NEW YORK — Disgraced former FBI Director James Comey has been making the media rounds peddling a list of “questions” that he compiled and published on the Lawfare blog in a posting titled, “What I Would Ask Robert Mueller.”
Comey’s “questions” are deceptively framed in a manner clearly aimed at attempting to perpetuate the Russia collusion conspiracy even though Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s extensive report found no evidence of any collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Below are the obvious answers to Comey’s “questions” on Russia, with the answers coming from Mueller’s report itself in addition to other documentation.
1 – Did you find that there were a series of contacts between the Trump campaign and individuals with ties to the Russian government?
Perhaps Comey failed to read Mueller’s actual report, which concluded (emphasis added):
The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.
In particular, the investigation examined whether these contacts involved or resulted in coordination or a conspiracy with the Trump Campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia providing assistance to the Campaign in exchange for any sort of favorable treatment in the future. Based on the available information, the investigation did not establish such coordination.
Comey should also refer to the following section of the Mueller report, which related that Russia didn’t even know how to contact the incoming Trump administration after the billionaire mogul won the 2016 election:
As soon as news broke that Trump had been elected President, Russian government officials and prominent Russian businessmen began trying to make inroads into the new Administration. They appeared not to have preexisting contacts and struggled to connect with senior officials around the President-Elect. As explained below, those efforts entailed both official contact through the Russian Embassy in the United States and outreaches — sanctioned at high levels of the Russian government — through business rather than political contacts.
The Mueller report details the hilarity of Russian President Vladimir Putin having trouble reaching Trump’s team to offer simple congratulations:
At approximately 3 a.m. on election night, Trump Campaign press secretary Hope Hicks received a telephone call on her personal cell phone from a person who sounded foreign but was calling from a number with a DC area code. Although Hicks had a hard time understanding the person, she could make out the words “Putin call.” Hicks told the caller to send her an email.
The following morning, on November 9, 2016, Sergey Kuznetsov, an official at the Russian Embassy to the United States, emailed Hicks from his Gmail address with the subject line, “Message from Putin.” Attached to the email was a message from Putin, in both English and Russian, which Kuznetsov asked Hicks to convey to the President-Elect. In the message, Putin offered his congratulations to Trump for his electoral victory, stating he “look[ ed] forward to working with [Trump] on leading Russian-American relations out of crisis.”
Hicks forwarded the email to [Jared] Kushner, asking, “Can you look into this? Don’t want to get duped but don’t want to blow off Putin!” Kushner stated in Congressional testimony that he believed that it would be possible to verify the authenticity of the forwarded email through the Russian Ambassador, whom Kushner had previously met in April 2016. Unable to recall the Russian Ambassador’s name, Kushner emailed Dimitri Simes of CNI, whom he had consulted previously about Russia, see Volume I, Section IV.A.4, supra, and asked, “What is the name of Russian ambassador?” Kushner forwarded Simes’s response — which identified Kislyak by name — to Hicks. After checking with Kushner to see what he had learned, Hicks conveyed Putin’s letter to transition officials. Five days later, on November 14, 2016, Trump and Putin spoke by phone in the presence of Transition Team members, including incoming National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
Comey’s team further cited Petr Aven, a Russian national in charge of Alfa-Bank, Russia’s largest commercial bank. Mueller’s report states: “Aven also testified that Putin spoke of the difficulty faced by the Russian government in getting in touch with the incoming Trump Administration. According to Aven, Putin indicated that he did not know with whom formally to speak and generally did not know the people around the President-Elect.”
If Comey really wants to get into the weeds, he may do well to review the particulars of each instance of contact between members or surrogates of the campaign and individuals affiliated with Russia as thoroughly documented in Mueller’s report. In each case and with no exception, Mueller found no evidence of wrongdoing.
2 – In particular, did you find that a Trump foreign policy adviser learned that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails?
This will be answered together with Comey’s next “question.”
3 – Did you find that the Trump foreign policy adviser said the Trump campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton?
Once again, Comey is trying to stir things up based on questions that were already answered inside Mueller’s report.
A reminder: as referenced above, Mueller concluded, “The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.”
Anyway, Comey here is referring to one episode involving George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy panel adviser tangentially involved with Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
The Justice Department’s filing against Papadopoulos documents that he was allegedly told by Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese academic plagued by allegations of suspicious associations, that on a trip to Moscow “he (the Professor) learned that the Russians had obtained ‘dirt’ on then-candidate Clinton.”
Former Australian diplomat Alexander Downer later transmitted to the U.S. that he was told about the alleged Russian “dirt” on Clinton by Papadopoulos, reportedly leading to the start of the FBI’s controversial probe of Trump’s campaign under Comey’s leadership at the agency.
No evidence has been presented that Papadopoulos spoke about emails at his meeting with Downer or that Misfurd mentioned emails. But Papadopoulos later described to the FBI that “They [the Russians] have dirt on her”; “the Russians had emails of Clinton”; “they have thousands of emails.”
The Justice Department concluded, “No documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the Campaign.”
Misfurd himself denies mentioning emails during his meeting with Papadopoulos, as per his testimony to the Justice Department: “But Mifsud denied that he had advance knowledge that Russia was in possession of emails damaging to candidate Clinton, stating that he and Papadopoulos had discussed cybersecurity and hacking as a larger issue and that Papadopoulos must have misunderstood their conversation.”
In his report, Mueller does not at any point claim that Misfurd’s denial was false.
As National Review summarized, Papadopoulos later explained that any reference to emails was to Hillary Clinton’s private email server, a subject of international news reportage at the time of his meeting with Downer.
The magazine reports:
Papadopoulos says the emails he claims Mifsud referred to were not the DNC emails; they were Clinton’s own emails. That is, when Papadopoulos claims that Mifsud told him that Russia had “dirt” in the form of “thousands” of “emails of Clinton,” he understood Mifsud to be alluding to the thousands of State Department and Clinton Foundation emails that Clinton had stored on a private server. These, of course, were the emails that were being intensively covered in the media (including speculation that they might have been hacked by hostile foreign intelligence services) at the time Mifsud and Papadopoulos spoke — i.e., April 2016, when neither Mifsud nor Papadopoulos had any basis to know anything about hacked DNC emails.
The Justice Department, meanwhile, documented:
When interviewed, Papadopoulos and the Campaign officials who interacted with him told the Office that they could not recall Papadopoulos sharing the information that Russia had obtained “dirt” on candidate Clinton in the form of emails or that Russia could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information about Clinton.
Papadopoulos stated that he could not clearly recall having told anyone on the Campaign and wavered about whether he accurately remembered an incident in which Clovis had been upset after hearing Papadopoulos tell Clovis that Papadopoulos thought “they have her emails.”
The Campaign officials who interacted or corresponded with Papadopoulos have similarly stated, with varying degrees of certainty, that he did not tell them. Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, for example, did not remember hearing anything from Papadopoulos or Clovis about Russia having emails of or dirt on candidate Clinton. Clovis stated that he did not recall anyone, including Papadopoulos, having given him non-public information that a foreign Government might be in possession of material damaging to Hillary Clinton.
4 – Did you find that senior members of the Trump campaign met with Russian representatives at Trump Tower after being told in an email that the meeting was part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump?
Here, Comey seems to ignore Mueller’s finding of no evidence of any coordination between Russia and Trump’s campaign. His question seems to suggest wrongdoing on the part of Trump’s team.
Comey should refer to multiple Breitbart News investigations by this reporter into the infamous brief meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016 between individuals tied to Russia, Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign officials. Those probes point to the increasing likelihood of the confab being set up as a dirty trick against Trump’s presidential campaign.
Three Russian participants at the meeting have ties to the controversial Fusion GPS outfit, and two have confirmed ties to Clinton.
Also, email logs brought to light show numerous emails were exchanged between a Clinton associate, Fusion GPS and Trump Tower participants, with the subjects of some of those emails listing the Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian officials and was by all accounts the very topic of the Trump Tower meeting.
One Russian participant in the Trump Tower presentation admits to personally knowing Hillary Clinton since the late 1990s and says he “knew” some of the people who worked on Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Another Russian attendee, a translator, testified that he was previously an interpreter for Hillary herself as well as for John Kerry and Barack Obama.
Questions are also raised by a timeline showing numerous personal meetings between Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and Trump Tower participants. A Clinton associate, Ed Lieberman, was listed as being present at one and possibly two of those meetings.
Separately, Lieberman met with one Russian participant the same day as the Trump Tower meeting, according to separate testimony.
There are also questions about the initial setup of the Trump Tower meeting, with the publicist who sent the infamous email to Donald Trump Jr. promising “information that would incriminate” Clinton later admitting that he used deliberately hyperbolic language to ensure that the meeting took place. No such incriminating information on Hillary was provided, according to all meeting participants. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Robert Goldstone, the publicist, further said that he believes the meeting was a “bait and switch” by a Russian lobbyist seeking a meeting on another matter by misleadingly claiming to be bringing the Trump campaign dirt on Clinton.
5 – Did you find that, despite the fact that candidate Trump said he had “nothing to do with Russia,” his organization had been pursuing a major Moscow project into the middle of the election year and that candidate Trump was regularly updated on developments?
Comey is peddling conspiracies, suggesting that a proposed draft project discussed generally and briefly by a real estate company that routinely builds overseas — a potential project with no secured financing, land or developer — could amount to wrongdoing. Trump did not secure any real estate project in Russia, but even doing so would not have been illegal.
Michael Cohen, a convicted liar and fraudster, claimed during a guilty plea that he lied to Congress when he first said that discussions on a Moscow real estate project ended in January 2016. Cohen later claimed messages were exchanged through June and that he personally updated Trump on the project.
Mueller’s report documents that Cohen “emailed the office of Dmitry Peskov, the Russian government’s press secretary,” but actually sent an email to the wrong address.
Mueller’s office could not find any follow up beyond one phone call with Peskov’s assistant:
On January 20, 2016, Cohen received an email from Elena Poliakova, Peskov’s personal assistant. Writing from her personal email account, Poliakova stated that she had been trying to reach Cohen and asked that he call her on the personal number that she provided. Shortly after receiving Poliakova’s email, Cohen called and spoke to her for 20 minutes. Cohen described to Poliakova his position at the Trump Organization and outlined the proposed Trump Moscow project, including information about the Russian counterparty with which the Trump Organization had partnered. Cohen requested assistance in moving the project forward, both in securing land to build the project and with financing. According to Cohen, Poliakova asked detailed questions and took notes, stating that she would need to follow up with others in Russia.
Cohen could not recall any direct follow-up from Poliakova or from any other representative of the Russian government, nor did the Office identify any evidence of direct follow-up.
Also, Cohen told Mueller’s office that “he elected not to travel at the time because of concerns about the lack of concrete proposals about land plots that could be considered as options for the project.”
6 – Did the Trump campaign report any of its Russian contacts to the FBI? Not even the indications from the Russian government that it could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton?
What is Comey even talking about here? Which Russian “contacts” should Trump’s campaign have reported to the FBI? Mueller concluded not only that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, but that “the investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated” with Russia’s interference campaign. If Trump’s team did not “knowingly or intentionally” collude with Russia, how could they have known to report anything?
For Comey’s misleading insinuation of “indications from the Russian government that it could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate Clinton,” please see my responses to #3 above, since the credibility-challenged Comey is asking a deceptively phrased question about a disputed episode involving Papadopoulos.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.