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Seth Abramson @SethAbramson
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(THREAD) This is Part 2 of a thread on "True Pundit," the fake-news website—launched by a former FBI agent—that helped swing the 2016 election to Trump by blackmailing James Comey into reopening the Clinton email investigation just before Election Day. Hope you'll read and share.
1/ In Part 1 of this thread (see below), I discussed how a former FBI agent calling himself "Thomas Paine" launched the fake-news website True Pundit on the same day in June 2016 Don Jr., Kushner, and Manafort met with Kremlin agents at Trump Tower Moscow.
2/ There is ample evidence—beyond his law enforcement past—confirming Paine knew the active (pro-Trump) FBI agents who leaked to True Pundit were violating the federal Hatch Act. Paine on several occasions claimed "Deep State" government agents were coming to arrest or kill him.
3/ Besides using a false name, Paine wouldn't allow anyone to videotape or photograph him, appearing for interviews only by Skype and only behind a picture of his namesake—Founding Father Thomas Paine.

After the 2016 election, however, he claimed he was going to reveal himself.
4/ Just like most of the stories he ran during the 2016 campaign, however—most intended to intimidate the then-current FBI brass into extending the Clinton investigation through Election Day, the better to ensure it tainted the vote—Paine's promise to reveal himself was a lie.
5/ As we saw in Part 1, one reason for his refusal to reveal himself was that he planned to do again—and did do again—what he did during the campaign: illegally issue blackmail-style threats against the FBI to get the Bureau to make all the investigative decisions *he* wanted.
6/ Paine's March 2017 threat against the FBI was far worse than his October/November 2016 threat, as it directly aimed to Obstruct Justice by promising to release fraudulent "Clinton emails" if the FBI didn't slow or stop the Trump-Russia probe by firing FBI Director James Comey.
7/ Though the FBI found Anthony Wiener's PC to hold only duplicate Clinton emails the FBI already had—with no evidence of criminal conduct—Paine still falsely claims Comey "confirmed" his November 2017 article on the emails (which article alleged they contained proof of crimes).
8/ Paine pulls this stunt by referring readers to a heavily edited excerpt of his original "bombshell" report—a version that only claims Huma Abedin had Clinton emails on her computer (which is true) rather than that his "NYPD sources" had seen in those emails evidence of crimes.
9/ Following his false boast of having beat the U.S. media to a big story—rather than using fake sources (or fake info from real sources) to try to swing a presidential election by falsely claiming proof of crimes against one of the candidates—True Pundit became a far-right hero.
10/ Paine continues to mythologize himself by falsely implying his life is in danger from Deep State operatives.

In fact, he's merely in danger of being identified by federal authorities and arrested for violation of federal criminal statutes he well knew before violating them.
11/ The question is how federal authorities will identify Paine so they can bring him in for questioning and—possibly—arrest him for threats against the FBI. Some evidence of how agents may seek to do this can be found in Paine's YouTube Skype interviews.
12/ In the Thomas Paine Skype interview linked to in Tweet #11—given to a far-right conspiracy broadcast called "Crowdsource the Truth," hosted by George Webb and Jason Goodman—Thomas Paine reveals that host George Webb knows who he is, and that the two have spent time together.
13/ A far-right YouTube conspiracy theorist, Paine's pal George Webb is best known for reporting to authorities what turned out to be a fake bomb threat against the Port of Charleston in the summer of 2017. Federal authorities may have questioned him then.…
14/ But Paine's August 2017 interview (Tweet #11) with "Crowdsource the Truth"—a rare public "appearance" by the mysterious former FBI agent and fake-news purveyor—reveals more about the man than one of his known associates. It also reveals possible connections to Donald Trump.
15/ In the interview, Paine discusses how his "scoop" (fake news about NYPD having seen emails proving Clinton crimes) was stolen from him by Steve Bannon's Breitbart, which conducted an interview on the subject with Bannon pal and top Trump national security advisor Erik Prince.
16/ Discussing Trump advisor Prince's Brietbart interview spreading fake news about Clinton 96 hours before the election—see below—Paine makes a startling admission: "I've come across him [Trump advisor Erik Prince]. He's not a bad guy. He gets a bad rap."…
17/ Given that Trump national security advisors Flynn and Prince met several times with Trump campaign CEO Bannon before and after the '16 election—and all three men pushed the True Pundit story just before Election Day—Paine saying he met one of them pre-election is significant.
18/ Remarkably, Paine's performance art-like pretension that his life was in danger after he published his fake-news "bombshell" a week before Election Day includes a claim that while Prince and Bannon were pushing his "report," he was on the run for his life from the Deep State.
19/ As Paine tells Webb (Tweet #11), "When we [True Pundit] broke it [on November 2nd, 2016]...a couple hours after that I said, 'We need to pack up and get the hell out of here for a couple days....because we're all going to end up not just getting in trouble but disappearing.'"
20/ But Paine also revealed an even *more* significant connection to Webb: a connection to James Kallstrom, the former Assistant Director of the FBI. Kallstrom became infamous during the '16 campaign for claiming to have spoken to active FBI agents about their hatred for Clinton.
21/ Kallstrom—for a long time the head of the New York FBI office now called "Trumpland"—spent the campaign implying that agents in that office would illegally leak details of the Clinton investigation to the media or others if Comey didn't indict Clinton.…
22/ Kallstrom later tried to walk back his claim, but as the Daily Beast piece linked to in Tweet #20 makes clear—and that piece is so important that it must be read start to finish—Kallstrom claimed to be in contact with "50 people in and out of the FBI" about the Clinton probe.
23/ In his interview with Webb (Tweet #11), Paine reveals Kallstrom (who he calls "Jimmy," and whose house he discusses visiting) is a friend and former boss—meaning that Paine worked in the New York office of the FBI, now known as "Trumpland." Paine confirms this moments later.
24/ Paine's method of confirmation that he's a former FBI agent from the New York office of the FBI comes via discussion of working the infamous TWA 800 case with Kallstrom and others. That case has long been an obsession of far-right conspiracy theorists.…
25/ The TWA 800 case briefly became relevant to the Clinton probe in 2016, as Judicial Watch disclosed documents dealing with whether FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe had designated the Clinton probe a "special" investigation as the TWA 800 case had been.…
26/ Right-wing conspiracy theorists like Tomi Lahren and Sean Hannity falsely claimed, at the time, that McCabe had used the term to suggest Clinton was receiving special treatment from the FBI.

Of course, the term merely denotes a certain *type* of FBI probe—like TWA 800 was.
27/ Paine's work on one of the FBI's rare "special" investigations does suggest he's approached the Clinton case—from outside the authority of the FBI—as one such investigation. More importantly, he and Kallstrom seem to share an aim—to coerce the FBI into acting against Clinton.
28/ But it's not just Paine and friend/former boss Kallstrom who claimed illegal contact with former and retired FBI agents in the New York field office ("Trumpland") pre-election.

A man Kallstrom describes as a "very good friend" (Daily Beast) did the same thing—Rudy Giuliani.
29/ Per POLITICO— in another story one must read in full—Giuliani embarked on a campaign in the 3 days before Comey wrote his infamous letter to Congress reopening the Clinton probe to, like Kallstrom/Paine, convince Comey leaks would result if he didn't.…
30/ What this generates is an ever-widening cabal of related individuals in the orbit of the Trump campaign and/or the New York field office of the FBI ("Trumpland"): Flynn, Prince, Bannon, Giuliani, Kallstrom, and Paine ("True Pundit"). Most of these claim NYPD connections, too.
31/ In writing all this, I need to pause to make one thing clear as an attorney and former investigator: there is a great difference between allegations of bias and proof of corruption. Many FBI agents may make judgments that are read as bias but are *not* evidence of corruption.
32/ For instance, Comey's July 2016 decision not to indict Clinton, and his October 2016 decision to reopen the case, have both been read as "biased" depending upon whether you're speaking to a Democrat or Republican. That *doesn't* mean those actions were evidence of corruption.
33/ Just so, former Mueller agent Peter Strzok can write all sorts of private text messages suggesting he had a bias against Trump—and he's now faced heavy disciplinary action for verbalizing that bias—but in itself those messages would *not* be evidence of corruption at the FBI.
34/ Corruption requires a) actions, and b) bad faith. Strzok's now-disputed action of changing "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless" was an action but was *not* in bad faith if you know *anything* about the criminal justice system whatsoever. I'll explain that briefly here.
35/ Once Strzok had been informed that his boss, Comey, wouldn't be seeking charges against Clinton, the FBI was *obligated* to *not*—in any public statement about that decision not to charge—use legal language to describe Clinton's actions. Why? Because it'd be a firing offense.
36/ While people are right to say Comey likely shouldn't have issued any statement at all when he decided not to charge Clinton, Lynch's recusal—and its terms, which explicitly put Comey in charge of the charging decision—*forced* Comey to do what an FBI agent normally wouldn't.
37/ So, while inadvisable, Comey's statement wasn't in "bad faith"—given he was dealing with the extraordinary role Lynch thrust upon him.

He was acting in a situation essentially without precedent—the DOJ declaring publicly that the FBI would have final word on a prosecution.
38/ But—that said—Comey *would* have been acting in bad faith, indeed would rightly be said to have been trying to influence the election in July 2016, if he had *deliberately* included legal language accusing Clinton of a crime at the time he announced he *wouldn't* charge her.
39/ Strzok's role—once he knew his boss, already in an extraordinary situation, was going to take the extraordinary step of making any public statement at *all*—was to make sure Comey didn't further bend FBI practice by accusing of a crime a person just cleared from prosecution.
40/ "Grossly negligent" is *language from a criminal statute* that had to be *stricken* from Comey's statement lest it seem a transparent ploy to telegraph to voters that Clinton *had* committed a crime even though she wasn't being charged with one. Strzok was right to strike it.
41/ So Comey exhibited neither bias nor corruption, but rather bad judgment; Strzok, bias but not corruption.

In contrast, the FBI agents who leaked to Giuliani, Kallstrom, and Thomas Paine (True Pundit) were biased *and* corrupt. Their actions clearly violated federal statute.
42/ So this thread—which is not a response to GOP claims of pro-Clinton bias in the FBI, but a continuation of work I was doing last December at The Huffington Post—is about *corruption* at the FBI. Meanwhile the GOP seeks to transmute "bias" into "corruption" for political gain.
43/ Unfortunately, the GOP's cynical false equivalence—pretending all bias is per se evidence of corruption, when it doesn't work that way—can make valid accusations of corruption at the FBI look like tit-for-tat. But the facts in this thread are major news, not a political ploy.
44/ So this thread details the investigative steps expected if one follows the credible evidence—if not yet proof—of illegal behavior discussed here. This is different from, say, the dangerous, conclusory "lock-'em-up" language of Trump ally Jeanine Pirro.
45/ Pirro, who regularly interviews/meets privately with Trump—and is a friend/advisor—should be questioned by the FBI. Per The Daily Beast, she publicly appeared with Kallstrom to encourage active FBI agents to illegally leak details of the Clinton probe.…
46/ Many reading the news today wonder why certain Fox News personalities now sound like authoritarian monsters—comparing the FBI to the KGB; discussing "cleansing" law enforcement; calling for longtime public servants to be locked up; and demanding an end to any probe of Trump.
47/ It's important to remember that the 2016 election involved two New York City politicians with a) close ties to law enforcement, and b) legal troubles. So the circle of people who were allied with, investigating, or in some cases conspiring against Clinton or Trump was small.
48/ Sean Hannity secretly acted as an advisor to Trump during the 2016 election, so we have no idea what he knows about what Trump is now under investigation for. The same is true with Pirro. And Giuliani, a regular Fox News guest. So the motives of these people are still murky.
49/ In the case of Pirro and Giuliani—as well as regular Fox News guest Kallstrom—there's every reason to think being questioned by the FBI will reveal which agents in Trumpland (the New York office of the FBI) were illegally leaking to the Trump campaign. And who True Pundit is.
50/ What's clear is there was a domestic conspiracy to threaten Comey with illegal and false leaks to get him to reopen Clinton's case and swing the election to Trump. And it worked—the NYT says Comey wrote his infamous letter after becoming "sure" Clinton-probe info would leak.
CONCLUSION/ I think the Trump-Russia probe is the biggest news in the world right now and what law enforcement should focus on. But if the GOP, which controls Congress, insists on looking at the FBI, okay, let's dance: let's discuss the domestic conspiracy that stole an election.
DOCS1/ Twitter has suspended Thomas Paine of True Pundit multiple times, possibly because he's issued his illegal threats against the FBI using the platform.

Under Twitter's Terms and Conditions, Paine should be *permanently* banned from Twitter for using it to commit crimes.
DOCS2/ "Thomas Paine"—True Pundit—has *also* used Twitter to make not-so-veiled threats against a sitting Senator who wouldn't do his bidding. This is the same M.O. he used in March 2017 in threatening to release fake Clinton emails if the FBI didn't fire James Comey immediately.
DOCS3/ (Keep in mind Trump's aides—pre-election—obsessively spread Paine's threats and fake news. Mike Flynn—see Part 1 of this multi-part thread via Tweet #1—did *same-day* True Pundit retweets; Prince went to Bannon's Breitbart to spread it; Giuliani teased it on major media.)
DOCS4/ Here's the seminal report on "Trumpland," released—ironically—the same day Trump NatSec advisor Erik Prince used Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon's Breitbart to *publish* the threats on the FBI that Trump campaign advisor Giuliani had earlier teased.…
DOCS5/ To be very clear, it may well be found that there's an explanation for the actions I've described—by Webb, Paine, Flynn, Prince, Bannon, Hannity, Pirro, Kallstrom and others—that's noncriminal. I'm open to the possibility. But clearly the FBI and Congress must investigate.
NOTE/ Yes, there are other ways to identify who runs the "True Pundit" site. I'm familiar with them. And I'm guessing they'll be—or have been—pursued by Mueller, Horowitz, and/or Congress. I don't detail them at length here because it's overkill—they'll happen one way or another.
BREAKING/ Follow this breaking news thread for more on the ties between the Trump campaign and the True Pundit story apparently partly responsible for forcing Jim Comey to reopen the Clinton case and swing the election—per FiveThirtyEight polling—to Trump:
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