Posts Tagged ‘House Intelligence Committee’

Top Democrats call for Devin Nunes to recuse himself from Trump-Russia inquiry — Devin Nunes Cancels House Intelligence Committee Meetings

March 28, 2017

and in New York and in Washington

Nancy Pelosi joined Adam Schiff in demanding Nunes step aside from inquiry into 2016 election interference ‘in interest of a fair and impartial investigation’

Devin Nunes speaks to reporters outside the White House.
Devin Nunes speaks to reporters outside the White House. Photograph: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Leading Democrats have escalated the controversy over the erratic behavior of Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, calling on him to recuse himself from the investigation into alleged links between the president’s associates and Russia.

Both Adam Schiff, Nunes’ counterpart on the committee, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, demanded that he step aside from the ongoing Russia affair that has become an enduring sore for the young Trump administration.

The intervention of senior Democrats takes the dispute to a new level of intensity, raising the prospect of the governing party being forced to make a second humiliating concession after US attorney general Jeff Sessions was forced this month to stand back from all Russian inquiries after he failed to disclose meetings with Moscow’s ambassador to Washington.

Schiff was the first to wade into the fray on Monday night, calling on Nunes to recuse himself in the wake of mounting controversy about his handling of the Russian inquiry. The ranking Democrat on the committee drew a parallel with the Sessions recusal and said in a statement: “I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman.”

Less than an hour later, Pelosi came out with a similarly weighed statement, saying that her equivalent in the House, Paul Ryan, should lean on Nunes to make him stand aside. “Speaker Ryan must insist that chairman Nunes at least recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation immediately. That leadership is long overdue.”

The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, also added his voice to the growing chorus for a Nunes recusal. The senator accused the Republican chairman of being “more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth. You cannot have the person in charge of an impartial investigation be partial to one side.”

The open partisan split within the powerful intelligence committee came as Schiff complained that members of the panel continue to wait for Nunes to present them with documents ostensibly relating to intelligence collected on Trump days after he had briefed the president. The embattled committee chairman raised further questions when he said he had no choice under classification rules except to view the sensitive intelligence at the White House, a statement likely to intensify speculation that the Trump administration fed Nunes the material.

The source who made the materials available to Nunes “could not simply put the documents in a backpack and walk them over to the House intelligence committee space”, Nunes’ office said on Monday.

In his statement on Monday night, Schiff tore into the chairman’s explanation. “There was no legitimate justification for bringing that information to the White House instead of the committee,” he said, adding: “That it was obtained at the White House makes this departure all the more concerning.”

Adam Schiff.
Adam Schiff. Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Further pressure on Nunes to stand down from the Russian investigation came from the top Democrat on the CIA subcommittee of the House intelligence committee, Eric Swalwell. The chairman should “no longer be anywhere near this investigation, let alone leading it”, he said.

Swalwell added that “too many people in the White House and administration, and now, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, have betrayed their duty to conduct an independent, bipartisan inquiry into the Trump team’s ties with Russia”.

Spicer repeatedly refused to offer any details about why Nunes was on the White House grounds and whom the California congressman was meeting with. “I’m not going to get into who he met with or why,” he said, while insisting the White House “was not concerned” over the possibility of classified information being leaked to Nunes.

Nunes, a member of Trump’s national security transition team, has come under sustained criticism that he is obstructing a high-profile investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia that he is running – a charge likely to intensify over the coming days.

On Wednesday, he stunned Washington by suggesting that communications from Trump’s associates were incidentally collected as part of “lawful” surveillance, with their identities insufficiently masked.

Contradicting testimony from the FBI and NSA directors, Trump claimed Nunes’ remarks provided a modicum of vindication for the president’s baseless claim that Obama placed Trump Tower under surveillance, something even Nunes continues to deny. Nunes has said the intelligence collection that “alarmed” him did not concern Russia.

Before making his statement calling for Nunes’ recusal, Schiff had publicly doubted the impartiality of the House inquiry. Those concerns escalated after Nunes abruptly canceled a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday into the Trump-Russia question.

Nunes has dodged questions, primarily from CNN, that his source came from the White House, and intimated that whistleblowers from the intelligence agencies brought the surveillance documents to him. Nunes told Bloomberg View on Monday that his source was an intelligence official and not a White House staffer.

But Nunes’ office has acknowledged that the chairman viewed whatever surveillance documents he has acquired on the White House grounds, apparently at the Eisenhower executive office building, where the national security council staff works.

Viewing the documents at the White House came under immediate scrutiny, since the House committee possesses secure facilities where it frequently accesses classified information as part of its routine responsibilities.

But Jack Langer, Nunes’ spokesman, told the Guardian that Nunes saw at the White House “executive branch documents” that Congress does not have.

“The White House grounds was the best location to safeguard the proper chain of custody and classification of these documents, so the chairman could view them in a legal way,” Langer said.

It remained unclear why, if Nunes’ source did not originate from the White House, viewing the documents had to occur at the White House complex. His explanation to Bloomberg was that the White House was the closest available location to access a classified computer network hived off from Congress. Nunes appears not to have paid visits to intelligence agency locations where the information would be accessible, including the offices of the director of national intelligence, FBI and NSA.

Langer did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about whether Nunes had in effect confirmed that his source for the documents came from the White House itself.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/27/devin-nunes-white-house-intelligence-source-trump

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Devin Nunes Cancels House Intelligence Committee Meetings Amid Growing Questions

The chairman is in hot water.

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03/28/2017 09:13 am ET

WASHINGTON ― Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) on Tuesday abruptly canceled all House Intelligence Committee meetings scheduled for this week, according to committee members, raising further questions on whether its investigation into ties between President Donald Trump’s administration and Russia can proceed.

“Not only [has] this investigation sort of had a shadow cast on it, but the committee has been put into suspended animation,” committee member Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said on MSNBC, confirming previous reports that Nunes, the committee chair, had canceled the meetings.

The move comes amid growing scrutiny over whether Nunes can lead an independent investigation into ties between Trump’s team and Russian officials.

Nunes claimed last week that members of the president’s team were subject to “incidental” surveillance. One day before making these allegations, however, he met with a source on White House grounds. Nunes said he needed a secure location to view sensitive information, but the visit raised further doubts about the transparency of the investigation and whether Nunes is coordinating with the White House.

After holding a press conference about his findings, Nunes also briefed Trump, whose team is under FBI investigation for alleged ties to Russian officials who may have interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

Himes said Tuesday that Nunes had not shared his information with the rest of the committee.

“No member of the committee, Republican or Democrat, has seen, after a full week, this stuff that caused Nunes to make himself famous nationally,” Himes said Tuesday. “Not a single member of the committee. I don’t even think anybody on his own staff has any idea what caused him to do this sort of musical chairs thing with the White House.”

Democrats have called for Nunes, who served on Trump’s transition team, to recuse himself from the investigation or even to be replaced as head of the committee, with some speculating that the chairman wants to protect Trump.

“Chairman Nunes is falling down on the job and seems to be more interested in protecting the president than in seeking the truth,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Monday.

Several Democratic members of the committee said Nunes had lost their trust.

“In the interest of a fair and impartial investigation, whose results will be respected by the public, the Chairman’s recusal is more than warranted,” the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said Monday.

I think that the writing is on the wall. It might make a good spy novel. It doesn’t make a good investigation.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), another member of the committee, said Nunes’ White House meeting was “the last straw.” She suggested he had “colluded in a desperate attempt to salvage the president’s credibility, after the president’s bogus wiretapping claims were debunked by his own FBI director.”

She told CNN on Tuesday that she believes “there is an effort under way to shut this committee down, by the president.”

“I don’t think he can just recuse himself and still chair the committee,” Speier said of Nunes. “I think that the writing is on the wall. It might make a good spy novel. It doesn’t make a good investigation.”

But Nunes said in interviews Monday night that he has no intention of stepping down.

“I’m sure the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I’m quite effective at getting to the bottom of things,” he told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/devin-nunes-trump-intelligence-committee_us_58da50dbe4b00f68a5caa9cd

Latest Liberal Talking Point: Trump Guilty of Treason

March 27, 2017

By AARON KLEIN

Breitbart

27 Mar 2017

TEL AVIV – Over the past week, numerous Democratic Party operatives and establishment pundits have used the word “treason” in a seeming attempt to smear President Donald Trump over unproven claims of collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

On Monday, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign manager, Robby Mook, demanded Trump’s campaign aides be “prosecuted for treason” if evidence emerges of coordination with Moscow during the recent presidential campaign.

One day later, on Tuesday, Michael Winship, senior writer for BillMoyers.com, wrote an opinion piece titled, “‘There’s a Smell of Treason in the Air’” Winship is a former senior writing fellow at the progressive advocacy group Demos, which is financed by billionaire George Soros.

Winship’s piece, which was republished at the Huffington Post, argued that last Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing that probed alleged ties between the Trump administration and Russia was “proof positive of the absolute need for both a special prosecutor and an independent, bipartisan commission with subpoena power to conduct a full investigation” on the matter.

Last week, this reporter found serious problems with the main anti-Trump charges at the hearing, delivered in opening remarks by Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on a House intelligence committee. The charges included wild conspiracy theories and heavy reliance on a questionable source.

The title of Winship’s article, meanwhile, comes from a quote in the Washington Post last week provided by presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, who told the newspaper, “There’s a smell of treason in the air. Imagine if J. Edgar Hoover or any other FBI director would have testified against a sitting president? It would have been a mindboggling event.”

Winship went on to compare the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to the Watergate scandal under the Nixon administration:

During Schiff’s questioning on Monday, Comey seemed to nod toward agreeing that Russia’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee was not unlike the 1972 physical break-in at the DNC. You know, the one that precipitated the revelations, resignations and prison convictions of Watergate. Drip, drip, drip…

On Thursday, Nicholas Kristof wrote an oped in the New York Times using the same title as Winship, also citing Brinkley’s quotes to the Washington Post.

Kristof starts off his piece, titled, “‘There’s a Smell of Treason in the Air,’” by citing President Richard Nixon:

The greatest political scandal in American history was not Aaron Burr’s shooting of Alexander Hamilton, and perhaps wasn’t even Watergate. Rather it may have been Richard Nixon’s secret efforts in 1968 to sabotage a U.S. diplomatic effort to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon’s initiative, long rumored but confirmed only a few months ago, was meant to improve his election chances that year. After Nixon won, the war dragged on and cost thousands of additional American and Vietnamese lives; it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but treason.

Like Winship, Kristof tries to link Trump to Nixon in order to make the “treason” argument. “Now the F.B.I. confirms that we have had an investigation underway for eight months into whether another presidential campaign colluded with a foreign power so as to win an election,” Kristof wrote. “To me, that too would amount to treason.”

Kristof relied on his own “intelligence experts” who “mostly (but not entirely) believe” that there is a Trump-Russia connection.

He wrote:

I’ve been speaking to intelligence experts, Americans and foreigners alike, and they mostly (but not entirely) believe there was Trump-Russia cooperation of some kind. But this is uncertain; it’s prudent to note that James Clapper, the intelligence director under Barack Obama, said that as of January he had seen no evidence of collusion but that he favors an investigation to get to the bottom of it.

Kristof claimed he was “told (not by a Democrat!) that there’s a persuasive piece of intelligence on ties between Russia and a member of the Trump team that isn’t yet public.”

Kristof speculated the “most likely scenario for collusion seems fuzzier and less transactional than many Democrats anticipate.”

Despite there being no evidence of significant Trump investments in Russia, Kristof then guesses at what it might be – alleged Trump investments in Russia:

The Russians for years had influence over Donald Trump because of their investments with him, and he was by nature inclined to admire Vladimir Putin as a strongman ruler. Meanwhile, Trump had in his orbit a number of people with Moscow ties, including Paul Manafort, who practically bleeds borscht.

The Times’ columnist goes on to channel Winship and also demand the same talking point – a “public and bipartisan investigation by an independent commission.”

On cue, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) warned Friday of a “cloud of treason” hanging over the Trump administration. “The bombshell revelation that US officials have information that suggests Trump associates may have colluded with the Russians means we must pause the entire Trump agenda,” he said.

Lieu called for the “total and complete” shutdown of Trump’s legislative agenda in the wake of the claims.

“We may have an illegitimate President of the United States currently occupying the White House,” Lieu said in a statement. “Congress cannot continue regular order and must stop voting on any Trump-backed agenda item until the FBI completes its Trump-Russia collusion investigation.”

Lieu made similar “treason” comments on Twitter.

Cloud of treason means we must have total shutdown of any @POTUS agenda item. No votes on any item. My stmt https://lieu.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-lieu-statement-report-trump-associates-possible-collusion-russia 

REP. LIEU STATEMENT ON REPORT OF TRUMP ASSOCIATES’ POSSIBLE COLLUSION WITH RUSSIA

Washington – Today, Congressman Ted W. Lieu (D | Los Angeles County) issued the following statement regarding the CNN report that Trump associates possibly colluded with Russia to affect the outcome…

lieu.house.gov

Last week, Lieu also tweeted to Trump: “You truly are an evil man…”

“President” @realDonaldTrump: You truly are an evil man. Your job is to help Americans. Not intentionally try to destroy their lives. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/845645916732358656 

Writing in the Washington Post on Friday, Jennifer Palmieri, Director of Communications for Clinton’s presidential campaign, also referenced “treason” but from a different angle.

“If Clinton had won with the help of the Russians, the Republicans would have impeachment proceedings underway for treason,” she contended. “No doubt. Instead, dealing with Russia falls nearly solely on Democrats’ shoulders.”

To Palmieri, the case is already closed. She writes that Trump won because of a Russian “plot” as if it were an established fact.

“Now that Trump is president, though, the stakes are higher because the Russian plot succeeded,” Palmieri claims.

Like Winship and Kristof, Palmieri references Watergate to make her point: “The possibility of collusion between Trump’s allies and Russian intelligence is much more serious than Watergate. It is a constitutional crisis. It represents a violation of our republic’s most sacred trust.”

Writing in The Week on Friday, senior correspondent Damon Linker also claims Trump could be guilty of “treason.”

Here is what I can’t understand: FBI Director James Comey testified on Monday that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is under investigation by the FBI over its potential ties to Russia. Let’s be clear about what this might mean: treason.

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

We don’t yet know what the outcome of the investigation will be (though subsequent press reports have certainly underlined the importance of seeing it through to the end). But the very possibility that a sitting president and his circle could end up credibly accused of having advanced the interests of a hostile foreign power and of having colluded with that power in an effort to undermine the campaign of the president’s political opponent should be more than enough to persuade Republican officeholders and pundits to treat the investigation with utmost seriousness — and to distance themselves from the man at the center of the investigation until such time as he is cleared of any wrongdoing.

And like the others, Linker likens the Russia claims to “Watergate” to advance the “treason” narrative.

Finally, there’s the relative gravity of the allegations in the two scandals. The Watergate break-in itself was obviously a crime, but what led to Nixon’s downfall was the cover-up, which implicated the president in multiple acts of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. That would have been more than enough to impeach Nixon, remove him from office, and indict him. Bad? You bet. But far from treason.

The allegations swirling around the Trump campaign are far more serious.

Also on Friday, journalist Carl Bernstein – who is known for breaking the Watergate story in 1972 – slammed Trump as “more treacherous” than Nixon.

Meanwhile, former Bill Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who has been working closely with the Soros-financed MoveOn.org, penned a piece published in Newsweek arguing Trump’s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch “shouldn’t be confirmed until Trump comes clean” about alleged ties to Russia.

Like Lieu’s reference to a “cloud of treason” hanging over the Trump administration, Reich claimed a “true cloud of illegitimacy now hangs over the presidency of Donald Trump.”

Reich’s piece was followed up by a MoveOn.org petition calling for Trump’s agenda to be “shut down” while he is investigated over the Russia claims.

The petition states: “Congress must pause all Trump-related legislation and appointments—starting with a halt to Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation process—until the American people learn the full truth about Trump and Russia.”

In recent days, the hashtag #TrumpTreason has been trending on Twitter.

Prominent users of the hashtag include Trump critic Rosie O’Donnell

This is not the first time this reporter documented the theme of establishment-types parroting similar anti-Trump talking points. In February, a trend emerged in which news media outlets featured articles quoting health care professionals who questioned the billionaire’s mental stability in a seeming bid to delegitimize the president.

Following those reports, some Democratic politicians – and at least one Republican – called for Trump to be subjected to a psychiatric examination to determine whether he was fit for office. Some commentators have even suggested invoking the 25th Amendment of the Constitution, which allows for the commander-in-chief’s removal from office if the “president is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

With research by Joshua Klein.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/03/27/establishment-parrots-latest-talking-point-trump-may-guilty-treason/

Alleged Obama administration spying on Trump team — Is there a potential ‘smoking gun’?

March 24, 2017

By

Nunes: Surveillance reports I’ve seen are ‘concerning’

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Republican congressional investigators expect a potential “smoking gun” establishing that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, will be produced to the House Intelligence Committee this week, a source told Fox News.

Classified intelligence showing incidental collection of Trump team communications, purportedly seen by committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and described by him in vague terms at a bombshell Wednesday afternoon news conference, came from multiple sources, Capitol Hill sources told Fox News. The intelligence corroborated information about surveillance of the Trump team that was known to Nunes, sources said, even before President Trump accused his predecessor of having wiretappedhim in a series of now-infamous tweets posted on March 4.

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)

The intelligence is said to leave no doubt the Obama administration, in its closing days, was using the cover of legitimate surveillance on foreign targets to spy on President-elect Trump, according to sources.

The key to that conclusion is the unmasking of selected U.S. persons whose names appeared in the intelligence, the sources said, adding that the paper trail leaves no other plausible purpose for the unmasking other than to damage the incoming Trump administration.

The FBI hasn’t been responsive to the House Intelligence Committee’s request for documents, but the National Security Agency is expected to produce documents to the committee by Friday. The NSA document production is expected to produce more intelligence than Nunes has so far seen or described – including what one source described as a potential “smoking gun” establishing the spying.

Some time will be needed to properly assess the materials, with the likely result being that congressional investigators and attorneys won’t have a solid handle on the contents of the documents – and their implications – until next week.

Because Nunes’s intelligence came from multiple sources during a span of several weeks, and he has not shared the actual materials with his committee colleagues, he will be the only member of the panel in a position to know whether the NSA has turned over some or all of the intelligence he is citing. However, Fox News was told Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., had been briefed on the basic contents of the intelligence described by Nunes.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo is also sympathetic to the effort to determine, with documentary evidence, the extent of any alleged Obama administration spying on the Trump team, sources said.

At a dramatic Wednesday news conference, Nunes claimed to have seen evidence that members of the Trump transition team, possibly including the president-elect, were subjected to “incidental surveillance” collection that Nunes characterized as legal but troubling.

“What I’ve read bothers me,” he told reporters, “and I think it should bother the president himself, and his team because I think some of it seems to be inappropriate.”

Schiff blasted Nunes for not coming first to the Intelligence Committee with the information.

“If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,” Schiff said in a Wednesday statement.

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show “The Foxhole.” His latest book is “A Torch Kept Lit: Great Lives of the Twentieth Century” (Crown Forum, October 4, 2016).

Includes video:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/23/potential-smoking-gun-showing-obama-administration-spied-on-trump-team-source-says.html

Related:

Anonymous U.S. government officials accuse Trump aides of giving Russians the ‘thumbs up’ for election hacks — ‘This is deeply troubling along many levels.’

March 23, 2017
  • US officials say FBI has information suggesting Trump campaign aides coordinated release of damaging info about Hillary Clinton with Russia
  • Other officials, however, say the evidence is circumstantial and it is premature to infer that collusion took place between Trump campaign and Moscow
  • The new information adds to statements made Wednesday by Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee
  • Schiff told MSNBC that the evidence into alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign is ‘more than circumstantial’ 
  • Earlier Schiff ripped GOP chairman Devin Nunes for going to the White House with new information about ‘incidental’ surveillance of Trump associates 
  • Nunes stunned Washington by saying that President Donald Trump was right – sort of – when he said his calls were monitored by Obama 
  • Intelligence collected on his transition team was ‘incidental,’ meaning neither Trump nor campaign insiders were targeted
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow. AFP photo

The bitter dispute over President Trump’s claims he was wire-tapped by the Obama administration and counter-accusations that his aides colluded with Russia during the election took another twist on Wednesday night.

A CNN report said the FBI believes President Donald Trump’s associates were in communication with suspected Russian operatives possibly to coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton during the election campaign.

The cable news network quotes anonymous US government officials as saying that the bureau has information that suggests links between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, though the sources stress that the evidence unearthed so far is ‘not conclusive.’

The fact that the claims are being made on CNN is only likely to intensify the president’s conflict with the network he has called ‘fake news’ and lead to further accusations that it is acting as the opposition to Trump.

And they come against the background of a bitter and now nakedly partisan dispute on the House Intelligence Committee over interactions with Russia which boiled over on Wednesday afternoon into an ugly public dispute between the Republican chair and the Democratic ranking member.

One source is cited by CNN as saying that this information is what FBI Director James Comey was referring to in his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Monday.

Comey told lawmakers on Monday that the FBI had come across ‘a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.’

The bureau is now sifting through phone records, travel documents, and human intelligence material in an effort to conclusively determine if laws were broken by individuals with links to Trump’s campaign.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that there is 'more than circumstantial' evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia - a statement backed up by anonymous US officials who told CNN that new information suggests possible collusion

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that there is ‘more than circumstantial’ evidence of links between the Trump campaign and Russia – a statement backed up by anonymous US officials who told CNN that new information suggests possible collusion

The White House has denied any wrongdoing by the campaign.

‘People connected to the campaign were in contact and it appeared they were giving the thumbs up to release information when it was ready,’ CNN quoted one source as saying.

But other officials threw cold water on the circumstantial evidence, saying that it was premature to make inferences from the information gathered.

US intelligence agencies believe that the Russian government was behind the hacking and release of emails belonging to senior Democratic Party officials, including the senior echelons of Clinton’s campaign.

There is consensus among US intelligence officials that the aim of the hacks was to aid Trump’s candidacy.

Thus far, four individuals involved in Trump’s campaign – former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, national security adviser Michael Flynn, and confidante Roger Stone – have been investigated by the FBI for alleged ties to Russia.

All of them deny any wrongdoing.

Paul Manafort 

Paul Manafort  CREDIT: AP

The latest revelations by CNN appear to bolster statements made earlier on Wednesday by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Rep. Adam Schiff told MSNBC’s MTP Daily that the evidence currently in the hands of intelligence officials are ‘more than circumstantial’ and ‘very much worthy of investigation,’ though he said he could not get into specific.

Schiff blasted his GOP counterpart, asking whether the panel’s Russia probe can function after chairman Rep. Devin Nunes briefed Trump on new snooping developments.

Schiff, a California Democrat who works closely with Nunes, called the Republicans’ debrief of Trump at the White House Wednesday ‘deeply troubling,’ and demanded the creation of an independent Russia probe.

House Democrats condemn Nunes for ‘undermining’ intel probe
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Schiff was blindsided when Nunes went to tell Trump that intelligence intercepts picked up Trump transition members – as well as Trump himself – seeming to substantiate the president’s claims this month.

‘The chairman will need to decide whether he is the chairman of an independent investigation into conduct which includes allegations of potential coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians, or he is going to at as a surrogate of the White House – because he cannot do both,’ Schiff fumed at a Capitol Hill press conference.

‘This is deeply troubling along many levels. The most significant level is it really impedes our ability to do this investigation the way we should,’ he added.

He declined to get into specifics about the documents Nunes saw – because he said Nunes hadn’t shared them with him or with Republican members of the committee yet.

‘We have no idea where these documents came from, whether they even show what they purport to show,’ he said. He raised the possibility that Nunes brought up the information as a way to help Trump back up his Twitter claim of 19 days ago that President Obama had his phones ‘tapped’ at Trump Tower – something the head of the FBI and Nunes himself has said didn’t happen.

His admonishment was a departure from the normally collegial panel, where the leaders are known as ‘chairman’ and ‘vice chairman’ and share the nation’s top secrets.

Nunes confirms intelligence was collected on Trump transition team

Earlier on Wednesday, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. David Nunes (R-Cal) told President Trump that there was ‘incidental’ surveillance of Trump aides unrelated to Russia

Nunes would not say how Trump transition officials were caught up in the surveillance - and whether any of them work at the White House

Nunes would not say how Trump transition officials were caught up in the surveillance – and whether any of them work at the White House

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‘But even if they do, on the basis of what the chairman said, the underlying fact is still the same: There’s no evidence to support the president’s contention that he was wiretapped by his predecessor,’ said Schiff.

‘So I’m not sure what the point of this extraordinary process is. And I have to hope that this is not part of a broader campaign by the White House aimed to deflect from the [FBI] director’s testimony earlier this week.’

Schiff suggested that the House Intelligence could be a casualty of Trump’s tweets – bringing up an angry clash with the British government over alleged spy cooperation that the British say didn’t happen.

HAPPIER TIMES? Chairman Devin Nunes of California (R) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff listen to testimony during hearings on Russia's involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election and alleged hacking allegations during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday

HAPPIER TIMES? Chairman Devin Nunes of California (R) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff listen to testimony during hearings on Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election and alleged hacking allegations during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Monday

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‘If the incident today is an indication that, after making the baseless claim, the president then aggravated the damage by implicating the British in a potential plot to have the British surveil him on behalf of President Obama, and now is attempting to interfere in the congressional investigation – again, with the effort of trying to provide some substance to a claim without substance – then the damage the wrecking ball of this allegation has just claimed another victim, that being our own committee,’ he said.

‘I only learned about this the way that all of you did, when the chairman briefed the press in advance of briefing his own committee members,’ said Schiff.

The president told White House reporters that he feels ‘somewhat’ vindicated after hearing what Nunes had to say this afternoon. The congressman came to the White House this afternoon to give Trump an in-person briefing

Schiff also blasted Nunes in a blistering written statement. ”If accurate, this information should have been shared with members of the committee, but it has not been,’ Schiff said.

‘The Chairman also shared this information with the White House before providing it to the committee, another profound irregularity, given that the matter is currently under investigation. I have expressed my grave concerns with the Chairman that a credible investigation cannot be conducted this way.’

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Nunes defended himself from the charges he might have acted improperly in an appearance on CNN about an hour before Schiff spoke.

He said the information ‘concerned me enough to have to notify the president because it was him and his transition team that were involved in this,’ he said.

‘It’s not fair for him not to know what’s in these reports,’ added Nunes.

‘President-elect Trump and his team were put into intelligence reports,’ Nunes told the network. He mentioned ‘dozens’ of intercepts. ‘Clearly there was surveillance that was conducted.’

But he didn’t back off his earlier statement that Trump was not subjected to wiretapping at Trump Tower.

FBI Director James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

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Schiff’s frustration followed Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes’ decision to brief the House speaker; the CIA, NSA and FBI chiefs; the White House; and the Washington press corps about a cache of intelligence reports in his possession – without sharing them with fellow committee members.

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Nunes told reporters on Capitol Hill that the US Intelligence Community collected ‘incidental’ information about President Donald Trump and his transition team during the three months following the 2016 election.

He said the information collected was ‘legally collected’ pursuant to a warrant issued by a FISA judge in a federal court, and concerned ‘foreign’ surveillance.

But that ‘did not involve Russia or any discussions with Russians,’ and there’s no reason to believe anyone in Trump’s circle was the target of an investigation.

The president told journalists that he feels ‘somewhat’ vindicated after hearing what Nunes had to say.

Trump has been fighting Democrats’ charges that he lied on March 4 when he claimed Barack Obama ‘wire tapped’ him last year.

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President Obama’s Director of national Intelligence James Clapper

‘I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found. I somewhat do,’ he said shortly after a meeting with Nunes.

Nunes told NBC he wasn’t currently able to show the information to Schiff because he and the committee don’t have the documents in their possession.

He said he was waiting for an intelligence official to send over the reports, which he said he was shown by a ‘source.’

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said Nunes’ statements ‘would appear to have revealed classified intelligence.’

Schiff refused to make the same charged when asked whether Nunes had revealed classified information.

FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

Related:

FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

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The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
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FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
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Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

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The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

Comey expected to rebut Trump’s wiretap claims before House Intelligence Committee — What to Watch For

March 20, 2017

By Janet Hook and Shane Harris
The Wall Street Journal
Updated March 19, 2017 5:32 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey will be called before lawmakers Monday as part of an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated accusation that he had been wiretapped by his predecessor during the campaign.

In advance of Comey’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, a number of lawmakers of both parties have said they have seen no evidence to support Trump’s allegation about then-president Barack Obama

Trump in early March tweeted that Obama had tapped the phones at Trump Tower, the New York building where Trump lived and worked during the campaign, an extraordinary claim of illegal activity by a president.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel who received a classified briefing on the issue Friday, said on NBC that he expected Comey to rebut the president’s claim at Monday’s hearing. “I hope that we can put an end to this wild goose chase because what the president said was just patently false,” Schiff said.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/james-comey-could-shed-light-on-russia-trumps-wiretap-charge-1489954181

Related:

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Comey to Testify About Wiretaps and Russia: What to Watch For

By Chris Strohm, Alan Bjerga, and Billy House

Bloomberg News

March 19, 2017, 7:03 PM EDT
  • FBI chief said to see no evidence Obama wiretapped Trump
  • Republican Chairman Nunes asks about ‘unmasking’ of names

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

FBI Director James Comey is about to testify on the continuing U.S. investigation into Russia’s meddling in last year’s presidential election, but much of the attention will be on President Donald Trump’s unsupported claim that his predecessor had Trump Tower “wiretapped.”

The House Intelligence Committee will try to untangle a web of conspiracies — and conspiracy theories — Monday morning when it hears from Comey and Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, in a rare open session.

Here’s what to watch for:

Was Trump wiretapped?

After Trump’s Twitter posting March 4 claiming that former President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory,” Comey unsuccessfully urged the Justice Department to publicly deny the allegation, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity in order to discuss sensitive issues.

Now, the hearing may give Comey and Rogers an opportunity to deny there was any such bugging. They’re not likely to hear dissent from committee members on that score.

Representative Devin Nunes of California, the committee’s Republican chairman, said on “Fox News Sunday” that “the president doesn’t go and physically” wiretap someone. So if you take Trump literally, he said, “it didn’t happen.”

The panel’s top Democrat, Representative Adam Schiff of California, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that a classified dossier from the Justice Department delivered on Friday showed “no evidence to support the president’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor” so “I hope we can put an end to this wild goose chase, because what the president said was patently false.”

Was Trump’s campaign under surveillance?

After the uproar that followed Trump’s tweets on Obama and wiretapping, the president and his spokesmen recast the claim, saying he was referring to surveillance more broadly.

While many lawmakers from both parties have said there’s no sign that Obama ordered spying on Trump, Nunes said Sunday he’s pursuing whether there “were any other surveillance activities that were used” that led to the “unmasking of names and the leaking of names.”

Nunes cited the case of Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser. Flynn was forced to resign in February after it was revealed he’d spoken to Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., during the presidential transition — and, crucially, misled Vice President Mike Pence about their discussions.

This month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from probes related to Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign and potential contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign team, after acknowledging that he met twice last year with Kislyak.

Intelligence agencies are known to listen in on communications by foreign leaders and diplomats, including ambassadors like Kislyak, but the contents of those calls aren’t supposed to be disclosed.

Whatever happened to Russian hacking?

The ostensible topic of Monday’s hearing is the Intelligence Committee’s “Russian Active Measures Investigation” — in other words, the finding by U.S. intelligence agencies in January that Russia hacked into Democratic emails and leaked them to sow confusion in the U.S. electoral process, damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and help Trump’s candidacy.

There was no finding, though, that hackers affected the actual vote-counting process. Russia has denied it engaged in hacking.

As intelligence agencies and congressional committees continue to investigate Russia’s actions, lawmakers and intelligence experts have expressed concern that Moscow’s model of interference — including selective leaking of information and attempts to control media narratives — could be replicated in other countries such as France, which holds its first round of presidential voting April 23.

Read how cyber-attackers may try to affect Europe’s elections

Did Trump’s aides collude with Russia?

Tying all of this together is the question of whether anyone close to Trump worked with the Russians during the campaign, whether in the hacking of Democrats or potential deal-making after the election.

Trump supporters including Flynn, former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and energy consultant Carter Page have denied any improprieties in their contacts with Russian officials or intermediaries. Documents released last week by congressional Democrats show Flynn received more than $45,000 from RT, the Russian government-backed television network, for his participation at a December 2015 gala where he sat at President Vladimir Putin’s table.

“Were there U.S. persons who were helping the Russians in any way?” Schiff asked Sunday. “Was there any form of collusion?”

Asked if there was evidence of collusion, Nunes responded, “I’ll give you a very simple answer: No.”

Can Comey satisfy lawmakers?

Comey, 56, angered Republicans in 2016 when he announced there weren’t sufficient grounds to prosecute former Secretary of State Clinton or her aides for improper handling of classified information on her private email system.

Then, many Democrats were infuriated when Comey announced in late October that he was looking at some new evidence, believing he cost Clinton the election.

Comey is in his fourth year of a 10-year term heading the Federal Bureau of Investigation and can be removed only if he resigns or is fired by the president.

In an aside during a March 8 speech, the director indicated he has no intention of stepping down voluntarily. “You’re stuck with me for about another six and a half years,” he said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-19/comey-to-testify-about-wiretaps-and-russia-what-to-watch-for?cmpid=socialflow-twitter-business&utm_content=business&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic&utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social

FBI Director James Comey To Testify Before The House Intelligence Committee — Expected To Shed Light on Hacking, Spying and Wire Tapping Allegations from Trump Tower to Russia

March 20, 2017

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By EILEEN SULLIVAN and ERIC TUCKER

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A congressional inquiry into Russian interference in the presidential election that has so far unfolded behind closed doors moves into the open with a public hearing featuring FBI Director James Comey.

A hearing Monday before the House Intelligence Committee, one of several congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

Comey, whose agents have been investigating, has been invited to testify along with Michael Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who chairs the committee, told The Associated Press that there would be plenty of time for questions and answers.

The committee is investigating, among other things, Russian hacking that intelligence officials have said was meant to influence the election. Also of interest to the committee are any connections between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump and whether any surveillance was conducted for political reasons.

The top two lawmakers on the House intelligence committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters, but the panel’s ranking Democrat says the material offers circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower

Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a 'wild goose chase' in a competing interview on NBC's Meet the Press

House Intelligence chief Devin Nunes says the FBI provided no evidence on Friday of a warrant to wiretap Trump Tower (top). Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, accused Trump of leading Congress on a ‘wild goose chase’ in a competing interview on NBC’s Meet the Press (bottom)

 

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

But Comey may feel compelled to respond to Trump’s unproven Twitter assertions that President Barack Obama ordered a wiretapping of Trump Tower during the campaign. Congressional leaders briefed on the matter have said they’ve seen no indication that that’s true, and Obama’s top intelligence official, James Clapper, has publicly called the claims false.

The Justice Department’s disclosure Friday that it had complied with congressional demands for information regarding Trump’s tweets could allow Comey to avoid questioning by simply saying that the lawmakers already have the information they requested.

Yet any lack of detail from Comey will likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

___

Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP

UNLIKELY ALLY: Trump's sole defender in the legislature on Sunday was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas lawmaker said on Face the Nation, 'I will point out this is not necessarily as outlandish as everyone in the press suggest'

UNLIKELY ALLY: Trump’s sole defender in the legislature on Sunday was Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The Texas lawmaker said on Face the Nation, ‘I will point out this is not necessarily as outlandish as everyone in the press suggest’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4329060/House-intel-chief-says-no-evidence-wiretap-warrant.html#ixzz4bqrLGHG8
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Can Americans Trust Their Spies?

March 16, 2017

If intelligence agencies can’t keep their secrets, they can’t credibly assure us they follow other rules.

Image may contain: 8 people

The spy world is cloaked in secrecy, but last week’s leak of documents from the Central Intelligence Agency offers a tiny glimpse into what America’s operatives can do. It seems the CIA can hack smart televisions to listen in on conversations, even when the set appears to be off. Smartphones might be less secure than many assumed. The CIA can supposedly penetrate a computer network and leave fingerprints implicating someone else. Man, these guys are good!

Personally, I’m thrilled to hear that the CIA has developed these capabilities. Stealing information from other countries is what spies do. But it’s devastating to see details about America’s intelligence operations leaked to the press. These kinds of intrusions recently have compromised billions of dollars worth of sources and methods, showing the world—including Islamic State and al Qaeda—how Washington knows what it does. They have also caused Americans to ask serious questions about their spy agencies.

The leaks by Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning in 2010, Edward Snowden in 2013, and now at the CIA demonstrate that the intelligence community does not have in place the systems and controls necessary to protect its most sensitive information. That raises the question of whether spy agencies can credibly say that these capabilities are not used against the American people.

The intelligence community can explain what the law says and even cite internal policies that exist to inhibit spying on Americans. But a spy agency that is incapable of keeping its secrets cannot say with confidence that it has effective means of controlling itself. When James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, says America does not spy on its citizens, he doesn’t really know. He hopes that the internal controls and culture will prevent abuse, but he cannot be certain.

ILLUSTRATION: CHAD CROWE

After the Manning leak, I’m sure that America’s spymasters thought they had learned their lesson and put in place new, more effective controls. After the Snowden leak, I’m sure they thought those controls had been updated enough to solve the problem. Yet here we are, reading about the CIA’s secrets on the front page of the newspaper.

In 2013 Mr. Clapper testified in an open congressional hearing that the intelligence community did not maintain a cyberdatabase on Americans. That wasn’t true. He misled Congress and the public. The Snowden leak soon showed that the NSA did indeed have a massive database of telephone metadata.

Now the intelligence community has been implicated in the release of information damaging to the incoming president. Telephone conversations involving Mike Flynn, who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser, were collected and leaked to the media.

For 10 years I served on the House Intelligence Committee, and the men and women I met from America’s spy agencies were dedicated, hardworking and committed to serving their country. But these episodes indicate that at least a few within that cadre are willing to risk the security of the U.S. for what they must see as some higher purpose. In the process, they betray their oath and tarnish the reputations of their organizations.

This has helped create a second credibility problem for the intelligence community. The public worries that America’s cyberwarfare capabilities may be falling behind. For the past 75 years the U.S. has been blessed with a military that is second to none, with technology to match—from smart bombs and cruise missiles to stealthy submarines and antimissile defenses. America dominates the traditional battlefield.

But the cyber battlefield is very different. There the U.S. faces the usual threats and then some. Russia and China are good in cyberspace, and so are the Iranians and Israelis. Does America retain any discernible edge over North Korea or nonstate actors like ISIS or criminal cartels? If so, how great is it?

These are important questions. Cyberspace may become the great equalizer in modern warfare, allowing lesser countries and organizations to pose the kind of threat they never could on the traditional battlefield. Many experts believe that America is dangerously vulnerable. Could a foreign enemy cripple the financial system, shut down part of the electrical grid, or even cause a meltdown at a nuclear power plant?

Just as Americans deserve to know their government is not spying on them, they need assurance that the U.S. is capable of winning wars in cyberspace and protecting the country’s critical infrastructure. On both points, the intelligence community faces a credibility gap.

That is the challenge for the new director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, and the CIA director, Mike Pompeo. In addition to keeping the nation secure, they need to restore trust between America’s spies and its citizens. A good first step would be teaching intelligence agencies to keep their own secrets—so that Americans must once again merely imagine what their spies can do.

Mr. Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican, was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, 2004-07.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/can-americans-trust-their-spies-1489618465

Donald Trump ‘does not believe FBI’ – President steps up attack over ‘wire tapping’ under Barack Obama

March 6, 2017

Trump

Donald Trump said on Saturday that Barack Obama had ordered the wire tapping of Trump Tower CREDIT: REUTERS

By Harriet Alexander
The Telegraph

President Donald Trump does not believe FBI director James Comey’s insistence that Trump Tower was not wiretapped, a White House spokeswoman has said.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, deputy communications director, was asked whether Mr Trump believed Mr Comey’s denial.

“No, I don’t think he does,” she told Good Morning America, on Monday morning.

She said the president “wants the truth to come out to the American people,” adding: “He is asking that it be done through the House Intelligence Committee, and that that be the process that we go through.”

Her comments came as Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump’s senior aide, told Fox News on Monday that “credible news sources” suggested there was politically motivated activity during the campaign.

She added that as president, Mr Trump “has information and intelligence that the rest of us do not.”

On Saturday Mr Trump accused Barack Obama of ordering a wiretap to be placed inside Trump Tower before the election.

On Sunday the New York Times reported that Mr Comey said that the FBI had never tapped the building, and had asked the department of justice to issue a statement denying the tapping. They are yet to do so.

More on Trump-Obama Feud at the link:

On Monday morning it was reported that Mr Trump made his explosive allegation after Breitbart news – the controversial site formerly ran by his adviser Steve Bannon – reported a conspiracy theory discussed on a conservative radio station.

Mrs Huckabee Sanders was asked on a second breakfast show whether Mr Trump had received the information via the media – but dodged the question.

“The president firmly believes that the Obama administration may have tapped into the phones at Trump Tower and that this is something that we should look into,” she said. “We’d like to know for sure.”

She then turned to attack the media for its reporting of his administration.

“The media has been extremely dismissive of this reporting and this potential story while all the while being very happy to jump on all of the false attacks that have been launched at this president over the last six months,” she said.

“All we’re asking for is a fair and same look at this potential story and to let the House Intelligence Committee do their job.”

When asked again whether Mr Trump had received the info about wiretapping allegations from conservative media, she said she hasn’t had the chance to “have the conversation directly with the president.”

“He’s at a much higher classification than I am, so he may have access to documents that I don’t know about,” she said. “But I do know that we take this very seriously and we think it should be thoroughly reviewed and investigated and we’re asking Congress to do their job.”