PowerLine – James Comey’s baffling testimony

PowerLine – James Comey’s baffling testimony

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James Comey’s baffling testimony (2)

Posted: 07 Jul 2016 02:26 PM PDT

(Scott Johnson)I found several points in FBI Director Comey’s testimony today (and his statement on Tuesday) baffling. I only saw parts of his testimony today; if I missed any of these points,

PowerLine Daily digest - Old Guard Audio.com

PowerLine Daily digest – Old Guard Audio.com

please forgive me. Here are a few points that baffle me.

The imposition of an element of specific intent on section 793(f): where did this come from? Comey elaborated on this in his opening statement. I found it utterly unpersuasive. I’ll leave the commentary here to Andy McCarthy

The FBI did not record or transcribe their little get-together with Clinton. The FBI did not put Clinton under oath. I assume they warned her that false statements to the FBI are nevertheless criminal. Can we see the agents’ summary (the so-called 302) of the interview?

The adoption of Clinton’s (fallback) talking point regarding the absence of classified markings on email conveying otherwise classified information also mystifies me. Why is that critical in this case? Does Clinton really not know classified information when she sees it? Did she not receive instruction on classified information when she assumed office as Secretary of State?

Did it not occur to her that she was exsposing classified information on her private servers? Did the FBI ask her in their little get-together? What did she say?

The reference to prosecutorial precedent to override the text of the statute is another puzzling matter. Prosecutorial precedent is not like case law. If it is inconsistent with the text of a statute, what deference is it owed?

Comey cited one prosecution based on gross negligenc in the past 100 years. But how many prosecutions in cases involving gross negligence in the handlilng of national defense information have the authorities passed on? I’d like to know the answer to that one.

Trey Gowdy is a former prosecutor who thought that the circumstanial evidence was full of evidnece of intent (video below). Don’t miss this one.

As Marcellus said to Horatio: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Let me add this observation. I take it from Comey’s testimony that if the FBI had applied the statute’s gross negligence standard for the mishandlng of national defense information, it would have recommended the prosecution of Madam Secretary. The FBI’s finding of gross negligence in this case ought to count for something somewhere.

The Brexit Vote: Italy Hardest Hit?

Posted: 07 Jul 2016 12:39 PM PDT

(Steven Hayward)People who follow the financial outlook of Europe have known for a while now that next to Greece, the most unsteady economy is Italy. But Greece is such a tiny sliver of the European economy that it didn’t matter that much except as a symbol of the resolve of the European Union to keep the party going. The Greek bailout was comparatively cheap.

Not so Italy. Its economy is one of the larger ones in Europe, and if its banking sector goes under, it could trigger a wholesale financial crisis in Europe like 2008. This chart from the Wall Street Journal shows part of the story:

Italian Loans copy

The Journal explains:

In Italy, 17% of banks’ loans are sour. That is nearly 10 times the level in the U.S., where, even at the worst of the 2008-09 financial crisis, it was only 5%. Among publicly traded banks in the eurozone, Italian lenders account for nearly half of total bad loans. Years of lax lending standards left Italian banks ill-prepared when an economic slump sent bankruptcies soaring a few years ago.

The U.K. vote to exit the European Union has compounded the strains on Europe’s banks in general and Italy’s in particular.

Naturally Italy’s crypto-socialist establishment wants to bail out its banks although this would violate European Union rules, as the Financial Times reports today:

Italy is prepared to defy the EU and unilaterally pump billions of euros into its troubled banking system if it comes under severe systemic distress, a last-resort move that would smash through the bloc’s nascent regime for handling ailing banks.

Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, is determined to intervene with public funds if necessary despite warnings from Brussels and Berlin over the need to respect rules that make creditors rather than taxpayers fund bank rescues, according to several officials and bankers familiar with their plans.

The threat has raised alarm among Europe’s regulators, who fear such a brazen intervention would devastate the credibility of the union’s newly implemented banking rule book during its first real test.

Italy feels emboldened to go its own way, because Brexit!

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the coming Italian crisis not only could start a new financial crisis, but could unravel the EU’s economic regime:

Italy’s banking crisis could spread to the rest of Europe, and rules limiting state aid to lenders should be reconsidered to prevent greater upheaval, Societe Generale SA Chairman Lorenzo Bini Smaghi said.

“The whole banking market is under pressure,” the former European Central Bank executive board member said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday. “We adopted rules on public money; these rules must be assessed in a market that has a potential crisis to decide whether some suspension needs to be applied.”

Change the rules? We’ve got the perfect person for the EU: FBI director James Comey. He’s got proven capacity to change the rules for distressed parties that are “too big to jail fail.”

Meanwhile, more bond yields around the world slipping into negative interest rates. This can’t end well.

James Comey’s baffling testimony

Posted: 07 Jul 2016 09:24 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)I haven’t seen James Comey’s testimony before Congress this morning. However, Andrew McCarthy reports that Comey said the statute criminalizing gross negligence in mishandling classified information is invalid because it does not require proof of intent to improperly transmit classified information to places it is not supposed to be or to people not authorized to have it. According to McCarthy:

The director claims that the statute has only been used once since its enactment in 1917, and therefore its invocation as written in Mrs. Clinton’s case would be suspect. He implies that the only way to save the statute is for the Justice Department to do what prosecutors routinely tell judges that they are not permitted to do: rewrite the statute – in this instance, to add a higher mens rea proof requirement.

McCarthy finds this testimony baffling, and so do I. There are plenty of statutes that criminalize conduct that isn’t intended to cause harm or be wrongful. Criminal sentencing reform foundered this year in part because conservatives wanted to do away with many of the federal criminal statutes that don’t include a mens rea requirement, and liberals balked.

McCarthy points out that all or virtually all states criminalize the negligent causing of death. But the federal code also criminalizes a host of other actions in which negligence, not intent, is the driver. There are thought to be nearly 5,000 such statutes.

Comey’s testimony is also baffling because I doubt that it’s the FBI director’s job to “save” criminal statutes by reading out legally problematic provisions. Courts sometimes engage in this sort of interpretative re-writing. If it’s going to be done by the Justice Department, the Attorney General should do the re-writing.

As noted, I didn’t see or hear this testimony by Comey, and I may be missing something. If so, I will try to update my discussion.

Explosive Video of Minnesota Police Shooting Gets Worldwide Attention

Posted: 07 Jul 2016 09:24 AM PDT

(John Hinderaker)Last night, at about 9 p.m. in Falcon Heights, a St. Paul suburb, a police officer stopped a vehicle, reportedly for a tail light violation. Within minutest thereafter, the officer shot the driver of the car multiple times, and the driver, Philando Castile, died.

What has gotten worldwide attention is video that was shot and uploaded live to Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend. The video begins when Castile has just been shot. It is almost unbelievable; you see the officer at the driver’s side window with his gun still drawn and visible. Castile dies on camera–again, live on Facebook. The girlfriend, Lavish Reynolds, is extraordinarily calm–much calmer than the police officer–as she narrates the video.

After a few minutes, the officers direct Reynolds to get out of the car. The video continues until her phone apparently is taken by an officer and thrown into the grass. But it isn’t turned off, and you can still hear the dialogue between Reynolds and policemen. After a few minutes a young girl, I believe Reynolds’ daughter, retrieves the phone and returns it to (I think) her mother. The video concludes with Reynolds in the back seat of a police car, again narrating what happened.

Reynolds’ story is that they were stopped for a broken tail light. The “Chinese” police officer, as described by Reynolds, approached their vehicle and asked to see Castile’s license and registration. Castile told the policeman that he had a carry permit and was carrying a gun. The officer then told Castile to put his hands up, and while he was doing so, the officer (as yet unidentified) shot him. Reynolds says they weren’t doing anything wrong, just had “a little weed” in the car.

Of course, the officer has not yet been heard from. But the video is riveting. Here it is; be forewarned, it is rather graphic:

Black Lives Matter protesters naturally have swung into action. In the middle of the night, they congregated in front of the Governor’s mansion in St. Paul, demanding that Governor Mark Dayton wake up and talk with them. A news account say that Dayton was “evacuated,” which seems hard to believe.


The officer was a member of the St. Anthony police department. Asked for comment, the department’s interim chief said that it had been at least 30 years since the department had experienced an officer-involved shooting.

I am afraid that this tragic incident is going to be a huge news story, and a flash point in the ongoing war over race and policing.

Experts say Hillary’s email was probably hacked

Posted: 07 Jul 2016 08:21 AM PDT

(Paul Mirengoff)According to David Sanger of the New York Times, experts believe that Hillary Clinton’s email account probably was hacked successfully. They also say that James Comey’s statement on the subject suggests he believes this too.

Comey chose his words carefully. He said his investigators found no “direct evidence” that Hillary Clinton’s email account had been “successfully hacked.” It’s reasonable to infer that they found circumstantial evidence of successful hacking.

Circumstantial evidence (most of which Comey mentioned in his statement) is what the experts Sanger cites rely on. First, as Adam Segal, the author of “Hacked World Order,” who studies cyberissues at the Council on Foreign Relations explains, “sophisticated attackers would have known of the existence of the account, would have targeted it and would not have been seen.” (Emphasis added)

How would they have known about Hillary’s private account? Because, as Comey said, “hostile actors gained access to the private commercial email accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact.” From there, tracking the trail of electronic breadcrumbs back to her server would have been a pretty simple task.

Would hostile actors then have been able successfully to hack Clinton’s system? Sanger says “their ability to break in would have been a mix of skill and luck, but they had plenty of time to get it right.”

One other fact, which Comey highlighted, makes it likely that hostile actors “got it right.” Clinton used her private email while in the territory of what he called “sophisticated adversaries.” Presumably, this means China and/or Russia, though it could mean some other country that’s comparably tech savvy.

Sanger explains that once the hardware is in a foreign country, and on its phone networks, it is particularly vulnerable. James A. Lewis, a former government cyber security expert who now studies the cyber activities of nations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Sanger, “if she used it in Russia or China, they almost certainly picked it up.”

We may never know for sure whether they, or any other adversary, did pick it up. We do know that Clinton gave them a golden opportunity to do so. More likely than not, they took advantage of that opportunity.

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