Sunday, 11 June 2017

Safely out of harm's way at ANU in Canberra former Director US National Intelligence James Clapper dumps on Trump, while the former Director of US Federal Bureau of Investigation signposts Trump's journey towards obstruction of justice

"I have to say though, I think if you compare the two that Watergate pales, really, in my view, compared to what we're confronting now."
 [Professor James Clapper, quoted in ABC News online, 7 May 2017]

Excerpt from 7 May 2017National  Press Club Address by Professor James Clapper AO, US Director of National Intelligence 9 August 2010-20 January 2017:

I will speak more about the depth and breadth of the relationship between the United States and Australia at an event with another great friend and colleague, Kim Beazley, next week. But I know you all want to hear about the current state of US politics, so let me delve into that.
There is well-founded concern here about our current administration and its emerging foreign policy generally, toward this region, and specifically toward Australia. And that is one reason I wanted to come here, and one reason why I want to speak publically. It is, in fact, quite liberating to be free of the government “harness”.

Some truth in advertising at this point is appropriate: I have toiled in the trenches of US intelligence for every President since and including John F. Kennedy; 34 years of that were in the US military, and, in a variety of civilian capacities since I left the military some 21 plus years ago. My professional instincts have always included loyalty to the President, particularly in his capacity as Commander-In-Chie, whoever it has been, above all else. I have served as a political appointee in both Republican and Democratic administrations. So, it is not easy for me to be critical of a president, but as I said in a CNN interview a couple of weeks ago, now as a private citizen I am very concerned about the assaults on our institutions, coming from both an external source (read Russia), and an internal source (read the President himself).

So let me speak briefly first about the source of the external assault:

Russia embarked on a campaign to interfere with our presidential election, which was unprecedented in its directness and aggressiveness. The Russians have a long history of interfering in elections — theirs and others. They have tried to interfere in ours going back to the sixties, but let me stress, never like this. Apart from the infamous hacking of the Democratic National Committee, their campaign had many other dimensions: social media trolls planting false information; orchestrated “fake news” which many other news outlets picked up (either wittingly or unwittingly); and a very sophisticated campaign by the regime funded propaganda arm RT, against Hillary Clinton, and for Donald Trump.

Their first objective, though, was to sow doubt, discontent, and discord about our political system. They achieved, I am sure, beyond their wildest expectations. Given their success, they have only been emboldened to be even more aggressive in the future. This is not, let me emphasize, “fake news.” The Russians are not our friends; they (Putin specifically) are avowedly opposed to our democracy and values, and see us as the cause of all their frustrations.

I would also point out some things about Russia that many in the United States have not kept in perspective. The Russians are embarked on a very aggressive and disturbing program to modernize their strategic forces — notably their submarine and land-based nuclear forces. They have also made big investments in their counter-space capabilities. They do all this — despite their economic challenges — with only one adversary in mind: the United States. And, just for good measure, they are also in active violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty.

Interestingly, every one of the non-acting Prime Ministers of Russia since 1992 has come from one of two domains:

      the oil and gas sector, or
      the security services.

To put this in perspective, and as I have pointed out to US audiences, suppose the last ten presidents of the US were either CIA officers, or the Chairman of Exxon-Mobile. I think this gives you some insight into the dominant mind-set of the Russian government.

As a consequence of all this, I have had a very hard time reconciling the threat the Russians pose to the United States—and, for that matter, western democracies in general—with the inexplicably solicitous stance the Trump administration (or at least, he himself as opposed to others in his administration) has taken with respect to Russia.

Let me move to the internal assault on our institutions I will share two examples, among many.

Then President-elect Trump disparaged the Intelligence Community’s high-confidence assessment of the magnitude and diversity of the Russian interference by characterizing us as “Nazis”. This was prompted by his and his team’s extreme paranoia about, and resentment of, any doubt cast on the legitimacy of his election. When he made this absurd allegation, I felt an obligation to defend the men and women of the United States intelligence community, so I called him on 11 January. Surprisingly, he took my call. I tried, naively it turned out, to appeal to his “higher instincts” — by pointing out that the intelligence community he was about to inherit is a national treasure, and that the people in it were committed to supporting him and making him successful. Ever transactional, he simply asked me to publicly refute the infamous “dossier”, which I could not and would not do.

When I later learned that the first place he was going to visit after the Inauguration was CIA, I thought — again, naively — that perhaps I had gotten through to him. For the intelligence community (not just the CIA) the wall in the front lobby at CIA Headquarters is hallowed, with over 120 stars commemorating CIA officers who have paid the ultimate price. He chose to use that as a prop for railing about the size of the inauguration crowd on the Mall, and his battle with the “fake news” media. His subsequent actions — sharing sensitive intelligence with the Russians, and, compromising its source reflect ignorance or disrespect — are likewise very problematic.

Similarly, the whole episode with the firing of Jim Comey a distinguished public servant. Apart from the egregious, inexcusable manner in which it was conducted, this episode reflected complete disregard for the independence and autonomy of the FBI, our premier law enforcement organization. (Again truth in advertising, Jim is a personal friend and personal hero of mine.)

So, as I said, I worry about these assaults on our institutions.
Finally, as long as I am into controversial things, I do want to say a word about China, since I realize it is much more of a pre-occupation here than Russia is, but I see some striking parallels between what our two countries are experiencing at the hand of these two countries.

I have seen just this week compelling evidence of potentially nefarious foreign interference in your democratic institutions, and from where that interference apparently originates.

For America, though, I consider China more benignly than I do Russia. Their economy is inextricably bound with ours, as well as with yours. With all the challenges that poses, I do think that fact serves to moderate China’s behavior. But we, and you, I think, need to be very wary. A few factoids on the growth of China’s economic power, some of them lesser known, are illustrative:

                 In 2004, 7 of the 10 largest companies in the world were American. 

             There were no Chinese companies on the top ten list until 2010.

In 2016, it was 4 Chinese, 5 American, 1 Japanese.

And, 12 of the 15 largest Chinese companies are state-owned - and, are, accordingly, potential intelligence platforms.

In telecommunications the 7 largest Chinese smartphone companies control 1/3 of the market world-wide, more than twice the market share of Apple.

This is not just about market share, this is about intelligence-gathering, since Chinese law allows and implicitly encourages their intelligence services to use any and all communications and IT equipment for intelligence collection.

In the summer of 2016, the United States was surpassed by China as number one in the world for super-computing. Even more startling was the suddenness of China’s jump, with FIVE times the manufacturing of supercomputers compared to just one year earlier. This has huge implications, for many reasons.

And regarding foreign investment, since 2014 Chinese companies have acquired US companies in 39 of our 50 states. Chinese investment tripled in 2016, compared to 2015 (Total: almost $46B).

I cite this litany not to sermonize, but to share, since China poses somewhat similar challenges for both our nations. The issue for both of us is how China employs this economic muscle, and how we conduct ourselves accordingly.

As Dennis Richardson forthrightly acknowledged — and as your news media has exposed this week — it is no secret that China is very active in intelligence activities directed against Australia, just as they are against us, and that China is increasingly aggressive in attempting to gain influence in your political processes, as Russia is in ours.

In light of all this, Australia, in my humble view, should engage with China with both cautious and confidence, eyes wide open, weighing its strategic and economic interests, never forgetting the importance of its democratic institutions and values that you share with us.

Dennis summed it all up very succinctly and accurately: Australia’s relationship with China and the United States will continue to be “friends with both, allies with one.” I think in many ways, that applies equally well to how the United States approaches its relationships with China, on the one hand, and its historic security partners in the Asia-Pacific on the other.

Attorney General Brandis recently sounded a profoundly important warning, which, I think also applies equally to both our countries: “The threat of political interference by foreign intelligence services is a problem of the highest order, and it is getting worse…. It can cause immense harm to our national sovereignty, to the safety of our people our economic prosperity, and to the very integrity of our democracy.”

I think it says it all.

I know I have talked about Dennis a lot, but I know how much you all love him. I want to conclude with another very important statement he made that I resonate with, when he acknowledged the role of journalists. There is an inherent tension in my country between the media and the intelligence community. I have certainly had my own personal ups and downs with our media: but, never has the media’s role been more important in the United States than it is now. And, a free, independent, and responsible press is yet another of the crucial pillars that bind our two countries, and the values we share and hold dear, which far transcend a transitory occupant of the White House.


“So it confused me when I saw on television the president saying that he actually fired me because of the Russia investigation, and learned again from the media that he was telling privately other parties that my firing had relieved great pressure on the Russian investigation.…..although the law required no reason at all to fire an FBI director, the administration then chose to defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple. And I am so sorry that the FBI workforce had to hear them, and I'm so sorry that the American people were told them.”  [James B. Comey, testimony before US Senate Intelligence Committee, 8 June 2017]

CNN Politics, excerpt from the transcript of former Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) James B. Comey’s written Statement of Record submitted to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, dated 8 July 2017:

I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the President Elect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.
The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified…….

prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI's leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on President Elect Trump's reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the Intelligence chiefs won't say if Trump asked them to downplay Russia probe question, I offered that assurance.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past.

The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.
It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.
The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.
My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI's traditionally independent status in the executive branch.
I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not "reliable" in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody's side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.
A few moments later, the President said, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty." I didn't move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner. At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because "problems" come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.
Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, "I need loyalty." I replied, "You will always get honesty from me." He paused and then said, "That's what I want, honest loyalty." I paused, and then said, "You will get that from me." As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase "honest loyalty" differently, but I decided it wouldn't be productive to push it further. The term -- honest loyalty -- had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect……
As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.
On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.
The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me.
When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, "I want to talk about Mike Flynn." Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn't done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify…..
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, "He is a good guy and has been through a lot." He repeated that Flynn hadn't done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." I replied only that "he is a good guy." (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would "let this go."
The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.
I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn's departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency.
The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President's request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.)…..
On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as "a cloud" that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to "lift the cloud." I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn't find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.
Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week -- at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, "We need to get that fact out." (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)…..
He finished by stressing "the cloud" that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn't being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.
Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russia-related matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.
On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I "get out" that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that "the cloud" was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
He said he would do that and added, "Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know." I did not reply or ask him what he meant by "that thing." I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White
House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.
That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.


Donald J. Trump's word has always been worthless

Leaving aside broken marriage vows, it appears that for decades few people have trusted Donald J. Trump to tell the truth.......

BuzzFeed News, 7 October 2016:

Snapshots from the 19 April 1993 deposition of a lawyer retained by Donald Trump until sometime in 1991, Patrick McGahn of the law firm McGahn, Friss & Miller.

This deposition appears to have been taken in the matter of 1992 banruptcy proceeding for Trump Plaza and Casino in Atlantic City - debtor Trump Plaza Associates.

At the time Donald Trump was forty-three years of age and his former lawyers were obviously frustrated with his lack of truthfullness during the period they represented him. 

The key phrases are "says certain things and then has a lack of memory" and "He's an expert at interpreting things".

At fifty-eight years of age Donald Trump was still following his own unique approach to the truth.

Excerpt from Deposition of DONALD J. TRUMP, held at the offices of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, New York, 19 December 2007:

The full transcript of this deposition clearly shows why Donald Trump's 'interpretive' tendencies lost the civil court case he brought against Timothy L. O'Brien (author of TrumpNation,The Art of Being The Donaldand Time Warner Bookswhich finally wound its way to an end in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, as DonaldJ. TRUMP, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. Timothy L. O'BRIEN, Time Warner Book Group,Inc., and Warner Books, Inc., Defendants–Respondents in 2011.

Donald J. Trump on 7 April 2011 on the subject of then US President Barack Hussein Obama’s country of birth:

“His grandmother in Kenya said, 'Oh, no, he was born in Kenya and I was there and I witnessed the birth. She's on tape…. He has what is called a certificate of live birth……It’s not even signed by anybody. I saw his, I read it very carefully. Doesn’t have a serial number, doesn’t have a signature - there’s not even a signature.”

This is a certified longform copy* of Barak Hussein Obama’s Certificate of Live Birth, officially registered by the State of Hawaii Dept. of Health on 8 August 1961, showing a serial number and signed by his mother, a medical doctor and the local registrar of births.

This copy was released to the media by the White House on 27 April 2011.

The tape to which Donald Trump alludes first surfaced on social media and has never been independently verified and was created by a self-proclaimed Continental Bishop of the Anabaptist Church of North America, Ron McCrae.

* The short from copy of the Certificate of Birth also has the serial number visible and contains the registrars signature on the reverse side.
In 2009 a fake birth certificate was circulated on the Internet purporting that Obama was born in Kenya but it was a copy of an altered Australian birth certificate originally issued for a Jeffery David and, a second fake birth certificate was auctioned on eBay also in 2009.

Donald Trump on the subject of Barack Obama’ early life at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 10 Feb. 2011, :

“Our current president came out of nowhere, came out of nowhere.  In fact I'll go a step further.  The people who went to school with him, they never save him; they don't know who he is. Crazy.”

By 2011 the Internet was so packed with data on individuals and schools that it would have been easy for Trump to find out differently.

High school basketball coach Chris McLachlin remembers Obama from 1979, as did fellow student Darin Maurer.

PJ Media, 12 August 2008:

After contacting the Selective Service System for an answer several times since late June, Pajamas Media obtained official confirmation from the Selective Service System via email that Barack Obama did indeed register for the Selective Service as required by law, and is eligible to run for the presidency.

Mr. Owens,
Barack Hussein Obama registered at a post office in Hawaii. The effective registration date was September 4, 1980.
His registration number is 61-1125539-1.
Daniel Amon
Public Affairs Specialist

The New York Times, 9 February 1990:

BOSTON, Feb. 5— The Harvard Law Review, generally considered the most prestigious in the country, elected the first black president in its 104-year history today. The job is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.
The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago's South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii.

None of these instances are evidence of genuine misapprehension on the part of Donald Trump. These statements appear to be deliberately misleading and often downright falsehoods uttered to suit his own personal or political agenda.

By 2017 former Director US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) James B. Comey was another who had found President Trump will brazenly lie if it suits him.

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