M.N.: “It is a big question, how much power the FBI really has and should have, and how much of it is illusionary”: “Comey’s Secret Power” – WSJ, and other news stories

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Former FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill, June 8.

Source: Comey’s Secret Power – WSJ

M.N.: Our human tendency to look for the scapegoats is the universal defense mechanism. I think it is easy but simply and bluntly unfair to accuse Comey of all these “sins”: “He made himself investigator, judge and jury… extraordinary abuse of his megaphone… rekindled the case only 11 days before the election… Comey’s investigation was a charade…”. Comey did what in his best understanding, reasoning, and opinion, he had to do; and probably any FBI Director would take the similar actions, the difference being more in style than substance. “Self-righteousness” might not be the most efficient attitude in the investigative work but it is not a crime and is not a sign of abuse of power. 

“Now that’s power”, says the author. It is a big question, how much power the FBI really has and should have, and how much of it is illusionary, and how much of it is real. The power to inform the public, and to inform it correctly, is, it seems to me, a part of the real powers. 

It might be easier for us to approach the true understanding of the events, drama, and confusion related to 2016 elections, if we keep in mind that the hostile intelligence services involved in these events might have planned and designed the dirt heaping on both candidates, thus logically necessitating the official investigations of both of them, and deliberately forcing the FBI’s minds and hands in these directions. We still do not know the true circumstances and the ultimate players behind all of this, and hopefully, Mr. Mueller’s and other investigations will leave no stone unturned in addressing all the circumstances, leads, suspicions, and clues.

However, in assessing these events, we do have to look into the FBI’s role in them not only as the state investigative body but as a participating political actor which it became in the process of elections.

The legitimate and pressing questions are:

Did the FBI overstep their boundaries in interfering, overtly or covertly, with the political process? Who were and who are these actors, what were their motivations, background, and connections?

Mr. Strzok resignation or removal from the Mueller’s team apparently became one of the puzzles related to these concerns.

Did the FBI leadership, which, naturally, is quite a heterogeneous body, try to influence and sway their Director unduly, using as a convenient shield his apolitical reputation and well known moral standards, the qualities which the author called “self-righteousness” and “sanctimoniousness”? Is this kind of the attitude on the part of the upper echelons of the FBI leadership something of the historical tradition within the Bureau: they do whatever the heck they want, ruling their branch offices as their fiefs, and expect the FBI Director to protect and to defend them in all the circumstances?

These questions would fit into the broader set of issues reassessing the FBI’s true power and role; past, present, and future, in social, cultural, and the political life of this country, their moda operandi, and above all, their efficiency in handling the truly formidable, new, unprecedented challenges and problems within the realm of the National Security, that we are facing today.

The FBI’s true powers are not only investigations and the legal and legalistic truncheons, but the ability to understand, to analyze, to assess, and to a certain realistic degree, to direct, in a healthy way, and without crude or undue, or illegal political interference, the social moods, movements, thinkings, rational and irrational, of the country.

All these issues, and not only any particulars of any single FBI Director and his leadership style, should be the foci of attention when we address them and when we contemplate the FBI’s future roles.

As for  Mr. Comey, I think he tried to do his best to shape the FBI as the moral, responsible, and morally responsible force and organization. Did he succeed at this in his relatively short tenure? It is a separate question which became closely related, and maybe even entangled with the issues and questions of 2016 elections. All these questions should be addressed as the complex, in a broad investigative sweep, not just narrow “who did what, when, and why”, in Mr. Muellers’s, Congressional, and other investigations. The answers are important in determining the future directions of the American Democracy.

Michael Novakhov

9.8.17

Comey’s Secret Power – WSJ

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J. Edgar Hoover’s abuse of power as FBI director led Congress and the Justice Department to put new checks on that most powerful and secretive of offices. By the time Congress finishes investigating James Comey’s role in the 2016 presidential election, those safeguards may be due for an update.

Powerful as Hoover was, even he never simultaneously investigated both major-party candidates for the presidency. Mr. Comey did, and Americans are now getting a glimpse of how much he influenced political events.

Mr. Comey’s actions in the Hillary Clinton email probe are concerning enough. He made himself investigator, judge and jury, breaking the Justice Department’s chain of command. He publicly confirmed the investigation, violating the department’s principles. He announced he would not recommend prosecuting Mrs. Clinton, even as he publicly excoriated her—an extraordinary abuse of his megaphone. Then he rekindled the case only 11 days before the election.

An inquiry by the Senate Judiciary Committee has now shown that Mr. Comey’s investigation was a charade. He wrote a draft statement exonerating Mrs. Clinton in May, long before he bothered to interview her or her staff. This at least finally explains the probe’s lackluster nature: the absence of a grand jury, the failure to follow up on likely perjury, the unorthodox immunity deals made with Clinton aides.

But the big development this week is a new look at how Mr. Comey may have similarly juked the probe into Donald Trump’s purported ties to Russia. The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation took a sharp and notable turn on Tuesday, as news broke that it had subpoenaed the FBI and the Justice Department for information relating to the infamous Trump “dossier.” That dossier, whose allegations appear to have been fabricated, was commissioned by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS and then developed by a former British spook named Christopher Steele.

But the FBI had its own part in this dossier, and investigators are finally drilling down into how big a role it played, and why. The bureau has furiously resisted answering questions. It ignored the initial requests for documents and has refused to comply with the House committee’s subpoenas, which were first issued Aug. 24. Republicans are frustrated enough that this week they sent orders compelling FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appear before the committee to explain the obstruction.

One explanation is that the documents might show the FBI played a central role in ginning up the fake dossier on Mr. Trump. To this day, we do not know who hired Fusion GPS to gather the dirt. The New York Times early this year reported, citing an anonymous source, that a wealthy anti-Trumper initially hired Fusion to dig into Mr. Trump’s business dealings, but the contract was later taken over by a Clinton-allied group. That’s when Fusion shifted its focus to Russia and hired Mr. Steele.

The question is when the FBI got in on the act. The Washington Post in February reported that Mr. Steele “was familiar” to the FBI, since he’d worked for the bureau before. The newspaper said Mr. Steele had reached out to a “friend” at the FBI about his Trump work as far back as July 2016. The Post even reported that Mr. Steele “reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work.”

Who was Mr. Steele’s friend at the FBI? Did the bureau influence the direction of the Trump dossier? Did it give Mr. Steele material support from the start? The timing matters because it could answer the vital question of why the FBI wanted the dossier. Here’s one thought: warrants.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees spying activities, is usually generous in approving warrants, on the presumption law-enforcement agencies are acting in good faith. When a warrant is rejected, though, law enforcement isn’t pleased.

Perhaps the FBI wanted to conduct surveillance on someone connected to a presidential campaign (Carter Page?) but couldn’t hit what was—and ought to be—a supremely high bar for getting such a potentially explosive warrant. A dossier of nefarious allegations might well prove handy in finally convincing the FISA court to sign off. The FBI might have had a real motive to support Mr. Steele’s effort. It might have even justified the unjustifiable: working with a partisan oppo-research firm and a former spook to engineer a Kremlin-planted dossier that has roiled Mr. Trump’s entire presidency.

Now that’s power.

Mr. Comey’s meddling has never seemed to stem from some hidden partisan impulse, but rather from an overweening self-righteousness. But power can be misused as much in the hands of the sanctimonious as the corrupt. And it’s overdue for congressional investigators to get to the bottom of precisely how much power Mr. Comey was exercising.

Write to <a href=”mailto:kim@wsj.com”>kim@wsj.com</a>.

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Comey’s Secret Power – Wall Street Journal (subscription)

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Wall Street Journal (subscription)
Comey’s Secret Power
Wall Street Journal (subscription)
By the time Congress finishes investigating James Comey’s role in the 2016 presidential election, those safeguards may be due for an update. Powerful as Hoover was, even he never simultaneously investigated both major-party candidates for the 

Wealthy Russians are having babies in the US, for passports – KOSU

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KOSU
Wealthy Russians are having babies in the US, for passports
KOSU
The irony is that, on the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump railed against “anchor babies” — a demeaning name for children born to a noncitizen mother in a country to gain new citizenship for the child. And yet, according to the Daily Beast, the and more »

Feds put the screws to Rudy Giuliani to try to get him to flip on Donald Trump 

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If you’ve been wondering why you haven’t heard from or about Rudy Giuliani of late, we now have some answers to that. The Feds just took aggressive action which can only be interpreted as an attempt at pressuring him into flipping on Donald Trump, and it’s safe to assume he’s been laying low all of this time because he’s known what was coming. Suffice it to say that this latest development doesn’t look good for him.

Awhile back, Giuliani got himself tangled with Reza Zarrab, who’s been awaiting trial in the United States for a series of alleged financial crimes. Zarrab was operating his business out of Trump Towers Istanbul, making it suspicious that Giuliani – a Trump campaign surrogate – was attempting to meddle in the case. Once this was revealed, Giuliani all but disappeared from the public radar. Now the Feds are bringing indictments against pretty much everyone involved in the Giuliani-Zarrab mess.

Yesterday the Department of Justice posted a press release revealing that it was bringing indictments against four of the co-conspirators in the mess (link). Although the press release does not mention Giuliani, it does mention that Dana Boente is involved in this latest move – and that tells us a lot. Boente is the U.S. District Attorney for Eastern Virginia, even though this case is playing out in the Southern District of New York.

Boente also serves as the Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security. He was also the one who helped get the initial grand juries in the Trump-Russia investigation underway in his Eastern District of Virginia, which have since been taken over by Robert Mueller. Even though Rudy Giuliani is still serving as Reza Zarrab’s quasi-attorney, this latest move reads like an attempt at getting co-conspirators to flip on then both – and the whole reason to nail Rudy is to get him to flip on Trump when it comes to election collusion shenanigans.

The post Feds put the screws to Rudy Giuliani to try to get him to flip on Donald Trump appeared first on Palmer Report.

FBI chief sees no evidence of White House interference in Russia probe – Reuters

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CNN International
FBI chief sees no evidence of White House interference in Russia probe
Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Thursday he has “not detected any whiff of interference” by the White House into the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Speaking publicly for the 
FBI Director Wray: No ‘whiff of interference’ with Mueller investigationCNN International
Wray: No Signs of Interference Into Russia ProbeNewsmaxall 18 news articles »

In wake of Donald Trump Jr’s incriminating testimony, Robert Mueller quickly targets Donald Trump’s senior staff

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Just hours after Donald Trump Jr admitted to Congress that he had initially lied to the media about the nature of his meeting with Russian government representatives, Robert Mueller is already springing into action. The Special Counsel is now targeting Donald Trump’s entire Senior Staff with regard to how Trump tried to obstruct justice in relation to that meeting.

Palmer Report pointed out immediately after Junior’s testimony that he had confirmed that his father had instructed him to lie to the media about the meeting, thereby unwittingly nailing his father for obstruction of justice (link). Sure enough, CNN is now reporting that Mueller is quickly zeroing in on that discussion (link) – and he’s targeting Trump’s senior staff in the process.

Donald Trump crafted his son’s initial false statement about the Russia meeting while he was on Air Force One with his senior staffers. That makes them witnesses at the least, and co-consirators in obstructing justice at the most. If Mueller can compel these senior staffers to testify about what Trump said during that plane ride, then he’ll have first-hand witnesses of Trump’s obstruction. Moreover, he’ll only need to flip one of them, by convincing them that it’s better to come clean than to face potential criminal charges.

Donald Trump Jr admitted to Congress today during his testimony that he had met with the Russian government representatives at Trump Tower during the election, in the hope of obtaining secret information about Hillary Clinton (link). While he still insists this is somehow harmless in intent, it means that he conspired with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the election – a crime. Donald Trump’s attempt at covering up his son’s collusion meeting isn’t merely obstruction of justice – it also demonstrates that he understood the collusive and illegal nature of his son’s Russia meeting.

The post In wake of Donald Trump Jr’s incriminating testimony, Robert Mueller quickly targets Donald Trump’s senior staff appeared first on Palmer Report.

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FBI chief sees no sign of political interference in Russia probe

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FBI director Christopher Wray said on Thursday he had seen no sign of political interference in the bureau’s investigation of alleged collusion between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

“I can say very confidently I have not detected any whiff of interference with that investigation,” he told a conference of national security industry executives in Washington.

Making his first remarks on the matter since taking office one month ago, Mr Wray also said he had “enormous respect” for special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe. Earlier this summer, after the president privately expressed frustration with the special counsel, prominent Republicans such as Senator Lindsey Graham warned Mr Trump against firing him.

The FBI has assigned several agents to do the investigative leg work for Mr Mueller. “I have confidence in them to do their jobs professionally,” Mr Wray said.

Agents in the bureau’s counter-intelligence division also are working to thwart any future election meddling by Russia. “I’m very impressed with the strides that are being made on that front,” said the director.

Mr Trump turned to Mr Wray to run the FBI after firing former director James Comey in May over his handling of the Russia allegations. At the time, Mr Trump said he had been irked that Mr Comey was still investigating his ties to Russia, which the president called a “made-up story”.

Mr Wray, who was sworn in as FBI director on August 2, headed the Department of Justice’s criminal division from 2003 to 2005 and later became a corporate defence attorney.

I can say very confidently I have not detected any whiff of interference with that investigation

His white-collar clients included New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was accused of engineering a traffic jam on a Hudson River bridge to punish a political adversary, and Credit Suisse, which in 2014 became the first major US bank in more than two decades to plead guilty to criminal wrongdoing in helping Americans evade paying US taxes.

Since taking office, Mr Wray said that he had reviewed classified evidence supporting the intelligence community’s January 6 public assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally directed “an influence campaign” aimed at the presidential election.

Mr Putin sought to undermine public confidence in American democracy and hurt the election prospects of Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump’s rival in the race for the White House. “Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference” for a Trump win, the intelligence community concluded.

Mr Wray repeated what he said during his Senate confirmation hearing, that he had “no reason to doubt the conclusions” of the intelligence community about Russia’s meddling.

Follow David J Lynch on Twitter: @davidjlynch

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President Donald Trump gives tax reform speech in North Dakota – YouTube

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Inside Donald Trump’s Deal With the Democrats on Debt, Harvey Aid

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Thursday’s Morning Email: Hurricane Irma Barrels Through Caribbean

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Killing at least 9.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America

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In the land of dreams, crime runs rampant as evidenced by the 12 biggest organized crime groups in America. So what exactly is the definition of organized crime? Well, organized crime refers to a crime that is committed out on a coordinated basis by groups of criminals, and is carried out on a large scale as well. In fact, this is the reason why it is hard to crack down organized crime. There are so many people involved on different levels, arresting one person or even a dozen barely makes a dent in this billion dollar industry. However, this is just a basic definition. To truly distinguish between ordinary crimes and organized crimes, you should consider the characteristics of organized crime, some of which include a hierarchical structure which is controlled by a few people and a reserve fund which comes in handy on a rainy day. Truly, you could be forgiven for confusing an organized crime group with a legal business, as both operate on similar structures. To learn more about crime, you might want to consult any of the 25 best crime documentaries on YouTube.

There are various types of organized crimes committed by the top crime groups that include the typical crimes you would expect from a street criminal such as rape, murder, and stealing. However, the bigger crime groups who wield enormous influence and power go beyond such crimes and enter (or in some cases create) criminal industries such as human trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and drug trafficking, all of which are enormously profitable.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in AmericaMark <a href=”http://Agnor/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>Agnor/Shutterstock.com</a>

We have been facing the issue of organized crime for a long time now and instead of seeing it reduced, we have seen it grow exponentially, resulting in deaths, violence, anarchy and loss of billions. In fact, organized crime history can be traced several hundred years back, when pirates and bandits organized to attack villages, pillaging loot while killing those who tried to defend their property. Later on, in the nineteenth century, organized crime started to develop in the United States, with the Wild Bunch being considered as one of the first and hence one of the biggest organized crime groups in America.

The above is not to suggest that only the US is prone to organized crime; in fact, some of the biggest organized crime groups are located in other countries, such as the Solntsevskaya Bratva, considered to be perhaps the biggest crime group in the world, whose headquarters are anchored in Russia. The most powerful arm of the Russian mafia consisting of well over 9,000 members, the Solntsevskaya Bratva, has operated since 1980 and had a hand in the murders of many influential men as well as other illegal activities.

It is a well known fact that every group needs a leader to operate efficiently, hence every gang has a leader as well. We couldn’t help but wonder who is the biggest gangster in the world today. We’ve researched a bit and found out that, while many sources differ, perhaps the person most deserving of this title is Joaquin Guzman, or El Chapo (also known as drug lord), who was the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, and who has escaped the police despite being captured many times.

We decided to limit our focus on groups which maintain a large, ominous presence in the United States. To this end, we researched the various crime groups operating freely in America, and ranked them according to their involvement in cross border crimes, which are generally considered to be of a serious nature, as mentioned in the National Gang Report 2015 created by the FBI. We further tried to rank them according to their revenue, but since their operations aren’t legal, the figures we obtained could not be accurately verified and ascertained, hence we decided this criterion would weaken our rankings instead of strengthening it. The list was not an easy one to construct. Most of the articles on the web focus on a global level with respect to criminal organizations rather than the US alone. Let’s kick off our list with:

12. Artistas Asensios

The gang is involved in numerous illegal activities and is famed for its involvement with the infamous Sinaloa drug cartel. While the gang may not be as active as it once was, it has been to engage in a few murders here and there.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in AmericaSeb c’est <a href=”http://bien/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>bien/Shutterstock.com</a>

11. Norteño

The Norteños gang was formed in Northern California, and was specifically created to counter the growing influence of Surenos, a gang which had ties to the Mexican Mafia.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in AmericaAndrey <a href=”http://Burmakin/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>Burmakin/Shutterstock.com</a>

10. Crips

One of the largest organized crime groups in America, Crips, boasted a membership of more than 30,000 criminals, back in 1999. The gang is notorious for its violent crimes.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America<a href=”http://ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com</a>

9. Bloods

Bloods is ironically the bitter rival of aforementioned gang Crips, whose primary members are African Americans.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America<a href=”http://Rachaphak/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>Rachaphak/Shutterstock.com</a>

8. Texas Syndicate

The Texas Syndicate was established as a prison gang in order to counter other gangs preying on native Texans, and are still largely a prison gang though some of their members engage in other forms of criminal activity as well.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America<a href=”http://igorstevanovic/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>igorstevanovic/Shutterstock.com</a>

7. MS-13

MS-13 is one of the biggest threats to the fight against organized crime in the country, according to the US Attorney’s office. This group consists of over 6,000 members and is considered to be the first street crime group in the US to be described as a transnational criminal enterprise.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America<a href=”http://wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com</a>

6. Latin Kings

The oldest Hispanic crime group in the world, the Latin Kings are involved in various illegal activities including drug trafficking and weapons trafficking, which explains its appearance among the biggest organized crime groups in America.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in AmericaPer <a href=”http://Bengtsson/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>Bengtsson/Shutterstock.com</a>

5. Paisa

Established in Colombia, Paisa consisted of paramilitary members who established themselves as drug traffickers. However, the group’s influence has waned in recent years and its power has been called into question as well. However, as evident from this report, the group still holds some sway, especially in cross border crimes.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in AmericaAfrica <a href=”http://Studio/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>Studio/Shutterstock.com</a>

4. Mexican Mafia

Despite its name, the organization was established in the US and despite only a few hundred members, has managed to successfully carry out criminal activities on a large scale.

3. Tango Blast

An even bigger threat than MS-13, Tango Blast, established in Houston, has over 19,000 members and earns most of its profits through criminal activities such as human trafficking.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America<a href=”http://GongTo/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>GongTo/Shutterstock.com</a>

2. Barrio Azteca

Another gang established in Texas, the Barrio Azteca has engaged in drug trafficking, human trafficking, money laundering and contract killing, to name a few of their crimes.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in AmericaArtem <a href=”http://Furman/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>Furman/Shutterstock.com</a>

1. Sureños

Topping the list of the biggest organized crime groups in America is Sureños, a rival of the earlier mentioned Norteños. Sureños pay homage and respects to the Mexican Mafia, and carry out most of the dirty work of the Mafia, such as human trafficking, hence allowing them to claim the top slot.

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12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America

1 Share

In the land of dreams, crime runs rampant as evidenced by the 12 biggest organized crime groups in America. So what exactly is the definition of organized crime? Well, organized crime refers to a crime that is committed out on a coordinated basis by groups of criminals, and is carried out on a large scale as well. In fact, this is the reason why it is hard to crack down organized crime. There are so many people involved on different levels, arresting one person or even a dozen barely makes a dent in this billion dollar industry. However, this is just a basic definition. To truly distinguish between ordinary crimes and organized crimes, you should consider the characteristics of organized crime, some of which include a hierarchical structure which is controlled by a few people and a reserve fund which comes in handy on a rainy day. Truly, you could be forgiven for confusing an organized crime group with a legal business, as both operate on similar structures. To learn more about crime, you might want to consult any of the 25 best crime documentaries on YouTube.

There are various types of organized crimes committed by the top crime groups that include the typical crimes you would expect from a street criminal such as rape, murder, and stealing. However, the bigger crime groups who wield enormous influence and power go beyond such crimes and enter (or in some cases create) criminal industries such as human trafficking, kidnapping for ransom and drug trafficking, all of which are enormously profitable.

12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in AmericaMark <a href=”http://Agnor/Shutterstock.com” rel=”nofollow”>Agnor/Shutterstock.com</a>

We have been facing the issue of organized crime for a long time now and instead of seeing it reduced, we have seen it grow exponentially, resulting in deaths, violence, anarchy and loss of billions. In fact, organized crime history can be traced several hundred years back, when pirates and bandits organized to attack villages, pillaging loot while killing those who tried to defend their property. Later on, in the nineteenth century, organized crime started to develop in the United States, with the Wild Bunch being considered as one of the first and hence one of the biggest organized crime groups in America.

The above is not to suggest that only the US is prone to organized crime; in fact, some of the biggest organized crime groups are located in other countries, such as the Solntsevskaya Bratva, considered to be perhaps the biggest crime group in the world, whose headquarters are anchored in Russia. The most powerful arm of the Russian mafia consisting of well over 9,000 members, the Solntsevskaya Bratva, has operated since 1980 and had a hand in the murders of many influential men as well as other illegal activities.

It is a well known fact that every group needs a leader to operate efficiently, hence every gang has a leader as well. We couldn’t help but wonder who is the biggest gangster in the world today. We’ve researched a bit and found out that, while many sources differ, perhaps the person most deserving of this title is Joaquin Guzman, or El Chapo (also known as drug lord), who was the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, and who has escaped the police despite being captured many times.

We decided to limit our focus on groups which maintain a large, ominous presence in the United States. To this end, we researched the various crime groups operating freely in America, and ranked them according to their involvement in cross border crimes, which are generally considered to be of a serious nature, as mentioned in the National Gang Report 2015 created by the FBI. We further tried to rank them according to their revenue, but since their operations aren’t legal, the figures we obtained could not be accurately verified and ascertained, hence we decided this criterion would weaken our rankings instead of strengthening it. The list was not an easy one to construct. Most of the articles on the web focus on a global level with respect to criminal organizations rather than the US alone. Let’s kick off our list with:

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12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America – Insider Monkey (blog)

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Insider Monkey (blog)
12 Biggest Organized Crime Groups in America
Insider Monkey (blog)
The above is not to suggest that only the US is prone to organized crime; in fact, some of the biggest organized crime groups are located in other countries, such as the Solntsevskaya Bratva, considered to be perhaps the biggest crime group in the 

The Early Edition: September 7, 2017 


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What Does the Special Counsel Need to Prove? | The 20 Key Questions Mueller’s Russia Investigation of Trump Must Answer

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What Does the Special Counsel Need to Prove?

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Despite intense debate about the scope of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, there is broad agreement that “collusion” with the Russian government is at the heart of it. Yet that term, which is used on a daily basis on cable news, has no legal meaning. Mueller’s recent moves—from subpoenaing Paul Manafort’s financial records to working with a Ukrainian hacker—make more sense if you understand how working with the Russians can be a crime.

As a legal matter, what’s significant is whether an American “conspired” with a representative of the Russian government. Conspiracy is just a legal term that means an agreement to commit a crime. An American can also commit a crime by “aiding and abetting” a criminal act committed by someone else. That means that the American knew of the criminal activity and helped make it succeed. It is also a federal crime to actively conceal a felony, even after the crime has already been committed.

The common thread underlying all of these things is that the American has to know that a crime has been committed and somehow assist in committing or concealing it. Merely working with the Russians, receiving aid from the Russians or meeting with the Russians is not enough.

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So what underlying crime could Mueller be investigating? One obvious possibility is hacking the Democratic National Committee and subsequently releasing emails from it via WikiLeaks. Hacking U.S. servers is a crime that is frequently investigated and prosecuted—I handled some of those cases myself. Anyone who agreed to take part in an effort to hack the DNC’s servers committed a crime.

Related: Will Mueller’s probe spiral into disaster?

Special Counsel Robert Mueller (center) departs the Capitol after a closed-door meeting in Washington, D.C., with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about Russian meddling in the election and possible connection to the Trump campaign, on June 21. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

An American could join a Russian conspiracy to hack U.S. servers without ever speaking to the hackers, as long as they knew about the criminal activity and agreed to play a role in it. Conspirators don’t have to know everyone or everything involved a plot—once you join a conspiracy, you’re “all in” and are liable for all foreseeable acts of the other conspirators.

For example, an American who knew about a hacking operation and agreed to distribute or use stolen material could join a conspiracy without knowing the hackers or how the hacking took place. That person could also be charged with abetting the hacking if distributing the stolen material aided in the crime.

That explains why a recent New York Times report that a Ukrainian hacker is helping the FBI with the Russia probe could be important. In order to charge anyone with a crime connected with the Russian hacking, Mueller will first need to prove that the hacking occurred. The testimony of the hacker could establish that the crime occurred, who was responsible for it and how it happened.

The more difficult thing for Mueller to prove is whether an American knowingly joined a Russian criminal conspiracy or aided in one. That’s why recent reports that Mueller is focused on Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer is unsurprising, given the emails Trump Jr. released establish that he knew Moscow wanted to help his father’s campaign and he welcomed the assistance.

As I told The New York Times, that email string is not sufficient to prove that Trump Jr. joined a conspiracy. Again, Mueller needs to prove that Trump Jr. helped commit a crime or agreed to do so.

There are other unrelated criminal acts that Mueller could seek to prove in relation to that meeting. For example, it is a federal crime to receive material that you know is stolen, as long as it is worth more than $5,000 and it crosses state or international boundaries before you receive it. It is also a crime to offer to trade an official act, like reducing sanctions, in exchange for something of value.

Another crime is receiving a “contribution” from a foreign national. But as I told The Daily Beast, violating federal campaign law is not a crime unless it is done “knowingly” and “willfully.” That could be difficult to prove in the case of Trump Jr., although perhaps not for Manafort, who has a lot of campaign experience. Indeed, Mueller could establish Manafort’s state of mind regarding meetings with the Russians. As The Washington Post reported, the GOP operative rejected potential meetings with Moscow in emails that he sent before the Trump Jr. incident. In those emails, retired Admiral Charles Kubic raised concerns that a meeting could expose attendees to legal liability. A juror could conclude that such a correspondence show that Manafort was aware of the legal risks associated with the Trump Jr. meeting before he attended it.

Expect Mueller to interview everyone who attended the meeting and review all communications surrounding it. His primary purpose would be to understand what, if anything, came from it and whether there were subsequent and related talks between the Trump campaign and people who claim to represent the Russian government.

One thing we can be sure about is that Mueller’s inquiry will last many months. The recent suggestion by White House special counsel Ty Cobb that it should wrap up by Thanksgiving is disingenuous. Any lawyer with extensive experience with federal criminal investigations—and Cobb does—knows that a complex probe like this one could take years to complete.

Renato Mariotti was a federal prosecutor in Chicago for more than nine years, prosecuting many complex financial crimes and obstruction of justice cases.

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· · · ·

The 20 Key Questions Mueller’s Russia Investigation of Trump Must Answer

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This article first appeared on the Just Security site.

As speculation continues to swirl about President Donald Trump’s plans to put an end to the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the ongoing congressional inquiries take on even more significance.

Several committees are investigating overlapping issues related to Russian interference in the 2016 election and any potential involvement of the Trump campaign. Here are 20 questions they must answer as they carry out their investigations.

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Russian Attempts to Influence U.S. Election

Congress must provide the American people with a full accounting of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, including through cyber operations, leaking stolen private communications, and spreading of demonstrably false facts.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, July 7, 2017. MIKHAIL KLIMENTIEV/AFP/Getty

1. What was the extent of Russian cyber operations focused on voter information held by states?

Publicly available information suggests that Russian agents attempted to penetrate “election systems” in up to 39 states and attempted to alter or delete records in the statewide voter registration database of at least one state, Illinois.

2. What was the extent of Russian cyber operations focused on infiltrating state election systems via a third party? Press reports indicate that the Russians successfully infiltrated the network of a company that sells voter registration software which would allow it to manipulate this data.

3. What was the extent of Russian cyber operations focused on obtaining the confidential communications of private parties and releasing damaging information? The theft of the emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, has been publicly reported.

4. What was the extent of Russian propaganda efforts to influence the election and what methods were used? Publicly reported efforts include the release of emails stolen from the DNC and the Clinton campaign supplemented by the use of human agent and robot computer programs to spread disinformation about these emails and the use of Twitter bots to spread fake news stories about Clinton (e.g., that she had Parkinson’s disease and had murdered a DNC staffer, and that her aides ran a pedophile ring in the basement of a D.C. pizza parlor).

5. Which elements of the Russian government and intermediaries or proxies were involved in these efforts?

6. What was the purpose of their efforts? The intelligence community has concluded the Russian government intended to promote Trump’s candidacy and undermine Clinton’s campaign, an assertion that the president contests – Congress should come to a conclusion on this point.

Is it possible to gauge the impact of Russian interference in the 2016 election and could measures be put in place to do so in the future?

7. What measures should the United States take to prevent such interference in future elections? Is legislation needed to clarify that cooperation with foreign actors in elections is a criminal offense?

Trump Ties to Russia

It is critical that Congress scrutinize connections between Trump and his associates and the Russian government and associated individuals and entities, both to determine whether the Trump campaign cooperated with the Russian attempt to influence the election and whether business dealings between Trump or his associates with Russian entities create vulnerabilities or financial incentives that could be exploited to the detriment of U.S. national interests.

8. Starting from the time of the party primaries in 2015, what contacts did Trump and individuals and entities associated with the Trump campaign have with Russian individuals or entities?

Have these individuals and entities followed legal requirements with respect to such contacts (e.g., registration as foreign agent, reporting of income, and disclosure on security clearance forms) and if not, why not?

The campaign’s denials of contacts with Russians have dissolved in the face of repeated instances where close Trump associates – including Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Jeff Sessions  – were found to have met or communicated privately with individuals who are reportedly connected to the Russian government.

9. What was the purpose of these contacts? Donald Trump Jr. released emails showing that he had enthusiastically accepted an invitation to obtain information being proffered on behalf of the Russian government that would be damaging to the Clinton campaign.

Did other contacts similarly involve either offers of assistance to the Trump campaign by Russia or offers of assistance to Russia (or Russian interests) by the Trump campaign?

10. What was the extent of the Russian government’s effort to instigate the repeal of the Magnitsky Actand were Trump’s associates involved in these efforts?

11. Is there any evidence – direct or circumstantial – to suggest that Trump was aware of, sanctioned or approved, or directed contacts between his associates and Russian government proxies?

12. What is the full extent of past or existing business dealings between the president and his associates in Russia or with Russian nationals or entities?

Do any of these deals or relationships give Russia leverage over Trump or his associates – for example, if they were illegal or inappropriate, if they are continuing to provide a benefit to Trump’s businesses or associates, or if they resulted in significant debts being owed by Trump or his associates to Russia or Russian nationals?

13. What efforts did the Trump campaign or administration make that would benefit Russia and is there any indication of influence from Russia for these moves? Were moves such as removing the plank of the Republican Party platform that supported sending arms to Ukraine, attempts to try to roll back sanctions against Russia, or a reported deal to give back Russian intelligence-collecting compounds seized by the Obama administration attempts to appease Russia?

14. Is our system of checks and balances sufficiently robust to detect and prevent conflicts of interest on the part of the president or are additional measures, such as legislation requiring greater disclosure of financial information and business interests, needed?

Obstruction of Justice

Regardless of whether the president can be criminally indicted for obstruction of justice, Congress has a duty to ascertain whether he attempted to hinder or influence the FBI’s investigation of issues relating to Russian interference in the 2016 election. Presidential interference with law enforcement investigations is incompatible with the rule of law.

15. Did President Trump ask former FBI Director James Comey to end his investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, as indicated by Comey’s sworn testimony to the Senate Intelligence committee and his contemporaneous record of the meeting?

Did he ask other government officials – such as Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo – to intervene with Comey on his behalf?

16. Did the president ask Comey to pledge loyalty, as indicated by Comey’s sworn testimony to the Senate Intelligence committee and his contemporaneous record of the meeting?

17. Did Comey request additional resources for the Russia investigation the week before he was dismissed; if so, was this information communicated to the White House?

18. Under what circumstances did Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Attorney General Sessions undertake to prepare their May 9, 2017 recommendation to dismiss Comey?

What was the nature and extent of their communications with the White House and the Justice Department about the recommendation, both before and after it was made?

19. Why did Trump dismiss Comey?

Was he motivated solely by Comey’s handling of the Clinton email investigation, as administration spokespersons originally claimed, or was he at least partially motivated by Comey’s handling of the Russia investigation, as publicly stated by the president?

20. Are further measures needed to insulate the FBI or the Department of Justice from political interference?

Faiza Patel is Co-Director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. She was a senior policy officer at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

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· · · · · ·

Inside Robert Mueller’s Army

Saved Stories – None
Inside Robert Muellers Army | FBI News and Selected Articles in brief 11:18 AM 8/24/2017
An FBI agent says there are 4 types of people and you can’t earn someone’s trust without knowing theirs – Business Insider
FBI’s Manafort raid included a dozen agents, ‘designed to intimidate,’ source says – Fox News
7 times Trump tried to call off the dogs on Russia – Washington Post
FBI arrests Chinese national connected to malware used in OPM data breach – CNN
FBI: 12 People in DC Area Stole Thousands of Credit Card Numbers … – NBC4 Washington
The 20 Key Questions Mueller’s Russia Investigation of Trump Must … – Newsweek
Former FBI Director Comey Joins Howard University For Lecture Series – NPR
Trump, Russian Collusion and Mueller: What Does the Special Counsel Need to Prove? – Newsweek
James Comey will deliver Howard University’s opening convocation keynote address – Washington Post
Howard University Hires Former FBI Director James Comey – TIME
Trump obsessed with Russia probe, rage-dialing GOP over legislation to ban him from firing Mueller – Boing Boing
The generals have Trump surrounded – Washington Post
Mueller issues grand jury subpoenas related to Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 meeting – Madison.com
Inside Robert Mueller’s Army – Daily Beast
Arkansas Democratic Party calls for resignation of state senator under FBI investigation – Times Record
7:54 AM 8/24/2017 Trump clashed with multiple GOP senators over Russia Politico
8:42 AM 8/24/2017 Selected Stories In Brief: US probe finds another email trying to connect Trump officials, Putin: CNN Reuters and other 25 stories
Clapper said, I cannot make any comment about his mental health, his sanity or any of that sort of thing. All that I can comment on really is the behavior Ive observed, and I find that worrisome. James Clapper: Concerned by Jekyll-Hyde Trump pattern CNN International
Will Trump Be the Death of the Goldwater Rule? The New Yorker | Hundreds of pages of new details on Trump-Russia dossier and Pee Pee Tape are on verge of being released Thursday August 24th, 2017 at 9:30 AM Palmer Report
No, Robert Mueller Is Not Radioactive – Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
‘Consumed’ with Russia scandal, Trump keeps clashing with Republicans – MSNBC
CNN: Probe Investigators Find Another Email From A Trump Top Aide About A Russia Meeting
Russia probe: New email found from top Donald Trump aide trying to set up Putin meeting – The Independent
Today in Trumpworld August 24 – Politico

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Damnatio memoriae: No further news transpired on Peter Strzok’s departure from the Mueller’s Investigative team, and no explanations or additional information were provided so far. The mystery is deep… – M.N. – peter strzok – Google Search

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Image result for damnatio memoriae

No further news transpired on Peter Strzok’s departure from the Mueller’s Investigative team, and no explanations or additional information were provided so far. The mystery is deep… Curiously enough, it looks like the FBI site blocked all the information about him. Apparently, it was needed. That what they advised:

“No results found. Search instead for:

All these are very interesting search terms, but we would really like to learn more about Mr. Strzok. 

In history, this FBI’s tool of blocking the inconvenient information was called the “damnatio memoriae” and was used without any compunctions and broadly in Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. The American idiom for this psychological device is quite straightforward but somewhat superficial and concrete: “Out of sight (and the website, we should add), out of mind”. I doubt very much that this dictum will work sufficiently in the case of Mr. Strzok and the panoply of the related issues connected with him. 

Dear FBI, the suspense and the expectations of the future revelations in your coming arias are quite high in this unforgettable masterpiece of a political opera. Sing! Sing! Sing!

What is going on? 

Is FBI the Stalinist organization? (Sh, sh, sh – do not disclose this best-kept secret in Washington, D.C.)

Please, contact us if you have any valuable information on this subject. 

M.N.

Source: peter strzok – Google Search

Story image for peter strzok from Business Insider

A top FBI investigator has unexpectedly stepped away from special …

Business InsiderAug 16, 2017
Peter Strzok, a veteran counterintelligence investigator, is now working for the FBI’s human resources division, according to ABC. It is unclear …
The following article describes Mr. Strzok’s role in “Clinton emails investigation”: 
“The two letters, dated October 23, 2015 and January 20, 2016, and marked “For Official Use Only,” were written by Peter Strzok and Charles H. Kable IV, the section chiefs of the FBI’s counterespionage section, and sent to Gregory B. Starr, the assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. They were written while the FBI was investigating Clinton’s use of an unsecure, private email server and the dissemination of classified information.”
M.N.: The issue of Clinton’s emails might very well has been used as a distraction, to deflect the attention and to divert the resources from Trump and his campaign. By whom? The role of the Russians is very well known and indisputable, but the ultimate players: the Germans? the Israelis? the Mafia? – remain a mystery also, and the most intriguing one. 
Were there any connections between these hypothetical players and Mr. Strzok? This is the hypothetical but not the unreasonable question, and we do not have any answers, or even the attempts to answer, or even the attention and the willingness to discuss this subject in depth, that it deserves, in the mainstream media. Not yet. 

peter strzok is removed – Google News

 

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Peter Strzok Google Search
Top FBI investigator Peter Strzok is removed from the Muellers Trump-Russia probe Google Search


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Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation – Google Search

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Source: Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation – Google Search

Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from Newsweek

Lovers’ Quarrel: TrumpPutin and the World’s Most Dangerous …

NewsweekAug 10, 2017
President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake … A subsequent investigation discovered that around 4,000 targeted emails were …. attempts to get the Russian Embassy’s dachas reopened in May, but …

Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from Tablet Magazine

October 3, 2016: Netanyahu tasks deep cover Mossad agent …

Tablet MagazineAug 7, 2017
… to Congress reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email … November 9, 2016: Netanyahu congratulates Trump on his election …

Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from The Week Magazine

What happened? What happened?! You blew it, Hillary.

The Week MagazineJul 29, 2017
The point isn’t that Comey and Putin and unsavory political views played no role. … that he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s email server, … Trumpcampaign collusion) hadn’t broken into John Podesta’s email …

Story image for Trump, Putin, and Reopening of Emails Investigation from IVN News

From Russia Meddling to DNC Incompetence: Where We Are and …

IVN NewsAug 11, 2017
I just finished reading “TrumpPutin, and The New Cold War” that … saying the bureau was reopening its investigation into Ms. Clinton’s emails, …

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 Sentencing of Disgraced Former  Congressman Anthony Weiner Postponed

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Source:  Sentencing of Disgraced Former  Congressman Anthony Weiner Postponed

Sentencing of Disgraced Former  Congressman Anthony Weiner Postponed

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The sentencing of Anthony Weiner, the 52-year-old former NYC Congressman who fell from grace after a much-publicized sexting scandal, was postponed last Friday by a Manhattan judge.

According to a NY Post report, Weiner’s sentencing was delayed at the request of his lawyers, who asked that federal Judge Denise Cole postpone their client’s sentencing until Oct. 6. Cole partially complied, holding the sentencing (initially scheduled for September 8) off until September 25.

On May 19, Weiner confessed to sending obscene material to a teenage girl, a scandal which ruined his career, reputation, and marriage to his wife Huma Abedin, who filed for divorce following Weiner’s admission of guilt.

In a report, News 12 Westchester said Weiner’s legal team have stated they need additional time to prepare a sentencing recommendation that suits Weiner’s ongoing treatment.

In addition to his legal woes, Weiner is currently paying a heavy price for his actions in other ways.

“Nobody speaks to him. He is truly ostracized,” a source cited by Page <a href=”http://Six.com” rel=”nofollow”>Six.com</a> said. “People won’t even get on the elevator with him.”

In his confession earlier this year, Weiner expressed contrition for his actions, saying he had no excuse for his behavior.

“I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse,” he said during a May appearance in Federal Court. “I apologize to everyone I have hurt. I apologize to the teenage girl, whom I mistreated so badly.”

In an emotional plea statement in May, Weiner acknowledged that his “destructive impulses brought great devastation to family and friends, and destroyed my life’s dream of public service. And yet I remained in denial even as the world around me fell apart.”

According to a Washington Post report at the time, Weiner’s attorney, Arlo Devlin-Brown, said his client had “apologized, offered no excuses, and made a commitment to make amends.”

Devlin-Brown also said he believed Weiner had accepted “full responsibility for the inappropriate, sexually explicit communications he engaged in early last year.”

Weiner resigned in 2011 after sending an explicit photo to a minor via Twitter (usingh his Twitter account accidentally). Weiner also confessed to engaging in similar behavior with at least six other women, a fact he confessed to in 2011.

By: Yosef Delatitsky


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Oct. 28: “The biggest political scandal since Watergate”: 12 Days That Stunned a Nation: How Hillary Clinton Lost – NBC News

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“But for the Clinton campaign, the final 12 days — Comey, WikiLeaks, a more disciplined Trump and drubbing in key battlegrounds on Election Day — represented their worst two-week stretch of the general election.

“Campaigns have been told for years to expect the unexpected. But in this election we needed to expect the unbelievable, and we didn’t,” said Jesse Ferguson, the Clinton campaign’s deputy national press secretary and senior spokesperson.

“A lot of things came together to create what happened,” Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told NBC News.

“We had a bunch of black swans that converged on us.” 

Source: 12 Days That Stunned a Nation: How Hillary Clinton Lost – NBC News

Oct. 28: “The biggest political scandal since Watergate”

12 Days That Stunned a Nation: How Hillary Clinton Lost

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WASHINGTON — Less than two weeks before Election Day, Hillary Clinton held a clear lead in the polls and it looked like her campaign was trying to run up the score — just as the race was about to turn upside down.

At 12:37 p.m. ET on Friday, Oct. 28 — with 12 days left in the election — the campaign blasted out an advisory to reporters announcing that the former secretary of state would be campaigning in reliably Republican Arizona, a move that suggested her team was gunning to compete in states well beyond the battlegrounds they needed for victory against GOP nominee Donald Trump.

They had every right to be confident.

The RealClearPolitics polling average from the day before showed Clinton leading Trump nationally by nearly six points (for perspective, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney by four points in 2012). State polls had Clinton ahead in key battlegrounds like Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Even the data team doing analytics for the Trump campaign was telling reporters that, as of Oct. 27, they had just a 15 percent chance of winning.

Watch Trump Repeatedly Condemn the Clinton Email Scandal in Final Campaign Days 1:43

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All this was happening while early voting was taking place in states across the country.

In retrospect, however, the race was never as stable as it appeared. A contest featuring the two most unpopular candidates in modern presidential campaign history made the political terrain unstable — and more susceptible to sudden shifts.

And the ground began to move under the Clinton team’s feet just 20 minutes after its Arizona announcement, with a tweet from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who said the FBI was looking at Clinton’s emails — again.

“FBI Dir just informed me, ‘The FBI has learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation.’ Case reopened.”

Clinton and her team were suddenly on defense, and would remain there for the rest of the race. It was a true October surprise.

In the nine months since the election, political observers have pointed to various reasons why Hillary Clinton lost and Donald Trump won: FBI Director James Comey’s intervention; Russia and WikiLeaks; Clinton’s failure to campaign in Wisconsin; African-Americans who didn’t turn out as strongly as they did for Obama; and Trump’s strong performance among working-class white voters in the Rust Belt.

But the real tale of 2016 is how the final 12 days of the election turned a race that seemed out of reach on Oct. 27 into an upset decided by a total of 80,000 votes in three states. To tell that story, NBC News interviewed nearly a dozen top Clinton and Trump operatives for their insight and perspective. Both sides agreed that the underlying volatility of the race, combined with the way the final days unfolded, produced a most unexpected result.

“Unlike 2012 or 2008, there was a ton of instability in this race,” said Navin Nayak, the Clinton campaign’s director of opinion research. “If you were the person dominating the news, you went down.”

Indeed, Clinton’s lead had expanded during rough news cycles about Trump (the Khan family, the debates, the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape), and it shrank during rough news cycles about her (the Clinton Foundation, the 9/11 fainting spell, Comey’s Oct. 28 letter).

And that made every day count down the home stretch.

“I’ve always said, ‘God is looking out for us’ when Election Day was so much later than usual — Nov. 8th, not Nov. 4th, not Nov. 3rd,” said Kellyanne Conway, who served as Trump’s campaign manager and now works in his administration. “It really helped to have that [extra] week.”

Even the Clinton camp’s Arizona announcement that Friday was more about running out the clock — by giving a hungry press corps something to cover — than a genuine effort to run up the score, according to multiple Clinton campaign officials interviewed for this article.

They knew the race was far from over.

“We were vulnerable to an October surprise,” said Brian Fallon, the Clinton campaign’s national press secretary. “We were living high on the hog of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape,” he added in reference to their lead in the polls.

Here’s a look at how the final 12 days changed the race:

Oct. 28: “The biggest political scandal since Watergate”

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +4.6 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 81.5 percent chance to win

The first 27 days of October couldn’t have gone better for Clinton — or worse for Trump.

Clinton bested her Republican rival in all three presidential debates, according to snap polls. The “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump was caught boasting that he could do anything to women(like “grab ’em by the p***y”), had his campaign in damage-control mode. And it seemed that a different woman each day was accusing Trump of inappropriate behavior.

By mid-October, Clinton’s lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls had jumped to seven points — the same as Obama’s winning margin against John McCain in 2008. And an NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll of Pennsylvania showed Clinton ahead of Trump by double digits in that all-important state.

But that good run for Clinton ended on Friday, Oct. 28, as her 7-point advantage in the RealClear average shrank below 5 points.

Comey informed Congress that his agency had found emails in an unrelated case — a probe into former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., then-husband to Clinton aide Huma Abedin — which appeared “pertinent” to the investigation into Clinton’s personal email server. And he said the FBI was reviewing them.

Strikingly, Comey’s announcement was vague.

“Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant, and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your Committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony,” Comey said in his letter.

Image: Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheerTrump seized on the development, which he used to resurrect the months-long controversy over Clinton’s emails and private server.

“They are reopening the case into her criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America,” Trump said on the campaign trail in New Hampshire less than an hour after the news broke. “Hillary Clinton’s corruption is on a scale we have never seen before. We must not let her take her criminal scheme into the Oval Office.”

He would repeat the thrust of this message against Clinton over the next 11 days, and his supporters would respond with “lock her up” chants. “She’ll be under investigation for years. She’ll be with trials. Our country, we have to get back to work,” Trump said on Nov. 4 in New Hampshire.

“If she were to win this election, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. In that situation, we could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial,” he said the next day in Nevada.

That became Trump’s closing argument — Watergate, endless investigations, criminal activities and an inability to govern.

Of course, what voters didn’t know until after the election: The FBI, for months, had been investigating the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.

Oct. 31: “FBI searches emails!”

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +3.1 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 75.2 percent chance to win

The Comey story wasn’t just about how Trump seized on it; it also was about how it was covered.

On October 31, three days after the FBI director’s letter to Congress, Comey continued to dominate headlines and evening newscasts.

  • “Clinton Works to Keep Trump and Emails at Bay,” said The New York Times
  • “Get ready for four more years of Clinton scandals,” was the headline for conservative columnist Marc Thiessen in The Washington Post
  • “Is new scandal just like the old scandals? Controversies haven’t swayed voters much in the Clinton-Trump race. Email inquiry is the latest test,” The Los Angeles Times said
  • “Email Review Underway,” was the lead story on NBC’s “Nightly News”
  • “FBI Searches Emails,” was the top news that night on ABC
  • “FBI Investigation,” said CBS

Nearly half of the lead stories on the three broadcast network’s evening newscasts from Oct. 28 to Nov. 7 were about Clinton’s emails.

Nine months after the election, top officials who worked for both the Clinton and Trump campaigns believe Comey’s intervention — and its aftermath — affected the race.

Multiple Trump aides said they gained ground on Clinton after the third presidential debate when the GOP nominee focused on abortion and the Supreme Court, bringing conservative voters back into the fold. They also said they benefited from news stories about rising Obamacare premiums and a sharper campaign message from Trump himself.

Comey, they said, added to a snowball that was already moving down the mountainside.

“It certainly had an effect,” said Matt Oczkowski, who directed Trump’s analytics team. “Comey brought these voters out of the woodwork. People had a reason to vote against Clinton.”

Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, had a slightly different take.

“The Comey letter may have been mildly helpful, but it did not lead to 306 electoral votes,” she said. “That was baked in the cake earlier on.”

But the Clinton camp believes Comey’s intervention was much more significant.

“In the last two weeks, it was the only jolt to the system that occurred,” said Oren Shur, the Clinton campaign’s director of paid media. “We recognized at the time that it was impactful. We didn’t recognize at the time that it was determinative.”

Elections number-cruncher Nate Silver of the website FiveThirtyEight agrees.

“At a maximum, it might have shifted the race by 3 or 4 percentage points toward Donald Trump, swinging Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida to him,” Silver wrote. “At a minimum, its impact might have been only a percentage point or so. Still, because Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by less than 1 point, the letter was probably enough to change the outcome of the Electoral College.”

The New York Times’ Nate Cohn has been more skeptical that Comey’s announcement cost Clinton the election, pointing out that her poll numbers had been declining before Oct. 28: “[I]t’s now clear that Mrs. Clinton was weaker heading into Oct. 28 than was understood at the time. Several other polls were conducted over the same period that showed Mr. Trump gaining quickly on Mrs. Clinton in the days ahead of the Comey letter.”

In May, the American Association for Public Opinion Research concluded that the evidence Comey tipped the election to Trump is, at best, mixed. “[T]he Comey letter had an immediate, negative impact for Clinton on the order of 2 percentage points. The apparent impact did not last, as support for Clinton tended to tick up in the days just prior to the election,” the association wrote.

But the way Clinton and her top campaign officials see it, a different president would be sitting in the Oval Office had the race ended two weeks earlier.

“If the election had been on Oct. 27, I would be your president,” Clinton said last spring.

Nov. 2: “Stay on point, Donald. Stay on point”

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +1.7 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 67.7 percent chance to win

Comey wasn’t the only surprise of the final two weeks of the campaign. The other was how Trump, uncharacteristically, stayed on message.

He was no longer attacking former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, criticizing a Mexican-American judge, or asking: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” — which he had said in what turned out to be his final news conference of the campaign, on July 27.

“We are going to win the White House, gonna win it,” Trump said in Pensacola, Florida, on Nov. 2. “Just —we’ve gotta be nice and cool, nice and cool. Right? Stay on point, Donald, stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald. Nice and easy.”

Indeed, Trump fired off 138 tweets and retweets in the final 12 days of the contest, and none were controversial — which allowed his campaign to keep the focus on Clinton, and away from its candidate.

Meanwhile, on the same day Trump was telling himself to “stay on point” in Florida, Clinton made that campaign stop in Arizona.

Image: Clinton watches the World Series baseball game between the Chicago Cub and the Cleveland Indians“This state is in play for the first time in years. Arizona has only voted for a Democrat for president once since 1948, and that was my husband in 1996,” she told 15,000 voters in Tempe.

In fact, multiple Clinton campaign officials said in post-election interviews that the Arizona trip was intended to regain a sense of momentum after the final debate on Oct. 19, not as a real play to win the state.

Clinton campaign officials were also thinking about proposing a fourth presidential debate, and they had even floated the news that Clinton was considering Vice President Joe Biden as her secretary of state — anything to change the subject.

What had concerned me greatly after the third debate was being [adrift] at sea. No moorings, no bearings, nothing to anchor yourself. The danger zone for us was always when there was nothing else going on in the race,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director.

“Can the actual election come fast enough?” Palmieri said in summing up her feelings about the campaign’s final two weeks.

Nov. 3: A sigh of relief, or were the polls wrong?

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +1.3 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 66.2 percent to win

The same day Clinton traveled to Arizona and Trump was urging himself to “stay on point,” nail-biting Democrats got some good news from public polls in key battlegrounds taken during and after Comey’s seismic announcement.

A trio of polls had Clinton up 4-5 points in Pennsylvania. She also was narrowly ahead in Florida and North Carolina, although those surveys were well within the margin of error. The gold-standard poll in Wisconsin showed Clinton leading Trump by 6 points in the state.

As NBC’s First Read concluded on Nov. 3, “Team Clinton breathes sigh of relief, but they’re not in the clear yet.”

Clinton would go on to lose all four of those states on Election Day.

The national polls, it turned out, were fairly accurate: The final RealClearPolitics average had Clinton ahead by three points. And she ended up winning the national popular vote by 2 points, 48 percent to 46 percent, or nearly 3 million votes.

But the state polls were a different story, and it wasn’t just the public data. Clinton’s internal polling had her up by about 6 points in Wisconsin at the end of the election. Internal Trump numbers also showed Clinton ahead in the state, although by a smaller margin.

And the Republican National Committee was sharing numbers with reporters that had Clinton leading in Florida.

“Everyone’s data was wrong — in the same direction — and that created a conventional wisdom that was off,” said Nayak of the Clinton campaign.

Nov. 4: “Boy, I love reading WikiLeaks”

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +1.6 pecent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 64.5 percent chance to win

Another major plot in the presidential race was Russia’s alleged intervention in the contest — a story that continues to unfold today.

Less attention, however, has been paid to how Trump and his team seized on that Russian meddling, which the U.S. intelligence community says included the hacking of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta’s emails — and their release via WikiLeaks.

Watch Trump Continuously Mention WikiLeaks in Days Leading Up to Election 1:43

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The revelations from Podesta’s emails — including excerpts of Clinton’s paid speech to Goldman Sachs, advisers’ candid criticisms of their candidate and a memo on “Bill Clinton Inc.” — all fueled negative headlines. And Trump pounced:

  • Oct. 31 in Warren, Mich.: “Did you see where, on WikiLeaks, it was announced that they were paying protesters to be violent, $1,500?… Did you see another one, another one came in today? This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove”
  • Nov. 2 in Orlando, Fla.: “WikiLeaks just came out with a new one, just a little a while ago, it’s just been shown that a rigged system with more collusion, possibly illegal, between the Department of Justice, the Clinton campaign and the State Department”
  • Nov. 4 in Wilmington, Ohio: “Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks”

NBC News counted 145 mentions of WikiLeaks by Trump in the last month of the race.

Beyond the headlines and attacks from the stump that they produced, the WikiLeaks revelations hurt Clinton because voters couldn’t tell the difference between them and the longstanding controversy surrounding Clinton’s own emails, according to top campaign officials.

“People conflated WikiLeaks with Hillary’s emails,” said Palmieri, Clinton’s communications director.

“Benghazi, Comey, WikiLeaks all sounded like the same thing to voters,” added Robby Mook, the campaign manager.

(Both Russia and WikiLeaks have denied that Russia was behind the 2016 hacks and email revelations.)

Nov. 6: “It’s a totally rigged system”

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +1.8 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 64.9 percent chance to win

Comey wasn’t finished making news in the final two weeks of the election. And once again, it was Chaffetz who broke it first.

“FBI Dir just informed us ‘Based on our review, we have not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Sec Clinton,'” Chaffetz tweeted about the second letter Comey had sent to Congress.

Image:In other words, the FBI’s investigation into those additional emails didn’t uncover anything new. Nearly all of them were duplicates of emails the agency had already seen.

Trump railed against Comey’s second letter, and he used it to re-litigate the controversy over Clinton’s emails, telling voters it was now up to them “to deliver justice” on Election Day since no one else would.

“Right now, she is being protected by a rigged system. It’s a totally rigged system,” Trump said in Michigan.

“Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it. The FBI knows it. The people know it. And now it’s up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box on Nov. 8th,” Trump added.

For the Clinton campaign, Comey’s second letter appeared to be great news — it looked like Clinton was in the clear of any wrongdoing.

NOV. 6: Trump Calls on Voters to ‘Deliver Justice’ After Comey’s Second Letter 1:05

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But months later, top officials believe the second letter only revived the email story two days before the election.

“At best, it hurt as much as it helped,” said the Clinton campaign’s Shur. “It just brought it all up again,” Palmieri added.

On May 3, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked Comey at a Senate hearing why he made that Oct. 28 announcement in the first place, especially given existing Justice Department guidelines against interfering in upcoming elections.

Comey replied that he faced two options: One, speak about the newly found emails. Or two, conceal them.

“Speak would be really bad. There’s an election in 11 days. Lordy, that would be really bad,” he told Feinstein. “Concealing in my view would be catastrophic, not just to the FBI, but well beyond. And honestly, as between really bad and catastrophic, I said to my team we’ve gotto walk into the world of really bad. I’ve got to tell Congress that we’re restarting this.”

He added, “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election. But honestly, it wouldn’t change the decision.”

Comey was fired six days after that testimony.

Nov. 8: Election Day

RealClearPolitics national polling average: Clinton +3.2 percent/FiveThirtyEight forecast: Clinton 71.4 percent chance to win

Despite the jarring events of the final two weeks, all signs still pointed to a Clinton victory. The early-vote numbers from Florida and Nevada looked good for the campaign. And the last national polls — from NBC News/Wall Street Journal, ABC/Washington Post, CBS and Bloomberg — boosted Clinton’s lead in the RealClear average above three points.

But Trump clobbered Clinton in the voting on November 8, especially in key battleground states, as contrasted with the early voting.

Take Florida, for example: Nearly 70 percent of votes were cast in the state before Election Day, and Clinton enjoyed an estimated 4-point lead over Trump — about 240,000 votes.

Image: Early Voting Begins In Florida“[Trump] won Election Day by 13 points,” said Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who closely examined Florida’s early-vote numbers.

According to the exit poll data, Trump won those who said they decided their vote in the last week by 11 points in Michigan, 17 points in Pennsylvania and Florida, and a whopping 29 points in Wisconsin. (By contrast, Clinton won the late deciders in Virginia — a state she carried by five points.)

From the Trump team’s perspective, the final 12 days of the campaign allowed them to pull off perhaps the greatest political upset in American history.

The Trump analytics data that showed him with only a 15 percent chance of winning on Oct. 27 was up to a 35 percent chance by Election Day — and that was assuming Trump wasn’t going to win Florida.

“We still didn’t think he was going to be the definitive winner,” said Oczkowski. “But 35 percent is within striking distance.”

But for the Clinton campaign, the final 12 days — Comey, WikiLeaks, a more disciplined Trump and drubbing in key battlegrounds on Election Day — represented their worst two-week stretch of the general election.

“Campaigns have been told for years to expect the unexpected. But in this election we needed to expect the unbelievable, and we didn’t,” said Jesse Ferguson, the Clinton campaign’s deputy national press secretary and senior spokesperson.

“A lot of things came together to create what happened,” Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, told NBC News. “We had a bunch of black swans that converged on us.”

Read the whole story
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