House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes next plans to investigate the role former CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama intelligence officials played in promoting the salacious and unverified Steele dossier on Donald Trump — including whether Brennan perjured himself in public testimony about it.
In his May 2017 testimony before the intelligence panel, Brennan emphatically denied the dossier factored into the intelligence community’s publicly released conclusion last year that Russia meddled in the 2016 election “to help Trump’s chances of victory.”
Brennan also swore that he did not know who commissioned the anti-Trump research document, even though senior national security and counterintelligence officials at the Justice Department and FBI knew the previous year that the dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Last week, Nunes (R-Calif.) released a declassified memo exposing surveillance “abuses” by the Obama DOJ and FBI in their investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia. It said the agencies relied heavily on the uncorroborated dossier to take out a warrant to secretly surveil a Trump adviser in the heat of the 2016 presidential election, even though they were aware the underlying “intelligence” supporting the wiretap order was political opposition research funded by Clinton allies — a material fact they concealed from FISA court judges in four separate applications. –Paul Sperry at Real Clear Investigations
The investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not the only major investigation in progress.
There are now three major Congressional probes of the Obama-era FBI, Department of Justice, and intelligence agencies. They are slowly peeling away layers of political bias, unequal application of the law, and, perhaps even felonies by senior officials who may have leaked classified documents, obstructed justice, and violated Fourth Amendment guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure.
These Congressional probes are not mere diversions, as Democrats charge. They have serious, legitimate intentions and raise troubling questions.
Why did former FBI Director James Comey and his team pre-judge and soft-soap the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s unsecured private server and her classified emails?
Why did they decide to clear her before completing key interviews with Mrs. Clinton and her aides?
Why did DOJ grant immunity so freely to obtain evidence that could have been easily subpoenaed by a grand jury?
Why did the government itself then destroy that evidence, so no one could do a real investigation later?
For that matter, why didn’t they convene a grand jury in the first place, as Mueller did almost immediately?
What involvement did the FBI counter-intelligence division have with the FusionGPS, Christopher Steele “Russian dossier,” financed by the Clinton campaign?
Was the dossier used, in part, to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump associates and, if so, was the FISA court completely informed about the dossier’s financing, provenance, and lack of verification?
And what the hell happened to months of text messages among key anti-Trump investigators at the FBI and DOJ?
VERY important questions. The public deserves answers.
That’s why these investigations are at least as important as Mueller’s, and for the same reason. They are both about honest elections and the rule of law, applied equally to insiders and outsiders, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
It’s about whether our most powerful government agencies are worthy of our trust. If we have lost sight of those values, we’ve lost our Constitutional bearings.
Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple
◆ There are three stories today about Russia’s involvement in US politics, and all three are bad for the Democrats
How big the stories become–how serious the resulting scandals–depends on additional investigation and investigative reporting.
◆ Story #1: That scandalous, largely-discredited “Russian Dossier,” which led to the federal investigations of the Trump Campaign, was financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary’s Campaign
The Washington Post broke the story (link here) They report that the Clinton campaign, using a Washington lawyer as a cutout, retained Fusion GPS to do the dirty work. Fusion GPS has fought strenuously to prevent any disclosure of who paid them and invoked their 5th amendment privilege against self-incrimination to avoid testifying before Congress.
The Clinton campaign, like others, used a lawyer to hire these contractors so their communications would be protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Clinton people have never acknowledged a connection to Fusion GPS or the dossier.
◆ Story #2: Mueller’s Russia Probe turns toward key Democratic insiders
Paul Manafort is also a major target but, according to reports, this top Republican operative worked closely with the Podesta Group, closely aligned with the Clintons.
A thus-far-reliable source who used to be involved with Clinton allies John and Tony Podesta told Tucker Carlson that press reports appearing to implicate President Trump in Russian collusion are exaggerated.
The source, who Carlson said he would not yet name, said he worked for the brothers’ Podesta Group and was privy to some information from Robert Mueller’s special investigation.
While media reports describe former “Black, Manafort & Stone” principal Paul Manafort as Trump’s main tie to the investigation, the source said it is Manafort’s role as a liaison between Russia and the Podesta Group that is drawing the scrutiny.
The “vehicle” Manafort worked for was what Carlson called a “sham” company with a headquarters listed in Belgium but whose contact information was linked to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. –Fox News
Comment: National news media have not reported this news.
◆ Story #3: Russian bribery, money-laundering, speaker fees to Bill Clinton, and over $100 million to the Clinton Foundation while Hillary was Sec. of State and the Russians were federal approval to buy US uranium assets
Actually House Republicans announced two new investigations (link here):
In the first of two back-to-back announcements, the top Republicans on the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees said they would formally examine the Obama Justice Department’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails. Less than an hour later, Republicans from the Intelligence and Oversight Committees said they were opening a separate inquiry into the administration’s approval of a 2010 agreement that left a Russian-backed company in control of much of the United States’ uranium. –New York Times
Comment: The NYT story downplays the significance and suggests it is all simply partisan squabbling about a now-departed administration.
I think they underestimate the possible ramifications of both investigations.
The Uranium One deal is a particularly thorny issue for the Clintons and the Obama Administration because Obama’s FBI and DOJ knew of Russian bribery and other criminal activity before the deal was approved. Congress was not informed, as it should have been. Their objections might have blocked the deal. The public was kept completely in the dark. Mueller was head of the FBI at this time. One of the Russians reportedly involved in this illegal activity was given a US visa twice during this period by Hillary’s State Department. One major question is whether Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has recused himself from these Russia issues, will appoint a Special Counsel to investigate this and perhaps the Clinton emails, where then FBI-director Comey wrote a memo clearing Hillary long before key witnesses had been interviewed.
The most important implication: The FBI (under Mueller) looks to be deeply compromised.
◆Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) will not run for re-election. He and Sen. Bob Corker (D-TN), who is also retiring, lacerated Pres. Trump in speeches, interviews, and social media. Their rebukes are reported here(Reuters)
Flake’s attack was on Trump’s conduct and dishonesty. Flake’s actual voting record is very supportive of Trump legislation.
Flake, who has very high disapproval numbers in his home state, was likely to lose his primary contest.
All seven members of the Party’s Standing Committee were in their 60s. Rising stars in their 50s were not included.
Comment: The absence of an heir-apparent, Xi’s cult of personality, and his name’s inclusion in the party constitution all raise speculation he might eventually seek a third-term, which had been ruled out after Mao’s death.
“On many levels, mathematics itself operates as Whiteness. Who gets credit for doing and developing mathematics, who is capable in mathematics, and who is seen as part of the mathematical community is generally viewed as White,” [Prof. Rochelle] Gutiérrez argued [in a book aimed at K-12 math teachers].
Truly, you cannot make this up. Here’s what the professor writes:
If one is not viewed as mathematical, there will always be a sense of inferiority that can be summoned,” she says, adding that there are so many minorities who “have experienced microaggressions from participating in math classrooms… [where people are] judged by whether they can reason abstractly.”
To fight this, Gutiérrez encourages aspiring math teachers to develop a sense of “political conocimiento,” a Spanish phrase for “political knowledge for teaching.”
Comment #1: Please note, Prof. Gutiérrez thinks it is rank racism to judge people in a math class on whether they can reason abstractly. In fact, math is abstract reasoning.
Comment #2: Why, Professor, does all this whiteness and white privilege in math not seem to hold back Asians and Asian-Americans in US math classes? This is not a trivial issue or mere debating point. Note, too, that many of the Asian-American students come from lower-income families. Hmmmm.
Comment #3: Gutiérrez is a professor of education, where this kind of political blather, masquerading as scholarship, is commonplace. Poor scholarship and political propaganda are major problems in Ed Schools across the country. So is the soft curriculum, which leads to adverse selection (namely, compared to other students, those who major in education consistently have some of the lowest SATs and lowest GPAs outside their majors).
I remember all the justified complaints by feminists when a Barbie doll said, “Math is hard.” They said, rightly, that the comments were demeaning to women and sending the wrong message to girls. Sorry to see Prof. Gutiérrez sending the same message to minorities and dressing up in the costume of social justice.
Cardinal George Pell, head of Vatican finances and the most senior Catholic in Australia, has been charged with sex offenses. He will return to Australia’s state of Victoria and vows to fight the charges. He calls them “relentless character assassination.”
Comment: This is grim, sad stuff, if the charges can be proven.
◆ Closing in on the leakers who are giving highly-classified materials to the media to sink the Trump administration and prove the Obama administration was effective in dealing with Russia, Iran, and other problems
A new wave of leaks targeting the Trump administration has actively endangered ongoing intelligence and military operations being conducted by the United States and its allies, sparking anger and concern inside and outside the White House. –Adam Kredo, Washington Free Beacon
So, who was it?
The leaks have been traced to a number of former Obama administration officials, including Ben Rhodes—the former National Security Council official responsible for creating an in-house ‘echo chamber’ meant to mislead reporters and the public about the landmark nuclear deal with Iran—and Colin Kahl, former Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser.
Another source, this one a senior administration official who is also intimately familiar with the situation, confirmed the assessment to the Washington Free Beacon. –Kredo in Washington Free Beacon
Comment: Kredo has done superb reporting on this story for months. The nation’s most prominent papers have done no investigating because, of course, they are the recipients of these leaks.
I had always suspected Rhodes was one of the culprits. After all, it was Rhodes who bragged about his ability to manipulate the media, creating “an echo chamber” among journalists who didn’t really know anything about Iran or the nuclear deal.
Now, the goals are different: undermine Trump and defend the great achievements of the Obama Administration.
The FBI should be investigating this. Whoever did it should be fitted for prison garb. There are echo chambers there, too: concrete walls.
◆ Georgetown’s new dean of their Doha campus has written openly of his support for Hezbollah
The former head of Islamic studies on Georgetown’s Washington campus, Ahmad Dallal
signed a 2006 petition declaring his “conscious support for the Lebanese national resistance [Hezbollah] as it wages a war” against Israel, adding
that it is “a war to safeguard the dignity of the Lebanese and Arab people.” The statement declared Hezbollah’s murderous campaign a “heroic operation.”
In his previous position as provost of American University of Beirut, Dallal slammed one of his colleagues for collaborating with Israeli scholars, declaring that the school would boycott the Jewish state. –Conservative Review, link here
Comment: His graduate education came at ground zero for the decline and fall of Middle East Studies: Edward Said’s Columbia. Dallal has carried that torch forward and now reaches a very prominent position.
There is a Yiddish word for what Georgetown has done: Shonda. It means shameful.
I can only hope Prof. Dallal will pardon me for using such a word.
If Venezuela was plunged into chaos and violence and the Bolivarian Revolution destroyed, we would go to combat,” Maduro said to a crowd of supporters, referring to the socialist, populist platform that transformed Venezuela under his charismatic predecessor, Hugo Chávez. “We would never give up, and what couldn’t be done with votes, we would do with weapons. We would liberate the fatherland with weapons.” –Washington Post
Comment: There was a saying about East Germany: it takes a really, really bad political structure to get the Germans to build a bad car. But East Germany was up to the task.
That applies to Venezuela, which has the world’s largest supply of oil underground, but cannot afford bread.
◆ Chair of EPA’s outside Board of Scientific Counselors says she was pressed by a Trump EPA official to change her Congressional testimony. The pressure came from the EPA’s chief of staff.
The FBI launched a criminal probe against former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn two years after the retired Army general roiled the bureau’s leadership by intervening on behalf of a decorated counterterrorism agent who accused now-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe and other top officials of sexual discrimination, according to documents and interviews.
Flynn’s intervention on behalf of Supervisory Special Agent Robyn Gritz was highly unusual, and included a letter in 2014 on his official Pentagon stationary, a public interview in 2015 supporting Gritz’s case and an offer to testify on her behalf. His offer put him as a hostile witness in a case against McCabe, who was soaring through the bureau’s leadership ranks.
There is more than simple correlation here, according to Solomon and Carter.
McCabe eventually became the bureau’s No. 2 executive and emerged as a central player in the FBI’s Russia election tampering investigation, putting him in a position to impact the criminal inquiry against Flynn.
Three FBI employees told Circa they personally witnessed McCabe make disparaging remarks about Flynn before and during the time the retired Army general emerged as a figure in the Russia case.
Comment: The report is stunning and looks like corruption, in the form of personal animus.
The weak part of the Circa allegation (so far) is that the Russia investigation began fully two years after the contretemps.
The strong part is that McCabe seemed to have a personal grievance against someone he was investigating. That cannot be acceptable within any neutral investigative agency.
This alleged corruption must be part of Mueller’s investigation.
◆ California regulators are moving to require Roundup weed killer to come with a “cancer-causing” label. They say the main ingredient, glyphosate, is the problem. Monsanto, which makes the product, disputes the claim. Story here (ABC News)
◆ That attempted mass assassination of Republican lawmakers? The one by the rabid Bernie Sanders supporter?
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the No. 2 official in the Democratic National Committee, blames . . . go ahead, guess. You are correct. Trump.
Comment: Kohl knew that integrating East Germany would be difficult and costly, but he also knew that the chance for a reunited Germany might not come again. With US support (from George H. W. Bush), he overcame behind-the-scenes objections from France and England. The US brushed aside Soviet objections to integrating all Germany in NATO. Actually, the Soviets were ambivalent because they did not want a rich, powerful, united Germany to have an independent military. In short, Kohl presided over a world-historical change.
Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch is calling on Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe to recover and release federal records and memos it claims were “unlawfully” removed by former Director James Comey, threatening the FBI with a lawsuit should the bureau not comply. –Fox News
Comment: To me, these records are unambiguously US public documents and ought to be returned and released unless they contain classified materials–in which case the FBI will simply leak them to the New York Times or Washington Post.
Analysts said they expect Amazon eventually to use the stores to promote private-label products, integrate and grow its artificial-intelligence-powered Echo speakers, boost Prime membership and entice more customers into the fold. . . .
Whole Foods has come under fire as traditional grocers offer more natural and organic items, which are Whole Foods’ mainstay. Its shares had lost nearly half their value since a 2013 peak, and sales at stores open at least a year had slumped. –WSJ
Comment: I think the key here is going to be home delivery.
Amazon’s goal is to provide us every good and service without our leaving home.
Comment: He’s smart and Donald Trump would do well to follow it unless there is concrete evidence of malfeasance or vast overreach by Mueller’s office. That’s also Rod Rosenstein’s job at the Justice Department
But there is a problem in the potential scope of Mueller’s inquiry, which blends counter-intelligence (no limits) with possible US criminal violations.
Neither side in the emotional debate — those who favor a more hardline approach and those who favor the former Obama administration approach — got exactly what they wanted from Trump, although those who favor a middle ground that aims at sanctioning the Cuban military while not hampering Cuban Americans’ ability to travel and send money to relatives on the island may be most pleased. –Miami Herald
What did Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee amount to?
Fairly little except for Sessions’ effective defense of his own reputation and conduct of his office.
My take aways
I watched the entire hearing. Here’s my unvarnished take.
There was little new information added, but some misinformation and innuendo was swatted down.
Sessions seemed completely credible.
He was calm, even when being interrupted frequently
California Democrat Kamala Harris was especially aggressive and did not allow Sessions time to answer. She was considerably more interested in her questions. The chair had to intervene several times to let the witness answer
The only time Sessions became intense was when he defended his honor and integrity against public slurs, mostly those of James Comey (which were indirect rather than clear and candid)
The main news was that Sessions did not recuse himself because of any involvement with the Russians but, he said, because of DOJ policy that he should not be part of any investigation of a political campaign in which he participated.
Last week, former FBI Director James Comey slimed Sessions very carefully, saying that Sessions really had to recuse himself from the Russia investigation for reasons that Comey said he couldn’t go into, at least in public session.
Comey’s innuendo turned out to be a nothingburger, as we learned from leaks, except for its intended damage to Sessions’ reputation
The damaging implication, which Democrats had been pushing for a several weeks, was that Sessions had lied in his confirmation because he had several undisclosed meetings with the Russians.
The reality: the only thing that might not have been mentioned was a reception where twenty or so guests were present to say hello before a larger gathering they were attending. There would have been no private time for Sessions and the Russian Ambassador to work on their plot to overthrow the Republic. The whole thing is ridiculous.
The Democrats and Sessions
There are two areas to keep the Democrats, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post busy attacking.
Sessions did not answer some questions related to his private conversations with Pres. Trump, even though Trump has not (or not yet) invoked Executive Privilege in that area. The Democrats were tenacious on that point. They may be right, but Sessions position was actually much more forthcoming than the Obama appointees, like Susan Rice, who refused to attend hearings at all. (I don’t think they even bothered to give a reason, but I could be wrong.)
The Democrats said Sessions recusal on the Russia investigation means he should have had not role in the Comey firing. (He supported the firing in a memo to Trump, who was going to do it anyway.) Their argument: if Comey was fired over Russia, as Trump said on TV, then Sessions should have stayed out. Sessions’ defense: his memo on Comey was not about the Russia investigation but about the Comey’s poor performance as FBI director.
Sessions actually showed that he had gone beyond his formal recusal and refused to be involved in the Russia matters at DOJ from Day One, before he submitted his formal statement.
The Democrats’ Purpose: Nothing to do with Sessions, Everything to Do with Trump
So far, the Democrats have found nothing on their main allegation: that Trump won the election unfairly, and is therefore an illegitimate president, because he and the Russians worked together to throw the election. It’s important to remember that the Obama Administration controlled the CIA, NSA, DOJ, and FBI for two and half months after the election and didn’t find anything then.
There is evidence of attempted Russian interference in the election., but the Democrats on the Intel Committee today showed themselves utterly uninterested in that today, despite major breaking news about Russia’s attempted hacks of US state election systems. Virtually no questions on that because it didn’t lead back to Trump.
Having failed (so far) to find significant evidence of collusion, the Democrats’ “get Trump” strategy has morphed into vague claims about obstruction of justice.
Again, no evidence of that so far, either.
Worse for them, there is no underlying crime whose investigation could be obstructed.
Today’s hearing was really about political resistance and personal destruction, not serious investigation.
If there is serious investigation, it is far more likely to come from Robert Mueller’s operation, which is now gearing up.
The comments came from a Trump friend, Christopher Ruddy, but the White House would not confirm them.
His comments appeared to take the White House by surprise.
“Mr. Ruddy never spoke to the president regarding this issue,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said in a statement hours later. “With respect to this subject, only the president or his attorneys are authorized to comment.”
Allies of the president cast doubt on the idea that Mr. Trump would take such a drastic step, and White House officials said Mr. Ruddy had not met directly with the president while he was there.
Comment: Firing Mueller is within the President’s authority, but it would set off fireworks since they would appear that Trump could not withstand an investigation.
Mueller, however, has done himself no favors by hiring major Democratic donors for his staff. His friendship with Comey is also a problem and should be reason enough for him to recuse himself from that portion of the investigation.
Ex-FBI Director James Comey has privately told members of Congress that he had a frosty exchange with Obama Attorney General Loretta Lynch last year when he confronted her about possible political interference in the Hillary Clinton email investigation after showing Lynch a sensitive document she was unaware the FBI possessed, according to sources who were directly briefed on the matter. –Circa
Comment: Sure looks like Lynch was in the tank for Clinton.
Democrats plan to ask about his contacts during the 2016 campaign with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, which the attorney general failed to disclose fully during his confirmation hearing.
They also want him to explain his role in the firing of Comey, despite the attorney general’s recusal in March from the Russia investigation after revelations about his meetings with Kislyak. –Washington Post
Comment: The Democrats have made incendiary assertions about Sessions having improper meetings with the Russians and lying about them.
But so far, there is simply no evidence of anything wrong. That’s what the hearings will be about.
Israel has approved a request by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cut by roughly a third the electricity it provides to the Gaza Strip.
The move is aimed at undermining the Islamic militant group Hamas, which has controlled Gaza for the last decade.
But the decision reached Sunday by Israel’s security Cabinet is stoking concern that it could trigger a humanitarian crisis among Gaza’s 2 million Palestinians and a new round of fighting between Hamas and Israel.
In a statement on Monday afternoon responding to news of the Israeli decision, Hamas said that power cuts are “dangerous” and would lead to an “explosion.” –Los Angles Times
Comment: Hamas is under considerable pressure, given the Muslim Brotherhood loss of power in Egypt, the sanctions on Qatar, and increasing resistance from international donors, who are themselves under pressure for funding terrorism indirectly.
Although Israel is no friend of the Palestinian Authority, they know Hamas is much worse.
Comment on Conspiracy Theories: The Comey testimony and its aftermath underscore and reinforce a larger shift in public discourse that is very troubling: the rise of conspiracy theories.
America’s media in tandem with the Democratic party and progressives are now playing a constant drumbeat of conspiracy theories, mostly about secret collaboration between the Kremlin and Trump to throw the 2016 election.
We haven’t seen anything like that since Joe McCarthy.
Trump does not come to this with clean hands. His claims about Barack Obama’s birth certificate were a major conspiracy theory for years.
◆ Britain’s Tories face a trainwreck. Their call for a snap election has produced a hung Parliament and likely a shaky coalition government
A chastened Theresa May is attempting to move on from her botched election gamble, under intense pressure from members of her own cabinet and Tory backbenchers to dramatically improve her game. . . .
Ahead of what is promising to be a bruising meeting with Tory backbenchers next week, MPs publicly questioned Ms May’s position and her campaign, with one even branding it “madness”, while others demanded changes to her Brexit strategy and raised concerns about a deal with the Northern Irish DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] . –The Independent
May met with the Queen and said she intends to form a government. But there is considerable question about her future.
The Tories could toss her out before the next election, which is likely to come fairly soon.
Meanwhile, here are the main effects of the British election. It
Requires Conservatives to partner with a small party (DUP) from Northern Ireland to form a government
Shows the failure of Theresa May’s campaign; she was a bad candidate who ran on her personality, not future policy
Rejects the Conservatives positioning themselves as mushy, big-state centrists, far away from Thatcher’s free-market policies.
Gives Labour its biggest gains since late 1940s, even though (or perhaps because) the party is headed by a very, very far leftist.
Labour’s huge gains under Jeremy Corbyn, an unabashed socialist who supports a number of terrorist regimes, mark a major political shift in the electorate.
“There is not going to be any illegal referendum that goes against the Constitution,” the government’s spokesman . . . said after a weekly cabinet meeting. “We are facing an increasingly radical strategy that has less and less support.”
[But Catalonia’s regional president] Carles Puigdemont said the decision to call for the vote was reached after more than 18 months of efforts failed to establish a dialogue with Madrid.
He also said the vote was nonnegotiable because Catalans backed his plan for secession by voting for his coalition of pro-independence parties at the end of 2015. –Washington Post
Comment: The region has a long history and its own language, Catalan, that is related to Spanish but different.
◆ Repealing Obamacare puts the Senate’s centrist Republicans in a bind. An example from Ohio, in his USA Today story: