FBI Counter-intelligence Agent Reveals The “Most Explosive Aspect” Of Comey Testimony

For obvious reasons, we’ve all been focused on the extent to which James Comey’s recent testimony supports the contention that Donald Trump was/is engaged in the obstruction of justice as it relates to the multiple ongoing investigations into his administration’s reputed ties to the Kremlin.

Depending on your partisan bent, you might also be obsessing over whether Comey broke any laws or at least exhibited an egregious lack of regard for decorum by leaking his account of a meeting with Trump to The New York Times.

To be sure, Liberals and Conservatives can’t be blamed for obsessing over these issues. After all, if Trump obstructed justice, he should be impeached (hence the Liberal obsession) and furthermore, it would suggest that he indeed has something to hide when it comes to possible collusion with a hostile foreign power. On the other hand, if there actually isn’t a “there ‘there'” (so to speak), well then James Comey has exacerbated an already circus-like atmosphere by whipping everyone into a veritable frenzy for no reason (hence the Conservative obsession). Regular readers know which side we fall on.

But lost in all of this is one indisputable fact: irrespective of whether Comey’s testimony is evidence of actual wrongdoing on Trump’s part, if what the former FBI Director said is even partially accurate, then this is a President who is a whole hell of a lot more concerned about himself than he is about national security. After all, the best way to “prove” you aren’t colluding with the Kremlin isn’t to launch 59 tomahawk missiles at an airbase located in a Russian client state, but rather to insist that the FBI Director figure out how to keep Moscow from interfering with domestic affairs.

No one outside of fringe blogs penned by alt-Right propagandists that are themselves allied with Russian mouthpieces asserts that Russia didn’t interfere in the election. The opinion on that is as close to unanimous as you’re going to get.

Trump’s demonstrable lack of regard for national security led former FBI counterintelligence agent and current Associate Dean at Yale, Asha Rangappa (whose resume is better than yours), to pen the following Op-Ed, published yesterday….

Via WaPo

Reactions to former FBI director James B. Comey’s testimony Thursday mostly seemed to follow predictable, partisan lines. To many Democrats, Comey appeared to be describing a clear case of obstruction of justice by President Trump. To Republicans who support the White House, Comey’s recounting of “leaking” his memos about conversations with Trump showed that he deserved to be fired.

But as a former FBI counterintelligence agent, what I saw as the most explosive aspect of the testimony didn’t involve any legal violation of the U.S. code or questions about whether Comey had broken established Department of Justice protocols. Instead, it was the prima facie evidence that Comey presented that Trump appears unwilling to uphold his oath “to preserve, protect, and defend” the country — which puts the security of our nation and its democracy at stake. In the nine times Trump met with or called Comey, it was always to discuss how the investigation into Russia’s election interference was affecting him personally, rather than the security of the country. He apparently cared little about understanding either the magnitude of the Russian intelligence threat, or how the FBI might be able to prevent another attack in future elections.

When Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked Comey whether Trump had ever appeared concerned about Russian interference or how to stop it in the future, Comey’s answer was blunt: “No.” After a moment of reflection, he added, without prompting, that he had “attended a fair number of meetings on that with President Obama.” This contrast alone underscores Trump’s disregard for his fundamental duty, which is to ensure the security of the nation, its government and its citizens from foreign enemies.

It’s worth noting that there is unanimity among senior intelligence officials that the Russian interference in our election not only happened, but that it was extraordinary and unprecedented. In previous testimony, Comey described Russia as the “greatest threat of any country on earth,” and he warned Thursday that Russia is “coming after America,” regardless of party, “to undermine our credibility in the rest of the world.”

Former CIA director John Brennan testified to Congress in May that he was shocked that Russia had “brazenly interfered” in the election, so much so that he took the extraordinary step of directly confronting his Russian counterpart. He added that he believes that even in the election’s aftermath, “Russian intelligence services are trying to exploit what is going on in Washington now to their benefit and to our detriment.”

It does not require an FBI investigation to see that a president of the United States who finds no reason for concern in any of these assertions — and indeed considers them a “hoax” — cannot have the best interest of the country at heart.

The FBI takes its counterintelligence mission extremely seriously, although it’s usually less visible to the public than its law enforcement duties, which lead to arrests and criminal trials. Most of these activities, like the foreign agents they target, are by design covert, and they rarely see the inside of a courtroom. Many of the cases I worked as a counterintelligence agent involved foreign intelligence officers who used First Amendment and political freedoms in the United States to their advantage. This might involve disseminating propaganda by recruiting journalists (who did not realize they were spies) to write articles favorable to their government, or getting agents working on their behalf to lobby politicians for favorable policies toward their countries. (A rare glimpse into such a case that became public is the 2011 arrest of Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, a lobbyist who pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges after the government accused him of being an agent for Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate.)

The FBI can usually disrupt this threat under the radar — for instance, by delicately alerting unwitting individuals that they may be being targeted by a foreign power, or by identifying and recruiting an intelligence service’s sources to become double agents for the United States. The Russia case is different, because its operation last year did not simply try to use the American system as a vehicle for Russia’s benefit. Instead, Russia essentially attempted to break the system itself, by hacking political parties computer and email systems, flooding the media with disinformation and purposely sowing political chaos in the voting process, which is the bedrock of our democracy. Although its activities didn’t involve bombs or dead bodies, Russia’s efforts were no less dangerous than any terrorist attack. In fact, the insidiousness of Russia’s interference lies in its invisibility: The American public did not even know that their freedom of choice was potentially being manipulated and distorted for foreign interests.

For any president to ignore the situation is shocking. My former colleagues at the FBI who are working on this case and have uncovered the full scale of Russia’s efforts must be incredulous at Trump’s cavalier attitude.

To understand their perspective, consider this happening in the context we normally think of as a national security threat: Imagine that during the 2016 presidential election, a candidate publicly invited the Islamic State to bomb the Democratic Party headquarters. And then imagine that such a bombing in fact took place, resulting in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. Now further imagine that the new president not only had no interest in learning more about who caused the attack or bringing them to justice, but in fact went out of his way to make nice with the Islamic State and offer them political and diplomatic concessions. Finally, imagine that there may be evidence that members of the president’s campaign or other American citizens were actively or passively involved in facilitating such an attack.

The fact pattern of the Russia investigation so far is similar — and that’s an investigation Comey says Trump had no interest in following closely.

Regardless of which story line you believe about Comey’s testimony, it is, in the end, a sideshow. The real issue is Russia’s assault on our democracy and how we respond to it. If the president intends to stay true to his oath, both he and all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, will support the FBI in getting to the bottom of the Russian threat and making sure that it never happens again.

 

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6 thoughts on “FBI Counter-intelligence Agent Reveals The “Most Explosive Aspect” Of Comey Testimony

  1. I think the President (cough gag) has made his interests very clear already. He thinks making Russia a friend would be good for America. He thinks Putin likes him and he has openly complimented Putin on more than one occasion, going so far as to praise his intelligence. We, well most of “we”, know that trump only cares about himself and his image, so any action or comments he makes is only to reflect upon him.

    Throw into the pot his inability to not lie with every breath or not refute and defame US intelligence or department leaders or absolutely anyone who makes a negative comment towards him. He will praise dictators and tell them what a great job they are going (Duterte) and browbeat our proven allies (Germany, London,Mexico). Does not have the mental capacity to do the job he bragged that only he could do and is constantly flip-flopping or contradicting his positions. Extremely hostile towards any reputable press/media and goes so far as to openly degrade them even when sharing a podium with a foreign visitor. The worse he behaves, the more he is disliked and his popularity plummets almost daily and that makes him even more angry and aggressive. He makes cowardly attacks and bullies and insults individual people via his tweeting obsession which is unchallenged and dangerous.

    His administration is costing this country multiple millions of dollars more than any former administration, including and especially the one he has trashed for 8 years. All his family “working” in the WH and traveling with secret service protection, his wife and child lives in a different location than he does. His huge number of trips to Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere for golfing. Not to mention a large quantity of secret service for him personally just to keep him safe. His stupid rallies so he came be adored or even “campaign’ for his planned 2020 run for re-election. OMG. All of this costs us millions and millions and millions of dollars more than ever before him.

    But not to worry, he is ‘cutting the budget’, going to cure the debt, and getting rid of departments that he says we don’t need and drastically changing healthcare to cut waste and unnecessary expenses, apparently not going to re-staff almost 200 positions in the government that remain vacant or understaffed for the past 5 months.

    So, what can we do about all this? The Republicans don’t want to lose their cushy little jobs so they are not doing anything to effect control of him or help us in any way — even the few of them who hide their face in shame or barely speak out against him — they simply want to ‘change the rules’ to suit themselves. We talk about impeachment, beg for impeachment, but apparently this huge list of issues I have taken the time to rant about here are just not enough, no specific crime, at least that we know of today or have not discovered yet, to stop this man for the dangers he opens this country to or even his failure to properly govern. What do we do? How do we force him out of office? How do we force the Repubs to stop this assault on America? What steps are required to force him to be examined for mental stability? This country will not survive unscathed even the 4 year term he is currently serving. I pray for Robert Mueller as we rely on his expertise. One more thought – as I understand it, the president can fire Mr. Mueller (probably). Then what?

    – Murphy

  2. I’m an independent, but a progressive one. Progressive meaning someone who seeks better more functional solutions. Unlike most, I don’t see US politics as an extension of high school foot ball games, and cheer leading team spirit pep rallies.

    I think we are in a far worse position than we ever have been. There are far too many questions on the ability of our government to function as the Constitution intended. Consider the overall context of the current situation. You can’t have watched elections since G.W. Bush and not realized that there is an over riding “good (competent) cop”/”bad (incompetent) cop” to US election candidate nominations.

    The McCain/Palin nomination was an insult to anyone that hadn’t been medically declared brain dead – especially the high probability that Palin might survive and replace a McCain Presidency. (This isn’t to say Obama was a candidate with the experience and leadership that the country needed – just day and night less insulting than McCain/Palin.). The 2016 election saw the same GC/BC theme – except this time in spite of the obvious gross incompetence, lack of experience and morally corrupt history of Donald Trump – he won by a minority of votes with an electoral college advantage.

    My first theory was that Trump was able to somehow unite the far-right fringe groups, backward looking social conservatives, creationist, white supremacist, neo-nazis, and other generally phobic, uneducated, disenfranchised and paranoid anti-progressives, but a group cumulatively large enough to carry the election for Trump.

    To accomplish the unification of these disparate and typically paranoid groups, would require a level of political expertise, finesse and counter-paranoia peace making that has escaped many well funded Republican candidates over the past decades. As well, such finesse would be far more visible than Trump’s dubious grasp of the obvious problems he railed against in his campaign and the simple minded solutions he proposed to solve complex national and international problems. Building a wall that a WalMart extension ladder can defeat (Yes, Mr, Trump they have Walmarts in Mexico), and Muslim immigration ban on all the Muslim countries that didn’t have representation in the 9/11 attacks – but giving a pass to those that did – are all self-describing of the Trump grasp of US problems and the intellect he has to solve them. I don’t disagree with the problems that Trump campaigned on, just their relative priorities and Trump’s simple minded solutions.

    My point is that there is a context miss-match between Trump on the campaign, on Twitter, in news-conferences and especially in his Executive actions that underscores his lack of professionalism – leadership experience, lack of leadership knowledge, lack of Constitutional knowledge, lack of understanding of the US intelligence community’s role in keeping dips like him from burying us. Trump dissed the intel community day one – and thereafter – and folks that is not the mind of successful leader. This is not the mind of a man who unites the far-right extremists into a functional voting wedge. It isn’t the mind of a man who even could have hired the top political advisors who might on their best day ever accomplish this unification.

    So, into this Trump context of incompetence and general ignorance – we must logically seek another force that could behind the scenes with or without Trump’s participation (improbable given current investigation evidence) bring this entirely inadequate candidate into office. Que the discovery of the Russian influences.

    Though the gov. has denied (Could they admit that a foreign government actually through the election? The US Presidency at that point would have the credibility that it seems to currently deserve – zero.) that Russia actually manipulated votes and voting, Consider that there is also a 25 year old gov. contractor (Reality Winner) that tossed her developing career and freedom to publicize a NSA report discussing Russian manipulation of voter software. One has to believe that there is more to this report than is being released – or why would this young women destroy herself to have it released. Did the Russians actually manipulate votes through software that operates and or tabulates voting machines? Are we just caught between a rock and a hard place in being politically unable to admit that Trump’s election was only possible through Russian assistance in some form? This seems highly likely from the context – all things considered.

    It is illogical to think that someone with lack of mental facilities that Trump has and no evidence of him hiring and or that he might have used those who might have such capabilities. Instead you have the likes of Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, and Jared Kushner – not a proven rock star political strategist among the lot. With the exception of Rex Tillerson and few moldy generals – there’s no one associated with Trump that has the capabilities necessary for their jobs or making a winning campaign team and winning and election – unless the Trump campaign – was loaded from the outside.

    (Yeah, I know this is long – I know.) This takes us to the overriding context of the situation and it’s far worse than Russian election or voting manipulation – it’s that the US election system is in bad need of repair if not completely and functionally broken. Starting with the voters – we need a more informed process of selecting qualified candidates – which means more informed and better qualified voters. Perhaps we need a basic voter test of issues and the qualifications of the candidates. Clearly we need a technical overhaul and a standardization of the voting and election processes – at least at the Federal level – to make them hack proof as technically possible. Our entire governmental process needs to be based on functionality. What we have now is not functional, not Congress, not the Executive Branch or the DOJ and or many other parts.

    There is far too much big money influencing politics and elections. We don’t need to spend $7 billion dollars on election and end up with an international joke as our President – who instead of “Making America Great again” has made us the laughing stock of the world based on both the leadership standards of developed and undeveloped nations.

    I know of few greater ironies today than the extreme right-wings past (and continuing) railing against Democrat candidates like Obama – calling them socialist and communist – to now be faced and forced to embrace their President Trump that seems highly probable to be under some level of Russian influence at best – and or a Russian puppet at worst.

    What we can know is that if we don’t do something to ensure the qualified leadership of this country – it will be done for us. Perhaps this has been already accomplished – with Comrade Trump.

  3. well said D.! I have only a few comments. I guess I am registered Democrat – used to be Repub. I voted for Hillary as the lesser of two evils. Not that I actually think she is “evil” – just the better choice of those two. I actually liked Grandpa Bernie but it was not a rational choice in that he would not win and would only take votes from Hillary that were desperately needed for her to win over trump as the campaign evolved and I could see it was gonna be closer than I originally figured it would be. I was certainly not in favor of trump even at the Primary level of the contest. But I did not like Rubio or Jeb either – I would settle on Kasich but never trump. As we all watched trump take the Primary, I was speechless then disgusted! At that time, the GOP was not happy about it and some of them still had their balls and spoke against him – so he blustered and said foul nasty things about them. So to honor their horrible Party, they eventually came together, Ryan being rather slow about it. Then I watched them start praising the bastard trump. Then the real contest started and when it reached a momentum and trump was trashing Hillary and not too many stood and spoke in her favor for several reasons – the most popular reason was that there was no way in hell that trump would ever win this this thing, no one is that stupid, never.

    Then Comey made his (what he now has explained, hmpfff) announcement about those emails only a week to go and then I knew, that bastard was gonna win. I hoped that Hillary still had a slim chance just because of the female vote and potential first female president. I do think that had Comey not done what he “had to do”, she probably would have won the election. It is absolute fact that she won the popular vote by over 3 million voters. So here is my first point to your thoughts that perhaps there was Russian hands that messed with the actual votes – so No, I don’t think they did that even though I think within a few years they will be capable of that! No, I ultimately blame the chicken shit electoral voters. They are the reason Trump sits in the Oval Office. So, the electoral system needs to be adjusted or tweaked to prevent such a catastrophe from every happening again!

    Your list of Mike Pence, Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, and Jared Kushner needs only a little tweak — add Corey Lewandowski in that mix as he was the muscle at trumps Nazi type rallies. And if you think back a bit, Kellyanne used to be the mouthpiece for Rubio and said some really nasty things about trump – still available to view on youtube. I am not sure how she finagled her way into trump’s group after the primaries were over. Yeah, ok, maybe she did ……. !! Pence is in there because his political days were pretty much over and he had no chance in his state election and he could easily be controlled. Bannon is connected to the Far Right maybe so far right into Russia. Sessions appears to be not only a racist but also a liar – I expect him to be tossed aside once these new hearings are done. Jared married into the clan and has his father’s criminal DNA which is a good match with trump. And he has some big money problems in the billions and needs loans from Russia – so that will become more interesting soon. I feel sure there is a Russia connection that is a tangled web and I also believe that Robert Mueller has the brain and experience and connections to figure it all out. Unless trump fires him too.

    So I agree with your overall analysis of our government and safeguards – it is antiquated bordering on obsolete in this digital age. The most important change needs to be at the Presidential level — there must be more ways to control a rogue like trump (who would have thunk it?) easier methods to overthrow a bad choice; more balance required in Repub and Democrat so that one does not “own” the other like we have now which is more like a gang war! Not sure how to change the actual voters, not thru a test, but maybe stop making it “easier” but more helpful instead – like day off work to vote and free bus to vote and more volunteer help to get to polls, reward fpr voting, maybe even digital votes if it can be done securely. I know a large number of friends who did not bother with it since there was no way that bastard would ever win and become president – seriously? They will never skip out on voting again.

    We need to start with getting this jackass out of there. And we need changes to make it easier to remove a rogue. And we need to require more than just the president to fire the heads of FBI, DOJ, etc. But you are right, we need some big changes in the system and we need it now.

    – Murphy

  4. I don’t say this to knock her credibility, but I wonder why she only served three years as a Special Agent. I mean, that’s three years longer than most have or will serve, but it just seems interesting. I thought more Agents were in it for the long haul.

    • SO….. you read this entire article and I assume you read these really long comments and that is your only question or comment? I find that far more interesting than your comment! My gut is telling me you may be alluding to something…….

      – Murphy

      • I’m not alluding to anything. Don’t dig for something that doesn’t exist. There’s not much else to include after the article and your long-winded comments. Just pointing out something that I found interesting. Agents that I know have served for many years, and it’s simply surprising to see the one mentioned above serving just three.

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