The FBI lawyer that admitted to altering the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant that gave the bureau permission from the secret court to spy on a former Trump campaign advisor is expected to enter a guilty plea Wednesday at the federal court in Washington D.C.
But what does this really mean? And will he?
FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith is expected to plead guilty to making a false statement in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant. It is the first criminal case coming from the years long investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal investigation into the FBI’s handling of its investigation into President Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign.
In fact, Clinesmith failed to include in the FISA that former Trump campaign volunteer and advisor Carter Page had been cleared by the CIA and had in fact, been a trusted asset for the agency. The failure to include that information led to the court’s decision to allow the bureau to spy on Page, all the while the bureau knew that Page was not an asset of the Russian government but instead, he was a known asset of the United States.
Carter, whom this reporter has interviewed numerous times, recently stated that this is the first step toward justice. His life was turned upside down, his reputation smeared and when false information regarding Carter was leaked to mainstream media outlets early on his life was threatened. Still, this is the first time that anyone may be paying the price for an attempted coup of a U.S. president.
My concern is that those who directed this investigation, meaning those senior Obama officials, will not be charged with any crimes. I’m expected, like the rest of America, to believe that something will happen. We’ve been waiting for four years, while Trump campaign officials and those close to him have been dragged through the judicial system and their reputations sullied by main outlets that have rarely ever written a correction to any of their stories.
Over the past four years investigations conducted by Congress, the Justice Department Inspector General and a handful of journalists uncovered that FBI officials had no basis – meaning no predicate – to investigate Trump or his campaign.
The entire investigation and the continuing targeting of Trump and his administration were politically motivated and predicated on lies, Republican congressional investigators, senior lawmakers and former U.S. officials have told this reporter.
“Obama officials weaponized the system to target Trump and the system itself is mired in corruption so you tell me is anyone going to be held accountable,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official. “The only way anyone gets held accountable is if the DOJ lives up to lady justice and that doesn’t appear to be likely.”
Clinesmith is only one of numerous FBI officials that were part of the bureau’s Washington Field Office and New York Field Office investigators looking into the Trump campaign. The malfeasance has been wide spread and senior level FBI officials have been fired, retired or have decided to unexpectedly leave their long careers at the bureau.
However, none have been indicted. These bureaucratic careerists who targeted a President have instead sold books or taken jobs as contributors for major television cable networks.
Fired FBI Director James Comey, fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and retired CIA Director John Brennan [all involved in the FBI’s and intelligence community’s investigation into Trump] have all written books and allegedly received big advancements.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who was discovered to have leaked the information on the January, 2017 debriefing of the dodgy dossier and its malicious contents to CNN reporter Jake Tapper, is now working for CNN.
In fact, the investigation was, according to a mountain of evidence, concocted by false information compiled into a dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele, who was hired by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to investigate a political opponent. His dossier has been discovered to be based on Russian disinformation and completely false evidence that smeared Trump and all those who supported him.
Prosecutor and columnist Andrew McCarthy wrote a recent piece for National Review regarding Clinesmith that I tend to agree with and it raises a number of concerns:
Is Kevin Clinesmith willing to allocute? Is he willing to admit without reservation that he deceived his FBI colleagues and a federal court? The lack of clear answers to those questions is almost certainly the sticking point — the reason why, to this moment, there is only a false-statement chargeagainst the former Bureau lawyer, not a false-statement guilty plea.
When it comes time to allocute, the court must ensure that the accused acknowledges committing the acts alleged and, just as significantly, doing so with the level of criminal intent prescribed in the relevant penal statute — the mens rea of the crime. If the accused does not admit guilt, and evince that he is doing so voluntarily and in full awareness of the possible consequences, then the judge should not accept the guilty plea.
After all, such a plea involves a waiver of constitutional and statutory rights — to due process, to putting the prosecution to its burden of proving all elements of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, to appeal. The plea further subjects the accused to potential imprisonment and significant fines; and the allocution itself could subject the accused to further prosecution for perjury if he lies while under oath.
It will be interesting to see what happens today in the courtroom with Clinesmith but if the Justice Department believes prosecuting those at the FBI’s bottom of the barrel will be enough for the American people, those charged with the prosecutions will be sadly mistaken and Justice will not be served.
In fact, if those former senior Obama officials are not held accountable then I believe that Lady Justice has left our shores.
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China Expands Charm Offensive in Southeast Asia to Squeeze out U.S.
Similar to what is happening in the Pacific, the US is facing a significant uphill battle to balance China’s rise in Southeast Asia. During the recent G20 and ASEAN summits in Indonesia and Cambodia, the Chinese Community Party (CCP) media upped its propaganda war against the United States over Southeast Asia. Outlets like Global Times and Xinhua claim that China’s interests in Southeast Asia are focused on mutual benefits, while the US is a malicious force in the region. The CCP press also claims that China is generously giving robust and purposeful aid to the Southeast Asian countries, while the US is neglecting them.
Claim #1: China’s Interest in Southeast Asia is Peaceful and Mutually Beneficial
China’s approach to Southeast Asia is benevolent and focused on mutual benefits, according to the CCP-run press. “China’s goal is to achieve a truly prosperous and peaceful ASEAN,” and “doesn’t interfere in ASEAN members’ internal affairs,” according to Global Times. “China focuses on pragmatic issues, such as promoting infrastructure construction, living standards, which are needed in those countries,” and “China is seeking a cooperative path toward common development,” according to another Global Times article. That same article quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as stating that China and the ASEAN countries “are good neighbors who will always be there for each other…”
One country that is particularly thankful for growing Chinese influence, according to the CCP press, is Indonesia. Indonesians want China to “lead…the world to a more peaceful and prosperous future,” and view Chinese President Xi Jinping “with an apparent sense of affability and affection,” according to Global Times. Marzuki Alie, former speaker of the People’s Representative Council of Indonesia, praised China as “becom[ing] essential in improving global governance,” and that “the visionary concept of building a human community with a shared future proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping shows China is willing to work with other countries to create a peaceful and secure world with openness and inclusiveness,” according to Xinhua. And perhaps the most perplexing aspect of China’s “benevolence” in Indonesia is the “Peace Ark” – a hospital ship that has recently docked in Indonesia, but that is also a navy ship run by China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), according to Global Times.
Malaysia has a favorable view of China as well, according to the CCP press. Koh King Kee, president of Center for New Inclusive Asia, a Malaysian think tank, stated that “China is the backbone of the global supply chain and acts as a ballast stone of the global economy in times of uncertainty,” according to Xinhua.
And in response to US concerns over rising Chinese influence in Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base, Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian dismisses the base as not targeting any third party, according to Global Times. Cambodia’s Minister of National Defense Tea Banh further claimed that the Chinese involvement in that base is benevolent, stating that the base helps Cambodia “in cooperating with friendly countries and help[ing to] maintain regional peace, stability and prosperity,” according to that same article.
Claim #2: The US’ Interest in Southeast Asia is Manipulative, Malevolent
In contrast to China’s benevolence, the United States “only wants [ASEAN] to serve as its pawn to counter China, and to fulfill its own hegemony goal, according to Global Times. At the G20 conference in Bali, the US takes a “hegemonic, unilateral and protectionist approach,” and “is preaching war and confrontation,” according to that same article.
The US and the West are merely using the G20 summit in Bali “to advance their own geopolitical agenda against Russia, therefore preventing the crucial meeting from tackling serious economic issues,” according to another Global Times article. “Such a geopolitical focus “will worsen this uncertain and unstable world,” according to Veronika S. Saraswati, China Study Unit Convener at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies Indonesia.
According to another Global Times article, the US is using ASEAN “to drive a wedge between China and Southeast Asian nations in the future,” is attempting to “rope in the region via political, security, and value-oriented agendas,” and is trying “to buy off” Southeast Asian countries “by pledging to spend certain amount[s] of money.”
Claim #3: China gives Robust, Targeted Aid to Southeast Asia
CCP media taunts the extensive aid that China is giving to Southeast Asian countries. China has pledged $1.5 billion in “development assistance” to ASEAN countries in November 2021, and Chinese-ASEAN trade was about $878 billion in 2021, according to Global Times. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang claims that of the 160 “cooperation initiatives” that China has suggested with the ASEAN countries in the previous 10 years, over 99.5 percent of them have been implemented, as reported by another Global Times article.
Li also stated that China is planning to build emergency storage for medical supplies and rise within the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) framework, according to Global Times.
Chinese state-run media is particularly touting China’s Belt and Road investments in Southeast Asia, particularly in Indonesia and Laos. According to Global Times, the Jakarta-Bandung high speed railway will be operational in June 2023, and as a “flagship project of China-Indonesia cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative,” will be the first high speed train in Southeast Asia, according to Xinhua. China’s ambassador to Indonesia praised the project, claiming that the railway “will greatly reduce traffic jams, make travel more convenient for local people, improve local investment environment, boost businesses and tourism along the route, and accelerate the building of a high speed railway economic corridor.” The ambassador also mentioned that existing Belt and Road initiatives with Indonesia like the Indonesia Morowali Industrial Park and the PT Virtue Dragon Nickel Industry Park, “have generated tax incomes, job opportunities and foreign exchange earnings, and provided Indonesia with opportunities for greater participation in global industrial chains of stainless steel and new energy.”
Claim #4: US Investment Lags Behind China
On the other hand, the CCP media claims that the US is lagging far behind Chinese investments in Southeast Asia. President Biden’s newly announced “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” with the ASEAN countries “…looks more like a symbolic act. The US is playing the catch-up game with China,” according to Koh King Kee, president of a Malaysian think tank, according to Global Times.
US and ASEAN trade, at $441 million in 2021, was almost half that of Chinese investment for that same time, according to Global Times. President Biden pledged to ask Congress for $850 million in aid for electric vehicles and clean energy to ASEAN countries, but this amount is “symbolic” and a “mere ‘drop in the bucket’,” according to Global Times. In May, Biden “announced a $150 million development and security package” for the ASEAN countries according to that same article, which pales in comparison to the amounts in aid that China claims it is giving those same countries.
According to Global Times, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang mentioned that US investment in ASEAN is “a drop in the bucket if compared to US support for Ukraine” during the Biden administration, which Global Times claims is “over $18.9 billion in security assistance.”
CCP media is waging a charm offensive targeting Southeast Asia. While China is investing heavily in these countries, the US has yet to devise a credible counter to such influence.
You can follow Steve Postal on @HebraicMosaic
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