Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Correspondence: About those emails

Martyr Procopius, Sinai, 12th century, via IconReader.

Procopius wrote, re yesterday's post:
"Those would be the 20,000 emails from the Clinton campaign from John Podesta's personal Gmail account, which was hacked in March 2016." Wait a minute -- where did this interpretation come from? I thought they were supposed to be part of the 30,000 emails Hillary supposedly deleted? Why would anybody get excited about Podesta's emails which were already open to the public? I thought the reason to be angry about the proposal was because it showed that the FSA, the Russian intelligence agency, had been spying on Hillary's emails and stole them before she deleted them so able to expose her illegal behavior.
Also, "... (though they knew that the meeting itself, entertaining an offer of campaign assistance from a foreign governments, was unlawful) ." Wow. You're able to read minds! That must be fun. I think most people knew that campaign contributions in the form of money was illegal, but I don't think that many people realized that providing opposition research was also illegal. Has that actually been tested in court?
I spent so much time answering that I might as well just post it here:


(1) WikiLeaks released the Podesta emails (hacked, as I said, in mid-March 2016) at the very end of the campaign in October-November 2016, in a surprise that seemed to have been predicted by Roger Stone in an August tweet ("Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary" he wrote with his usual carelessness). They contained excerpts of Clinton paid speeches of 2013-14, including full texts of the Goldman Sachs speeches; remarks by campaign staffers that sounded anti-Catholic; mails giving the impression that Donna Brazile had tried to feed Clinton advance notices of question that would be asked in primary debates; and Podesta's risotto recipe.

The speeches (carefully curated WikiLeaks style to make Clinton look more "neoliberal" and dishonest) and the Brazile thing definitely discouraged people on the left from voting for Clinton (on top of the bad impression from the DNC emails WikiLeaks had published in July, curated to make it look as if the DNC had been conspiring against Bernie Sanders). The true crazies—Alex Jones and Breitbart—said the Podesta mails used a secret code to carry out the Pizzagate conspiracy (Hillary and Podesta running a child sex ring out of a DC pizzeria. They certainly had an effect on the final vote.

(2) The emails from Clinton's time as secretary of state 2009-12, kept improperly on a private server, were basically in the hands of the FBI from 2014 onwards, except for the 30,000 or so personal items she deleted, which the FBI was unable to restore from the hardware. The rightwing campaign strategy on this was two-pronged: (a) to suggest that the personal items must have been deleted because they contained evidence of her criminality, and (b) to suggest that the use of the private server left the official state department email vulnerable to hacking (not just from the FSB), especially if they contained classified material. Neither of these things happened or was even a serious issue, as Comey explained in his July 2016 press conference more or less officially closing the FBI investigation, but complaining that she was "extremely careless" anyway. The rightwing kept using it as an issue regardless.

(3) Your confusion is under the influence of Trump, who kept talking about the deleted personal emails as "missing" and most famously invited the FSB to try to find them. The Comey craziness at the end of October, suggesting that some kind of evil emails (either Clinton criminality or classified material) from that period could exist on Huma Abedin's computer, compounded that at the most crucial moment.

On the second point, the relevant law looks like this:

While foreign nationals may not make political contributions or sponsor independent expenditures, they may volunteer on political campaigns and may even solicit contributions, but not from other foreign nationals. In a matter arising from the 2008 elections, the FEC notably determined that British singer Elton John could headline a fundraising concert for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. The FEC also recently determined that a foreign national could act as a volunteer in creating intellectual property for a PAC where the PAC would assume joint ownership of the intellectual property, even though, as a general matter, foreign nationals may not make in-kind political contributions.

Foreign nationals also may not help manage a political campaign or PAC. This issue arises frequently in the context of PACs administered by the domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations. While domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations may sponsor PACs, no part of the corporate funds used to establish, administer, or fundraise for the PAC may come from the foreign parent company. Additionally, no foreign national may be involved in the PAC's operation or decisionmaking.

PACs, campaign committees, and political party committees should review their compliance policies and procedures to ensure that they are properly screening for foreign contributions and preventing foreign nationals from having any operational, managerial, or decisionmaking role. Violations of the foreign national prohibitions may carry not only serious legal penalties, they also may result in negative publicity about foreigners and foreign money influencing American elections.

They really may not have known. As late as July, Trump himself was openly soliciting foreign money donations, so who can say.

I believe they knew what they were doing in the Veselnitskaya meeting was wrong, on the basis of evidence that they worked so hard to conceal it, lied about it when it was discovered (on Kushner's much-revised security clearance application) in a story that kept shifting until the Times threatened to publish emails between Donald Jr. and the music publicist Rob Goldstone setting up the meeting—

Goldstone's email informs Trump Jr. that the Russian government is eager to provide "official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary" to the Trump campaign.
"This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump -- helped along by Aras and Emin," Goldstone said in the email.
—and continued to lie afterwards about who was there.

More on the timing, and identification of Podesta emails as the ones the Professor was talking about, from Mark Sumner/Kos

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