by WorldTribune Staff, June 10, 2019
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team used cellphone GPS tracking as an investigative technique to keep tabs on associates of President Donald Trump, unredacted portions of the Mueller report show.
One example from the Mueller report described the special counsel’s team being able to pinpoint security company executive Erik Prince’s precise location for several hours in January 2017 by matching his mobile phone signal to a cell site near Trump Tower in New York City.
“The Prince narrative is one instance in unredacted sections of the report in which Mueller’s team explicitly discloses cellphone tracking,” Washington Times security correspondent Rowan Scarborough noted in a June 9 report. “It raises the question of whether the FBI applied the process to other investigative subjects — a phone’s GPS signal can disclose its exact location within a few feet. One of the first requests the FBI makes when confronting subjects is to ask for their electronic devices.”
Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign adviser, told The Washington Times: “I got the distinct impression that they had all my electronic communications and they operated with a confidence borne of a complete complement of the communications of everyone else,”
Caputo has been a vocal critic of Mueller’s investigation which caused him to incur massive legal expenses to defend himself. After more than two years and tens of millions of taxpayer dollars spent, the investigation found no Trump-Russia conspiracy.
Scarborough noted that the most infamous “whereabouts” question in the investigation centered on Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney who is now in prison for tax fraud.
The Democratic Party-financed dossier authored by ex-British spy Christopher Steele alleged that Cohen participated in election interference by traveling to Prague in August 2016 to meet with operatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Cohen has always denied the assertion as fiction.
“An examination of Cohen’s cellphone at the time could relay all his locations,” Scarborough noted. “Yet no evidence has surfaced to support the dossier’s sensational claim. In fact, no evidence arose to back any of Steele’s conspiracy allegations. The Mueller report states flatly that Cohen didn’t go to Prague. If he had, Mueller likely would have said there was a conspiracy, not that he couldn’t establish one.”
In the case of Prince, who gave the Trump campaign advice and, after the election became a frequent visitor to Trump Tower where he met principally with adviser Steve Bannon, the Mueller report said he emerged as a possible backdoor link to the Kremlin via Kirill Dmitriev, director of Moscow’s sovereign wealth fund and a close associate of Putin.
Scarborough noted that “The Prince-Dmitriev broker was George Nader, a longtime Washington figure who was an adviser to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of the United Arab Emirates. Nader is a close associate of Dmitriev, thus making him a prime Mueller witness.”[Nader, a Lebanese American lobbyist, was arrested this month on charges of possessing sexually explicit videos of boys. A judge ordered him held in a jail in Alexandria, Virginia, pending trial.]
“The Western-educated, English-speaking Dmitriev was eager to touch base with the Trump transition to start a dialogue on better U.S.-Russian relations,” Scarborough wrote. “Nader tapped Prince as the unofficial go-between for a meeting in the Seychelles, an archipelago off East Africa known for beaches, resorts and nature preserves. UAE rulers gathered there, presenting business opportunities as well as indirect diplomacy.
“Nader’s proposed trip prompted Prince to mingle one day at Trump Tower with Kellyanne Conway, Wilbur Ross and Steven T. Mnuchin as he waited to see Bannon.
“Mueller wanted to document the visit. His appointment order as special counsel said he was to investigate ‘any links’ between a Trump associate and Russians. He nailed down Prince’s location that day via his cellphone.”
The Mueller report states: “Cell-site location data for Prince’s mobile phone indicates that Prince remained at Trump Tower for approximately three hours. Prince said that he could not recall whether, during those three hours, he met with Bannon and discussed Dmitriev with him.”
The sentence has a footnote that is partially redacted: “Cell-site location data for Prince’s mobile phone” — the next words are censored by the term “investigative technique.”
Prince testified on Nov. 30, 2017 before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that the encounter with Dmitriev wasn’t planned and lasted a few minutes in a hotel bar. The committee released a transcript at his request.
Democrats said Prince lied and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department to investigate.
“There is no evidence in the Mueller report that the Nader-Prince-Dmitriev nexus was tied to Russia’s election interference,” Scarborough noted.
Scarborough’s report also pointed out that the FBI relied on cellphone data to verify the location in London of Trump volunteer George Papadopoulos, one of the investigation’s key principals. It centered on the pivotal relationship between Papadopoulos, who wanted to set up a Trump-Kremlin meeting, and Joseph Mifsud, a mysterious London-based professor from Malta.
Mifsud told Papadopoulos he had heard in Moscow that the Russians owned thousands of Hillary Clinton emails. Papadopoulos ended up telling Alexander Downer, the Australian ambassador to the United Kingdom, according to Downer. Papadopoulos denies this.
The Australian government replayed the conversation to the Obama administration. The FBI started on July 31, 2016, a nearly three-year investigation that failed to find election interference by Papadopoulos or any Trump associate.
Concerning cellphones, the Mueller reported states: “Papadopoulos’s and Mifsud’s mentions of seeing each other ‘tomorrow’ referenced a meeting that the two had scheduled for the next morning, April 12, 2016, at the Andaz Hotel in London. Papadopoulos acknowledged the meeting during interviews with the Office, and records from Papadopoulos’s UK cellphone and his internet-search history all indicate that the meeting took place.”
Several Trump associates such as Papadopoulos wonder whether they were wiretapped by Western intelligence. One Trump associate, Carter Page, knows he was.
Relying heavily on Steele’s dossier, the FBI in October 2016 won court permission to penetrate Page’s communications. Federal judges approved three more warrants, taking the spying to September 2017.
“Such warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) can be highly intrusive,” Scarborough wrote. “The FBI can invade all computer and phone contacts as well as text messages and calls, peering back months to see what the target was saying.
“Yet the special counsel’s report makes no mention of this surveillance or that agents ever relied on Page’s cellphone. After a year’s worth of wiretaps and multiple interviews with the FBI, Page wasn’t charged.”