Of the thousands of attorneys in the Department of Justice, it should be possible to find one who was not so closely associated with a project to use the Foreign Agents Registration Act as a pretext to meddle in and undermine the results of an American election.
Adam Mill – October 29th, 2019
Did the FBI tamper with the record of what former Trump campaign official and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn said to FBI agents? According to documents filed by Flynn’s attorney last week, it appears that none other than former FBI attorney Lisa Page participated in the editing of Flynn’s statement.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team then used the edited statement as proof of Flynn’s “lie.”
How can Brandon Van Grack, the lead prosecutor in the Flynn case, possibly defend a conviction of Flynn for lying to the FBI when the “lie” Flynn supposedly told was actually a statement edited and altered without Flynn’s participation? This latest bombshell is disturbing evidence that the U.S. Department of Justice remains a weapon in the hands of Democrats and the permanent bureaucracy.
Van Grack is more than just the tip of the spear for a particularly egregious operation to criminalize the Justice Department’s political targets—in this case, members of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. He’s also a key veteran of the Mueller investigation. Unlike his colleagues who returned to private practice, Van Grack stayed behind to assume a powerful position within the Justice Department.
Van Grack currently wears two hats. In one of Attorney General Barr’s less-considered decisions, he placed Van Grack in charge of enforcing the very law that the Justice Department (and later the Mueller team) used as a pretext to spy on and leak against Trump in the 2016 election and his subsequent administration. Yes, Van Grack now wields the awesome and highly discretionary power of the unit that investigates and prosecutes violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA).
To understand what a colossal mistake it is to put Van Grack in charge of FARA, it is helpful to review the FARA statute and its history.
In 1938, Congress passed the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was intended to force agents of enemy governments such as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union to self-identify so the public could evaluate their speech or propaganda in light of their stated loyalties. Between 1966 and 2015, the Justice Department brought a total of seven cases, only one of which resulted in a conviction.
Beginning in 2016, however, FARA cases became all the rage.
The Justice Department recently created a new unit dedicated to sniffing out potential violators. On its surface, the statute has a politically neutral objective of informing the public of foreign influence. In practice, however, the law has become the go-to tool for partisan federal prosecutors. FARA prosecutions have tended to focus on Republicans even when Democrats commit the mirror image of the same violations.
One obvious recent example was the blatantly political selection of Paul Manafort as a FARA defendant, while politically connected Tony Podesta received an immunity deal for essentially the same behavior involving the same foreign clients.
Fusion GPS, which famously underwrote the Russia collusion hoax dossier, has piled up multiple FARA complaints (including unregistered work for Russia) that the Justice Department continues to ignore.
FARA is vague and subject to unbridled prosecutorial discretion. To demonstrate how vague, travel agents now register as “foreign agents” under the theory that marketing a tourist trip is a legally reportable act. It’s a perfect weapon to invoke secret surveillance pursuant to FISA and can be used against anyone with an international clientele. Nobody really knows what’s illegal until the Justice Department targets you.
A Potent Political Weapon in the Wrong Hands
Van Grack, who donated to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, will also have enormous power in 2020 to decide whether candidate Joe Biden’s family should be investigated for foreign entanglements. For example, if Biden represented Ukraine natural gas company Burisma’s interests in demanding that the Ukrainian prosecutor be fired, Van Grack might be the person evaluating whether to charge that conduct.
FARA is a potent political weapon. Candidate Hillary Clinton hired Fusion GPS to gin up suspicions of a Trump-Russia association in order to create a hook for the Justice Department to launch a surveillance operation. The department predicated the application for the Carter Page FISA warrant upon supposed suspicions that he worked as an “agent” of a foreign power. Once the intelligence community had its surveillance in place, it repeatedly and illegally leaked the fruits (or supposed fruits) to undermine the insurgent candidate and later the new president.
Many of those illegal leaks appear to have come directly from the Mueller team during Van Grack’s tenure. It’s highly problematic that Barr would place Van Grack in charge of the kind of sensitive FARA-related information the Mueller team may have leaked during the investigation.
Indeed, Van Grack is a logical witness in potential investigations into those leaks. Guilt by association with foreigners remains such an irresistible weapon that Hillary Clinton recently (and improbably) accused Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. military veteran Tulsi Gabbard of being groomed by the Kremlin to run as a third-party spoiler in 2020.
But Van Grack’s participation in the abuse of the FARA law might not have begun with the Mueller team. Prior to working as the head of the FARA Unit and on Mueller’s team, Van Grack worked in the Justice Department’s national security division. There he worked with John Carlin, the architect of the Carter Page FISA warrant application. Carlin also signed one of the FISA court certifications that the court later found to be deceptive.
Conflicts of Interest
The Trump-hating press has already started cheerleading the prospect of Van Grack opening up a new front against Trump. A few days ago, The New Republic ran a story, “The Law that Could Take Down Rudy Giuliani,” referring to Van Grack’s new area of responsibility, the FARA law.
The New Republic is not alone. The corporate leftist legacy media, including the Washington Post, NPR, and Politico, have pushed Justice Department to use FARA to take down the president’s current attorney. Politico asks, “Is Rudy Giuliani Going To Jail?” The author is optimistic that Van Grack is well positioned to stick it to Giuliani. Another author drew up a mock indictment of Giuliani incorporating allegations related to the recent arrest of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two non-citizens the media have tied to the former New York City mayor.
Van Grack’s role as the Flynn prosecutor is totally incompatible with the role of prosecuting new FARA violations. Flynn’s attorney has accused Van Grack’s prosecution team of several acts of misconduct. I profiled a number of these violations here. Flynn’s legal defense team alleged multiple incidents of the government failing to disclose and/or preserve evidence. Remember the text messages between Lisa Page and her lover, former FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok? There were actually two sets of cell phones, one issued by the FBI and a second the couple used while working for Mueller. When Mueller learned of the disturbing text messages sent between the first set of cell phones, he allowed the second set to be wiped of their data.
Flynn’s attorneys have alleged Van Grack committed misconduct in failing to ensure those cell phones were preserved and disclosed before Flynn’s plea. Questions about the political motivations of the Flynn prosecution persist. Flynn’s attorney also accused Van Grack’s team of attempting to coerce Flynn into lying, threatening to prosecute Flynn’s son, and hiding and even destroying evidence.
Thus, Van Grack brings all of that baggage into any new FARA prosecution which makes him less effective at catching real criminals posing real security threats to the United States. Indeed, Van Grack (who considers himself to be a “trial attorney”) has already lost two high profile cases in his new role.
Mueller’s entire investigation will be forever tainted by the blatant political corruption that infected it from the very beginning. Under Mueller, the spying and surveillance that began against candidate Trump continued against our sitting president (sometimes in coordination with Mueller and likely Van Grack).
In the Summer of 2017, Justice Department agents raided the offices of Trump’s private attorney, Michael Cohen, securing audio recordings that later leaked to the press. Justice officials obtained warrants for surveillance against Cohen. Mueller seized thousands of the Trump transition team’s emails without a warrant. Roger Stone complained that the Mueller’s team pressured him to lie in the headlong effort to get Trump at any cost.
Of the thousands of attorneys in the Department of Justice, one hopes it would be possible to find one to supervise the FARA unit who was not so closely associated with a project to use FARA as a pretext to meddle in and undermine the results of an American election. Van Grack should not be in a position to meddle in the 2020 election until he is cleared of any involvement in the FARA abuses and leaking of sensitive FARA-related information.