Category Archives: Law Enforcement

Intelligence agencies are at odds with President Trump on Russian interference in 2018 midterms

The nation’s five intelligence heads, all Trump appointees, were on the Hill yesterday testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee. All five testified that Russia interfered in our presidential election in 2016, and is already interfering in our 2018 midterm elections, and that President Trump has not issued them any express directives to stop the Russian interference. The nation’s top spies said Russia is continuing to target the U.S. political system:

The nation’s top intelligence chiefs were united Tuesday in declaring that Russia is continuing efforts to disrupt the U.S. political system and is targeting the 2018 midterm elections, following its successful operation to sow discord in the most recent presidential campaign.

Their assessment stands in contrast to President Trump, who has repeatedly voiced skepticism of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

In fact, CNN reports, Trump still unconvinced Russia meddled in 2016 election: President Donald Trump still isn’t buying that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, even as his intelligence chiefs unanimously told a Senate panel Tuesday that Russia meddled in 2016 and is planning to do so again in 2018, three sources familiar with the President’s thinking say he remains unconvinced that Russia interfered in the presidential election.

At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats, Democrats demanded to know what the intelligence community is doing to counter Russia’s actions and whether Trump has given explicit directions to do so.

“We cannot confront this threat, which is a serious one, without a whole-of-government response when the leader of the government continues to deny that it exists,” said Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).

The disconnect between Trump and his senior-most intelligence advisers has raised concerns that the U.S. government will not be able to mount an effective plan to beat back Russian influence operations in the upcoming midterm elections. And Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said there is “no single agency in charge” of blocking Russian meddling, an admission that drew the ire of Democrats.

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Mitch McConnell reneges on DACA debate deal (Updated)

Well that didn’t take long …

The Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has one again demonstrated that he is a manipulative liar whose word is worthless and who should not be trusted to honor any promise or agreement he makes. Only one day into the open-ended debate on immigration and DACA that the Turtle Man promised, he has reneged on the deal he made with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

I have said before that history will not be kind to Mitch McConnell, he will be remembered as one of the worst senators in the history of the U.S. Senate in the pantheon of worst senators.

Joan McCarter at Daily Kos reports:

The Senate debate on immigration has begun and it’s not good. Despite the promise from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that they would have as much as two weeks of free-wheeling, open amendment debate, he’s already stated his desired outcome: Trump’s complete white supremacist wish list in return for the Dreamers’ path to citizenship. He’s also creating a false threshold for legislation—something that will get 30 Republican votes.

And as for the two weeks of consideration? He sent out his number two guy, the odious Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), to renege on that, giving the Senate essentially two days.

“This is Sen. (Dick) Durbin and Democrats’ opportunity and so far they kind of seem to be a little confused about what they’re planning on doing — but they better get it done quick because it’s this week or not at all,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.”We need to get it wrapped up by Thursday,” Cornyn said.

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President Trump withholds Democratic rebuttal memo to Nunes memo

I told you not to hold your breath on President Trump authorizing the release of the Democratic rebuttal memo to the Nunes memo. Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance:

President Trump will not immediately agree to release a Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI abused its surveillance authority as it probed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has directed the Justice Department to work with lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee, White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote that the Justice Department had identified portions of the Democrats’ memo that it believed “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” if disclosed. McGahn included in his note a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray supporting that claim.

McGahn wrote in his letter that Trump was “inclined to declassify” the Democrats’ memo, but given its sensitive passages, he was “unable to do so.” McGahn wrote that the president had instructed the Justice Department to work with Congress to mitigate those risks.

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Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement: “The President’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling. The rationale for releasing the Nunes memo, transparency, vanishes when it could show information that’s harmful to him. Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?” He was referring to the GOP memo, which was produced by the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

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The White House is stonewalling the Trump-Russia investigations (Updated)

A highly anticipated House Intelligence Committee interview with Stephen Bannon has been postponed until next week the committee said on Tuesday, as negotiations continue over the terms of his appearance. Bannon’s House Intel testimony postponed:

Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, was expected to skip his scheduled appearance Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, according to sources familiar with his plans. The move sets the stage for a showdown with lawmakers who had issued a bipartisan subpoena for his testimony.

“This is unacceptable, and the Committee remains united on this matter — the Committee’s subpoena remains in effect and his interview has been rescheduled for next week. Testifying before the Special Counsel does not obviate Mr. Bannon’s obligations under the subpoena issued by the Committee,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the committee’s ranking Democrat said on Tuesday in a statement. “Should Bannon maintain his refusal to return and testify fully to all questions, the Committee should begin contempt proceedings to compel his testimony.”

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(Update) Analysis by former FBI agent of Nunes Memo

In an earlier post, House Intelligence Committee releases controversial Nunes Memo – and an analysis that destroys it, I included a link to an analysis by Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent who has been through the process of obtaining these kinds of warrants under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), written before the release of the Nunes Memo. Five Questions the Nunes Memo Better Answer.

Asha Rangappa has updated her analysis in an op-ed at the Washington Post after the Nunes Memo has been released. Devin Nunes tried to discredit the FBI. Instead, he proved it’s onto something.

The point of the memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and released Friday afternoon was supposed to be to expose corruption at the highest levels of the FBI. But what the memo actually did — albeit surely not intentionally — was exactly the opposite. In a brief 3½ pages, Nunes managed to confirm that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia has a very solid basis and that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III must keep looking into the case.

As a former special agent for the FBI working on counterintelligence, I used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, so I’m familiar with the procedures Nunes implies the FBI abused in this case. To initiate surveillance on former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page in October 2016, the government would have had to demonstrate that Page was “knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering activities for or on behalf of” Russia. Importantly, the “knowingly” requirement applies only to “U.S. persons” such as Page, not to foreign nationals — which means the government had a slightly higher burden in his case. It takes months and even years to obtain enough relevant evidence for a FISA application, which can include details from physical surveillance, phone and financial records, items recovered from the target’s trash and intelligence obtained from other sources. So the FISA application would probably have outlined the bureau’s efforts going all the way back to 2013, when Page was approached by the FBI, which warned him, based on recordings of Russian intelligence officers, that he was being targeted for recruitment as a Russian spy. (That same year, Page also reportedly wrote in a letter to an academic publisher that he was an “informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”) In counterintelligence investigations, this kind of interview would have been intended to “neutralize” the Russians: The idea is that anyone who was being unwittingly developed as a spy, as Page appeared to be, would be dismayed to realize what was happening and would immediately cease further contact with their intelligence contacts.

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House Intelligence Committee approves release of Democratic Memo rebutting Nunes Memo; NY Times asks FISA Court for Carter Page warrant info

The House Intelligence Committee on Monday voted unanimously to release a memo drafted by Democrats to rebut a GOP-crafted document alleging surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Intelligence Committee Republicans last week voted down a measure that would have made the Democratic memo public at the same time as the Nunes memo. House Intel votes to release Dem countermemo:

The 10-page classified document now goes to President Trump, who has five days to block its release if he so chooses. It remains an open question whether he will do so.

Don’t hold your breath.

The Democratic memo is expected to lay out a point-by-point rebuttal of the assertions in the Nunes memo and make the case that the FBI had good reason to spy on Page as part of the counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign.

A decision by the Trump White House to block its publication would almost certainly set off a firestorm of accusations from Democrats that he is attempting to obstruct justice.

The White House has signaled that it is open to allowing the release of the Democratic memo, but included a caveat for national security protections.

There were no redactions made by the White House to the Nunes Memo for national security reasons.

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