered voters, the record of female vice-presidential hopefuls isn’t mixed or encouraging. One lost her home state. None carried the majority of the women’s vote. None delivered a swing state for the top of the ticket. None produced a bump in the polls that lasted for more than one week.

Democrat Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman nominated for vice president by a major political party, ran alongside Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election. They lost the majority of voting women and the majority of voting Roman Catholics (Ferraro was Catholic). They lost Ferraro’s home state of New York and nearly lost her home town of Queens.

Republican Ronald Reagan carried 49 states that year. Only Minnesota went for the Democratic Party’s national candidates—and by fewer than 3,000 votes.

Republican Sarah Palin, in her bid for the vice presidency in 2008, hardly did much better than Ferraro. Barack Obama and his vice presidential nominee Joe Biden carried women voters by 14 percentage points over John McCain and Palin, the first woman Republicans chose for that post. Palin won her home state, Alaska, which had voted reliably for Republicans in presidential contests since it was admitted to the union in 1959.

Sarah Palin in Kosovo. (Sgt Adam-David Pepper/U.S. Army)

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz named California businesswoman Carly Fiorina as his running mate while he fought Donald Trump for convention delegates in 2016. That late effort failed to secure him the Republican nomination or even the majority of women GOP delegates.

The selections of Ferraro, Palin and Fiorina “were all made by a candidate who was on track to lose the campaign,” said Christopher Devine, the co-author of “Do Running Mates Matter?: The Influence of Vice Presidential Candidates in Presidential Elections.” “In each case, voters knew that this was someone who was making a play for votes they desperately needed to win the campaign.”

Examining U.S. election data from 1952 to 2016, Devine said, does not show any change in women’s turnout or voting preferences in the years with a female running mate, 1984 and 2008, compared with other presidential election years.

Based on historical data, Harris may help Biden with women voters, but “not dramatically,” Devine said. “We find there’s no evidence that women became more likely to vote for a presidential ticket following the choice of a woman running mate.”

None of the prior defeats of women vice-presidential candidates tell us much about the 2020 presidential race, said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “In 1984, any nominee for president or vice president would have lost — a Democratic nominee — to Ronald Reagan. Conditions were perfect for Reagan’s reelection.”

Economics matters more than female running mates, Sabato said. “In 2008, John McCain was running as the Republican nominee in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, plus the Iraq War. It’s very hard to make the case that a Republican could have won under those conditions. It had nothing to do with Geraldine Ferraro or Sarah Palin.”

Still, the Harris nomination marks a turning point, Sabato said. “I don’t think the Democrats will ever again nominate two white males,” he said. “That era is gone.”

The first woman to seriously contend for a nomination for national office was Rep. Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black congresswoman. The New York Democrat challenged Sen. George McGovern for the Democratic nomination in 1972, receiving enthusiastic support from some parts of the press.

Shirley Chisholm reviews political statistics in 1965. (Roger Higgins via Library of Congress)

Ultimately, she failed to win a single primary, though due to party rules regarding delegates, won more than 150 votes from delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Miami that year.

Like Harris, Chisholm’s candidacy was said to signal a new era. Chisholm’s announcement of her candidacy includes these lines often cited by historians: “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and equally proud of that. I am the candidate of the people and my presence before you symbolizes a new era in American political history.”

(Edited by David Martosko and Richard Miniter.)



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Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as running mate

Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as running mate

Joe Biden has chosen Kamala Harris as his running mate.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked [Kamala Harris] — a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants — as my running mate,” Biden tweeted Tuesday.

Biden’s selection makes the California senator, the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, the first black person and first Indian person to appear on a major-party presidential ticket. She would also be the first female vice president.


Biden, a former vice president, had promised to pick a woman as his No. 2 and was under pressure to select a woman of color amid racial unrest that has metastasized into rioting in several U.S. states.
Harris first ran for office in 2003, defeating an incumbent district attorney in San Francisco after accusing him of not sufficiently addressing a crime increase. She ran for California attorney general six years later, narrowly beating Republican Steve Cooley, a popular district attorney from Los Angeles.
She won her first U.S. Senate race in 2016, becoming the first Indian American to serve in the Senate and the second black female senator.President Donald Trump tweeted a campaign ad following the annoucment, painting Harris as part of the “radical left.”

“Biden calls himself a transition candidate,” the ad said. “He is handing over the reins to Kamala while they jointly embrace the radical left. Slow Joe and phony Kamala. Perfect together. Wrong for America.”

Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, praised his former second-in-command.

“Joe Biden nailed this decision. By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character,” Obama said in a statement.

Trump criticized Harris during a press briefing hoursafter the Biden campaign’s announcement, and suggested he believes the choice bodes well for his re-election.

“She was my No. 1 draft pick and we’ll see how she works out,” Trump said.

He said he was surprised Biden picked Harris because she did “poorly” in the primaries. She was also “nasty” to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing, the president said, and “I won’t forget that soon.”

Minutes later the president tied Harris to initiatives that are hostile to gun rights and friendly to criminal illegal immigrants. “I would have thought he would have gone a different way,” he said of Biden.

 

Biden said Harris’s friendship with Beau Biden, his son who died of brain cancer in 2015, boosted her above other contenders.

“I first met Kamala through my son Beau,” the former vice president wrote in an email to supporters on Tuesday. “They were both Attorneys General at the same time. He had an enormous respect for her and her work. I thought a lot about that as I made this decision. There is no one’s opinion I valued more than Beau’s and I’m proud to have Kamala standing with me on this campaign.”

Biden hasn’t always had a cozy relationship with Harris. She confronted him during the first Democratic primary debate in June 2019 about his record on race. She attacked him for promoting his work with segregationists during his Senate career and for opposing federally mandated busing in the 1960s and 1970s.

But she couldn’t hang on to the momentum, ending her presidential campaign in December. She endorsed Biden in the wake of his commanding Super Tuesday performance.

Biden was also considering President Obama’s former national security adviser Susan Rice, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, California Rep. Karen Bass and Florida Rep. Val Demings.

“Senator Harris is a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail,” Rice said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting the Biden-Harris ticket will all my energy and commitment.”
Bass also praised Harris: “Her tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now,” Bass said.

In Arizona, Vice President Mike Pence told a crowd that Biden and the Democratic Party “have been overtaken by the radical left. So given their promises of higher taxes, open borders, socialized medicine, and abortion on demand, it’s no surprise that he chose Senator Harris.”

(Edited by David Martosko.)



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