Is Lisa Page under criminal investigation?

So CNN has a “bombshell” report out tonight that an FBI lawyer is under investigation for altering a document in the 2016 Russia probe. What is fascinating is how they are not naming the lawyer involved here, even though the circumstances are widely known to anyone who is following General Flynn’s sentencing (which will perhaps become a non-sentencing).

CNN describes the FBI employee as “a line attorney, is no longer working at the bureau, said a person familiar with the matter. A line attorney is a lower level lawyer within the FBI.”

I think this person is Lisa Page, but I could be wrong. She has been accused – with significant evidence – of having altered Flynn’s 302 (the official record of an interview with a subject). The lie that the Mueller team accused Flynn of making never appears in agents’ handwritten notes, and one of those agents was Peter Strzok. In fact, the notes themselves appear exculpatory.

Her text messages with then-lover Strzok discuss her going into a superior’s office and getting Flynn’s 302, then going in and changing language to make him seem culpable, obviously thinking that no one will go back and check the physical notes. This has been a core accusation in Flynn’s sentencing, which hinges on the Department of Justice withholding Brady evidence, which is a form of serious misconduct by a prosecutor – in this case, the Mueller team.

It is not helping the Mueller crowd that Andrew Weissmann, Mueller’s No. 2, is now an MSNBC hack who is going full Rachel Maddow with Russia conspiracy theories. The man is outing himself on a routine basis on prime time television as an epic fucking quack. And everyone who watched Mueller’s testimony understands he’s as senile as Joe Biden. Special interests have been walking all over these people from day one.

The FISA report is due to be released by the Department of Justice Inspector General on December 9th, and it apparently already involves criminal referrals. The Page developments emerged out of Flynn’s trials, but they overlap.

My baseline assumption is that the Department of Justice will actively bury evidence of its own wrongdoing. So I try to temper any expectations that some report will be as bad as people play it up to be. But who knows. I find the outing of Lisa Page tonight rather interesting, however.

So far, the Lawfare blog folks have been a moneygood contrarian indicator of what the government is doing. You knew Comey was toast when they embraced him fully. A couple weeks ago, they started going on the offensive trying to redeem Page’s reputation. It’s like being on the cover of Time. You know the wolves are coming for you.

UPDATE: I have received a number of messages from friends who think this article applies to someone else at the FBI and admonishing me for jumping to conclusions. (A low-level attorney who had a role in the FISA application had correspondence similar to that of Strzok – Page.) And that’s fine. I wrote this to say this seems a lot like what is happening in Sullivan’s court right now.

The only thing that made me think of Page is that she has been directly accused of altering documents submitted to the court in the Flynn case, and it is a notable case because she was allegedly altering the official record of an FBI interview that she herself was not physically present for.

I would submit to you that if I am wrong about whom this report if referring to, things are actually worse over there. Because that would make this the second accusation of FBI personnel falsifying documents that were to be submitted to a court in roughly a month. I’m not sure how you fix this behavior if this behavior has been normalized at the FBI.

And if you think they are falsifying records on cases this huge – cases that were sure to be highly scrutinized – imagine what these individuals were doing in “lesser” cases.

In general, I think characterizations like “low-level official” or “senior official” in the media are worthless. When the media wants to downplay something, someone has a small role in an agency. When they want to play up something, someone is far more important than they are in reality. The “whistleblower” in the Ukraine drama is a low-level employee. That’s not my opinion; he’s on the five-digit pay scale, which means he’s a nobody in Washington. But if you listen to the media talk about the case, he’s James Bond. This garbage is what they do.

At any rate, I am amending this post to clarify that this is my educated guess at whom they are talking about.

Some gardening before heading to Charleston

As a boy, in my own backyard I could catch a basket of blue crabs, a string of flounder, a dozen redfish, or a net full of white shrimp. All this I could do in a city enchanting enough to charm cobras out of baskets, one so corniced and filigreed and elaborate that it leaves strangers awed and natives self-satisfied. In its shadows you can find metal work as delicate as lace and spiral staircases as elaborate as yachts. In the secrecy of its gardens you can discover jasmine and camellias and hundreds of other plants that look embroidered and stolen from the Garden of Eden for the sheer love of richness and the joy of stealing from the gods. In its kitchens, the stoves are lit up in happiness as the lamb is marinating in red wine sauce, vinaigrette is prepared for the salad, crabmeat is anointed with sherry, custards are baked in the oven, and buttermilk biscuits cool on the counter.

Pat Conroy, South of Broad

We are headed to Charleston for a long weekend tomorrow morning. If anyone has recommendations for special places to visit in the Holy City, please send them my way. We will have our Jack Russell terrier, Sherlock, with us while we stroll around the city, so we are kind of limited in seeing museums and whatnot.

We are finding some time later today to get some gardening in and play on the beach. Elise and I bought a mango tree that allegedly will do well in a container, so we plan to put it on the front porch where it will get some sunshine. We bought two banana trees, and are starting a banana patch on the side of the house. And I bought a sea grape, which grow rather huge here. I am going to plant it in the front garden to cancel out my outrageous blooms with interesting foliage.

Sea grapes have interesting round leaves.

I am starting to develop a garden plan, so I am hoping to place orders for plumeria and other features soon. The garden center here has a ton of ferns in now, so I might get going on the fern dell and walkway first. It’s hard to do when we are traveling so much lately though.

Clinton Foundation is hemorrhaging cash now that there’s not a Clinton in office

This is pretty funny. The Center for Responsive Politics (which runs the Open Secrets website, tracking political donations) has posted the latest round of tax returns for the Clinton Foundation.

When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation posted $249 million in revenues. Many of these donors were people who just happened to have business before the State Department.

See this Vox article, which lists 181 Clinton Foundation donors that lobbied Clinton’s State Department.

And this Associated Press article on how many Clinton Foundation donors showed up for meetings at the State Department:

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million …

The 154 did not include U.S. federal employees or foreign government representatives. Clinton met with representatives of at least 16 foreign governments that donated as much as $170 million to the Clinton charity, but they were not included in AP’s calculations because such meetings would presumably have been part of her diplomatic duties.

Folks on the left used to lose their minds if you suggested that the Clintons were using their foundation to sell influence. In fact, this was the central point of the controversy of Clinton’s server. (No, the email scandal was not actually about email. It was about why she felt she needed to have a separate line of communications while at the State Department in violation of laws regarding the retention of government records. Did she not want people doing business with the foundation to be archived through public records laws, where their correspondence would then be made available to journalists and other political observers?) Incidentally, Clinton’s legal team negotiated an agreement with James Comey that any communications related to the Clinton Foundation would be exempt from the FBI’s review. Comey negotiated this agreement even as several FBI field offices were investigating the foundation. Thus, if the Clintons were selling influence, the government would not have known. And yet the Clintons still hate James Comey.

At any rate, now that there is not a Clinton in any government position, the foundation has posted three straight years of financial losses and is raising about a tenth of the revenues at its peak. The latest is a loss of $16.8 million on revenue of $30.7 million in 2018. The foundation director continues to be paid $362,000 despite the rapid decline in fundraising.

Here is their latest tax return.

Whereas the Clinton Foundation was raking in money from countries and business leaders with global interests during her tenure in government, most of the money donated to the foundation now comes from only 9 donors.

Probably all a strange coincidence, however, and has nothing to do with selling influence.

The future of Apple is in Texas

President Trump spent the afternoon at the groundbreaking of Apple’s new 133-acre Austin campus. The facility will house 5,000 employees at first, but will expand capacity to 15,000 workers.

While the news media had endless questions for Trump about the yawn-inducing impeachment circus, overlooked were Tim Cook’s comments about Apple’s investment plans.

Cook was saying everything Trump (and most Americans) love to hear – the new Apple facility is a shrine to American vision and innovation. Per CNN, “the company said it is on track to contribute $350 billion to the US economy between 2018 and 2023 and will contribute $30 billion in capital expenditures in the same period.”

Yay, tax reform. Apple was one of the worst offenders when it came to offshoring money before tax laws changed and they are finally bringing that investment home to the tune of $380 billion dollars. This is a company that virtually has its own province in China devoted to manufacturing products for American consumers.

But did you catch what else Cook had to say about Apple’s future? He thinks Apple’s future is in Texas.

Good lord, Sondland has been absolutely humiliating to Democrats

Can you believe that today is Joe Biden’s 77th birthday? Wow, what gift Pelosi gave him.

Anyone who has watched Sondland’s testimony today probably has one question: Who wrote Sondland’s opening statement? Because it definitely wasn’t him.

For an hour, Schiff’s attorneys asked Sondland carefully worded questions starting with “Do you have any reason to doubt….” Not “do you know for a fact” and “how do you know for a fact,” but if I make something up out of thin air, can you contradict it? And he dutifully said no over and over again. In fact, the majority counsel spoke more than Sondland did. He was testifying for Sondland.

When questioned about the contents of his testimony by the GOP, Sondland has disputed almost every point of his own account of events. It’s bonkers.

The Vice President’s office has issued a statement saying that one conversation Sondland says he had with the VP never happened. Like, the whole conversation is imaginary. And you better bet there is an official record of every single person who had ever been in Pence’s company.

Beyond that, Sondland testified that he was so exasperated with Ukraine policy that he asked Trump point-blank, “what the fuck do you want from Ukraine?”

To which Trump replied, “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell [the president of the Ukraine] to do the right thing. I want him to do what he ran on.”

In Sondland’s words, the “quid pro quo” that he imagines is not investigating Biden or withholding aid. (Numerous people have pointed out that Trump was a foreign aid skeptic with respect to all countries. He doesn’t think Europe is paying their fair share for the world’s crises.) He outright disputed those characterizations to Schiff and majority counsel, much to their visible frustration. He thinks… gasp… the president declined to have a meeting with the Ukrainian president on the timeline that Sondland thought would be appropriate. Long gone are accusations about the call. Or firing another ambassador and replacing her with someone who thinks exactly as she did on policy. No, now we seeing pretend retaliation in the day planner of the leader of the free world. This is the level of their hysterics now. “I told him to have an in-person meeting before this day, and he did not do it, and to me that is something of value that was withheld.”

GOP counsel asked Sondland why he chose not to include the only relevant, from-the-horse’s-mouth statement on this issue from his opening statement, which was disbursed to the hyenas in the media ahead of time. I wanted to include a lot of other things, he said, but he did not have time. He did not have space to quote the president directly in his opening statements. He did have room to recite his family tree, however.

The Mueller garbage set taxpayers in this country back tens of millions of dollars. That money that you work your ass off for and are sending to the feds? It’s going to this. And now we have a hundred days of bitching and moaning and conspiracy theories about … absolutely fucking nothing, just like Russia Russia Russia.

So far, I think the best account of this whole thing has come from the comedian Greg Gutfeld, which is that Democrats have been treating taxpayers to an episode of The Office. You’ve got a bunch of bitchy low-level bureaucrats who are upset that someone said something mean about them and who think the federal budget should award their bailiwick more money than other departments. They didn’t get their way, and they have a lot of bitching to do because of it. Some of them got axed from their jobs (one is about to be axed from his job, which he admits he only has because he made a lavish campaign contribution to attain it) because they are untrustworthy messengers for policy decisions. And they chose to behave that way of their own free will. They insinuate a lot of stuff but were never actually in high enough a position to know anything, and resentment is fueling their account of pretty much everyone.

At the end of the day, these folks are essentially confirming all of the worst stereotypes that ordinary Americans have about people who work in government. And Sondland is even worse than that.

Take one down, pass it around

I think any serious person watching (or half-watching) the impeachment circus understands that the biggest loser in this whole spectacle is Joe Biden. (Of course, Don Jr nuking The View had a higher viewership than these hearings, so the pool of serious observers is pretty small.)

Biden was always a weak candidate. Even in a country that is sick and tired of people clutching their pearls with fake concern for the state of our democracy, Biden manages to raise eyebrows. He can’t take a picture with a woman without trying to smell her hair or putting his hand around her waist like a lover. He even does that to preteen girls and it’s gross. He makes stuff up, invents memories from public service, constantly. “Sir, you weren’t vice president during the Florida school shooting. The victims did not come visit you in the White House and patiently absorb your wisdom.” Blah blah blah. The guy is such a bad candidate that it’s boring to talk about what a bad candidate he is.

But now… Thanks to Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff, there is not a single person in this country who does not associate the Bidens with corruption in some way. You have some very small minority of Democrats who will defend the Bidens despite all evidence, but their arguments are self-mocking. The more fervently they try to defend Biden, the sleazier he looks. The sleazier they look. The sane thing to do if you were a political strategist would be to stop talking about him and move on. But Pelosi and Schiff staked out a public position on this topic, and they are going to ride that limping, whining, sputtering horse into the sunset.

Meanwhile, with the other candidates, there’s only insanity. The electorate has tried on several candidates as a front-runner after becoming disillusioned with Biden. They tried on Kamala Harris, whose record with prosecutions was so bad it was absurd anyone from the political machine held her up as a viable candidate. (“Hey, let’s nominate someone who kept an innocent man on death row.”) They tried on Elizabeth Warren, until people started asking her where she was going to get new tax revenue for her plans. Instead of giving them an honest answer, she upped her health care spending to over $50 trillion. They started off branding her as a policy wonk, but it turns out she’s as much of a policy wonk as she is a Native American. Paired with her is Sanders, who is running on “hell, yes, I will take your health care providers away.” Half of the country will walk through fire to vote against them.

Now they are going to try on Buttigieg, the mayor of a college town with barely 100,000 residents who decided out of nowhere to run for president. And the charm will last until someone notices that he’s polling at 0% with black voters. It is statistically impossible for any Democratic candidate to win with even a slight decline in participation from black voters, so Buttigieg would be like conceding the race now. (And that’s before the Republicans dig up dirt on Buttigieg, like his support for an abortion doctor that had the corpses of thousands of babies in his house and the trunk of his car. Behold, your moderate candidate!)

The Democratic machine has already proclaimed that Tulsi Gabbard, despite serving in the US military, is actually a Russian agent.

So that leaves Klobucher and Booker for the electorate to try on, and then its brutally unpopular nanny state billionaires all the way down.

Republicans thank you for the clown show, Nancy.