Millions of Americans are waiting for Robert Mueller to give them the final word on whether the Trump campaign conspired with the 2016 Russian election interference effort — and whether their president is under the influence of a foreign adversary.
Millions of Americans may be sorely disappointed.
Unless Mueller files a detailed indictment charging members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia, the public may never learn the full scope of what Mueller and his team has found — including potentially scandalous behavior that doesn’t amount to a provable crime.
The reason: The special counsel operates under rules that severely constrain how much information can be made public, as well as the fact that no evidence to date has implicated Trump in any way, shape or form.
Those rules require that the special counsel’s report to the attorney general be “confidential.” And, while the attorney general is required to notify Congress about Mueller’s findings, the rules say those reports must amount to “brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them.”
“Expectations that we will see a comprehensive report from the special counsel are high. But the written regulations that govern the special counsel’s reporting requirements should arguably dampen those expectations,” said Chuck Rosenberg, a former federal prosecutor and NBC News analyst.
Here is the sum total of what the rules say about a final report:
“At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”
What’s more, a 1999 document outlining that rule in the federal register criticizes the way in which independent counsel reports like Starr’s were made public, saying that a public prosecutors report “provides an incentive to over-investigate, in order to avoid potential public criticism for not having turned over every stone, and creates potential harm to individual privacy interests.”
Memos explaining decisions not to prosecute can be long or short, and there is nothing in the rules to prevent Mueller from writing a 500-page narrative laying out the behavior of the Trump team with regard to Russia in excruciating detail.
However, that report will go to the attorney general, and under the regulations, it is secret.
The attorney general is required to send a report to Congress. But here is what the rule says about that:
“To help ensure congressional and public confidence in the integrity of the process, the regulations impose on the Attorney General these reporting requirements to the Judiciary Committees of the Congress. These reports will occur on three occasions: on the appointment of a Special Counsel, on the Attorney General’s decision to remove a Special Counsel, and on the completion of the Special Counsel’s work.
“These reports will be brief notifications, with an outline of the actions and the reasons for them.”
There is a wildcard — if the Mueller report contains allegations of potentially impeachable offenses against the president, scholars have said the Justice Department would have to pass the full details of that to Congress.
Fortunately for President Trump, and indeed the nation as a whole, all of the evidence points directly to former President Barack Hussein Obama & Hillary Clinton colluding with Russia.
With Republicans on both House and Senate investigative committees having found no evidence of Donald Trump being guilty of Democrat-inspired allegations of Russian collusion, it is worth revisiting one anecdote that escaped significant attention during the hysteria but continues to have U.S. security implications.
As secretary of State, Hillary Clinton worked with Russian leaders, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-President Dmitri Medvedev, to create U.S. technology partnerships with Moscow’s version of Silicon Valley, a sprawling high-tech campus known as Skolkovo.
Clinton’s handprint was everywhere on the 2009-2010 project, the tip of a diplomatic spear to reboot U.S.-Russian relations after years of hostility prompted by Vladimir Putin’s military action against the former Soviet republic and now U.S. ally Georgia.
A donor to the Clinton Foundation, Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, led the Russian side of the effort, and several American donors to the Clinton charity got involved. Clinton’s State Department facilitated U.S. companies working with the Russian project, and she personally invited Medvedev to visit Silicon Valley.
The collaboration occurred at the exact same time Bill Clinton made his now infamous trip to Russia to pick up a jaw-dropping $500,000 check for a single speech.
The former president’s trip secretly raised eyebrows inside his wife’s State Department, internal emails show.
That’s because he asked permission to meet Vekselberg, the head of Skolkovo, and Arkady Dvorkovich, a senior official of Rosatom, the Russian nuclear giant seeking State’s permission to buy Uranium One, a Canadian company with massive U.S. uranium reserves.
Years later, intelligence documents show, both the Skolkovo and Uranium One projects raised serious security concerns.
In 2013, the U.S. military’s leading intelligence think tank in Europe sounded alarm that the Skolkovo project might be a front for economic and military espionage.
“Skolkovo is an ambitious enterprise, aiming to promote technology transfer generally, by inbound direct investment, and occasionally, through selected acquisitions. As such, Skolkovo is arguably an overt alternative to clandestine industrial espionage — with the additional distinction that it can achieve such a transfer on a much larger scale and more efficiently,” EUCOM’s intelligence bulletin wrote in 2013.
“Implicit in Russia’s development of Skolkovo is a critical question — a question that Russia may be asking itself — why bother spying on foreign companies and government laboratories if they will voluntarily hand over all the expertise Russia seeks?”
A year later, the FBI went further and sent letters warning several U.S. technology companies that had become entangled with Skolkovo that they risked possible espionage. And an agent in the bureau’s Boston office wrote an extraordinary op-ed to publicize the alarm.
Skolkovo “may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge Lucia Ziobro wrote in the Boston Business Journal.
The FBI had equal concern about Rosatom’s acquisition of Uranium One. An informer named William Douglas Campbell had gotten inside the Russian nuclear giant in 2009 and gathered evidence that Rosatom’s agents in the United States were engaged in a racketeering scheme involving kickbacks, extortion and bribery.
Campbell also obtained written evidence that Putin wanted to buy Uranium One as part of a strategy to obtain monopolistic domination of the global uranium markets, including leverage over the U.S.
Campbell also warned that a major in-kind donor to the Clinton Global Initiative was simultaneously working for Rosatom while the decision for U.S. approval was pending before Hillary Clinton’s department. Ultimately, her department and the Obama administration approved the transaction.
The evidence shows the Clintons financially benefited from Russia — personally and inside their charity — at the same time they were involved in U.S. government actions that rewarded Moscow and increased U.S. security risks.
The intersections between the Clintons, the Democrats and Russia carried into 2016, when a major political opposition research project designed to portray GOP rival Donald Trump as compromised by Moscow was launched by Clinton’s presidential campaign and brought to the FBI.
Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS research firm was secretly hired by the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party through their law firm, Perkins Coie.
Simpson then hired retired British intelligence operative Christopher Steele — whom the FBI learned was “desperate” to defeat Trump — to write an unverified dossier suggesting that Trump’s campaign was colluding with Russia to hijack the election.
Simpson, Steele and Perkins Coie all walked Trump-Russia related allegations into the FBI the summer before the election, prompting agents who openly disliked Trump to launch a counterintelligence probe of the GOP nominee shortly before Election Day.
Simpson and Steele also went to the news media to air the allegations in what senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr would later write was a “Hail Mary” effort to influence the election.
Congressional investigators have painstakingly pieced together evidence that shows the Clinton research project had extensive contact with Russians.
Ohr’s notes show that Steele’s main source of uncorroborated allegations against Trump came from an ex-Russian intelligence officer. “Much of the collection about the Trump campaign ties to Russia comes from a former Russian intelligence officer (? not entirely clear) who lives in the U.S.,” Ohr scribbled.
Steele’s dossier also relied on information from a Belarus-born Russian businessman, according to numerous reports and a book on the Russia scandal.
Steele and Simpson had Russian-tied business connections, too, while they formulated the dossier.
Steele worked for the lawyers for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and tried to leverage those connections to help the FBI get evidence from the Russian aluminum magnate against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The effort resulted in FBI agents visiting Deripaska in fall 2016. Deripaska told the agents that no collusion existed.
Likewise, Simpson worked in 2016 for the Russian company Prevezon — which was trying to escape U.S. government penalties — and one of its Russian lawyers, Natalia Veselnitskaya. In sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Simpson admitted he dined with Veselnitskaya both the night before and the night after her infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016.
Simpson insists the two dinners sandwiching one of the seminal events in the Trump collusion narrative had nothing to do with the Trump Tower meeting, a claim many Republicans distrust.
Whatever the case, there’s little doubt the main instigators of the Clinton-inspired allegations against Trump got information from Russians and were consorting with them during the political opposition project.
This past week, we learned from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) that his committee came to the same conclusion as the House: There is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
But now there is growing evidence — of Democratic connections to Russia. It’s enough that former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) believes a probe should be opened.
There is “obvious collusion the Democrats had through Glenn Simpson and through Fusion GPS, that they were talking directly to Russia,” Nunes told Hill.TV’s “Rising” in an interview to be aired Monday.
Collusion can be criminal if it involves conspiracy to break federal laws, or it can involve perfectly legal, unwitting actions that still jeopardize America’s security against a “frenemy” like Russia.
There is clear evidence now that shows Hillary Clinton’s family and charity profited from Moscow and simultaneously facilitated official government actions benefiting Russia that have raised security concerns.
And there’s irrefutable evidence that her opposition research effort on Trump — one that inspired an FBI probe — was carried out by people who got information from Russia and were consorting with Russians.
It would seem those questions deserve at least some of the scrutiny afforded the Trump-Russia collusion inquiry that is now two-plus years old.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
February 15th, 2019