In our last article, we went through a series of warrants related to the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) investigation of Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret.). DOJ disclosed the warrants late in 2020 in response to a FOIA lawsuit brought by a coalition of corporate media outlets. We left off by asking:
“The warrants in Attachments 4 and 5 specifically name email accounts and electronic devices, unlike Attachments 1 through 3 where the named targets were individuals in the earlier versions or law firms in the revised ones. And all the electronic files and devices are “currently located at [the] FBI Washington [D.C.] Field Office.
So the FBI is already in possession of the electronic files and devices. The only reason that should be the case is if they had already been subpoenaed or turned over willingly by the Trump transition team/administration. In either case, the FBI shouldn’t need a warrant to search the evidence already in their possession. So what’s the deal?”~Excerpt from “The DOJ Used The Logan Act to Obtain Warrants Against General Flynn”
We believe we found the answers for both; how the FBI obtained the materials and why The Logan Act was used as the basis for the final two warrants. When both are considered together, the degree of government corruption is simply shocking.
The story of how the FBI came into possession of the material is detailed in a 285-page Senate report jointly by Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) Committee on Finance and Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs from October 2020. The report is titled appropriately enough, “Don’t Brief the Trump Team: How the GSA and the FBI Secretly Shared Trump Transition Team Records,” and exposes the degree of bureaucratic resistance and corruption the Trump administration was facing right out of the gates.
In short, officials at the highest level of the General Services Administration (GSA) were gaslit by media reports about Gen. Flynn’s resignation as President Trump’s National Security Advisor (NSA) on February 15, 2017. Based solely on the news—without being prompted and on their own accord—they reached out to the FBI through their Office of Inspector General (GSA OIG) to see if they should begin preserving all Trump Presidential Transition Team (PTT) records still in their possession. This was done in direct contrast to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) GSA had with Trump’s PTT organization (Trump for America, Inc. or “TFA”), and in violation of their own rules and without any legal basis to do so. Based simply on a phone call with the FBI, GSA halted its standard procedures of wiping all PTT records and devices. This despite the fact they were the private records of TFA and not the property of GSA or U.S. Government records subject to any record-keeping regulations.
GSA would then spend most of 2017 misleading the Trump White House and TFA about the status of the PTT records in coordination with the FBI and Mueller Special Counsel Office (SCO), even denying Trump’s representatives access to copies of their own records for an extended period of time. GSA would eventually hand over the PTT records to the FBI and Mueller SCO late in the summer of 2017, again without any legal justification. Trump’s White House or TFA was not even informed ahead of time—affording them the opportunity to review, object, or exert executive privilege or attorney-client privilege on anything—and was only made aware of the GSA disclosures well after-the-fact in mid-December 2017.
The report summary is shocking enough and the media did not completely ignore the story when the report was released in October 2020. However, it did seem to mostly get lost with all the election chaos, COVID-19 hysteria, and avalanche of other stories around the same time of how “The Viva la Resistance Swamp” in Washington D.C. had worked to undermine President Trump.
It is only when you dig into the details of the report does the true breadth of the corruption become apparent, as well as the reasons for the GSA collusion with the FBI and Mueller SCO. Syncing up the timeline detailed in the Senate report with the timing and stated investigative basis of the five warrants we detailed in our previous article helps connects the dots for the sudden change of course of the Mueller investigation into Gen. Flynn.
In short, the FBI and Mueller SCO had a bunch of corrupt GSA bureaucrats sitting on a treasure trove of Trump team transition records to comb through and attempt to copy and paste a crime together. Just one problem, they had no justification to see them. As demonstrated by the three July 2017 warrants covered in the last article, the Mueller SCO was focused on targeting Gen. Flynn for FARA violations. That all related to work Gen. Flynn did in private practice as part of the Flynn Intel Group (FIG) before accepting President-Elect Trump’s offer to be NSA. This would also not give the Mueller team a pretext to look at the records of any other PTT members since they obviously would not have been involved in any work FIG did.
Problem solved: Reenter the Logan Act. The call between Gen. Flynn and Russian Ambassador Kislyak took place in late December 2016—well into the transition period when Gen. Flynn had been working to help fill all the roles needed for Trump’s national security team. By resurrecting the Logan Act investigation—that the FBI had originally concocted to steamroll President Trump into firing Gen. Flynn as his NSA—it would give them a basis to look at his records. It would also give them cause to look at all of the other PTT member’s records under the theory of investigating what they knew about the call—beforehand and after. The FBI and Mueller team would be able to look at everything. It’s really unbelievable.
The Praetorian Guard
In our previous article, we described how the Presidential Transition Team is a function of the GSA. Members of the team work in office space, use U.S. government-provided equipment and even collect a government paycheck—all provided by GSA. Details of this arrangement are communicated and agreed upon between GSA and the various campaigns well ahead of election day through a Memorandum of Understanding. The Trump campaign signed their memo with GSA in Summer 2016. The MOU explicitly stated all data on devices used by the PTT—including cloud-based storage of electronic data—would be deleted soon after the GSA equipment was returned by the agreed deadline. (Note: the original deadline of February 19, 2017 was later changed to March 31, 2017 in a subsequently signed amendment.)
The MOU also referenced where campaigns could find the policies governing federal agencies on a website maintained by the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. The guidance was crystal clear—presidential transition records “are not Federal or Presidential records, but are considered private materials.”
As spelled out in the Grassley-Johnson Report, this wasn’t news to anyone at GSA. Presidential transition records are private property and not subject to the Federal Records Act or Presidential Records Act. Therefore—as a matter of practice—the records are destroyed soon after presidential elections or inaugurations to prevent the potential for damaging leaks about internal deliberations related to appointments, policy decisions, etc.
It appears the Karens at GSA—worked up into a Stage 4 TDS hysteria from following the Washington Post or Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Gen. Flynn’s resignation—decided to exercise the unwritten Orange Man Bad exception clause in Trump’s MOU. Without batting an eyelash, they proactively reached out to the FBI to see if there was anything they should do. Like the Praetorian Guard of the Roman Empire, the unelected, career bureaucrats at GSA were determined to do their part to save The Republic from the new, duly elected U.S. President (i.e., their boss).
Now, if the initiation of this was not already absurd enough—and just to illustrate how deep the roots of The Swamp go—when GSA first reached out to the FBI, they did so through their own Office of Inspector General. GSA OIG’s entire purpose is to act as an independent watchdog of the agency and in compliance with its own policy, procedures, and regulations.
The appropriate response from GSA OIG Counsel Ed Martin should have been, “Are you insane?!?” Think that happened here? Nope. Martin immediately contacted the FBI and quickly responded back to GSA Associate General Counsel Seth Greenfeld that GSA OIG’s recommendation is, “you preserve all transition teams records,” based on Martin’s conversation with the FBI. So it wasn’t good enough just to help the FBI attempt to lock up Trump’s now-departed NSA and a highly decorated American war hero with a sterling 33-year career in the U.S. Army. They needed to assist in taking down the whole kit and caboodle.
Greenfeld’s response to the recommendation should have been, “Are you insane?!?” But again, nope. He just dutifully complied by directing all GSA’s Support Teams to halt wiping the Trump PTT devices and “preserve all information at the request of DOJ (through our OIG).”
Greenfeld would then send an email the very same day to GSA Deputy General Counsel Lenny Loewentritt where he acknowledges they have no basis—legal or otherwise—to take the actions stating:
“This deviates from what we told the PTT would be GSA’s practice. We told the [transition team] that we do not store information after the Transition and we sanitize machines when they are returned to us … but do we need something more formal from DOJ or the OIG or is Mr. Martin’s email enough?”~Excerpt from the October 2020 Grassley-Johnson Senate Report
The statements do not appear to be out of concern for the rampant abuse of power GSA was entering into, but rather to simply cover themselves if and when their corruption ever came to light.
“I want to make sure any evidence is available, but I also want to make sure GSA is not open to some type of complaint. I do not care about “bad press” but want to make sure we are not violating anything more serious.”~Excerpt from the October 2020 Grassley-Johnson Senate Report
Nowhere in the Grassley-Johnson Report does it mention who GSA OIG spoke to at the FBI or DOJ on February 15 and made the preservation request. The Senate Committees were also unable to determine who at GSA first suggested reaching out to the FBI or DOJ. Nevertheless, GSA began preserving all the remaining Trump PTT records based simply on an email from GSA OIG referencing a phone conversation (presumably).
GSA would not receive “something more formal” from the FBI for almost a month when on March 9, FBI General Counsel—and Michael Sussmann bestie—James Baker sent an email to Loewentritt at GSA requesting preservation of all of Gen. Flynn’s records. Baker did not specifically request GSA preserve the rest of the Trump PTT records. He instead requested GSA consult with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). Baker did not state how he would be aware of the committee’s interest in the records or why he would be making a request on their behalf.
James Baker would later be fired in disgrace as FBI General Counsel for his role in Spygate. He would be replaced by Dana Boente, who would also be fired for his roles throughout Spygate and the Flynn investigation—as we detailed in our previous article. Baker would go on to help run Twitter’s legal department as their Deputy General Counsel if things were not already Orwellian enough for you.
This is the only reference to HPSCI in the entire report. At the time, Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) was the Chairman of the House Intel Committee and was working to unearth the Deep State coup currently underway against President Trump, as detailed in Lee Smith’s The Plot Against The President. Nunes himself had served on the executive team of Trump’s 2016 Transition. So it is doubtful the FBI and DOJ plotters would have coordinated too much with HPSCI in their efforts. Although Nunes has stated several times in interviews that he was seeing documents “early in 2017” from the FBI showing Gen. Flynn was innocent. And he raised concerns to the DOJ at the time as he stated in this December 3, 2020 interview on Lou Dobbs Tonight—coincidentally appearing immediately following Gen. Flynn’s first interview on TV after receiving a full Pardon of Innocence from President Trump.
The House Intel Committee—or at least the Republican side—was likely kept out of the loop for the most part, but the Senate Intel Committee was neck-deep in it. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) was Chairman of SSCI at the time and his Vice-Chairman was Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). Unlike HPSCI, SSCI is a bipartisan committee with equal representation between Senate Republicans and Democrats … as if it matters.
GSA would eventually receive a formal preservation request from SSCI on June 12—over three months after Baker’s email. It was followed up by a formal preservation request from the FBI on behalf of the then-appointed Mueller SCO. The GSA continued to preserve all Trump PTT records the entire time despite the three-month gap or any authority to do so.
“Don’t Brief the Trump Team”
Needless to say, the Trump White House and TFA were kept in the dark throughout this fiasco. GSA kept their own actions and coordination with the FBI and DOJ hidden and deliberately misled Trump officials about the status of the PTT records. After Trump’s representatives finally became aware their records were being preserved, GSA unbelievably denied the Trump team access to the records for an extended period of time—which we need to reiterate—were TFA’s own records and private property.
On the very first day GSA contacted the FBI and the internal directive went out to begin preserving PTT records (February 15), Aimee Whiteman—the GSA Director of the Presidential Transition Support Team—asked if the White House should be informed about the actions. Greenfeld responded, “At this time, I recommend against briefing anyone at the White House.” He would follow up the next day by stating the highest level of GSA—including Acting GSA Administrator Tim Horne—had been informed and agreed with the position. And GSA OIG had been informed as well.
The report would cite three examples where TFA counsel asked about the status of their records and GSA was less than forthcoming or outright misleading in response.
On April 11, TFA counsel Kory Langhofer first contacted GSA about possibly preserving certain records—presumably because the Trump administration was beginning to get some inquiries from congressional committees, the FBI, or DOJ. Keep in mind that the MOU between TFA and GSA had been amended earlier that year to extend the deadline for PTT staff to turn in all GSA-provided devices to March 31, 2017. This was less than two weeks after the deadline. PTT staff presumably had been turning in equipment for a month and a half after GSA had began preserving all Trump PTT records on February 15. Likely the majority of the equipment returned to GSA came in closer to the deadline. So TFA would probably expect a considerable amount of their data had not yet been wiped from the equipment.
GSA IT official Anne Marie Davis simply stated they would not delete any data for about a week based on TFA’s April 11 request. This was, of course, deceptive because GSA had not been wiping any data since February 15 and had no plans to do so. This would have given TFA no reason to believe GSA was doing anything other than deleting the PTT information in accordance with the terms of the MOU, and Davis made no mention of the FBI’s informal preservation request.
Langhofer would reach out on April 17 and again on April 26 when he—on behalf of TFA—requested all remaining PPT be preserved due to a pending civil lawsuit by SSCI. Both times GSA officials gave deceptive statements that led TFA to believe nothing out of the ordinary was occurring. There was nothing to indicate GSA had halted wiping the PPT information for any reason other than TFA’s own requests. And there was no mention of the FBI request, as confirmed in an internal GSA email by General Counsel Seth Greenfeld the same day he responded to the TFA preservation request. As far as TFA and the Trump White House were concerned, everything was just peachy.
TFA would eventually reach out on May 18 requesting a copy of all PTT data in order to begin reviewing in anticipation of the SSCI inquiries. All that was required of GSA was to provide copies of copies of the data they had already made—that again was the private property of TFA. Despite this simple and obvious request—that was well within TFA rights—GSA would spend the next five weeks deceiving, giving the runaround, or simply ignoring the Trump team. All while deliberating internally and consulting with the FBI and DOJ about how to proceed until finally turning over the data on June 22.
TFA’s attorney Kory Langhofer would send follow-up requests on May 19, twice on May 20, and again on June 5, asking why GSA still had failed to provide a copy of the data. GSA responded by finally admitting they were withholding the data due to a preservation “obligation” from the FBI and DOJ.
This, too, was misleading because internal GSA emails from just a few days before disclose that Chief General Counsel for FBI Counterintelligence Sally Moyer had told GSA the FBI had no objections to providing TFA with copies of their own records, all the way back on May 27. So it is unclear why it would take almost three more weeks before GSA would honor the request from the Trump team.
The reason may be Brandon Van Grack—a name that should be familiar to anyone that has followed the Flynn case—and the Mueller SCO appears to have gotten directly involved with the handling of the GSA records around the same time.
Van Grack would later be accused of intentionally misleading TFA’s attorneys when the Mueller SCO’s unauthorized intrusion into the PTT records was finally uncovered in mid-December 2017.
Only after Langhofer followed up on June 20 once again did GSA push Van Grack for an update on the FBI and DOJ’s current position. Van Grack responded the following day that the DOJ could not instruct GSA one way or the other. The day after, GSA finally received the “official preservation letter” from the FBI and released the records to Trump’s attorneys.
The Logan Act Strikes Back
This, unfortunately, was not the end of the malfeasance in this case. The Mueller team still did not have the records in their possession. As GSA communicated on at least four separate occasions—to both the FBI, Mueller SCO, and as well internally—a subpoena or a warrant would be required for GSA to hand the PTT records over. And anything in the records would be inadmissible as evidence in a criminal trial without one.
The Mueller team faced another dilemma. As FIG client Ekim Alptekin explains—in this segment of his April 2021 interview with Tracy Beanz—Gen. Flynn had made sure all his private business commitments were concluded by Election Day 2016 to avoid any possible conflicts of interest in anticipation of a Trump victory and possible appointment in his administration. So the three prior July 2017 warrants or any additional warrants related to the FIG FARA investigation would be useless in accessing Gen. Flynn’s transition records or any other member of the PTT.
The Mueller prosecutors had yet another problem as well. GSA had noted several times the Trump White House would need to be involved in any process of turning over PTT to the DOJ for two reasons:
1) As stated by GSA officials, since the records are the private property of the Trump team: “They definitely have an interest in this and try to articulate a separation of powers/executive privilege on something.” Ya think?!?
2) GSA was simply “warehousing” the PPT records and “has never looked at the content of the material.” They would be incapable of combing through and determining what records would be subject to a search warrant or subpoena and would need to be excluded.
The Mueller team probably knew if the Trump White House were to become involved, they would likely be able to block DOJ from access to any of the records on the basis of privilege. They were also likely to uncover the scheme to preserve the records dating back to February 15 and be able to exclude the records on the grounds of the misconduct of the FBI, DOJ, and GSA. It would also be a public relations nightmare for the FBI and Mueller SCO by exposing the corrupt means they had been using to target President Trump and anyone associated with his administration.
Fortunately, the Mueller team was able to come up with a nifty little workaround that would allow the GSA to play Pontius Pilate. In late August, GSA would simply ignore the need for any legal process or duty to notify the White House by giving “custodian possession” of the PTT records to the FBI—effectively, in their minds transferring GSA’s responsibility to warehouse the files and devices over to the FBI. The FBI would then “seek legal process” to gain access to the records now in their possession.
See how that works? GSA wasn’t really just handing over all the PTT records to the FBI without a warrant, informing the White House, or any legal basis for doing so. No, no, no. The good folks at the FBI would just store the records and pinky-swear not to look at anything until they went through a proper legal process, and would also handle coordinating with the Trump White House and TFA. The GSA could then just wash their hands of the whole affair, knowing they had done no wrong, and anything that happened with the PTT records afterward was all on the FBI.
It’s a lot of nonsense and a perfect example of rationalization. So that answers the question about why the FBI needed warrants to look at devices and electronic files already in their possession. But obtaining those warrants should not have been a slam dunk.
The Mueller SCO received an updated Scope Memo on August 2 from then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorizing them to investigate Gen. Flynn on Logan Act allegations. There has been speculation by The Last Refuge and others that Mueller requested the August 2017 Scope Memo as he did with another updated Scope Memo in October 2017—that would include Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Bijan Rafikian, Ekim Alptekin, and several redacted names, one of which is believed to be Michael Flynn Jr.
Perhaps the reason the Mueller SCO requested the August 2017 Scope Memo, in part, was to justify resurrecting the investigation into the Flynn-Kislyak call and bolster their case to obtain the warrants needed to access the PTT records currently in the hands of the GSA. The Mueller SCO just needed to convince a federal judge to sign the warrants. Fortunately, they found two Obama appointees in the DC District who were more than happy to oblige.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg signed the first of the two warrants for the PPT records “currently located at the FBI Washington [D.C.] Field Office” on August 24, and Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell signed the second on September 27. It is impossible to know just from reading the text of the warrants applications how much questioning or pushback either of the judges made before signing off on the warrants. But a plain reading of the application should have been very problematic for any judge reviewing them.
First, any reasonable judge would want to know how the FBI was already in possession of the records and devices without a prior subpoena or warrant. That should have been an immediate red flag. They did not just find them laying abandoned in the back of a taxi cab. Never mind the fact the records were loaded with confidential, attorney-client privileged material. Any judge that has risen to the level of federal judge in the DC District—and especially the district’s chief judge—should be well-versed in the rules governing presidential transition records. Legal battles involving presidential records of any kind often take years of litigation before being turned over to congressional investigations or special counsels. So a federal judge being presented with a warrant to give a special counsel unfettered access to presidential transition records without any input from the White House Counsel or President transition organization that owns them would be problematic, to say the least.
Second, Boasberg and Howell would be familiar with the legally and constitutionally dubious nature of The Logan Act. And that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring forth a case using the statute. They would also be very aware of the process of presidential transitions, and there would be nothing unusual about an incoming NSA having a phone call with a Russian ambassador less than a month before Inauguration Day.
As we detailed in our previous article:
“The Presidential Transition Team is a function of the General Services Administration (GSA). Members of the team work in office space, use U.S. government-provided equipment and collect a government paycheck, all provided by GSA. They are anything but private individuals or persons “not authorized” to have correspondence with foreign governments to discuss the policies of the incoming administration.”~Excerpt from “The DOJ Used The Logan Act to Obtain Warrants Against General Flynn”
The email addresses named as targets in the warrants use the domain “@ptt.gov” (at Presidential Transition Team dot Government). The warrants, in painstaking detail, document the phones and laptops were issued to the members of the team “FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY” of the GSA and U.S. Federal Government, so no supposed violation of “The Logan Act” could have possibly occurred. The warrants should have been denied immediately simply on their face.
For those reasons alone, both Judges Howell and Boasberg should be immediately impeached and removed from the federal bench for ever signing off and authorizing this nonsense. They know better and are not worthy of the robes they wear.
The most shocking detail of all might be buried at the end of the Grassley-Johnson Report—although the congressional committees might not have been able to make the connection at the time. The FBI official that made the formal requests and received the PTT records from GSA was none other than Assistant General Counsel Kevin Clinesmith.
Clinesmith made two requests on August 23rd and 30th for thirteen Trump PTT officials in all:
– Stephen Bannon
– Marshall Billingslea
– Sarah Flaherty
– Michael G. Flynn Jr.
– Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret.)
– Daniel Gelbinovich
– Keith Kellogg
– Jared Kushner
– K.T. McFarland
– Jason Miller
– Michael Pompeo
– Reince Priebus
– Sean Spicer
Most—but not all—of the individuals requested wound wind up being named targets in the two warrants signed by Judges Boasberg and Howell. That might indicate there were other warrant(s) signed for individuals like; the Trump administration CIA Director and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The committees appear to have requested the DOJ provide copies of any warrants related to the PTT records turned over by GSA, but the warrants were not provided or publicly disclosed until after the report was issued. As noted in the report—the committees were only aware of a single warrant directed at Google for the records of Gen. Flynn, McFarland, Flynn Jr., and Gelbinovich (a redacted copy is included as an exhibit in the report).
This may explain the timing of the release of the five warrants related to Gen. Flynn as part of the media coalition FOIA lawsuit. The government finally publicly disclosed the warrants a little over two weeks after the Senate report was issued and a week after the 2020 presidential election despite the FOIA lawsuit being filed over a year earlier in October 2019.
As the Grassley-Johnson Report seems to indicate—Kevin Clinesmith was deeply involved in preparing the two “Logan Act” warrants, the first of which was signed by Judge James Boasberg in late August 2017. Boasberg would later be the judge who presided over Clinesmith’s trial for falsifying evidence on the FISA warrant applications on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page and then lying about it. Boasberg—to the outrage of many—sentenced Clinesmith only to probation with zero jail time and a $100 fine following his guilty plea. Boasberg presiding over Clinesmith’s trial was already problematic enough since Boasberg sat on the same Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court or “FISC”) Clinesmith was accused of misleading.
Now we have evidence that Clinesmith, at best, helped prepare a warrant—based on a dubious legal theory and loaded with falsehoods—Boasberg himself signed. At worst, both may have been complicit in a criminal conspiracy to use The Logan Act to set up and frame Gen. Flynn and others in an effort to spy on and take down President Trump.
We truly do live in a clown world.🤡
The Washington Pundit | Speak Truth To Power