In the wake of the Comey letter announcing the existence of the Abedin emails that appeared “to be pertinent to the investigation” of Clinton’s emails, but subsequently were proven not to be, and which turned out to be the critical factor in Trump’s election, I wrote the FBI, particularly its New York office in coordination with the Trump campaign, had pulled off an American coup
Loretta Lynch has testified that “[Comey] said, and he said to me that it had become clear to him, he didn’t say over the course of what investigation or whatever, he said it’s clear to me that there is a cadre of senior people in New York who have a deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton. And he said it is, it is deep. It’s, and he said, he said it was surprising to him or stunning to him”. Comey has all but admitted that he wrote that fateful letter because he was concerned that the information about it would leak from the NY office anyway. In his House testimony earlier this month, Comey said, “I was concerned that there appeared to be in the media a number of stories that might have been based on communications reporters and nonreporters like Rudy Giuliani were having with people in the New York field office. In particular, in I want to say mid-October, maybe a little later, Mr. Giuliani was making statements that appeared to be based on his knowledge of workings inside the FBI New York. And then my recollection is there were other stories that were in the same ballpark that gave me a general concern that we may have a leak problem — unauthorized disclosure problem coming out of New York”.
In addition, Devin Nunes was apparently in on this coup from the beginning which might explain his subsequent actions as the prime defender of Trump in the Russia investigation. Nunes admitted that “good FBI agents”, presumably working in the NY office, notified him about the existence of the Abedin emails in late September, 2016, a clear violation of DOJ rules.
An investigation of the leaks coming out of the New York field office began in late October or early November 2016 and is apparently still ongoing today. Considering all the investigations into the FBI by the Republican-controlled Congress and the DOJ Inspector General, it is remarkable that there has apparently been no news on the what exactly the NY office was up to. The Inspector General’s investigation finished in April but no details have been released. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has requested the documents relating to the investigation, which they are entitled to receive, but the administration has curiously provided nothing.
Yesterday, officials at another federal agency were also implicated in deliberate actions intended to aid the Russians and potentially harm the Clinton campaign. Buzzfeed reports that officials inside the Treasury Department were using unofficial lines of communication in order to pass sensitive financial information to the Russians. That information included information about Americans as well as enemies of Russia around the world. Russian requests for such information came through a system designed to cooperate with the Russians on combating financing for terrorism, particularly focused on the Middle East and ISIS, but was increasing abused by the Russians to go on fishing expeditions.
Officials at the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (OTFFC) communicated with their Russian counterparts in this effort by email, contacting the Russians at Hotmail and Gmail accounts rather than the official secure Russian accounts that had been designated. This put much of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) at risk to Russian viruses that could troll those systems for sensitive financial information. Treasury has not responded as to what, if any, financial information was sent to these unsecured Russian email accounts but it appears that some information was clearly passed as that was the Russians preferred method of communication.
Other FinCEN officials reported the use of this insecure method to communicate with the Russians in July and August of 2016. Those reports not only were apparently not followed up with any investigation but senior officials at the OTFFC continued to communicate with Russian Hotmail and Gmail accounts despite being instructed to cease by security officials. Remarkably, the Russians requested financial information on the Ziff Brothers just a week before the infamous Trump Tower meeting where they offered dirt on Hillary Clinton, including evidence of illegal campaign contributions from those very same Ziff brothers.
It is bad enough that agency officials were communicating with the Russians outside of the official channels. What is far more disturbing is it appears that Treasury officials were sending sensitive financial information about American citizens to the Russians for no good reason other than the Russians were asking for it.
The implications for this goes far beyond whether Americans government officials were abetting the Russians to undermine the Clinton campaign. Depending on what information was actually passed back to the Russians, Trump, his team, and perhaps some of his most important supporters, either early ones during the campaign or newly minted ones post election, may have been exposed to blackmail. Combine that with the knowledge that the Russians have also hacked the Republicans and have released none of that information, the extant of Russian leverage over top US officials may be more extensive than anyone could imagine.
Please read the whole Buzzfeed article about just how deeply the Russians seem to have infiltrated the Treasury Department, especially the areas focused on financial crimes, and the incredible dysfunction within those departments.
While there is so far no definitive proof of it, it appears we have senior Treasury department officials violating standard communication protocols to pass financial information on Americans that the Russians were clearly not entitled to during the 2016 campaign. It also appears that the Russians may have then turned around and offered to give that information to the Trump campaign so that it could use it not only against Clinton but also to influence both Clinton and Trump supporters. Yet, remarkably, the only Treasury official who has been prosecuted is a whistleblower who leaked the suspicious activity reports (SARs) concerning Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and Marina Butina to the media. One could conclude, then, that exposing contacts with the Russians is more likely to get you prosecuted by this administration than leaking potentially damaging information to them. It also potentially adds another layer to the number of US government officials who were actively working to subvert the Clinton campaign and attack our democracy during the 2016 election.
Originally published at thesoundings.com on December 22, 2018.