Posts Tagged ‘House Intelligence Committee’

Congressional leaders get briefings on Russia probe

May 25, 2018

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have gotten classified briefings about the origins of the FBI investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, a highly unusual series of meetings prompted by partisan allegations that the bureau spied on Donald Trump’s campaign.

Democrats emerged from the meetings saying they saw no evidence to support Republican allegations that the FBI acted inappropriately, although they did express grave concern about the presence of a White House lawyer at Thursday’s briefings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News he had learned “nothing particularly surprising,” but declined to go into detail.

Still, the extraordinary briefings drew attention to the unproved claims of FBI misconduct and political bias. The meetings were sought by Trump’s GOP allies and arranged by the White House, as the president has tried to sow suspicions about the legitimacy of the FBI investigation that spawned a special counsel probe. Initially offered only to Republicans, the briefings were the latest piece of stagecraft meant to publicize and bolster the allegations. But they also highlighted the degree to which the president and his allies have used the levers of the federal government — in this case, intelligence agencies — to aide in Trump’s personal and political defense.

President Donald Trump says he wants transparency from everyone involved in the investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. Trump insisted Wednesday, “what I want is total transparency.” (May 23)

Video:

https://apnews.com/fc99009f9f0b42aba27a87ee0b2d19f2/Congressional-leaders-get-briefings-on-Russia-probe

Under direct pressure from the president, Justice Department officials agreed to grant Republicans a briefing, and only later opened it up to Democrats. The invite list evolved up until hours before the meeting — a reflection of the partisan distrust and the political wrangling. A White House lawyer, Emmet Flood, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly showed up for both briefings, although the White House had earlier said it would keep a distance, drawing criticism from Democrats.

“For the record, the president’s chief of staff and his attorney in an ongoing criminal investigation into the president’s campaign have no business showing up to a classified intelligence briefing,” Sen. Mark Warner tweeted after the briefing.

The White House said the officials didn’t attend the full briefings, but instead delivered brief remarks communicating the “president’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law” and relaying “the president’s understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government,” according to a statement.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats attended both meetings — the first at the Department of Justice and the second on Capitol Hill.

Trump has zeroed in on, and at times embellished, reports that a longtime U.S. government informant approached members of his campaign in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election. The president intensified his attacks this week, calling it “spygate” and tweeting Thursday that it was “Starting to look like one of the biggest political scandals in U.S. history.”

It was unclear how much information was given to lawmakers. According to a U.S. official familiar with the meeting, the briefers did not reveal the name of an informant. They brought documents but did not share them, and made several remarks about the importance of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The person declined to be identified because the briefing was classified.

In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan wouldn’t say what he learned, but said he looked forward to the “prompt completion” of the House Intelligence Committee’s work now that they are “getting the cooperation necessary.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, had originally requested the information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. The original meeting was scheduled for just Nunes and Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but the Justice Department relented and allowed additional lawmakers to come after Democrats strongly objected.

Nunes and other Republicans already eager to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation used Trump’s complaints to obtain the briefing from the Justice Department, whose leaders have tried for months to balance demands from congressional overseers against their stated obligation to protect Mueller’s ongoing investigation into ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign.

Nunes attended both briefings Thursday. According to the U.S. official and another person briefed on the Capitol Hill meeting, Nunes did not speak at all during the briefing. The second person also declined to be named because the meeting was classified.

Democratic lawmakers declined to comment on the substance of the briefing, but gave a joint statement afterward saying their view had not changed that “there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a ‘spy’ in the Trump Campaign, or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.”

The statement was issued by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and the top Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence panels, Warner and Rep. Adam Schiff.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr also attended the briefing but did not comment afterward.

The back and forth between Congress and the Justice Department has simmered for weeks.

The Justice Department had rejected Nunes’ original request, writing in a letter in April that his request for information could put lives in danger.

Negotiations over release of the information stalled but restarted when Trump demanded, via tweet, on Sunday that the Justice Department investigate.

In response to the tweet, the Justice Department immediately asked its inspector general to expand its ongoing investigation to look into whether there was any politically motivated surveillance of the campaign and agreed to hold the classified briefings.

It remained unclear what, if any, spying was done. The White House gave no evidence to support Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama’s administration was trying to spy on his 2016 campaign for political reasons.

It’s long been known that the FBI was looking into Russian meddling during the campaign and that part of that inquiry touched on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russian figures. Mueller took over the investigation when he was appointed special counsel in May 2017.

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Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman, Jonathan Lemire, Lisa Mascaro, Chad Day and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

AP

https://apnews.com/fc99009f9f0b42aba27a87ee0b2d19f2/Congressional-leaders-get-briefings-on-Russia-probe

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The Real Constitutional Crisis

May 25, 2018

The FBI and Justice Department continue evading congressional oversight.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks at the Bloomberg Law Leadership Forum, New York City, May 23.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein speaks at the Bloomberg Law Leadership Forum, New York City, May 23. PHOTO: VICTOR J. BLUE/BLOOMBERG NEWS

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Democrats and their media allies are again shouting “constitutional crisis,” this time claiming President Trump has waded too far into the Russia investigation. The howls are a diversion from the actual crisis: the Justice Department’s unprecedented contempt for duly elected representatives, and the lasting harm it is doing to law enforcement and to the department’s relationship with Congress.

The conceit of those claiming Mr. Trump has crossed some line in ordering the Justice Department to comply with oversight is that “investigators” are beyond question. We are meant to take them at their word that they did everything appropriately. Never mind that the revelations of warrants and spies and dirty dossiers and biased text messages already show otherwise.

We are told that Mr. Trump cannot be allowed to have any say over the Justice Department’s actions, since this might make him privy to sensitive details about an investigation into himself. We are also told that Congress—a separate branch of government, a primary duty of which is oversight—cannot be allowed to access Justice Department material. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes can’t be trusted to view classified information—something every intelligence chairman has done—since he might blow a source or method, or tip off the president.

That’s a political judgment, but it holds no authority. The Constitution set up Congress to act as a check on the executive branch—and it’s got more than enough cause to do some checking here. Yet the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have spent a year disrespecting Congress—flouting subpoenas, ignoring requests, hiding witnesses, blacking out information, and leaking accusations.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley has not been allowed to question a single current or former Justice or FBI official involved in this affair. Not one. He’s also more than a year into his demand for the transcript of former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s infamous call with the Russian ambassador, as well as reports from the FBI agents who interviewed Mr. Flynn. And still nothing.

Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, is being stonewalled on at least three inquiries. The House Judiciary and Oversight committee chairmen required a full-blown summit in April with Justice Department officials to get movement on their own subpoena. The FBI continues to block a fuller release of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia report.

Not that the documents that Justice sends over are of much use. Mr. Grassley this week excoriated the department for its routine practice of redacting key information, and for similarly refusing to provide a “privilege log” that details the legal basis for withholding information. His team recently discovered that one of the items Justice had scrubbed from the Peter Strzok-Lisa Page texts was the duo’s concern that former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe had a $70,000 conference table. (Was it lacquered with unicorn tears?) A separate text refers to an investigation that the White House is “running,” but conveniently blacks out which one. The FBI won’t answer Mr. Johnson’s questions about who is doing the redacting.

This intransigence is creating an unprecedented toxicity between law enforcement and Congress, undermining what has long been a cooperative and vital relationship. It is also pushing lawmakers ever closer to holding Justice Department officials in contempt or impeaching them. Congress hasn’t impeached a member of the executive branch (presidents excepted) since the 19th century. Let’s agree such a step would amount to a real crisis. And the pressure to use these tools to get disclosure is growing, as congressional Republicans worry about losing their oversight authority in the midterms, and suspect the Justice Department is stringing them along for that very reason.

Which is why Mr. Trump was right to order that Justice comply with Mr. Nunes’s demands for documents about the alleged FBI spy Stefan Halper and other information related to the catalyst of this investigation. As president, he has a duty to protect the reputation and integrity of the Justice Department—even from its own leaders. Forcing officials to comply with legitimate congressional oversight is far better than sitting back to watch those same officials singe the institution and its relationship with Congress in a flame of impeachment resolutions.

Mr. Trump has an even quicker way to bring the hostility to an end. He can—and should—declassify everything possible, letting Congress and the public see the truth. That would put an end to the daily spin and conspiracy theories. It would puncture Democratic arguments that the administration is seeking to gain this information only for itself, to “undermine” an investigation. And it would end the Justice Department’s campaign of secrecy, which has done such harm to its reputation with the public and with Congress.

Write to kim@wsj.com.

Appeared in the May 25, 2018, print edition.

‘Bigger than Watergate’: Trump joins push by allies to expose role of an FBI source

May 18, 2018

President Trump’s allies are waging an increasingly aggressive campaign to undercut the Russia investigation by exposing the role of a top-secret FBI source. The effort reached new heights Thursday as Trump alleged that an informant had improperly spied on his 2016 campaign and predicted that the ensuing scandal would be “bigger than Watergate!”

The extraordinary push begun by a cadre of Trump boosters on Capitol Hill now has champions across the GOP and throughout conservative media — and, as of Thursday, the first anniversary of Robert S. Mueller III’s appointment as special counsel, bears the imprimatur of the president.

The dispute pits Trump and the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee against the Justice Department and intelligence agencies, whose leaders warn that publicly identifying the confidential source would put lives in danger and imperil other operations.

Image result for Donald Trump, angry, photos

By Philip RuckerRobert CostaCarol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey
The Washington Post

The stakes are so high that the FBI has been working over the past two weeks to mitigate the potential damage if the source’s identity is revealed, according to several people familiar with the matter. The bureau is taking steps to protect other live investigations that the person has worked on and is trying to lessen any danger to associates if the informant’s identity becomes known, said these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations.

Trump reacted on Twitter on Thursday to recent news reports that there was a top-secret source providing intelligence to the FBI as it began its investigation into Russia’s interference in the election process.

“Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ‘SPIED ON THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN WITH AN EMBEDDED INFORMANT,’ ” Trump tweeted. He added, “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”

[Secret intelligence source who aided Mueller probe is at center of latest clash between Nunes and Justice Dept.]

Trump’s attorney, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said in an interview with The Washington Post that the president believes some law enforcement officials have been conspiring against him.

“The prior government did it, but the present government, for some reason I can’t figure out, is covering it up,” Giuliani said, adding that confirmation of an informant could render the Mueller investigation “completely illegitimate.”

Giuliani said Trump believes it is time for the Justice Department to release classified documents about the origin of the Russia probe, requested by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), that are expected to contain details about the confidential source.

“It’s ridiculous,” Giuliani said. “You guys in the press should have them. I don’t know why the current attorney general and the current director of the FBI want to protect a bunch of renegades that might amount to 20 people at most within the FBI.”

The Post first reported earlier this month that an FBI informant and top-secret, longtime intelligence source had provided information early in the FBI investigation of connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

A New York Times story published Wednesday about the beginnings of the Russia probe reported that at least one government informant met several times with two former Trump campaign advisers, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

“It looks like the Trump campaign in fact may have been surveilled,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager who now is a White House adviser, said Thursday on Fox News Channel. “It looks like there was an informant there. As the president likes to say, we’ll see what happens.”

FBI Director Christopher A. Wray testified Wednesday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee that the FBI takes seriously its responsibilities to Congress but said the bureau also has important responsibilities to people who provide information to agents.

“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” Wray said. “Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families.”

The source is a U.S. citizen who has provided information over the years to both the FBI and the CIA, as The Post previously reported, and aided the Russia investigation both before and after Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, according to people familiar with his activities.

Breitbart and other right-wing news websites have been abuzz in recent days with commentary about the source. Sean Hannity, a friend and informal adviser to Trump, speculated about the source on his Fox News show Wednesday night.

[Mueller investigation enters Year Two: What comes next — and how it could end]

Trump’s allies believe outing the source and revealing details about his or her work for the FBI could help them challenge the investigation and, potentially, provide cause for removing Mueller or his overseer, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. They also point to the dossier containing allegations about Trump’s connections to Russia, which was partially funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and was used by the FBI to obtain a search warrant for Page.

“If it were found that the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign was predicated on flimsy facts ginned up by people with a political agenda and used informants to get inside the Trump campaign based on no solid facts, then, yes, I absolutely think it’s grounds for dismissing this entire investigation,” said Mark ­Corallo, a former Justice Department official and former spokesman for Trump’s legal team.

Trump tweeted Thursday that the Mueller probe was a “disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt,” which drew a retort from Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“I would say to the president, it’s not a ‘witch hunt’ when 17 Russians have been indicted,” Schumer said in a speech on the Senate floor. “It’s not a ‘witch hunt’ when some of the most senior members of the Trump campaign have been indicted. It’s not a ‘witch hunt’ when Democrats and Republicans agree with the intelligence community that Russia interfered in our election to aid President Trump.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) has been conferring with Trump — in three or more calls a week — communicating concerns that the Justice Department is hiding worrisome information about the elements of the probe, according to people familiar with their discussions.

Meadows declined to discuss his conversations with the president. But he said, “The president has always been consistent in wanting transparency, even when he had no knowledge of what the document might or might not contain, whether it would be good or bad for him.”

Nunes, meanwhile, has purposefully not been talking to Trump, to avoid accusations that he is providing sensitive information to the president, according to these people. Instead, Nunes has been relaying the status of his battle with the Justice Department to White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

“What we’re trying to figure out are what methods the FBI and DOJ used to investigate and open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign,” Nunes said.

Nunes said he and his colleagues have been troubled by reports and indications that sources may have been repeatedly reaching out to Trump campaign members and even offering aides money to encourage them to meet. The president, he said, has ample reason to be angry and suspicious.

“If you are paying somebody to come talk to my campaign or brush up against my campaign, whatever you call it, I’d be furious,” Nunes said.

Nunes redirected his attacks Thursday from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Rosenstein, telling Sinclair Broadcast Group that the deputy attorney general should be held in contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with his subpoena. Sessions is recused from the matter.

[‘Buckle up’: As Mueller probe enters second year, Trump and allies go on war footing]

Inside the West Wing, Trump often complains about the Mueller investigation, with episodic bouts that can be “all-encompassing,” according to a former senior administration official. Trump often talks with his advisers about ways he can fight back against what he views as an encroaching probe — and he sees allies in Congress as more credible surrogates than his own staff, the official said.

Trump often agrees with Meadows and at times has encouraged him and other allies to go on television news shows and, in the words of a senior administration official, “beat the drums.”

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has complained to some colleagues that such conversations between Trump and Meadows and other House allies are not always helpful, according to the former official.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) has told the president on several occasions that he should stop talking about the Russia probe, according to an official familiar with their conversations. “You’re not guilty, don’t act like it,” Ryan would say, and Trump would agree, but then the president would go right back to venting about the investigation, according to this official.

For months, Meadows, Nunes and other GOP lawmakers have criticized Rosenstein for refusing to let Congress see a “scope memo” outlining the people and issues under investigation by Mueller. Some House Republicans in March drafted articles of impeachment against Rosenstein as a “last resort” if he does not provide Congress with more information.

In early May, Nunes pushed the Justice Department for more information about the source, but top White House officials, with the assent of Trump, agreed to back the department’s decision to withhold the information. They were persuaded that turning over Justice Department documents could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, according to multiple people familiar with the discussion and the person’s role.

Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is functioning as an informal adviser to the Trump allies, both inside and outside the administration, who are leading the charge against the Justice Department, according to three people involved in those discussions.

Working from his Capitol Hill townhouse, Bannon has conferred with Meadows, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie, among others, about how to bolster support for Trump allies in Congress who are calling for more document disclosures, the people said.

These people said the Bannon-advised group sees itself as a bulwark for the embattled president and said there were growing tensions between them and Kelly and McGahn, whom the group sees as not doing enough to force the hand of top Justice officials.

Kelly met with Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) a few weeks ago and suggested they give Justice officials more time to comply with their request. But Meadows and Jordan did not back off, a senior administration official said.

“The president is frustrated,” Jordan said. “I don’t blame him for being frustrated.”

Devlin Barrett and Shane Harris contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bigger-than-watergate-trump-joins-push-by-allies-to-expose-an-fbi-source/2018/05/17/db211542-59ea-11e8-8836-a4a123c359ab_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.254342ce88ee

Trump Lets ZTE Off the Hook

May 15, 2018

An arbitrary intervention hurts U.S. sanctions policy.

Trump Lets ZTE Off the Hook
PHOTO: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS

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Donald Trump vows to challenge China’s trade abuses, but then how to explain his extraordinary intervention Sunday to rescue the Chinese telecom firm ZTE? The answer lies in the arbitrary and transactional nature of Mr. Trump’s trade policy, which has economic and political costs.

Last month the Trump Administration barred U.S. companies from selling to ZTE for seven years. But on Sunday Mr. Trump tweeted that “President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

The decision stunned even Mr. Trump’s inner circle—not least because it undermines his own policy. The Commerce Department found overwhelming proof that ZTE sold telecom equipment containing U.S. technology to five embargoed countries: Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Syria and Cuba.

In 2016 the Obama Administration banned ZTE from buying U.S. components, which would effectively put the company out of business. Two weeks later it gave ZTE a second chance, and the company agreed to pay a $1.2 billion fine and punish the employees responsible. ZTE didn’t carry out the punishments, lied to the U.S. and got caught again. Giving ZTE a third chance sets a terrible precedent. The company used an elaborate system of shell companies to deceive the U.S., and the deception came to light only after internal documents leaked. Far from punishing the employees responsible, ZTE paid them bonuses.

The Journal reported last month that the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Huawei, another Chinese company and the world’s largest supplier of telecom equipment, for violating Iran sanctions. In 2012 Reuters reported that a Hong Kong-based Huawei partner offered to sell Iran a Huawei-developed system for monitoring communications.

The Chinese government owns ZTE through other state-owned companies, several of them defense-related. Huawei’s ownership is unclear, but it too has ties to the Chinese military. That raises suspicion that Beijing knew about the sanctions-busting and failed to stop it.

ZTE and Huawei are also under scrutiny in the U.S. and elsewhere because of concerns that their equipment could be used to spy on or sabotage networks. In 2012 the House Intelligence Committee stated that they “cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.” The U.S. has effectively banned the companies from government contracts.

Huawei and ZTE are competing with U.S. firms to develop the next generation of mobile communications, known as 5G. Under its Made in China 2025 industrial policy, Beijing offers subsidies and other aid to make the country a leader in the telecom industry. It has also pressured the American company Qualcomm to give up its telecom patents. These interventions violate World Trade Organization rules.

Mr. Trump tends to think of global politics as a perpetual negotiation, and perhaps he figures his ZTE reprieve will cause Mr. Xi to help more on North Korea. China has agreed to restart its regulatory review of Qualcomm’s bid to acquire NXP Semiconductors , which had been put on hold amid trade friction. And the Journal reports that China may forgo the tariffs on U.S. farm goods it has threatened to impose in response to U.S. steel tariffs.

So the U.S. is giving a reprieve to ZTE in return for China lifting tariffs it imposed in response to misguided U.S. tariffs. In other words, Mr. Trump is undermining U.S. credibility on sanctions in order to dodge tariff retaliation on the U.S. Farm Belt that Mr. Trump invited with his protectionism. Meanwhile, there’s no sign so far that Mr. Xi is bending on IP theft or other predatory Chinese behavior.

WSJ: The FBI Hid A Mole In The Trump Campaign

May 11, 2018

On Wednesday we reported on an intense battle playing out between House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (D-CA), the Department of Justice, and the Mueller investigation concerning a cache of intelligence that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein refuses to hand over – a request he equated to “extortion.”

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, closeup

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Nunes was denied access to the information on the grounds that it “could risk lives by potentially exposing the source, a U.S. citizen who has provided intelligence to the CIA and FBI.

After the White House caved to Rosenstein and Nunes was barred from seeing the documents, it also emerged that this same intelligence had already been shared with Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 US election.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, news emerged that Nunes and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) would receive a classified Thursday briefing at the DOJ on the documents. This is, to put it lightly, incredibly significant.

Why? Because it appears that the FBI may have had a mole embedded in the Trump campaign.

In a bombshell op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Strassel shares a few key insights about recent developments. Perhaps we should start with the ending and let you take it from there. Needless to say Strassel’s claims, if true, would have wide ranging implications for the CIA, FBI, DOJ and former Obama administration officials.

Strassel concludes: 

“I believe I know the name of the informant, but my intelligence sources did not provide it to me and refuse to confirm it. It would therefore be irresponsible to publish it.”

Authored by Kimberley Strassel, op-ed via The Wall Street Journal,

About That FBI ‘Source’

Did the bureau engage in outright spying against the 2016 Trump campaign?

The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications.

Among them is that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation. In a Thursday press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan bluntly noted that Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s request for details on this secret source was “wholly appropriate,” “completely within the scope” of the committee’s long-running FBI investigation, and “something that probably should have been answered a while ago.” Translation: The department knew full well it should have turned this material over to congressional investigators last year, but instead deliberately concealed it.

House investigators nonetheless sniffed out a name, and Mr. Nunes in recent weeks issued a letter and a subpoena demanding more details. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s response was to double down—accusing the House of “extortion” and delivering a speech in which he claimed that “declining to open the FBI’s files to review” is a constitutional “duty.” Justice asked the White House to back its stonewall. And it even began spinning that daddy of all superspook arguments—that revealing any detail about this particular asset could result in “loss of human lives.”

This is desperation, and it strongly suggests that whatever is in these files is going to prove very uncomfortable to the FBI.

The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a “top secret intelligence source” of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe. When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.

This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting. It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough. Obama political appointees rampantly “unmasked” Trump campaign officials to monitor their conversations, while the FBI played dirty with its surveillance warrant against Carter Page, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its supporting information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now we find it may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

Which would lead to another big question for the FBI: When? The bureau has been doggedly sticking with its story that a tip in July 2016 about the drunken ramblings of George Papadopoulos launched its counterintelligence probe. Still, the players in this affair—the FBI, former Director Jim Comey, the Steele dossier authors—have been suspiciously vague on the key moments leading up to that launch date. When precisely was the Steele dossier delivered to the FBI? When precisely did the Papadopoulos information come in?
And to the point, when precisely was this human source operating? Because if it was prior to that infamous Papadopoulos tip, then the FBI isn’t being straight. It would mean the bureau was spying on the Trump campaign prior to that moment. And that in turn would mean that the FBI had been spurred to act on the basis of something other than a junior campaign aide’s loose lips.

We also know that among the Justice Department’s stated reasons for not complying with the Nunes subpoena was its worry that to do so might damage international relationships. This suggests the “source” may be overseas, have ties to foreign intelligence, or both. That’s notable, given the highly suspicious role foreigners have played in this escapade. It was an Australian diplomat who reported the Papadopoulos conversation. Dossier author Christopher Steele is British, used to work for MI6, and retains ties to that spy agency as well as to a network of former spooks. It was a former British diplomat who tipped off Sen. John McCain to the dossier. How this “top secret” source fits into this puzzle could matter deeply.

I believe I know the name of the informant, but my intelligence sources did not provide it to me and refuse to confirm it. It would therefore be irresponsible to publish it. But what is clear is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the FBI’s 2016 behavior, and the country will never get the straight story until President Trump moves to declassify everything possible. It’s time to rip off the Band-Aid.

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-05-10/wsj-fbi-hid-mole-trump-campaign

Related:

Related (Wall Street Journal):

Was the FBI Outright Spying On The Trump Campaign?

May 11, 2018

Image result for spy in your keyboard, photos

 

There’s no doubt that the “swamp” in Washington was stunned, enraged and even left fearful by the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the Oval Office. And individuals reacted in their shock.

 

Examples are galore.

Take, for instance, fired FBI Director James Comey, who took documents from private meetings with the president and gave them to a friend to give to a reporter so they would be publicized – and, he hoped, trigger a special counsel investigation.

And it’s known now that one of the main documents used by the government to give to a court as evidence so that they could start spying on the Trump campaign was a hired political hit piece done by a contractor for a company paid off by Hillary Clinton.

Now talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh is suggesting that, based on the evidence that’s become available, the Deep State may have had a spy infiltrate the Trump campaign.

“These swamp people are so in the vapors with all of this – I think they’re so shocked and stunned over everything that’s happened – that they have long since abandoned any rationality whatsoever,” he said.

“I actually believe the FBI planted an informant in the Trump campaign – before Mueller was appointed, obviously,” he said

He cited three recent publications in coming to his conclusion.

The first was a column by Kimberley Strassel, of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which made the point “that the Trump legal team is narrowly focused, that they’re focused on defending and protecting Trump and what they need to be focused on is defending and protecting the Constitution and the presidency and the executive branch – and in doing so, they will take care of Trump.”

Her theory, he explained, is that the attack being sustained by Trump critics isn’t an attack on him, “it’s an attack on the Constitution.”

“It is an attempt to say that any president exercising his constitutional duties is obstructing justice! He can’t fire Comey, that’s obstructing justice? That’s bogus! Her point is, the Constitution permits him control of the executive branch! He can do with anybody in the executive branch what he wants! He can declassify any file that he wants! He could make sure that we all could see the FISA warrant application. He could release everything; nobody could stop him. Her point is actually very good, that any president exercising his constitutional duties cannot be guilty of obstruction.”

Second, for Limbaugh, was a Washington Post report that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is seeking information from the Justice Department about “an individual who people close to the matter say is a sensitive, longtime intelligence source for the CIA and FBI.”

Justice has refused to provide any information on the “U.S. citizen who has aided the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.”

Third was a Wall Street Journal report that commented on that very source.

“I would not be surprised if, in fact, the FBI planted an informant in the Trump campaign in order to try to prove this Russia collusion business,” Limbaugh said Thursday.

He noted Nunes’ demands for documents and information – and the Justice Department’s refusal.

He explained that one of the reports suggests that reporters already know who the “top secret” source is.

He noted the description as a “U.S. citizen,” who has been an informant for both “the CIA and FBI,” and has provided information that was given to Mueller.

“So the Journal editorial claims the Post already knows who this source is – and if they do, why can’t Nunes? Well, Nunes learning somehow would violate national security,” he said.

The claims include that outing the source could “damage relationships with other countries,” but Limbaugh said “only if the source is a foreign citizen, but we know now the source isn’t.”

“The source is a U.S. citizen, so outing the source would not damage relationships with other countries unless this source has also been involved in screwing other countries. But it suggests that the source has worked overseas. If they’re gonna claim that a U.S. citizen cannot be outed here because it might damage relationships other countries, it means he has worked overseas. Suggests it, anyway,” he continued.

Further, Limbaugh added, “And the story says the ‘role of the intelligence source’ could further provoke Republicans who have accused Justice and the FBI of engaging in ‘misuse of their surveillance power,” and, here we go, ‘hinting that the government may have used the source to snoop on the Trump campaign’”

“There it is. So it’s a pretty safe bet that the FBI planted an informant in the Trump campaign. Nunes wants to know who it is; the DOJ says, ‘No way, Jose!’” he said.

“If they had an informant in that campaign who was supposed to find the collusion and they still don’t have it? I mean, look at what we’re learning. They had an informant in the campaign, and they still don’t have any evidence!”

Further, he pointed out that Glenn Simpson, of Fusion GPS, which hired Christopher Steele to create the so-called dossier allegedly about Trump, testified in 2017 that “the FBI had a source in the Trump campaign.”

“Simpson claimed it was ‘a voluntary source,’ meaning it wasn’t a plant, meaning somebody on the Trump team decided to become an informant against Trump,” Limbaugh said.

His conclusion?

“This is the FBI more than likely planting an informant inside the campaign. Just remember, if they had somebody that nobody knew was there looking for this collusion and still didn’t find it, then what the hell is going on with this investigation?”

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2018/05/rush-did-fbi-plant-spy-in-trump-campaign/#ptRzvem2GOqhfCmO.99

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Related (Wall Street Journal):

About That FBI ‘Source’

May 11, 2018

Did the bureau engage in outright spying against the 2016 Trump campaign?

The Department of Justice lost its latest battle with Congress Thursday when it allowed House Intelligence Committee members to view classified documents about a top-secret intelligence source that was part of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Even without official confirmation of that source’s name, the news so far holds some stunning implications.

Among them is that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation outright hid critical information from a congressional investigation. In a Thursday press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan bluntly noted that Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s request for details on this secret source was “wholly appropriate,” “completely within the scope” of the committee’s long-running FBI investigation, and “something that probably should have been answered a while ago.” Translation: The department knew full well it should have turned this material over to congressional investigators last year, but instead deliberately concealed it.

House investigators nonetheless sniffed out a name, and Mr. Nunes in recent weeks issued a letter and a subpoena demanding more details. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s response was to double down—accusing the House of “extortion” and delivering a speech in which he claimed that “declining to open the FBI’s files to review” is a constitutional “duty.” Justice asked the White House to back its stonewall. And it even began spinning that daddy of all superspook arguments—that revealing any detail about this particular asset could result in “loss of human lives.”

 

This is desperation, and it strongly suggests that whatever is in these files is going to prove very uncomfortable to the FBI.

The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a “top secret intelligence source” of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe. When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.

This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting. It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough. Obama political appointees rampantly “unmasked” Trump campaign officials to monitor their conversations, while the FBI played dirty with its surveillance warrant against Carter Page, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its supporting information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now we find it may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.

Which would lead to another big question for the FBI: When? The bureau has been doggedly sticking with its story that a tip in July 2016 about the drunken ramblings of George Papadopoulos launched its counterintelligence probe. Still, the players in this affair—the FBI, former Director Jim Comey, the Steele dossier authors—have been suspiciously vague on the key moments leading up to that launch date. When precisely was the Steele dossier delivered to the FBI? When precisely did the Papadopoulos information come in?

 

Image result for George Papadopoulos, photos

George Papadopoulos

And to the point, when precisely was this human source operating? Because if it was prior to that infamous Papadopoulos tip, then the FBI isn’t being straight. It would mean the bureau was spying on the Trump campaign prior to that moment. And that in turn would mean that the FBI had been spurred to act on the basis of something other than a junior campaign aide’s loose lips…

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And to the point, when precisely was this human source operating? Because if it was prior to that infamous Papadopoulos tip, then the FBI isn’t being straight. It would mean the bureau was spying on the Trump campaign prior to that moment. And that in turn would mean that the FBI had been spurred to act on the basis of something other than a junior campaign aide’s loose lips.

We also know that among the Justice Department’s stated reasons for not complying with the Nunes subpoena was its worry that to do so might damage international relationships. This suggests the “source” may be overseas, have ties to foreign intelligence, or both. That’s notable, given the highly suspicious role foreigners have played in this escapade. It was an Australian diplomat who reported the Papadopoulos conversation. Dossier author Christopher Steele is British, used to work for MI6, and retains ties to that spy agency as well as to a network of former spooks. It was a former British diplomat who tipped off Sen. John McCain to the dossier. How this “top secret” source fits into this puzzle could matter deeply.

I believe I know the name of the informant, but my intelligence sources did not provide it to me and refuse to confirm it. It would therefore be irresponsible to publish it. But what is clear is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the FBI’s 2016 behavior, and the country will never get the straight story until President Trump moves to declassify everything possible. It’s time to rip off the Band-Aid.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/about-that-fbi-source-1525992611

Nunes wants to hold Sessions in contempt of Congress

May 7, 2018

A top Republican ally to President Trump said Sunday he’ll push to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and GOP members of House Intelligence Committee are frustrated the Department of Justice hasn’t turned over documents related to the conduct of Justice Department and FBI officials in their handling of an investigation during the 2016 presidential election.

“On Thursday we discovered that they are not going to comply with our subpoena,” Nunes said on “Fox and Friends Sunday.”

“The only thing left to do is we have to move quickly to hold the attorney general of the United States in contempt and that is what I will press for this week.”

Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has been investigating whether the Justice Department and FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor a member of the Trump campaign as part of the Russia probe.

It’s unclear if the GOP-led House of Representatives would have the votes to hold Sessions, a fellow Republican, on contempt of Congress charges.

At least one leading Republican Sunday said he’s not even clear what Nunes and the Justice Department “are arguing about” and expressed caution on resorting to “very extraordinary measures.”

“I think all members of Congress are going to need more information on what the request was and what the response from the Justice Department is. We don’t have that,” said Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

He’s a member of the House Judiciary Committee.

The GOP House voted in 2012 to hold President Obama’s attorney general Eric Holder in contempt of Congress by the vote of 255-67 related to his handling of the Operation Fast and Furious gun-running operation.

Trump has routinely berated Sessions for recusing himself in the Russian probe that has been closing in on the president.

Nunes and some conservative members of the House have been pressing the Justice Department for detailed information related to the Russia investigation but feel stonewalled.

Democrats believe Nunes and others are trying to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller ‘s probe and muddy the waters.

Nunes said he sent a classified memo seeking information from the DOJ, which was ignored, and then he sent a subpoena.

The Justice Department responded that providing Nunes information on a “specific individual” could pose grave implications for national security, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

“Disclosure of responsive information to such requests can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives, damage to relationships with valued international partners, compromise of ongoing criminal investigations, and interference with intelligence activities,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

https://nypost.com/2018/05/06/nunes-wants-to-hold-sessions-in-contempt-of-congress/

DOJ gives House Intel original document that prompted Russia investigation

April 12, 2018

The Hill

BY KATIE BO WILLIAMS AND OLIVIA BEAVERS – 

The Justice Department has provided House lawmakers with access to a two-page document that the FBI used as the basis for initiating its original counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

All members of the House Intelligence Committee received access to the document, a Justice Department official confirmed to The Hill on Wednesday.

Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had requested access to the unredacted document, complaining that previous “heavily” redacted versions were not adequate for committee Republicans’ investigation into alleged abuses at the Justice Department.

Image result for Trey Gowdy, photos

Trey Gowdy

According to Nunes, he and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday afternoon—one day after Nunes threatened to hold both Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt and initiate impeachment proceedings against them if they did not comply with the request for the unredacted document.
“During the meeting, we were finally given access to a version of the [Electronic Communication] that contained the information necessary to advance the Committee’s ongoing investigation of the Department of Justice and FBI,” Nunes said in a statement.

“Although the subpoenas issued by this Committee in August 2017 remain in effect, I’d like to thank Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for his cooperation today,” he added.

According to a Justice Department official, the remaining redactions in the document are “narrowly tailored to protect the name of a foreign country and the name of a foreign agent.” Specifics have been replaced with identifiers like “foreign official” and “foreign government,” the official said.

“These words must remain redacted after determining that revealing the words could harm the national security of the American people by undermining the trust we have with this foreign nation,” the official continued, adding that they appear “only a limited number of times, and do not obstruct the underlying meaning of the document.”

A handful of conservatives are investigating what they say is evidence that the department’s decisionmaking during the 2016 election was riddled with bias—allegations that Democrats see as a transparent effort to muddy the waters around Mueller, or provide a pretext to shut him down.

“We’re not going to just hold in contempt. We will have a plan to hold in contempt and impeach,” Nunes said of the two Trump-appointed officials on Fox News on Tuesday.

Nunes told Fox’s Laura Ingraham that the document will confirm why the FBI opened its original investigation into the Trump campaign.

The New York Times reported in December that the federal probe—now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller—was initiated after the FBI received a tip that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had claimed to an Australian diplomat that he had dirt on Hillary Clinton.

A memo authored by staff for Nunes that was declassified in February affirmed that the bureau opened the probe after receiving the tip regarding Papadopoulos.

But on Tuesday, Nunes appeared to cast doubt on that narrative.

“We haven’t been able to see the EC to confirm that,” Nunes told Fox, referring to the two-page document that he viewed Wednesday.

The revelation about Papadopoulos’ role ran counter to claims by some Republicans that the FBI used information from an unverified dossier of opposition research into Trump that was partially funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee to open the probe.

That document—known as a the “Steele” dossier after its principle author, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele—made a series of allegations about the business mogul’s ties to Moscow. President Trump, who has repeatedly blasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt,” has also described the dossier as fiction and its role in the federal investigation has become a flashpoint on the right.

While Rosenstein’s willingness to let Nunes view the document appears to have succeeded in keeping the peace for now, Republican lawmakers on a separate committee are also fuming at what they say is an department foot-dragging on many of their attempts to obtain and review records.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a House Judiciary Committee member, said if his panel does not receive the documents they’ve requested as part of his panel’s investigation into FBI decision-making during the election, then all options are on the table.

“Our patience has run out because the American people’s patience have run out so I think if they don’t change things in a dramatic fashion in a short period of time — I’m talking days, not weeks or months — then I think everything is on the table,” Jordan told The Hill on Wednesday.

He said this includes contempt and impeachment proceedings as well as calling for resignations.

Image result for Adam Schiff, photos

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, defended the two officials after Nunes publicly voiced his impeachment threat.

“Both Rosenstein and Wray have already made available to the Intelligence Committee scores of highly sensitive documents related to ongoing investigations — including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications — the details of which the majority proceeded to disclose in a deliberately misleading manner which the department rightly called ‘extraordinarily reckless,’” Schiff said in a statement.

“The chairman’s rhetoric is a shocking and irresponsible escalation of the GOP’s attacks on the FBI and DOJ,” he added, claiming it is intended to undermine Mueller’s probe.

Updated at 9:51 p.m.
TAGS GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS HILLARY CLINTON ROD ROSENSTEIN ROBERT MUELLER DONALD TRUMP DEVIN NUNES ADAM SCHIFF TREY GOWDY JIM JORDAN RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN THE 2016 UNITED STATES ELECTIONS UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION FBI BIAS

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/382764-doj-gives-house-intel-original-document-that-prompted-russia

Mike Pompeo, Picked By Trump as Next Secetary of State, Briefed on Plan To Withdraw From Iran Nuclear Deal

April 4, 2018

Trump wants out, but the State Department hasn’t been given any direction on how to properly handle the situation.

BY MICHAEL WILNER
 APRIL 4, 2018 18:53

 CIA Director: Iran deal ‘failed’ to permanently block Tehran’s path to nukes

 CIA chief Pompeo says he warned Iran’s Soleimani over Iraq aggression

U.S. sec. of state pick briefed on possible Iran deal pullout

Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo arrives for a closed briefing before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. May 16, 2017. . (photo credit: REUTERS/AARON P. BERNSTEIN)

WASHINGTON — Mike Pompeo, US President Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, was briefed last week by State Department officials on strategic planning for the future of the Iran nuclear deal ahead of his Senate confirmation hearings which are slated to begin next week.

According to the Associated Press, which reported on the briefing, US diplomats have begun actively preparing contingency plans should Trump choose to withdraw from the international agreement next month. Pompeo has advocated for the US to “roll back” the deal since it was first reached during the Obama administration in 2015.

State Department officials do not have a handle on Trump’s strategy, and are unsure what might convince him to stay within the agreement – one that he railed against throughout his campaign for the presidency and continues to criticize to this day. Few within his government are advocating for a hasty withdrawal from the deal, however, fearing such a move would isolate the US from its allies and provide Iran with justification to expand its nuclear work.

Trump instructed his administration in January to launch crash negotiations with Britain, France, Germany, hoping they together could come up with “fixes” to what Trump sees as controversial provisions in the agreement. The president specifically wants to expand access for UN inspectors to Iran’s military sites suspected of hosting past nuclear activity, to link Iran’s ballistic missile development to its nuclear program and to extend limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment work, set to expire within a decade.

Absent a US-E3 agreement that accomplishes all three goals, Trump has threatened to allow waivers on nuclear-related sanctions to expire by May 12 – a move that would, in practice, withdraw Washington from the nuclear deal.

State Department officials are debating to what extent Trump would need to “snap back” sanctions on Iran in order for him to uphold his campaign promise and follow through on his threat without fully withdrawing from the agreement. Any reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions would certainly be a violation of the deal, however, and constitute “significant nonperformance” under its terms– terms that then allow Iran to reciprocate by resuming some of its nuclear work.

Brian Hook, director of policy planning at the State Department and the US delegate to the last meeting on the nuclear deal with Iran, Russia, China, and the Europeans in Vienna, was one of the officials who briefed Pompeo on the developments.

Trump “has asked if we can reach agreement with the Europeans,” Hook told reporters last month. “We always have to prepare for any eventuality, and so we are engaged in contingency planning because it would not be responsible not to engage in it.”

“We’re kind of dual-tracking this,” he added.

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http://www.jpost.com/American-Politics/US-sec-of-state-pick-briefed-on-possible-Iran-deal-pullout-547920

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