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The Democratic Minority On The House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence Issues a Rebuttal Report

The Democratic minority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) has issued a rebuttal report to the GOP majority’s report that was released this morning. The Democratic minority report can be found here. As I indicated earlier regarding the majority report, I’ve only had a chance to give this a quick read and won’t have a chance to do a deep dive until later in the weekend. I do want to note a couple of points from the introduction.

One year later, the Committee’s Majority has shattered its commitment by rushing to end its investigation prematurely, even as it continues to investigate President Donald Trump’s political opponents, our intelligence agencies, law enforcement, and diplomatic corps, and former members of the Administration of President Barack Obama.

In so doing, the Majority has not only failed to meet the mandate given to the HPSCI by the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader, but they have engaged in a systematic effort to muddy the waters, and to deflect attention away from the President, most recklessly in their assault on the central pillars of the rule of law. Their report, as with their overall conduct o f the investigation, is unworthy of this Committee, the House of Representatives, and most importantly, the American people, who arc now left to try to discern what is true and what is not.

The Majority’s report reflects a lack of seriousness and interest in pursuing the truth. By refusing to call in key witnesses, by refusing to request pertinent documents, and by refusing to compel and enforce witness cooperation and answers to key questions, the Majority hobbled the Committee’s ability to conduct a credible investigation that could inspire public confidence. The Majority’s conduct has also undermined Congress’ independent investigative authority. Their repeated deferrals to the White House allowed witnesses to refuse cooperation, and permitted the Administration to dictate the terms of their interaction with Congress, or evade congressional oversight altogether, setting a damaging precedent for future non-cooperation by this President and, possibly, by his successors.

These Views memorialize the Minority’s profound disappointment with and objections to the manner in which the Majority subverted this investigation, and highlight for the public some of the most glaring misrepresentations, distortions, and inaccuracies in the Majority’s report.

A majority of the report’s findings are misleading and unsupported by the facts and the investigative record. They have been crafted to advance a political narrative that exonerates the President, downplays Russia’s preference and support for then-candidate Trump, explains away repeated contacts by Trump associates with Russia-aligned actors, and seeks to shift suspicion towards President Trump’s political opponents and the prior administration.

One can find no better example of the Majority’s willingness to contort facts to support its politicized narrative than the report’s Finding #35. The Majority argues that evidence that Trump associates sought after the election to establish secret back channels to communicate with the Russians without the U.S. government finding out – and then lied about it – actually proves there was no collusion with Russia. The sophistry of this kind of analysis, and the report as a whole, wither under scrutiny. Even before its public release, the report suffered in the face of public revelations that bear directly on the investigation and contradicted the Majority’s conclusions.

The actions of both the majority and minority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in releasing their reports come as either new information is coming to light or older information is being fleshed out regarding the June 2016 meeting between Russian assets/proxies and Donald Trump, Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower in NY, as well as other Russian attempts to establish connections with the President and/or members of his campaign.

From CNN:

The National Rifle Association is setting aside years of documents related to its interactions with a Kremlin-linked banker, as the gun-rights group appears to be bracing for a possible investigation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The NRA has faced fresh scrutiny from congressional investigators about its finances and ties to Alexander Torshin, one of the 17 prominent Russian government officials the US Treasury Department recently slapped with sanctions. The gun-rights group has said it is reexamining its relationship with Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member, in the wake of the sanctions.

The renewed attention has highlighted the close-knit if sometimes uneasy alliance between top NRA officials and Torshin — a relationship that ensnared members of Trump’s team during the presidential campaign, inviting further congressional scrutiny.

Those inquiries could shed light on the tightly held fundraising practices and political activities of the NRA. The political powerhouse shelled out more than $30 million in 2016 to back Donald Trump’s candidacy — more than it spent on 2008 and 2012 political races combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Vice President Mike Pence is slated to speak at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas next Friday, an official told CNN.

The NRA recently found itself facing allegations that the FBI was investigating whether Torshin illegally funneled money through the group to bolster Trump, according to a McClatchy report. The NRA has publicly denied any contact from the FBI and insisted it hasn’t accepted illegal donations.

Despite the public denials, officials at the gun-rights group have been anxiously preparing as if they were already under investigation, sources said. Some employees have been tasked with preserving years of documents mentioning Torshin or his associate, Maria Butina, who runs a pro-guns group in Russia, a source familiar with the situation said. Privately, some officials have expressed anxiety about a potential investigation and the group’s Russian ties.

Much more at the link.

Despite the dysfunction on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence the investigation into Russian active measures and cyberwarfare during the 2016 campaign will not end here. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is still conducting its investigation as is the Special Counsel’s Office. Moreover, the British and Canadian Parliaments are both engaging in their own investigations into Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL, there corroboration with Facebook, and how all of this is connected and may also be connected to Russia. Finally, Putin’s efforts to weaken the US and its NATO and EU allies and partners won’t be ending any time soon either.

Stay right where you are!

Open thread.

 



See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: The GOP Majority On The House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence Report On The Russian Active Measures Campaign

On a party line vote, the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), have released the GOP majority’s report on Russia’s active measures campaign against the US – specifically in regard to the 2016 election. The report can be found here. I haven’t had time to do much other than give it a quick read, and won’t until later in the weekend, but basically this is garbage in and garbage out. When you read through it you find that the GOP majority on the committee went out of there way to not investigate what they were supposed to be investigating. They deliberately chose not to ask questions regarding whether or not the President’s business or his campaign were involved with Russian assets – both legitimate and illegitimate. They also went out of their way to take answers from people like Carter Page, Corey Lewandowski, Keith Schiller, George Papadapolous, Erik Prince, Donald Trump, Jr, etc at face value and to not appropriately follow up. Finally, they went out of their way not to pursue legitimate investigative leads or areas of investigative interest. As a result they have produced a report that concludes that nothing was done wrong, there were no purposefully inappropriate contacts between the President’s business and/or campaign with the Russians, and the real issues were all on the Democratic side of the election – on the part of the Obama administration, and the result of behaviors taken by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, FBI Director Comey, Special Counsel Mueller, DNI Clapper, DCI Brennan, and several others at the DOJ and the FBI.

Unfortunately the truth will out!

From CBS News:

An organization established by an exiled Russian tycoon says it has obtained emails showing collaboration between Russian government officials and the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in 2016. The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, also admitted she’s an informant to the Russian attorney general, during an NBC News interview that’s slated to air Friday, according to the New York Times.

“I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she reportedly told NBC. “Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general.”

This contradicts her earlier contention that she had no connections with the Russian government. Last year, when asked point blank by NBC if she had any connections to the Russian government or had previously worked for the Kremlin, Veselnitskaya replied, “No.”

The emails the Dossier organization have suggest Veselnitskaya worked closely with a top official in Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office to fend off a U.S. fraud case against one of her clients.

Veselnitskaya has denied having connections to the Kremlin since her meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign chairman. The encounter took place after Donald Trump Jr. was told she had potentially incriminating information about Trump’s election opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Veselnitskaya is a well-connected Moscow lawyer, but the extent of her government ties has been unclear.

Trump Jr., along with the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with Veselnitskaya in June 2016 after Trump Jr. was told in emails that the lawyer could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Congressman Conoway, who was supposed to be running the investigation once Congressman Nunes recused himself, provided this response to this new information:

Congressman Conoway’s response just reinforces my impression here. The GOP majority on HPSCI took a see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil approach to their duties in this investigation. Congratulations! You all played yourself.

Ultimately it is not surprising that the GOP majority on HPSCI would conduct themselves this way or come to these conclusions. The fish here has rotted from the head. And that head is Congressman Nunes. From the NY Times:

In the Intelligence Committee’s Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility — a secure office in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center where the committee does its work — there’s a log that keeps track of all the classified materials members request to read. The log’s primary purpose is security, but it also serves as a way of determining which members are doing their homework. According to three people familiar with the log, during Nunes’s first several years on the committee, he rated as its “least read” member. He had a similarly poor record of visiting the intelligence agencies for briefings. His lack of preparation could be seen in the committee’s classified hearings, where, according to a former committee staff member, Nunes often seemed out of his depth. “The committee gets to ask direct questions of the C.I.A. director for two hours a quarter, and if a member is using up half his time on questions that he should already know the answers to, it’s not very productive,” the former staff member says.

Even worse, in the eyes of some of committee members and staff, was how Nunes did get his information. “He’d go out to these hinterlands and run into security guys there, and they’d give him crazy ideas,” the former committee staff member says. “He wasn’t discerning. These guys might have something interesting that’s one piece of the whole puzzle, but he’d think whatever they had to say was the whole truth.” Then, when Nunes brought back that information to Washington and intelligence officials would try to put it in context for him — or correct any misinformation — he would become suspicious. “He didn’t take people at face value,” a former government official recalls, “and didn’t always believe leadership.”

Nunes could go to great lengths in pursuit of his suspicions. In late 2012, he said he heard from “informants” that Obama administration officials were ignoring evidence in a cache of documents collected from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, showing that Al Qaeda was much stronger than the administration publicly contended. Nunes took these allegations to the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican, who in turn questioned intelligence officials. Rogers was satisfied with their answers and told Nunes that he believed that the documents, which were being analyzed by Defense Intelligence Agency officials at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., revealed nothing quite so significant. But Nunes wasn’t convinced.

On a Saturday in May 2013, he flew from Washington to Tampa and paid a visit to Centcom headquarters himself, where he demanded to meet with the analysts reviewing the documents, in the hope of uncovering evidence of Al Qaeda’s strength — and an Obama administration cover-up. But after a meeting with the Army major general who headed Centcom’s intelligence wing, Nunes came back to Washington empty-handed.

At the same time, Nunes was also trying to prove that the Obama administration had covered up key facts about the assault on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Not long after the September 2012 attack, which killed four Americans, including the American ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, the Intelligence Committee began investigating the episode to determine if there had been any intelligence failures. Before going into politics, Rogers, the committee’s chairman, had been an F.B.I. agent — he was confident he knew how to conduct an investigation. But Nunes apparently did not believe that Rogers was pushing hard enough, and he repeatedly gave Rogers what he thought were tantalizing leads, ones that might prove that the Obama administration could have prevented, or at least mitigated, the Benghazi attack and then tried to cover up its mistake.

Nunes had heard that a drone operator at an American air base in Germany said a drone had been flying over the Benghazi compound during the raid and captured video of the incident. According to a source familiar with the investigation, Rogers sent a committee staff member, Michael Ellis, to Germany to find and interview the American drone operator — who, it turned out, wasn’t even in the drone unit that covered Libya and had been telling tales to his parents, which had somehow made their way to Nunes. Rogers was frustrated that he had spent so long investigating a lead that he believed was absurd on its face. Nunes was not chastened; instead he grew discouraged that Rogers wasn’t pursuing even more leads.

The conflict between Rogers and Nunes eventually came to a head over the committee’s handling of five C.I.A. contractors who performed a rescue mission in Benghazi on the night of the raid. The contractors claimed that they were told to “stand down” that evening by the C.I.A. officer in charge at Benghazi. They found their way to Nunes in the fall of 2013, and they quickly hit it off with the congressman. “He was there to hear our story, and the only one I knew of looking for the truth,” Mark Geist, one of the C.I.A. contractors, told me. “That proved his credibility.” Nunes encouraged Rogers to invite the men to testify before the committee, which the panel did in November 2013.

The night before their testimony, Geist and two of the other contractors met with Nunes in his congressional office, according to their attorney, Mark Zaid. As they drank port and smoked cigarettes, they received a visit from a surprise guest. Nunes had invited Boehner to join them. For 45 minutes, the speaker was given a preview of what the men would testify about the next day in front of the Intelligence Committee. When Rogers got wind of what happened, he was alarmed. A longtime Boehner ally, he called his friend and, according to a person familiar with the conversation, told him he was potentially tainting the investigation.

But what can you expect of a member of Congress that is suspected by US officials of working for a foreign power, specifically the Portuguese government. Again from the NY Times‘ profile: (emphasis mine)

Seemingly every time American military or intelligence officials would note an obstacle to Lajes’s hosting the JIAC, Nunes would dismiss it as either a red herring or, worse, a manufactured excuse. “He felt that the reason the Pentagon wasn’t willing to engage on this issue was that the generals didn’t want to give up their lifestyles of being close to London or in Germany,” the government official says. Jim Townsend, who as President Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy was the Pentagon’s point person on Lajes, says of Nunes, “He looked on this almost from a paranoid perspective, like we were out to get him.”

In the end, Nunes did not get his way: The JIAC is still planned for Croughton, and the American presence at Lajes has been drastically reduced. But Nunes created so much rancor over the issue that some American officials came to question his motives, and even his patriotism. “I was having a hard-enough time being beaten up by the Azoreans and the Portuguese, but it was even harder seeing a congressman being in cahoots with them,” Townsend says. “It was like, ‘Whose team are you on?’ ” A former Pentagon official suspects that during the Lajes negotiations, Nunes was making the Portuguese privy to things they should not have known. “We would have a conversation about some proprietary matters with Nunes,” this official says, “and then the next day, somehow, Portugal knew some of that.”

Looking back on the episode now, Townsend views it as a harbinger of sorts. “When all this stuff happened with the Russians, I laughed like hell,” he says, in reference to the Intelligence Committee’s investigation descending into chaos. “Of course it’s Nunes!”

Congressman Nunes has no business even serving on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, let alone chairing it. And given his behavior in regard to Lajes’ business and familial interests, Azorian officials, and the interests of the Portuguese government, he should be treated as if he’s compromised until proven otherwise. And this appearance of being compromised makes it even easier for others to compromise, manipulate, and suborn him. His long standing and long documented predilection for conspiracy theories and his sweet tooth for incomplete information and raw, partial intelligence make him a danger to Congress and the US. If he had been a career civil servant or even a political appointee with this sketchy of a history around classified information, rather than an elected constitutional officer, he would have had his clearance suspended and he’d be sent home pending the outcome of a counterintelligence investigation. That he and his majority on HPSCI would issue this report is not surprising at all.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.



The Lajes Protocol Part III: The GOP Majority On The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Gambit In Perspective

I just wanted to take a minute and follow up on Cheryl’s post in regard to the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s decision to just end their investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign against the US without consulting the Democratic minority on the committee. As many of you have remarked in the comments to Cheryl’s post, this was clearly rushed out. The one page summary is as well written as the infamous Nunes memo and the Republican members of the committee can’t keep their talking points, let alone their stories, straight in their news media appearances trying to explain what they’ve done, why they did it, and what it means. There is a simple reason for this, which is that several pieces of information regarding what Special Counselor Mueller is doing have broken since the end of last week and over the weekend. And it clearly spooked them.

Bloomberg News reported this morning that Special Counsel Mueller is just about done with the part of his investigation that deals with whether the President obstructed justice in regard to the DOJ and FBI investigation into the Russian active measures and cyberwarfare campaign that resulted in Bob Mueller becoming the Special Counsel.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials.

That’s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case — the part that may hit closest to Trump personally — witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe, or the president may move to shut it down altogether.

The revelation is a peek into Mueller’s calculations as he proceeds with his many-headed probe, while pressure builds from the president’s advisers and other Republicans to show progress or wrap it up.

The obstruction portion of the probe could likely be completed after several key outstanding interviews, including with the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr. The president’s lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s team over such an encounter since late last year. But even if Trump testifies in the coming weeks, Mueller may make a strategic calculation to keep his findings on obstruction secret, according to the current and former U.S. officials, who discussed the strategy on condition of anonymity.

Any clear outcome of the obstruction inquiry could be used against Mueller: Filing charges against Trump or his family could prompt the president to take action to fire him. Publicly clearing Trump of obstruction charges — as the president’s lawyers have requested — could be used by his allies to build pressure for the broader investigation to be shut down.

Other key matters under investigation by Mueller’s team, with its 17 career prosecutors, include whether Trump or any of his associates helped Russia meddle in the 2016 campaign. Mueller is also expected to indict some of those responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee before the election and publicly leaking stolen material in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton.

NBC also reported this morning that Qatar has evidence/intelligence that shows the United Arab Emirates illegally influencing Jared Kushner, the President’s son in law and senior advisor. And that they’re afraid to share it with Special Counsel Mueller for fear of retribution by the President.

Qatari officials gathered evidence of what they claim is illicit influence by the United Arab Emirates on Jared Kushner and other Trump associates, including details of secret meetings, but decided not to give the information to special counsel Robert Mueller for fear of harming relations with the Trump administration, say three sources familiar with the Qatari discussions.

Lebanese-American businessman George Nader and Republican donor Elliott Broidy, who participated in the meetings, have both been the focus of news reports in recent days about their connections to the UAE and Trump associates.

It is unknown whether Qatari officials were the source of the recent news stories detailing activities by Nader and Broidy published by The New York Times and CNN.

NBC News previously reported that Qatari officials weighed speaking to Mueller during a visit to Washington earlier this year, and has now learned the information the officials wanted to share included details about Nader and Broidy working with the UAE to turn the Trump administration against Qatar, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

Qatari officials believe the meetings — as well as fallout from Qatari business dealings with Kushner — may have influenced President Donald Trump’s public endorsement of a blockade of Qatar by its neighbors that began last year.

A Qatari delegation came to Washington in late January and early February and met with Trump officials to discuss shared national security interests. Despite Trump’s endorsement of the blockade in June, the Qataris felt the meetings with top advisers had been productive and decided against reaching out to Mueller in order to preserve the relationship, according to people familiar with the internal Qatari deliberations.

The news about George Nader broke last week and included that he was both cooperating completely with the Special Counsel’s investigation and that part of that was providing previously unreported/unkown details about the meeting between Eric Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, who runs a Russian sovereign wealth fund and is close to Vladimir Putin. It is important to remember that Nader had been completely cooperating with the Special Counsel’s Office for almost six weeks before news of it leaked out and/or was made public. That amount of time is important! Moreover, the reporting indicates that Prince, who is currently being funded and bankrolled by the People’s Republic of China, perjured himself in his testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

And, of course, we had the All Nunberg, All the Time canine and equine extravaganza that began with him making the rounds claiming he wasn’t going to testify and is still on going as he’s doing the media rounds again tonight post grand jury appearance. Since he testified he’s consistently indicated he doesn’t think what the Special Counsel is doing is a hoax or a witch hunt and that he thinks the Special Counsel has something on the President.

Then a series of news reports about Elliott Broidy, Deputy Republican National Committee Finance Chair and Trump Campaign fundraiser. This includes pitching an idea to the President to raise a Muslim Army to fight for America. Broidy has also been implicated in a Ukrainian criminal probe, as well as being tied to whatever it was that George Nader was actually doing for the Emiratis. Broidy is personally hosting a $35,000 per person fundraiser for the President tomorrow in Beverly Hills as part of the President’s first official visit to California.

If you were wondering why the GOP majority on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence decided to end their investigation, without so much as the courtesy of notifying the Democratic minority before going public with the announcement, and did so in a rush, I would submit all of the above as the reasons. They are clearly scared and felt the need to change the narrative. This won’t stop Special Counsel Mueller and his investigation. It will, however, provide the Fox News talking heads, the talk radio folks, the Republicans and conservatives on contributor contracts for the broadcast and cable news networks, conservative media outlets ranging from the mainstream (whatever that means anymore) all the way out to the extreme, authoritarian right with a new narrative to pitch. That Congress found no collusion, so it is well past time for Bob Mueller to wrap it up.

We’ll leave the final word with Rod Rosenstein, the person that the President personally selected and the GOP majority in the Senate confirmed to be the Deputy Attorney General of the United States with every Republican senator voting in support of his nomination. And who, as the Deputy Attorney General, oversees Special Counsel Mueller, his office, and his work:

Stay frosty!

Open thread.



Breaking News: The Democratic Minority Of The House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence Report Has Been Released

You can find the report here. Or at the bottom of the post for download. It has suitable redactions. It is important to remember two things:

  1. The reports author is Congressman Schiff, the ranking member on the committee. And he actually read the underlying classified materials that the Nunes memo is supposedly based on.
  2. This minority report, even with the redactions, demolishes the arguments being made by Congressman Nunes, the House GOP Caucus, the administration, and their supporters.

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Open thread!