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JUST THE NEWS: FBI considered resolving Russia collusion concerns with defensive briefing to Trump, memos show

Nearly four years after the now-discredited Russia collusion probe was formally closed, the Justice Department has released heavily redacted memos showing the FBI initially considered resolving concerns about Moscow targeting Donald Trump's campaign by simply giving the GOP presidential nominee a defensive briefing back in 2016.

The information was contained in a new release of documents in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the conservative group Citizens United, which sought the interviews conducted by the Justice Department inspector general of key players involved in the Russia probe, including former DOJ official Bruce Ohr's wife and former Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

More than 90% of the 460 pages of documents released by the government were blacked out by redactions mostly requested by the FBI or the inspector general's office.

You can read the full production of documents here:

OIG Partial Response 1 Citizens United v. DOJ 20cv974_release_combined.pdf

The memos' few visible text entries nonetheless contained valuable new nuggets that show how the FBI failed to stop the politically motivated and uncorroborated allegations that Trump and Russia colluded to hijack the 2016 election.

For instance, former State Department official Kathleen Kavalec provided new details to the DOJ IG about her fateful contact in October 2016 with former British MI6 spy Christopher Steele, the Hillary Clinton-funded author of the now-infamous and discredited Steele dossier that formed the basis of the FBI's request for a FISA warrant targeting the Trump campaign just a few weeks before Election Day 2016.

Congressional investigators learned about Kavalec's contact with Steele only in May 2019 after the probe ended, and they argued it raised red flags because Steele had broken his cover as an FBI informant by going to State and to news reporters to share details of his research.

Kavalec would later reveal to the Justice IG that Steele was upset that the FBI had not worked more quickly to process his allegations or create impact before Election Day.

"My sense was that he had shared information with the FBI, and he was frustrated," Kavalec told the DOJ IG investigators. "And he felt that they weren't acting on the information.

"I think there was a sense of frustration that people weren't, you know, responding to the information." Kavalec confirmed she relayed the information she got from Steele to the FBI.


This reporter broke the story in 2019 of Kavelec's contact with Steele, a development that delayed release of the DOJ IG's final report, which ultimately concluded the FBI engaged in misconduct and made serious errors during its investigation of the Trump-Russia allegations.

Another key nugget contained in the newly released memos comes from the transcript and investigator notes of the DOJ IG's interview with Lynch.

While most of the transcript is redacted except for expressions like "Um-hmm" and "Okay," a key section was left visible confirming that the FBI's concerns with the allegations of the Trump-Russia connection predated the formal opening of the Crossfire Hurricane probe on July 31, 2016.

Lynch testified that then-FBI Director James Comey and his deputy, Andrew McCabe — both of whom were later fired — pulled her aside earlier in the spring of 2016 to flag intelligence that then-Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page had contacts with Russian officials.

Lynch testified the contact occurred in "the late spring of 2016 when I had a pull aside meeting with Director Comey and Deputy Director McCabe and they provided me information ... about some efforts that may have been underway by Russian intelligence operatives to contact Carter Page."

"There was no action item presented and it was preliminary," she said later in the interview.


But the former attorney general's most eye-opening revelation came when she relayed what the FBI was thinking about doing to resolve the concerns about the Trump campaign.

"We talked about possibly providing a defensive briefing, but that was a preliminary discussion," she relayed during the interview. "... It was simply something that might happen down the road."

She confirmed the defensive briefing would have been given to Trump's campaign under the plan discussed with the FBI brass.

Many FBI experts, including former Assistant Director for Intelligence Kevin Brock, have long argued the FBI did not have solid grounds to warrant opening a full counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign in the middle of the 2016 election and that a preferred option based on FBI practices of the past would have been to give Trump a defensive briefing warning that his campaign might be targeted by Russia.

Remarkably — despite the explosive possibility that a presidential campaign might be targeted by a Russian influence operation — Lynch said she did not recall the FBI ever followed up on Carter Page.

"I don't recall a specific update on Carter Page," she told the investigators.

In fact, Lynch said she never recalled being briefed on Crossfire Hurricane or reading the FISA warrant application targeting Page and the Trump campaign that would be approved by a court at the FBI's request in October 2016, just weeks before Election Day.

The possibility that Comey and McCabe met with Lynch in spring 2016 to discuss Trump-Russia has been raised before, including briefly in the final DOJ IG report.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported in December 2019 that neither Comey nor McCabe could recall such a discussion.

"Comey told the OIG that he did not recall having such a conversation with Lynch, and that he did not think it was possible for such conversation to have occurred in the spring of 2016," Horowitz wrote. "He also said that he did not recall himself having any knowledge of Carter Page's existence until the middle of 2016."

DOJ IG report on Russia FISAs

David Bossie, president of Citizens United, told the "Just the News, No Noise" television show Tuesday night that Lynch's account furthered the concern that Trump was treated more hostilely than other Americans would have been in the same circumstance.

The FBI "hated President Trump more than they loved our country," Bossie said. "That is at the end of the day what this is about. This is the Obama administration, the Clinton cabal, and the out-of-control Justice Department wanting to destroy Donald Trump rather than treat him in the way that he deserved to be treated."

Longtime television news host Lou Dobbs, who highlighted many of the FBI failures in the Russia probe over the years, said the FBI's refusal to simply give Trump a heads-up about the Russia concerns and instead launch a three-year probe that consumed America likely changed the course of history.

"So much could have been quite different," Dobbs told Just the News. "For example, President Trump wouldn't be in the seventh year of a political persecution that started just about that time in the midsummer of 2016."

THE FEDERALIST: If Biden’s Federal Elections Takeover Is ‘Free And Fair,’ Why Are The Plans Completely Redacted?

After several executive agencies in the Biden administration were sued for refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests from conservative advocacy group Citizens United over the White House’s attempt to federalize elections, the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Indian Affairs finally turned over its first batch of requested documents. There’s one problem: More than half of the 54-page document is completely redacted.

“The Biden administration is the least transparent in history, and these absurd redactions are just the latest example. What are they trying to hide from the American people?” Citizens United President David Bossie told The Federalist.

As The Federalist previously reported, in March 2021, President Joe Biden issued an executive order directing hundreds of federal agencies to engage in a federal takeover of election administration. It also permitted federal agencies to work with “nonpartisan” third-party entities to get voters registered, yet left-wing dark money group Demos publicly admitted it’s worked with federal agencies, “in close partnership with the ACLU and other allies,” to advance the aims of Biden’s directive.

Such an order set off alarm bells among Republicans and good government groups, reminiscent of the widespread takeover of government election offices by Democratic activists and donors in the blue counties of key swing states during the 2020 presidential election. Through their infiltration of state and local offices, Democrats were able to conduct partisan get-out-the-vote operations and swing the election in then-candidate Biden’s favor. This order is a taxpayer-funded version of that effort, turning federal agencies — including those that dole out federal benefits — into voter registration hubs and partisan get-out-the-vote centers.

Citizens United wanted to find out more about it, which is why last June, it filed FOIA requests with the DOI and State Department seeking email and text messages that mentioned both the executive order and the Hatch Act, a law that prohibits executive branch employees from engaging in election activities. When the agencies failed to comply, Citizens United sued. On Jan. 31, DOI sent its first round of documents per Citizens United’s request.

But the 54-page PDF sent to Citizens United is mostly redacted, save for logistical emails between White House staff and agency department heads. The plan and implementation scheme for the “Promoting Access to Voting” executive order itself are completely redacted.

In a cover letter sent with the documents, the Biden administration defended the redactions under U.S.C. § 552(b)(5), which allows agencies to withhold information under the “Presidential Communications Privilege” (exists to ensure “the President’s ability to obtain candid and informed opinions from his advisors and to make decisions confidentially”) and the “Deliberative Process Privilege” (“protects the decision-making process of government agencies and encourages the frank exchange of ideas on legal or policy matters”).

But according to Jason Foster, president and founder of Empower Oversight, a transparency and government accountability group that frequently files FOIA requests, these redactions are a prime example of the federal government’s blatant over-redacting and censorship.

“Federal bureaucrats do everything in their power to conceal information from the public,” Foster told The Federalist. “Whether it’s over-classification or improper redactions and stonewalling Freedom of Information Act requests, they instinctively err on the side of hiding information to avoid embarrassment, conceal misconduct, or cover up corruption. It’s up to Congress to reform the FOIA process, and in the meantime, it’s up to independent organizations to sue aggressively to force the federal government to comply with transparency laws.”

While good government groups can sue over improper redactions, this process can usually take about a year to uncover just one document from a series of files, those familiar with the matter said. Now that Republicans control the House of Representatives, however, they have the power to compel the federal government to produce non-redacted versions of requested documents, a Citizens United official told The Federalist.

During the 117th Congress, nine House Republicans wrote a letter to the White House raising concerns about the executive order, specifically regarding the fact that the order supplants the authority of the states to set election law and administer elections under the Constitution. When asked about the Biden administration’s secrecy over its elections directive, Freshman Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., who chairs the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs, echoed her colleague’s sentiments.

“Everyone should have concerns about this executive order and the involvement of any federal agency in our election process,” Hageman told The Federalist. “First and foremost, elections are the constitutional responsibility of the states, not our federal bureaucracy. This is yet another example of the federal government overstepping its authority and infringing upon states’ rights. Even if this order was well intended — and I have serious doubts that it was — it is unconstitutional.”

Hageman emphasized that the White House cannot get away with such extensive redactions of election-related processes.

“Large-scale redactions are not in the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act,” Hageman added. “This is one of the few tools we have to hold our government accountable. Are we to accept that the information is classified to such an extent that the document is unable to be coherently interpreted? Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the federal government cannot be allowed to continue to obscure and obstruct.”

Of particular interest in the 54-page document is a draft letter on page 32 from Indian Affairs Assistant Secretary Bryan Newland to White House Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice, formerly President Obama’s national security advisor and “right-hand woman” who is known for her involvement in spying on the Trump campaign in 2015 and lying about it. In that role, she also spread lies about the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, helped Obama staffers target Trump’s incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and turned a blind eye to the Biden family’s foreign business affairs.

One line in the draft letter reads: “The plan promotes voter registration and voter participation (REDACTED) and the Department’s agency action to achieve these objectives.” The redacted portion might point to a Hatch Act violation, a Citizens United official told The Federalist.

“These documents relating to the Biden White House’s efforts to turn the federal workforce into a partisan voter registration committee must be released to the public in their entirety,” Bossie said. “Congress must investigate this executive order to see if the Biden Administration is violating the Hatch Act on a massive scale.”

When asked why the Interior Department isn’t being transparent with the public about Biden’s federal takeover of elections, the Bureau of Indian Affairs referred The Federalist to the U.S.C. § 552(b)(5) exemptions in the cover letter sent to Citizens United.

NEW YORK SUN: FEC Seeks Rules Reining in Social Media Influencers Peddling Candidates

Way back in 2008, reality star Heidi Montag told reporters that she supported John McCain for president. She also said she didn’t think anyone cared whom she supported for president.

How wrong she turned out to be. The current era of social media has proved that even minor celebrities like Ms. Montag, with her 1 million Instagram followers, are not only in demand but can also earn serious dollars for their two cents.

Paid influencer advertising is so common that the Federal Trade Commission years ago created rules about disclosing financial relationships between brands and the influencers who lend their stamps of approval to them. The requirement, though, has never applied to political content.

The Federal Elections Commission wants to change that. It is looking at a rule that would define “Internet public communications” to include posts that support or reject federal candidates and are “promoted for a fee” on third-party websites like social media platforms.

“You’d think that people should know who actually paid for that message when they hear it in order to better evaluate it,” a former FEC commissioner and senior counsel at Perkins Coie, Karl Sandstrom, told the Sun.

The problem, opponents say, is the vagaries of the rule.

“‘Promoted for a fee’ may sound fine on the surface but lurking below the radar, it is ambiguous terminology that needs to be defined because it could cause a situation where the internet goes from being pretty much unregulated to where every post that’s political, advocating for or against the election of a federal candidate, gets regulated by the Federal Election Commission,” the president of Citizens United, David Bossie, told the Sun.

Mr. Bossie said private communications among paid internal staff, consultants, or others involved in the production of content appearing on third-party websites could be swept up into “public” communications. That ambiguity is an anvil that could curb free speech, he said.

"The more vague the terminology, the more it lends itself to overreach and unintended consequences," he said.

The commission began updating its rules on public internet communications a year ago, but the supplemental proposal arose in December after fresh examples of content “promoted for a fee” arose during the midterm election.

The most prominent was a video made by a “Jersey Shore” reality star, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, who is a paid supporter of Senator Fetterman of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Fetterman shared a message recorded in July in which Ms. Polizzi, standing in what appears to be her closet, calls herself a “hot mess” before trolling Mr. Fetterman’s opponent, Mehmet Oz, about his move to Pennsylvania from New Jersey to qualify to run for the Senate seat.

She jokes not to worry, Dr. Oz will be welcomed home soon, meaning he would move back to New Jersey. The publicity value was high for Mr. Fetterman: The post was shared by his followers and Ms. Polizzi’s fans, and was covered by several celebrity and political news media outlets. Ms. Polizzi reportedly earns $3,500 for her recorded cameo.

While candidates must place disclosures on their advertisements and report payments for celebrity appearances, Ms. Polizzi’s post created a new distinction: Should she have been required to add a disclosure on a creation of her own making?

Supporters say such a requirement would be a push toward basic transparency in elections.

“Requiring disclaimers on promoted content is the simplest and least burdensome way to protect voters, ensuring they are clearly informed when they are viewing paid political advertising through promoted content,” the Campaign Legal Center wrote in its comment to the election commission.

Others say such a requirement would have a chilling effect on debate in what is now effectively the public square.

“Average participants in online political discussion will face extraordinary challenges in discerning and complying with their regulatory obligations, and they may decide simply to abstain from political speech altogether,” Berin Szoka and Ari Cohn of TechFreedom, a nonprofit, nonpartisan technology policy think tank, wrote in comments to the elections commission.

Platforms have tried to police political advertising on their own. Facebook requires verification of posters and disclosures before allowing paid ads on social and political issues. In September, TikTok announced that it would prohibit politicians and political parties from advertising at all, and that it will crack down on creators who are paid to make branded content for a political campaign.

Even after TikTok’s announcement, production houses and influencers with connections to political financial backers were creating short videos that looked organic but were not, the clinic lead at Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy, Mihir Kshirsagar, told the Sun.

“An important way young people are getting information is through these kinds of social media websites, through social media accounts run by different entities, and so that's what you need, disclosures, to know who is behind the video,” said Mr. Kshirsagar, who supports the proposed rule.

Citizens United President David Bossie on Varney and Co.

Citizens United President David Bossie on Varney and Co.

CU Pres. David Bossie on the David Webb radio show

CU Pres. David Bossie on the David Webb radio show. 

CU Pres. David Bossie on American Agenda with Bob Sellers

CU Pres. David Bossie on American Agenda with Bob Sellers

Citizens United President David Bossie on The Water Cooler

Citizens United President David Bossie on The Water Cooler. 

REAL CLEAR POLITICS: What to Expect From a Dem Senate and a GOP House

The 2022 midterms are finally behind us. Now it's time to take stock and look ahead to what we can expect from lawmakers in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Read the rest of the Fox News article...

Follow David Bossie on Twitter

NEWSBUSTERS: FOIA Docs Show Biden Disinfo Board’s Internal Reach, Facebook Connections

The Department of Homeland Security’s defunct Disinformation Governance Board had incorporated at least five federal agencies, developed a basic work plan and exchanged emails with Facebook executives about a potential meeting.

The revelations surfaced in documents released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Citizens United. While heavily redacted, the documents offer glimpses into the Biden administration’s working relationship with Big Tech and its plans to launch the Disinformation Governance Board (DGB), which ultimately terminated in August after drawing mass public criticism.

An April 1 email that listed former DGB Executive Director Nina Jankowicz as a sender was sent to other officials, and outlined “capabilities review meetings” for the following week with the Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the DHS Science and Technology Directorate and the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis. Jankowicz was a highly controversial leader who resigned in May after public backlash over the board.

Additionally, another email exchange later in April noted plans to involve the federal Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) in a DGB “case study on irregular migration that we hope to push forward asap,” according to a message from Jankowicz.

“We want our intelligence agencies to work effectively with their partners to protect our national security,” MRC Free Speech America Vice President Dan Schneider said. “The problem is they’ve become so politicized that we don’t know when they’re working for Americans, and when they’re working against Americans.”

The 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act established ODNI, in part, to advise the president on “matters related to the national security,” and to provide intelligence that is “timely, objective [and] independent of political considerations.”

But documents released in June show that the Department of Homeland Security, the DGB’s host agency, had characterized the questions on the validity of the 2020 election, questions on the origins and effects of COVID-19 vaccines and questions on the efficacy of masks, as “homeland security risks.”

This politicization begs the question whether the DGB’s involvement with ODNI – or any other agency, for that matter – was actually apolitical.

Roughly one month before her resignation from the board, Jankowicz on April 11 noted she was “chagrined” that the board still had not been publicly announced five weeks after officials first discussed a public rollout. Another April 11 Jankowicz email apparently included an attachment to a written plan for the board’s rollout.

That email diverged from congressional testimony given by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on May 4. Mayorkas claimed that the board had “not yet begun its work.” Seven Republican senators in a June letter accused Mayorkas of misrepresenting the DGB’s purview, and called for another hearing to explore Mayorkas’s previous “misleading” testimony.

The April 27 edition of Politico Playbook formally announced the DGB’s launch.

Apparently, Facebook figured to be part of the DGB’s work.

Emails last spring from top Meta executives to DHS Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy and Plans Robert Silvers outlined plans for a meeting with Meta Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher.

After a heavy redaction, a March 31 email apparently sent to Silvers from Meta Executive Branch Public Policy Director Sandy Luff stated: “[W]e’d like to request a meeting with you to provide an update on these issues if your schedule permits and would be happy to do this meeting in-person.”

An April 20 Jankowicz email references a “basic workplan,” though DHS redacted the work plan itself from the released documents.

DAILY CALLER: GOP Senators Urge McConnell To Block Massive Spending Package

Four Senate Republicans on Wednesday urged Mitch McConnell to block an omnibus spending package to fund the government for next year and, instead, push for a continuing resolution (C.R.) to give the GOP more negotiating leverage with a House majority in the next Congress.

Congressional leaders of both parties are currently negotiating a permanent appropriations bill to fund the federal government for the 2022-23 Fiscal Year, with the government currently being funded by a previous continuing resolution that runs to Dec. 16. The four senators said in their letter that they will “not accept anything less” than a C.R., heralding a potential filibuster.

“I’m completely against negotiating with Nancy Pelosi,” said Republican Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana to the DCNF on Wednesday, stating that he and colleagues would work to ensure an omnibus does not pass before the year’s end. Braun was joined by Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah in the letter calling for a C.R. to “avert a government shutdown and take us up to the House being sworn in on Jan. 3.”

“We believe it would be both imprudent, and a reflection of poor leadership, for Republicans to ignore the will of the American people and rubber stamp an omnibus spending bill that funds ten more months of President Biden’s agenda,” the letter read.

The comments from GOP members appear to contrast with those of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has voiced his preference for an omnibus resolution before the year’s end rather than another continuing resolution.

“I think there’s widespread agreement that we’d be better off with an omnibus than a [continuing resolution],” McConnell said at the White House on Tuesday, after negotiating with President Joe Biden on the subject.

In an appearance on Newsmax on Wednesday, Cruz rejected McConnell’s approach.

“Why on earth would we pass Nancy Pelosi’s omnibus bill when, in just a few weeks, we’re going to have a Republican House?” adding that “the Republican leadership in the Senate is trying to emasculate the incoming GOP House majority.”

There is a considerable division within the Senate GOP Conference on the approach, however.

“This is a miserable way and, frankly, an embarrassing way for Congress to do business, and it is potentially dangerous, too,” Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said to the DCNF, suggesting that national security may be risked with a C.R.

Were Senate Democrats to bring an omnibus bill to the Senate floor, it would require at least 10 Republican votes in order to overcome a filibuster, assuming all Democrats vote in favor. If neither an omnibus bill nor a C.R. pass, there will be a government shutdown on Dec. 17, the first of Biden’s presidency.

McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s offices did not respond to a request for comment.

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CU In The News

JUST THE NEWS: FBI considered resolving Russia collusion concerns with defensive briefing to Trump, memos show

Nearly four years after the now-discredited Russia collusion probe was...

THE FEDERALIST: If Biden’s Federal Elections Takeover Is ‘Free And Fair,’ Why Are The Plans Completely Redacted?

After several executive agencies in the Biden administration were sued...

NEW YORK SUN: FEC Seeks Rules Reining in Social Media Influencers Peddling Candidates

Way back in 2008, reality star Heidi Montag told reporters...

Citizens United President David Bossie on Varney and Co.

Citizens United President David Bossie on Varney and Co.
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