RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week

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RealClearInvestigations' Picks of the Week 
June 9 to June 15 


Featured Investigation
It Started With Deception:
Bruce Ohr's Linchpin Role in Russiagate

Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr was perfectly positioned to advance the Russia collusion narrative -- between oppo researchers and the FBI. His wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, producer of the infamous Clinton-financed Steele dossier. And two close colleagues had major pull at the FBI: Andrew McCabe and Lisa Page. In 2016, Ohr became a conduit ferrying Fusion’s explosive Trump-Russia dirt to the bureau.  

But a mystery remains, Eric Felten reports for RealClearInvestigations: Why did Ohr disclose his questionable impartiality to some in his narrow circle, but not his wife’s employment at Fusion to those overseeing ethics at the Justice Department? In Felten’s telling, this is a story not just of how the Trump-Russia affair gained traction, but of the way Washington connections work. 

He reports: 

  • Senior executive-branch officials like Ohr are each required to file an annual Public Financial Disclosure Report that includes specific information about a spouse’s income – including the name of the source and, for privately held companies, the nature of the business. 
  • Ohr’s form includes only the vague description “Independent contractor” for his wife’s work; it doesn't name Fusion or describe its business at all. 
  • Ethics forms are not bureaucratic paperwork but important tools to identify potential conflicts and corruption. 
  • Failure to file accurately can be punished with either civil or criminal charges. 
  • By transferring information from Fusion to the FBI, Ohr may have also violated a law prohibiting any “officer or employee of the executive branch” from participating in any matter in which he or his spouse “has a financial interest.” 

Ultimately, the dossier, a bundle of wild accusations that might never have gotten past a junior G-man, was whisked to the bureau’s seventh floor on the strength of Ohr’s relationship with McCabe and Page. But that had to be done with  circumspection -- not in an annual public ethics filing. 

Read Full Article 

The Trump Investigations: Top Articles

Justice Dept.'s Durham Moves to Grill CIA in Russia Probe Review, NY Times 
DoJ Letter Outlines 'Broad' Scope of Trump-Russia Spying Review, Fox News
State Dept. Official Helped Steele With Business Concerns, Daily Caller

Other Noteworthy Articles and Series

NRA Money Flowed to Board Amid Allegedly Lavish Spending 
Washington Post 
The National Rifle Association scandal continues to widen. Still reeling from reports of exorbitant spending by top executives – including invoices showing CEO Wayne LaPierre racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges at a Beverly Hills clothing boutique and on foreign travel –  the gun rights group is now dealing with claims that it directed money to members of its board of directors — the very people tasked with overseeing the organization’s finances. They include allegations that a former pro football player who serves on the board was paid $400,000 by the group for public outreach and firearms training and that another board member, a writer in New Mexico, collected more than $28,000 for articles in NRA publications. 

Chao Made Path for Husband's Favored Projects 
Why is quality investigative journalism so complicated? Consider the first paragraph on this article: “The Transportation Department under Secretary Elaine Chao designated a special liaison to help with grant applications and other priorities from her husband Mitch McConnell’s state of Kentucky, paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for reelection.” Pretty damning, right? Until you get to the 19th paragraph: “The Transportation Department, through a spokesperson, said that 'No state receives special treatment from DOT,' noting that Kentucky is 26th in population and 25th in DOT money in the Trump years.” 

U.S. Purging Chinese Researchers From Top Institutions 
Bloomberg Businessweek 
The Trump administration is trying to fight China’s well-documented and costly theft of U.S. innovation and knowhow. This article focuses on one such effort that led to the dismissal of several Chinese researchers at the University of Texas. Notable among them: Xifeng Wu, an award-winning cancer researcher who allegedly shared confidential information and accepted a half-dozen advisory roles at medical institutions in China. The article also gets ahead of its evidence by suggesting this effort might “stymie basic science.” Impact, perhaps? But stymie? 

Leaked Files Expose Russian Influence in Africa 
He’s back! Yevgeny Prigozhin, the St. Petersburg businessman and close ally of Vladimir Putin who was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, is now reportedly masterminding Russia’s expansionist policies in Africa. This article reports that a cache of leaked documents identify him as point man for renewed efforts to “strong-arm” the U.S. and former colonial powers Britain and France out of the region. The Kremlin aims to build relations with existing rulers, strike military deals, and groom a new generation of leaders and spies.  

Liberal Shell Entities Pass Millions to Pro-Abortion Groups 
Washington Free Beacon 
A network of liberal groups and initiatives has secreted millions in funding to organizations that advocate for abortions. Arabella Advisors establishes groups under trade, or fictitious, names, and acts as their "fiscal sponsor," which allows the groups to avoid filing public returns to the Internal Revenue Service. The network also acts as a "pass-through" entity for left-wing donors. They do not have to mark their money as going to the exact group that they are funding, but rather can make out the contributions to the particular arm at Arabella where the group is located. Another big player is the Democracy Alliance, described as the left's largest dark-money donor network. ("Dark money" is usually journalist code for "anonymous political spending we don't like," and here the term is turned against those who use it a lot, progressives.) Members of the Democracy Alliance have pushed more than $1.83 billion into progressive infrastructure since its inception in 2005, according to internal documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. 

Obama White House Deleted Migration-Crisis Speeches 
Daily Caller 
It is not clear why the Obama administration deleted hundreds of speeches and statements on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement website just hours before President Donald Trump officially entered office – including speeches from former acting ICE Director Thomas Homan, a public supporter of Trump’s immigration policies. Departing administrations make routine changes to their websites, according to the nonprofit government transparency group organization that discovered the deletion, the Sunlight Foundation. But it also noted: “It is not inconceivable that an outgoing Democratic administration might want to avoid preserving these public stances for future scrutiny. The removal of the ICE speeches collection represents the loss of a primary source history of the early days of ICE, dating back to its creation during the George W. Bush administration in 2003.” 

Air Force Stumbled Amid Child Sex Assault Reports 
Associated Press 
For decades, justice has been elusive on American bases when the children of service members sexually assaulted other children there. Last summer, Congress ordered the Defense Department to overhaul how it handles allegations of sexual assault among the tens of thousands of military kids who live or attend school on U.S. bases worldwide. This article reports on the incomplete efforts of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines to respond to that demand while focusing on problems at an Air Force base in Japan. 

Dems Took Virginia Governor's PAC Cash After Demanding He Quit 
Washington Free Beacon 
Remember when dozens of outraged Democrats demanded Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s resignation after a picture of a man in blackface standing with a man in a Ku Klux Klan outfit was discovered on his medical school yearbook page? Of course you do – and so do they. It was only four months ago! Nevertheless, Northam's political action committee in the past two months has donated $85,000 to 13 Democratic candidates running for Virginia state office, many of whom had called on the governor to resign after his racist yearbook page surfaced. It doesn't look like the money will be returned.

Scooter Carnage in Cities 
Associated Press 
In just a few years stand-up electric scooters have become common in many U.S. cities – riders took 38.5 million trips on rentable scooters in 2018. So it’s not surprising that some of those people have gotten hurt. Others have been killed. There are no comprehensive statistics available, but a rough count by the Associated Press of media reports turned up at least 11 electric-scooter rider deaths in the U.S. since the beginning of 2018. That same year 6,227 pedestrians were killed in traffic. 

The Making of a YouTube Radical 
New York Times 
This is not really an article but an argument – that YouTube’s recommendation algorithms encourage some people to marinate in far-right conspiracy theories and propaganda. The front-page takeout does not offer nearly enough data to support the complicated claim that people are being radicalized against their will. Instead this deeply biased article tries to make its case by focusing on one man, Caleb Crain, who was attracted to the alt-right and then turned away from it. Crain “never bought into the far right’s most extreme views, like Holocaust denial or the need for a white ethnostate.” But the Times says his views were once beyond the pale because he called himself “tradcon” — a traditional conservative, committed to old-fashioned gender norms. If that's not enough to make you shudder, he also dated an evangelical Christian woman and fought with his liberal friends. “It was kind of sad,” said Zelda Wait, a friend of Cain’s from high school. “I was just, like: ‘Wow, what happened? How did you get this way?’” Eventually he saw the error of his ways by watching some progressive videos. All was well again with young Caleb Crain. Don't you love stories with happy endings like this? A separate commentary doesn't

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