“PRE-EXISTING RELATIONSHIPS” REPORTEDLY ENABLED DOSSIER DISSEMINATION THROUGH AGENCY. DID THE SAME OCCUR WITH THE OBAMA BIRTH CERTIFICATE?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 12, 2019) — In the first transcript of former FBI General Counsel James Baker released by Rep. Doug Collins earlier this week, Baker admitted that the manner in which information was provided to the FBI suggesting improprieties in the Trump campaign was irregular.
Baker, who had extensive service in both the Justice Department and FBI before departing the Bureau in May of last year, said he personally accepted documentation from Mother Jones writer David Corn, who he considered a “longtime friend” (p. 35) and with whom he said he customarily spoke “every few months or so” (p. 36).
Corn is a co-author with Yahoo! News reporter Michael Isikoff, formerly of NBC News, of the book, “Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump,” whose cover arguably suggests coordination between Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Trump White House.
Prior to the election, the FBI opened a counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign on the alleged suspicion that an aide or aides was illicitly coordinating with Russian operatives to win over Democrat Hillary Clinton. However, according to former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, now its ranking member, there was “no intelligence” behind the electronic communication (EC) signed by then-Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok to launch the investigation.
In October 2016, the DOJ and FBI obtained what would be the first of four surveillance warrants on Trump adviser Carter Page, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, entrepreneur and occasional FBI intelligence source.
On September 23, 2016, Isikoff published an article eventually sourced to Russia “dossier” author Christopher Steele claiming that “The activities of Trump adviser Carter Page, who has extensive business interests in Russia, have been discussed with senior members of Congress during recent briefings about suspected efforts by Moscow to influence the presidential election.”
The dossier was reportedly used as the foundational source of evidence submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which makes decisions as to whether or not to grant surveillance warrants through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Baker is a self-identified “expert” on FISA applications (p. 64) based on his experience in the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review from between 1996 and 2007 and total reported preparation of “over 10,000” FISA warrant applications (p. 63).
Early in the closed-door interview, conducted last October, Baker said his position as general counsel required him to supervise approximately 300 individuals, of whom 200 were attorneys; to reorganize areas under his purview if warranted; and to provide “legal advice” “to the entire FBI…in coordination with the chief division counsel who are FBI lawyers deployed in the various field offices around the country” (p. 7).
On page 67, Baker described a FISA warrant as “an investigative tool” which is “potentially highly intrusive” and “overseen closely by various elements of the government to make sure that it is being done for the right purposes.”
On page 95, Baker told congressional investigators that although as general counsel, he normally did not review FISA applications, he requested an opportunity to review the FISA application on Page, who was said in the dossier to have “been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government.”
Page was the subject of FISA scrutiny for a year, denied any wrongdoing and was never charged with a crime. In 2017 he unsuccessfully sued Yahoo! News’s parent company, Oath, Inc. for defamation and has appealed a dismissal of a case against the DNC.
On page 50, Baker described a meeting he had at the request of Atty. Michael Sussman of Perkins Coie after Sussman claimed to have important “information” concerning “cyber” issues and the Trump campaign. Baker said he considered Sussman’s information as “evidence” and passed it on to Bill Priestap, then Assistant Director of Counterintelligence.
Sussman is affiliated with the DNC and the 2016 Clinton campaign, according to Fox News on October 4.
In his private testimony last summer, Priestap claimed to have been removed from the daily workings of the Hillary Clinton private-server investigation and the Trump “collusion” probe which followed.
Both Priestap and Baker said they never witnessed an FBI probe conducted out of political motivation.
On page 51, Baker admitted that the Trump-Russia “collusion” investigation, of which he said he was aware in 2016, was the “only one” he could recall where “an outside counsel had information and was wanting to make sure it got to the general counsel of the FBI,” in Jordan’s words and referring to Sussman.
Baker described his acquaintance with Sussman as dating back to when they “worked in the criminal division together at the Department of Justice.”
In January, House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-OH4) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC11), both of whom questioned Baker, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney John Durham that Baker was under scrutiny for a media-leak investigation, a fact divulged by Baker’s attorney during the October interview. When Meadows and Jordan asked Baker about his contacts with members of the press, his attorney disallowed him from responding because of the leak investigation.
According to Baker, Sussman shared the information with The New York Times as well as Baker.
On page 113, Meadows asked Baker “why it was so important” to Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe that the New York Times hold off on publishing” Sussman’s information, to which Baker responded, “Well, it was more important to Priestap.”
In response, Meadows contended, “…with all due respect he was not the decision maker on a whole lot of this information just to be blunt. I mean, there were other people calling the shots…”
At several points in the interview, Baker stressed that he and his DOJ colleagues took seriously their “oath to the Constitution” to “take care that the laws are faithfully executed” as a responsibility as part of the Executive branch of government outlined in Article II, Section 2.
As has now been released publicly, DOJ official Bruce Ohr was also receiving information believed to have come from the “dossier,” compiled by British citizen Christopher Steele and former FBI source, after which Ohr communicated it to FBI agent Joe Pientka. Meadows referred to that process as a “back channel” given that the FBI terminated Steele as a confidential human source for leaking to the media.
When on page 104 Meadows questioned Baker as to the “protocol” of Ohr’s activity, which was not part of Ohr’s official duties, Baker responded, “It was my understanding that some–Bruce had some type of pre-existing relationship with the source. That is what I understood at the time.”
After resigning from the FBI in early May 2018, Baker joined the Brookings Institution and the Lawfare Institute. He was interviewed by The Cyberlaw Podcast, an offshoot of the Lawfare Blog, in 2015. On page 67 of the transcript, Baker is noted to have become a professor at Harvard Law School teaching “national security law” and to have opened a consulting business.
In 2011, Perkins Coie was deeply involved in the alleged obtaining and public unveiling of the alleged “long-form” birth certificate image of then-White House occupant Barack Hussein Obama later found to be a “computer-generated forgery” by a five-year investigation carried out by a volunteer arm of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). On April 27, 2011, then-White House Counsel Robert Bauer briefed members of the press in an off-the-record session in which copies of the image were reportedly disseminated to those present without the release of an original, paper birth record.
The private press conference was followed by Obama himself claiming that the image represented “additional information about the site of my birth.”
Donald Trump had been the most vocal critic of the Obama White House for failing to release his detailed birth record to prove that he was constitutionally-eligible to serve as a “natural born Citizen,” doubts over which were raised by the media when various outlets reported, over a number of years, that he was born in Indonesia or Kenya and not Hawaii, as Obama claims.
Most such reports were later altered to say Obama was “born in Hawaii.”
Bauer, who returned to Perkins Coie six weeks after the April 27, 2011 release but since departed the firm he co-founded, rejuvenated the discussion over the long-form birth certificate in a March 4, 2019 editorial at The Atlantic by deriding Trump as a “birther.”
Perkins has long officially represented the DNC, and the firm was the conduit by which the DNC and Clinton campaign paid opposition-research company Fusion GPS to obtain the “dossier.” Early in Trump’s presidency, Comey told Trump that the dossier contained “salacious and unverified” claims and that Trump was not under investigation.
The mainstream media has used the same ridiculing technique to discourage anyone from expressing doubt Obama’s birth in Hawaii, or more broadly, his constitutional eligibility, even while reporting inaccurately on the reason for then-Perkins Coie and Obama personal attorney Judith Corley to journey to Honolulu to obtain two certified copies of the alleged original birth record when they could have been obtained at much lower expense and fanfare.
Despite the investigation which released updates over its 5+-year life, the media never bothered to conduct its own probe of the birth certificate image, which multiple experts said within hours of its release is fraught with technical anomalies.
According to birth certificate lead investigator Mike Zullo, two U.S. intelligence agents confirmed to him that it is “an open secret” that Obama was not born in the United States, a requirement believed by most Americans as essential to the “natural born Citizen” requirement of the Constitution’s Article II, Section 1, clause 5.