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Did the FBI’s slow walk of the Weiner laptop investigation cost Clinton the election?

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Hillary Clinton has said repeatedly that James Comey’s decision to announce he was re-opening the investigation into her emails about 10 days before the 2016 election was responsible for her loss (along with a long list of other things). Today DOJ IG report suggests Comey’s announcement in a letter to Congress might not have happened if FBI agent Peter Strzok hadn’t sat on Anthony Weiner’s laptop for almost a month. And the reason he sat on it may even have been his well-established preference for Hillary. Unfortunately for her, his effort backfired.

When FBI agents discovered 300,000 emails on Weiner’s laptop, some of which came from Clinton, “The case agent immediately notified his NYO chain of command, and the information was ultimately briefed to NYO Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) William Sweeney on September 28.” The information quickly made its way to Andrew McCabe at FBI headquarters:

McCabe told the OIG that he considered the information provided by Sweeney to be “a big deal” and said he instructed Priestap to send a team to New York to review the emails on the Weiner laptop. McCabe told the OIG that he recalled talking to Comey about the issue “right around the time [McCabe] found out about it.” McCabe described it as a “fly-by,” where the Weiner laptop was “like one in a list of things that we discussed.”

So this “big deal” supposedly went to Comey but he says he didn’t have the impression it was too serious. Meanwhile, the laptop sat there for nearly three weeks.

Text messages of FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok indicated that he, McCabe, and Priestap discussed the Weiner laptop on September 28. Strzok said that he had initially planned to send a team to New York to review the emails, but a conference call with NYO was scheduled instead. The conference call took place on September 29, and five members of the FBI Midyear team participated. Notes from the conference call indicate the participants discussed the presence of a large volume of emails (350,000) on the Weiner laptop
and specific domain names, including clintonemail.com and state.gov. The Midyear SSA said that NYO also mentioned seeing BlackBerry domain emails on the Weiner laptop.

Additional discussions took place on October 3 and 4, 2016. However, after October 4, we found no evidence that anyone associated with the Midyear investigation, including the entire leadership team at FBI Headquarters, took any action on the Weiner laptop issue until the week of October 24, and then did so only after the Weiner case agent expressed concerns to SDNY, prompting SDNY to contact the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) on October 21 to raise concerns about the lack of action.

The IG says the FBI had all the information it needed to take action by late September:

We found that, by no later than September 29, FBI executives and the FBI Midyear team had learned virtually every fact that was cited by the FBI in late October as justification for obtaining the search warrant for the Weiner laptop…

Various excuses for the delay were offered but the IG concludes none of them add up:

We found these explanations to be unpersuasive justifications for not acting sooner, given the FBI leadership’s conclusion about the importance of the information and that the FBI Midyear team had sufficient information to take action in early October and knew at that time that it would need a new search warrant to review any Clinton-Abedin emails.

The IG then points out that Strzok’s partisan texts might lead some to think he would take official action based on his politics. So the IG searched for evidence that partisanship played a role in the delay. Ultimately, it found no proof, but the report also concludes there’s no other compelling explanation:

We searched for evidence that the Weiner laptop was deliberately placed on the back-burner by others in the FBI to protect Clinton, but found no evidence in emails, text messages, instant messages, or documents that suggested an improper purpose. We also took note of the fact that numerous other FBI executives—including the approximately 39 who participated in the September 28 SVTC—were briefed on the potential existence of Midyear-related emails on the Weiner laptop. We also noted that the Russia investigation was under the supervision of Priestap—for whom we found no evidence of bias and who himself was aware of the Weiner laptop issue by September 29. However, we also did not identify a consistent or persuasive explanation for the FBI’s failure to act for almost a month after learning of potential Midyear-related emails on the Weiner laptop.

But here’s the payoff. Comey told the IG that, had he known about the laptop a month earlier, he may never have sent the letter which Clinton blames for costing her the election: “Comey told the OIG that, had he known about the laptop in the beginning of October and thought the email review could have been completed before the election, it may have affected his decision to notify Congress.”

Oops!

To recap: McCabe says he mentioned this “big deal” to Comey in September but that apparently didn’t register. Strzok got a briefing about what had been found in early October and then did nothing for 3 weeks. Finally, the lack of action was noticed outside the FBI and everyone went into crisis mode trying to make up for the lost time. Again, the report doesn’t conclude partisanship was the problem but even the IG says a) Strzok’s partisanship raises questions and b) no other credible explanation for the delay has been offered.

It’s genuinely possible that someone, maybe Strzok, was slow-walking this, trying to run out the clock on the election. That back-fired and resulted in Comey’s letter to Congress, the one Clinton blames for her loss. So maybe the real cause of Clinton’s loss was pro-Clinton partisanship at the FBI. Oh, what a world, what a world.

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Forecast: GOP now more likely to have *at least* 54 Senate seats next year than to lose its majority

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A nifty catch by Philip Klein, eyeballing the latest data from Nate Silver’s model (as of 5:15 p.m. ET). Check it yourself. Democrats momentarily have an 18.4 percent chance of gaining two seats and winning a majority next month. Whereas Republicans have a 9.1 percent chance of gaining three, a 5.5 percent chance of gaining four, a 3.2 percent chance of gaining five, a 1.4 percent of gaining six, a 0.7 percent chance of gaining seven, and a 0.3 percent chance of shooting the lights out and gaining eight (which would leave them one seat shy of a filibuster-proof majority, for what it’s worth). Add those up and you get a 20.2 percent chance of 54 or better.

Which can be summed up in four words: Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Klein on the path to 54:

Though Republicans were always favorites to keep the Senate, their odds have improved in recent weeks, with three states in particular giving them a boost. Republicans are now considered “likely” to keep their seats in Texas and Tennessee and North Dakota seems ready to flip into the Republican column. Barring any other major upsets, victories in those three races would be enough for Republicans to keep the Senate — hence their 81.6 percent chances overall.

To get to 54, the most likely scenario would be that Republicans win the tossup states of Nevada and Missouri, and then surge to victory in Arizona and Florida (two races that are currently tilting Democrat, but well within range of Republican victory). Beyond that, they’d have to start flipping some seats that are currently considered “likely” to remain Democrat, such as Montana and West Virginia.

Eh, I don’t know if Montana and Indiana, the latter of which he neglected to mention, are all that “likely” to remain Democratic. They’re leaning that way, with both Jon Tester and Joe Donnelly clinging to three-point leads. But Montana hasn’t been polled in three weeks and the latest from Indiana has Donnelly up four but with just 44 percent of the vote. In fact, in none of the four polls dating back to August has Donnelly topped 44, suggesting that a lot of Hoosiers are thinking hard about whether to stick with the incumbent. It’s likely that the GOP will be disappointed somewhere on Election Night — Missouri, Nevada, and Arizona are all leading candidates — but going for one for two on Montana and Indiana seems doable.

Whichever way they do it, if they can get to 54 then Collins and Murkowski might well be nonfactors during the next SCOTUS battle. Flake won’t be in the Senate at all, of course. Trump really might have the arsenal he needs to fill a Ginsburg or Breyer vacancy with a conservative.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news, also from Silver’s model:

Click the link and add up the different probable outcomes and you’ll see that the GOP has about the same odds of holding the House as Democrats do of winning … at least 54 seats. They’ve got a 10 percent chance of winning at least 60. Gonna be a lot of subpoenas for Pat Cipollone to cope with next year.

There are no new swing-state polls as I write this but keep an eye on the one of Arizona that’s currently in progress (yes, in progress) at the NYT’s site, the Upshot. As I write this at a little after 5 p.m. on the east coast, they’ve compiled a sample of 299 people — not large enough yet to give us confidence in the topline numbers but large enough to make it worth paying attention to. Currently Martha McSally leads Kyrsten Sinema by four points, 49/45. If that holds through the end of the poll, it would be the second straight survey showing McSally ahead after trailing for most of the race. (The previous poll had her up six.) Stay tuned.

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Midterm 2018 TEXAS: Robert (Beto) O’Rourke vs. Ted Cruz

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Texas is Texas.

You don’t mess with Texas!

Texans don’t want a far left US Senator who lies about his background and police records, DUI included, and abuses everything the Lone Star State stands for.

Senator Ted Cruz is up by at least 5 points — but that is not enough.

Cruz is a real conservative and an intellectual giant. He has the highest possible ratings from conservative groups as a sitting US Senator.


We can’t let him down.

His opponent Beto (really Robert) O’Rourke isn’t Hispanic but he is loudly PROGRESSIVE.

He is a phony.

He is a Democratic Socialist and would spell doom for our Republic.

He wants open borders, more rights for criminals, and an end to the petroleum economy.

In Texas?

Trump won Texas by 9 points.

Cruz should win reelection by at least that amount.

Recall Cruz not only voted for Judge Kavanaugh but he articulately defended due process and innocent until proven guilty – the very hallmark of western jurisprudence.

We need him; America needs his voice in the Senate.

There has not been a Democrat to hold statewide office in Texas since 1994!

Keep it that way.

Cruz is a star in national politics and a firm vote for our side. He makes America first! And he is the best advocate for Texas bare none.

Turnout is critical.

Cruz MUST win.

Make this viral in every corner of Texas.

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Pat Robertson: C’mon, we’re not going to blow up a key Middle East alliance over one little murder

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Lefties are marveling that a brand-name Christian conservative would be encouraging followers to look the other way at an assassination, but they’re forgetting Jesus’s parting words at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: “If you want to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs.”

Wait, am I misremembering? My youthful memories of the gospels are not the best. I think perhaps the savior’s actual parting words were “Velvet glove, iron fist.”

I mean, that at least sounds like Jesus.

Lotta mixed feelings about the evangelical turn towards hard-nosed realpolitik under Trump. On the one hand, the gripe about Christian conservatives used to be that they were forever trying to inject morals into the messy business of politics, made more uncomfortable by the fact that many millions of people disagree with some of their stances on sexual morality and resent their attempts to convert them into policy. Well, good news: Between Robertson’s take on the Khashoggi affair and the complete pass given to Trump on matters like Stormygate, there’s less moralizing than ever.

The bad news? I’m unclear from the clip below on how many murders Pastor Robertson would be willing to tolerate in the name of preserving the alliance and “$100 billion worth of arms sales,” as he notes in passing. Presumably his interest in the latter answers my question: Some of those weapons will be used to continue killing civilians in neighboring Yemen, as he doubtless knows. If Robertson’s willing to condone that in the name of checking Iran, naturally he would condone looking the other way at a lot of things, Khashoggi’s murder just one among them. Christianity’s nice and all but we’ve gotta live in the real world.

I honestly don’t know whether to call him a fraud or to salute him for taking a cold but sober view of the international chessboard.

There may be another reason why he and POTUS’s friends at CBN are rushing to provide cover here, though:

To some extent the Saudis’ problem is Trump’s problem. Right now Trump can afford to ignore the Democrats’ interest in finding out how much his and the Kingdom’s interests overlap. In three months, with the House likely in Democratic hands, it’ll be harder.

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