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Is Comey Destabilizing the Democratic Party for the GOP?

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COMMENT: Repub­li­can James Comey–a Mitt Rom­ney sup­port­er in 2012–is tak­ing actions that are caus­ing seri­ous prob­lems for the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and for the Hillary Clin­ton can­di­da­cy. In par­tic­u­lar, the e‑mail scan­dal appears to have been Comey’s baby.

He has also ruf­fled feath­ers with the alto­geth­er com­pli­cat­ed Apple “ISIS­pho­ne” con­tro­ver­sy. That con­sum­mate­ly impor­tant case, Byzan­tine in its com­plex­i­ty and mul­ti-dimen­sion­al­i­ty (to coin a term) will be dealt with in a future pro­gram.

Comey was pre­vi­ous­ly the gen­er­al coun­sel for Bridge­wa­ter Asso­ciates, a hedge fund that helped cap­i­tal­ize Palan­tir, which (their dis­claimers to the con­trary notwith­stand­ing) makes the Prism soft­ware that is at the epi­cen­ter of “L’Af­faire Snow­den.” (CORRECTION: In past pro­grams and posts, we incor­rect­ly iden­ti­fied Comey as gen­er­al coun­sel for Palan­tir, not Bridge­wa­ter.)

The Bridgewater/Palantir/Comey nexus is inter­est­ing, nonethe­less. Palan­tir’s top stock­hold­er is Peter Thiel, a backer of Ted Cruz and the man who pro­vid­ed most of the cap­i­tal for Ron Paul’s 2012 Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. Ron Paul’s Super PAC was in–of all places–Provo Utah, Rom­ney coun­try. Paul is from Texas. The alleged mav­er­ick Paul was, in fact, close to Rom­ney.

Recall that “Eddie the Friend­ly Spook” is a big Ron Paul fan and Bruce Fein, Snow­den’s first attor­ney and the coun­sel for the Snow­den fam­i­ly, was the chief legal coun­sel for Ron Paul’s cam­paign.

The pos­si­ble impli­ca­tions of these rela­tion­ships are worth con­tem­plat­ing and will be dis­cussed at greater length in future pro­grams.

“Comey’s FBI Makes Waves” by Cory Ben­nett and Julian Hat­tem; The Hill; 3/09/2016.

The aggres­sive pos­ture of the FBI under Direc­tor James Comey is becom­ing a polit­i­cal prob­lem for the White House.

The FBI’s demand that Apple help unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardi­no killers has out­raged Sil­i­con Val­ley, a sig­nif­i­cant source of polit­i­cal sup­port for Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and Democ­rats.

Comey, mean­while, has stirred ten­sions by link­ing ris­ing vio­lent crime rates to the Black Lives Mat­ter movement’s focus on police vio­lence and by warn­ing about “gaps” in the screen­ing process for Syr­i­an refugees.

Then there’s the biggest issue of all: the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the pri­vate email serv­er used by Hillary Clin­ton, Obama’s for­mer sec­re­tary of State and the lead­ing con­tender to win the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

A deci­sion by the FBI to charge Clin­ton or her top aides for mis­han­dling clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion would be a shock to the polit­i­cal sys­tem.

In these cas­es and more, Comey — a Repub­li­can who donat­ed in 2012 to Mitt Rom­ney — has proved he is “not attached to the strings of the White House,” said Ron Hosko, the for­mer head of the FBI’s crim­i­nal inves­tiga­tive divi­sion and a crit­ic of Obama’s law enforce­ment strate­gies.

Pub­licly, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials have not betrayed any wor­ry about the Clin­ton probe. They have also down­played any dif­fer­ences of opin­ion on Apple.

But for­mer offi­cials say the FBI’s moves are clear­ly ruf­fling feath­ers with­in the admin­is­tra­tion.

With regards to the Apple stand­off, “It’s just not clear [Comey] is speak­ing for the admin­is­tra­tion,” said Richard Clarke, a for­mer White House coun­tert­er­ror­ism and cyber­se­cu­ri­ty chief. “We know there have been admin­is­tra­tion meet­ings on this for months. The pro­pos­al that Comey had made on encryp­tion was reject­ed by the admin­is­tra­tion.”

Comey has a rep­u­ta­tion for speak­ing truth to pow­er, dat­ing back to a dra­mat­ic con­fronta­tion in 2004 when he rushed to a hos­pi­tal to stop the Bush White House from renew­ing a war­rant­less wire­tap­ping pro­gram while Attor­ney Gen­er­al John Ashcroft was grave­ly ill. Comey was Ashcroft’s deputy at the time.

That show­down won Comey plau­dits from both sides of the aisle and made him an attrac­tive pick to lead the FBI. But now that he’s in charge of the agency, the pres­i­dent might be get­ting more than he bar­gained for.

“Part of his role is to not nec­es­sar­i­ly be in lock step with the White House,” said Mitch Sil­ber, a for­mer intel­li­gence offi­cial with the New York City Police Depart­ment and cur­rent senior man­ag­ing direc­tor at FTI Con­sult­ing.

“He takes very seri­ous­ly the fact that he works for the exec­u­tive branch,” added Leo Tad­deo, a for­mer agent in the FBI’s cyber divi­sion. “But he also under­stands the impor­tance of main­tain­ing his inde­pen­dence as a law enforce­ment agency that needs to give not just the appear­ance of inde­pen­dence but the real­i­ty of it.”

The split over Clinton’s email serv­er is the most polit­i­cal­ly charged issue fac­ing the FBI, with noth­ing less than the race for the White House poten­tial­ly at stake.

Oba­ma has pub­licly defend­ed Clin­ton, say­ing that while she “made a mis­take” with her email set­up, it was “not a sit­u­a­tion in which America’s nation­al secu­ri­ty was endan­gered.”

But the FBI direc­tor has bris­tled at that state­ment, say­ing the pres­i­dent would not have any knowl­edge of the inves­ti­ga­tion. Comey, mean­while, told law­mak­ers last week that he is “very close, per­son­al­ly,” to the probe.

Obama’s com­ments reflect­ed a pat­tern, sev­er­al for­mer agents said, of the pres­i­dent mak­ing improp­er com­ments about FBI inves­ti­ga­tions. In 2012, he made sim­i­lar­ly dis­mis­sive com­ments about a pend­ing inquiry into then-CIA Direc­tor David Petraeus, who lat­er plead­ed guilty to a mis­de­meanor charge for giv­ing clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion to his mis­tress and biog­ra­ph­er, Paula Broad­well.

“It serves no one in the Unit­ed States for the pres­i­dent to com­ment on ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tions,” Tad­deo said. “I just don’t see a pur­pose.”

Hosko sug­gest­ed that a show­down over poten­tial crim­i­nal charges for Clin­ton could lead to a reprise of the famous 2004 hos­pi­tal scene, when Comey threat­ened to resign.

“He has that man­tle,” Hosko said. “I think now there’s this expec­ta­tion — I hope it’s a fair one — that he’ll do it again if he has to.”

Comey’s inde­pen­dent streak has also been on dis­play in the Apple fight, when his bureau decid­ed to seek a court order demand­ing that the tech giant cre­ate new soft­ware to bypass secu­ri­ty tools on an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the two ter­ror­ist attack­ers in San Bernardi­no, Calif.

Many observers ques­tioned whether the FBI was mak­ing an end-run around the White House, which had pre­vi­ous­ly dis­missed a series of pro­pos­als that would force com­pa­nies to decrypt data upon gov­ern­ment request.

“I think there’s actu­al­ly some peo­ple that don’t think with one mind­set on this issue with­in the admin­is­tra­tion,” said Sen. Tom Carp­er (D‑Del.), the Sen­ate Home­land Secu­ri­ty Committee’s top Demo­c­rat, at a Tues­day hear­ing. “It’s a tough issue.”

While the White House has repeat­ed­ly backed the FBI’s deci­sion, it has not ful­ly endorsed the poten­tial pol­i­cy ram­i­fi­ca­tions, leav­ing some to think a gap might devel­op as sim­i­lar cas­es pop up. The White House is poised to soon issue its own pol­i­cy paper on the sub­ject of data encryp­tion.

“The posi­tion tak­en by the FBI is at odds with the con­cerns expressed by indi­vid­u­als [in the White House] who were look­ing into the encryp­tion issue,” said Neema Singh Guliani, a leg­isla­tive coun­sel with the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU).

This week, White House home­land secu­ri­ty advis­er Lisa Mona­co tried to down­play the dif­fer­ences between the two sides. The White House and FBI are both grap­pling with the same prob­lems, she said in a dis­cus­sion at the Coun­cil on For­eign Rela­tions.

“There is a recog­ni­tion across the admin­is­tra­tion that the virtues of strong encryp­tion are with­out a doubt,” Mona­co said on Mon­day. “There is also uni­for­mi­ty about the recog­ni­tion that strong encryp­tion pos­es real chal­lenges.”



One comment for “Is Comey Destabilizing the Democratic Party for the GOP?”

  1. John Ashcroft + Qatar =

    Let That Eagle Soar!


    Qatar hires Bush attor­ney gen­er­al for ‘cri­sis response’

    by Jack­ie Wat­tles @jackiewattles
    June 11, 2017: 6:45 PM ET

    The gov­ern­ment of Qatar has hired one of the War on Ter­ror’s legal heavy­weights to advise the coun­try on inter­na­tion­al counter-ter­ror­ism finance laws.

    John Ashcroft, the for­mer U.S. sen­a­tor and the U.S. attor­ney gen­er­al under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush, has been tapped to guide Qatar amid a diplo­mat­ic cri­sis, accord­ing to pub­lic fil­ings with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice.

    The big-name hire comes after Qatar was ostra­cized by a host of Mid­dle East­ern coun­tries, includ­ing Sau­di Ara­bia and the Untied Arab Emi­rates. They accuse Qatar of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism and desta­bi­liz­ing the region with ties to their Shi­ite rival, Iran.

    Pres­i­dent Trump has also accused the Qatari gov­ern­ment of fund­ing ter­ror­ist groups.

    The deal was first report­ed this week­end by Bloomberg after Ashcroft’s law firm issued a pub­lic fil­ing to the Jus­tice Depart­ment. U.S. lob­by­ists and attor­neys who ink deals to act on behalf of for­eign enti­ties are required to dis­close such infor­ma­tion.

    Relat­ed: Arab block­ade is night­mare for Qatar Air­ways
    Ashcroft’s firm is charg­ing Qatar a $2.5 mil­lion flat fee to cov­er the fir­m’s first 90 days of expens­es on this project “giv­en the urgent need to com­mence work.” The firm says it will make the project a “top pri­or­i­ty.”

    Accord­ing to the pub­lic fil­ing, issued June 9, Ashcroft will take the lead on the case.

    But his firm says he will also “enlist the sup­port” of “for­mer key gov­ern­ment lead­ers.” That includes peo­ple who have pre­vi­ous­ly held “very senior posi­tions” with­in the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty, the FBI and the depart­ments of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Trea­sury.

    Ashcroft’s firm says it will pro­vide Qatari offi­cials with “com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic advice, legal coun­sel, sup­port and rep­re­sen­ta­tion relat­ed to con­firm­ing, edu­cat­ing, assess­ing and report­ing on [Qatar’s] efforts to com­bat glob­al ter­ror­ism.”

    It will also advise the Qatari gov­ern­ment on Amer­i­ca’s anti-ter­ror­ism finance laws and Trea­sury reg­u­la­tions.
    –CNN’s Kevin Bohn and Joe Ster­ling con­tributed to this report.

    CNN­Money (New York)
    First pub­lished June 11, 2017: 6:45 PM ET

    Posted by participo | June 11, 2017, 11:25 pm

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