Sunday, March 31, 2019

Russiagate: An FBI Long Con?

March of 2019 was not a good month for Russiagaters and/or Democrats. Actually, that's an understatement. It was a complete bloodbath.

Of course, the big news is the conclusion of Mueller's nearly two year investigation into potential collusion between Donald J. Trump and Russia in an effort to influence the 2016 US presidential election, or some such shit. But before getting to that, let's consider a few of the other letdowns the Left has experienced this month both leading up to the Mueller report and in the the immediate aftermath. 

First, it began with Paul Manafort, a long time associate of Donald Trump and one of the biggest names indicted by Mueller. The special council's investigation lead to eighteen charges being filed against Manafort, including tax evasion and bank fraud. The trail for these charges began on July 31st of 2018. On March 7 of 2019, Manafort's faced sentencing. Reportedly, Mueller sought a sentence of 20 to 24 years in prison for Manafort, effectively condemning the 69 year old lobbyist to die in prison. Instead, Manafort was sentenced to less than four years in prison in what was called a "tremendous defeat for the special counsel’s office." In a separate trial related to findings unearthed by the Muller probe that begin in September of 2018, Manafort was sentenced on March 13, 2019 to an additional 43 months in prison.

In total, this would put Manafort in prison for about seven and a half years, though no doubt a decent portion of that sentence will be dropped for good behavior. And that's pending he's not pardoned by Trump at some point. Democrats and other Russiagaters are of course hoping that charges filed on March 13th (the day Manafort received a slap on the wrist in DC) in the state of New York will lead to a more serious sentence and one that Trump will not be able to pardon away. My advice: don't hold your breath. 

Elsewhere, the bizarre saga of actor Jussie Smollett took an interesting turn. In January of 2019, Smollett alleged to have received a threatening letter containing white powder (later proven to be ground up Tylenol) on the twenty-second, and to have been assaulted in what was later classified a hate crime on the twenty-ninth. But police later determined that Smollett had himself staged the attack and charged the actor with a felony for filing a false report. On March 26th, the charges against Smollett were inexplicably dropped, which lead to widespread outrage, including from Chicago mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Prior to the abrupt decision to drop the charges, Tina Tchen, Michelle Obama's former Chief of Staff, had intervened with the Chicago Prosecutor's Office. "Incidentally," an FBI investigation was begun the very next day after Smollett was cleared to review why the charges were dropped. The possibilities of where all of this could lead to are endless.

And then there's attorney Michael Avenatti, another of the great Trump Slayers of our time. On March 25th, three days after the Muller report was delivered to US Attorney General William Barr, Stormy Daniels' former attorney was charged in New York state with attempting to extort $20 million from Nike. This came on the heels of Avenatti being linked to the infamous NXIVM cult. The great Christopher Knowles of the Secret Sun has already posted some very compelling thoughts on this little revelation.

And that brings us to the non-event that is the Muller report. The big news: no additional indictments. No doubt this came as quite the surprise to many Russiagaters, who just listened breathlessly several weeks ago to former CIA director John Brennan confidently predict that there would soon be additional indictments forth coming, including members of Trump's family. Needless to say, things didn't quite play out that way. 

Of course, hope springs ever eternal. With Attorney General William Barr presently withholding the report, the anti-Trumpers are already being worked into a frenzy over its full release in the hopes the Mueller left "booby traps," especially in relation to possible obstruction charges. This seems highly unlikely, however, as a redacted version of the full report will probably be released by mid-April if not sooner. In other words, much of the report will be made public less than a month after Mueller delivered it to Barr. This shows a certain level of confidence in what the report will reveal, to put it mildly.

Of course, there is always the possibility one of the numerous investigations occurring in the state of New York looking into Trump's finances will turn up something. But as with the Manafort investigation in the same state intended to reverse this alleged miscarriage of justice, I would not hold my breath.

The Specter of Roy Cohn

The legacy of Trump's former attorney and political mentor Roy Cohn lingers over this whole affair like a shadow. As I noted before here, it seems that a more important objective of the Mueller probe than finding evidence of Russia collusion was to destroy several of Cohn's former associates, most notably Manafort and Roger Stone. This is hardly surprising, as Cohn had deep ties to the US intelligence community and appears to have worked as a blackmail specialists for decades as a result of these ties. For more on Stone's dirty deeds, check here.

What's more, it would appear that some of Cohn's former colleagues may have followed him down this path, most notably Roger Stone. As was noted before here, Stone had played a crucial role in digging up sexual indiscretions on the part of New York state governor Elliot Spitzer that led to his resignation. Stone also worked with the above-mentioned NXIVM cult for a time, which is interesting in light of how many prominent neo-liberals and Democrats have been linked to it. And now we see reputed Trump slayer, attorney Michael Avenatti being linked to the cult as well. 

But the presence of Cohn hoovering over the Mueller investigation may be manifesting in other ways as well. For instance, there has been compelling accusations made by the Right of late that Trump is a longstanding FBI informant

These claims are not as outlandish as they may seem. Indeed, one of the early partners in Trump's first forays into Atlantic City casinos was one Daniel Sullivan, a self-described "union activist" with ties to both the mob and the FBI. Another partner in what became the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino was former FBI man and longtime CIA asset Robert Maheu, as was noted before here. As for Sullivan, his bonafides were apparently vouched for by an FBI agent who met Trump in 1981. Trump would reportedly have dealings with the agent, Walt Stowe, throughout the rest of the 1980s. Later, Trump would be linked to another reputed FBI informant (and CIA asset), the USSR-born Felix Sater

Does this mean that Trump was simply a patriot working for the FBI against organized crime, as some on the Right have suggested? Hardly, as Trump's ties to organized crime are deep and decades-spanning, as was noted throughout my "Goodfellas" series. Indeed, FBI informants have frequently continued to engage in criminal activities even while collaborating with the Bureau. One of the most well-known instances of this is Irish gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, who would work as an informant for the FBI for years while remaining deeply involved in organized crime.

And that brings us back to Roy Cohn. Much has been made about Cohn as Trump's political mentor, but who mentored Cohn? 
"Cohn would later reminisce about 'the first time I met Edgar Hoover,' in 1952, 'when I was in charge of this runaway federal grand jury of the Southern District of New York, investigating the infiltration of a substantial number of American Communists into the Secretariat of the United Nations.' The problem was, since membership in the Communist Party was not a crime for the moment, the grand jury could find no basis to indict. This left the grand jury the option of preparing a report it could release – in legal parlance, a presentment – which identified these individuals and exerted pressure on the UN Secretary-General to fire them all. Cohn rammed this through, against the wishes of his superiors in the Justice Department in Washington.
"Here was a maneuver to tickle Hoover's heart. The Truman administration, Hoover assured Cohn, was teetering and 'if they fire you, they'll make a hero out of you, and I will publicly back you up.' Hoover instructed Cohn to 'call me directly' whenever he had something to divulge, since the Justice Department 'gossips are worse than the perverts in the CIA,' and were already monitoring Cohn's office telephones to tip Hoover off that 'you were an insubordinate little troublemaker, and that I shouldn't see you.' For many years after that, Roy Cohn and the FBI director traded favors, effusive compliments, gifts, and elaborate private dinners. They quickly became 'Roy' and 'Edgar.' "
(Bobby and J. Edgar, Burton Hersh, pgs. 133-134)
Cohn would maintain a close relationship with Hoover up until the longtime FBI director's death in 1972. And it would appear that Hoover used Cohn as a source of information for several decades. In other words, Cohn appears to have been an FBI informant himself, with his handler being none other than J. Edgar Hoover.

Did this relationship simply end after Hoover's death? Most likely not, and this puts additional context into Trump's later dealings with the FBI. Indeed, it is possible that Cohn's various proteges --including Trump, Stone, and Manafort --have had decades of dealings with the FBI.

If this is in fact the case, Mueller would have been left in a precarious position when investigating Trump and other former Cohn associates. If these men did in fact have a decades-spanning relationship with the Bureau, an investigation in to Trump's organized crime links may well have caused a scandal that would have made Whitey Bulger's Machiavellian maneuvers look like child's play in comparison. As such, this may have greatly limited the scale of Mueller's investigation, especially in relation to organized crime. That there was no Russian collusion was always a forgone conclusion, but efforts to clamp down on Cohn's former proteges has turned into a complete shitshow, as Manafort's various trials have made evident. But again, Mueller probably had to tread very carefully here without bringing down the entire FBI in the process.

On the other hand, there have been rumblings on the Right that Mueller is some type of ""white hat" being used to derail anti-Trump efforts. As outlandish as this may seem, there is no question FBI directors have intervened at least twice now to reverse Trump's political fortunes. Most recently it was Mueller, but during the 2016 election James Comey's bombshell revelations concerning Hillary Clinton gave Trump a major boast as well. Indeed, Hillary herself blames Comey for losing the election for her. While there's no doubt an anti-Trump faction within the FBI, the possibility that the upper hierarchy has been collaborating with Trump can not be dismissed. What's more, it would be consistent with what appears to be a longstanding relationship between the Bureau and Roy Cohn and his various associates.

In this context, it is interesting to note that it was the FBI who arrested Avenatti, who are presently looking into the developments in Smollett's case and who are leading the investigation into the explosive NXIVM cult. One could thus be forgiven for thinking that the FBI may be playing some type of long con, with the end objective of purging itself and the broader government of diehard Obama and Hillary creatures.