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.


Open thread!

No Nunes Is Good Nunes… Wait, What? Time’s Got Carter Page’s Correspondence? Uh Oh!


Take it away Time!

Former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page bragged that he was an adviser to the Kremlin in a letter obtained by TIME that raises new questions about the extent of Page’s contacts with the Russian government over the years.

The letter, dated Aug. 25, 2013, was sent by Page to an academic press during a dispute over edits to an unpublished manuscript he had submitted for publication, according to an editor who worked with Page.

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” the letter reads.

In June 2013, the FBI interviewed Page regarding his contacts with the Russians, Page says. The FBI believed that Russian intelligence services had attempted to recruit Page as an agent with promises of business opportunities in Russia, according to the 2015 court documents.

Page told the FBI at their June 2013 meeting that the officers might better spend their time investigating the Boston Marathon bombing, which had occurred the previous April, according to a letter Page sent to Democrats on Nunes’ committee last May. Page says that thereafter the FBI began a retaliatory campaign against him. According to published reports, the FBI obtained a first FISA warrant to eavesdrop on Page’s electronic communications during 2013. And they have been paying attention to him, on and off, ever since.

Two months after his meeting with the FBI, Page sent the letter claiming to be a Kremlin adviser. In addition to his work as an energy consultant, Page has studied and written on Russian affairs, and had submitted a book for publication by the academic press. Page felt frustrated by the fact that he had revised his manuscript about Russian relations is Central Asia and it had not been reviewed again, according to the editor who has worked with Page in the past and who requested anonymity due to the confidential nature of the matter.

The letter to the manuscript reviewer is not the first example of Page touting his relationship with Russia. McClatchy reported last year that in 2008, the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan sent a cable to the U.S. State Department describing how Page had met with government officials in the country, which was formerly part of the Soviet Union, about possibly working for their oil companies. The cable described how he touted his work with the Russian-run company Gazprom.

Well how about that bowl of borscht?

Stay frosty or Congressman Nunes will write a memo claiming you’ve violated Kremlin advisor Carter Page’s civil liberties.

Open thread!

Our Long National Nightmare Is Not Over: The Nunes Memo II…

For the love of someone’s, anyone’s Deity or Deities, make him stop!!!!

Someone please tell Congressman Nunes that the only part of the State Department that is part of the US Intel Community (USIC/IC) is the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR). It is one of the smallest, if not the smallest, office within the intel community. Its focus is on leveraging intelligence in support of diplomacy.

INR is a bureau of the Department of State and a member of the Intelligence Community (IC). The Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s (INR) primary mission is to harness intelligence to serve U.S. diplomacy. Secretary of State George Marshall established INR in 1947. INR is a direct descendant of the Office of Strategic Services Research Department and the oldest civilian intelligence element in the U.S. Government. Ambassador Daniel B. Smith is INR’s Assistant Secretary.

Drawing on all-source intelligence, INR provides value-added independent analysis of events to U.S. State Department policymakers; ensures that intelligence activities support foreign policy and national security purposes; and serves as the focal point in the State Department for ensuring policy review of sensitive counterintelligence and law enforcement activities around the world. The bureau directs the Department’s program of intelligence analysis and research, conducts liaison with the Intelligence Community, and represents the Department on committees and in interagency intelligence groups. The Bureau of Intelligence and Research also analyzes geographical and international boundary issues.

Unless he’s going to claim that INR somehow colluded with the FBI to frame Carter Page who, as we discussed earlier, has been on the FBI’s radar in regard to counterintelligence since 2013 when the Russian intelligence officers that were trying to recruit him decided he was an idiot, I honestly don’t see how he can make more of a fool of himself than he did today.

Here is, specifically, what the Russian intelligence officers said about Page as picked up by FBI surveillance in 2013:

If you’re wondering where the instructions and talking points are coming from, just take a gander at Russia state controlled news media from 13 January 2017:

Finally, former Special Agent Rangappa discovers a very special person, near and dear to everyone here at Balloon Juice’s heart, on social media:

Stay frosty or Congressman Nunes will write a memo about you.

Open thread!

Release The Memo: The Memoing!

Because the President actually did issue a declassification order, I can actually talk about the memo. I’ve now given it a thorough read and other than some insinuations, it seems like a lot of sizzle and no steak.

We went through former FBI Special Agent (for counterintelligence) Asha Rangappa’s detailed explanation of how a FISA warrant is obtained earlier in the week. There is nothing in the Nunes memo to indicate that any of these processes weren’t followed. Moreover, other than providing information that either the initial warrant to surveil Carter Page, who has been on the FBI’s radar since actual Russian intelligence officers trying to recruit him determined he was an idiot in 2013, or one of the subsequent renewals was based on some information from the Steele dossier it doesn’t seem to say much else about what the FBI is doing incorrectly in regard to the counterintelligence investigation of the President and his campaign. It also tells the whole world that Steel had long been a source for the FBI and deemed to be of high credibility because of his work for MI6. Finally, it tells us which DOJ and FBI officials signed off on the initial warrant request and renewals.

I’m honestly not sure what of this material needed to be classified in the first place. We know the process and procedure for requesting a FISA warrant. Including who has to sign off. So figuring out which DOJ and FBI officials signed off was limited to a group of 3 potential officials at DOJ and 2 at FBI who could have signed off. Frankly, unless or until we see the actual FISA warrant and FISA extension requests, hopefully with suitable redactions, all we have is a GOP committee chair who was on the President’s transition team making a political argument: that the FBI and DOJ, those hot beds of socialism and the vanguard of the Clinton machine, didn’t treat the President’s campaign fairly.

The real problem here is that we know that the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into the President’s campaign in July of 2016 as a result of information provided by Australian intelligence based on a contact report from the Australian High Commissioner regarding his meeting with George Papadapolous. The timelines of the allegations being made by Nunes and his staff in regard the start of the counterintelligence investigation in their memo just don’t line up with reality. They also don’t fit what we know of the processes and procedures required to obtain a FISA warrant. This reads very much like I have concluded X and am now going to argue backwards to demonstrate X.

I have no idea what really happens now. I know that there will be a partisan push to purge the DOJ and FBI leadership of people the President himself appointed, such as Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. Or of career DOJ and FBI officials who are SESes in either career track supervisory positions or in appointed leadership positions. Because these latter group of officials are career civil servants, removing them will be quite difficult. Honestly, there is very little to the memo other than it will be used to increase the sturm and drang on Fox, Breitbart, by Rush and Hewitt and Dim Jim, etc, and on alt-right and MAGA social media to create pressure to remove DAG Rosenstein in the belief it will allow the President to then get rid of Special Counsel Mueller.

We are truly off the looking glass and through the map.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

(Paragraph 3 edited/revised for clarity and to correct incorrect timeline information.)

Release The Memo Update

Just a quick update regarding the sturm and drang surrounding the Nunes memo. It has been reported today that the White House will kick the Nunes memo back to the House of Representative and leave it up to the House to decide when (if?) to release. What doesn’t seem to be clear is whether the memo will have redactions. Axios reports there likely won’t be. As does The Washington Examiner. And The New York Times.

Mr. Trump, who had a brief window to block the memo’s disclosure on national security grounds, was expected to tell Congress on Friday that he had no objections and would likely not request any material be redacted, according to a senior administration official. It would then be up to the House Intelligence Committee, whose Republican leaders have pushed for its release, to make the document public.

The president’s decision came despite a growing chorus of warnings from national security officials who say that releasing the document would jeopardize sensitive government information, including how intelligence is gathered, and from Democrats who say it is politically motivated and distorts the actions of the Justice Department and the F.B.I. by omitting crucial context.

But Mr. Trump wanted the memo out. He had told people close to him that he believes it makes the case that law enforcement officials acted inappropriately in seeking the highly classified warrant on one of his campaign advisers, Carter Page.

The outstanding question is whether FBI Director Wray resigns over this. The reporting is all over the place on this too. A lot of it focuses on the fears of the White House that Director Wray will do so.

Top White House aides are worried FBI Director Christopher Wray could quit if the highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools is released, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN.

Wray has made clear he is frustrated that President Donald Trump picked him to lead the FBI after he fired FBI Director James Comey in May, yet his advice on the Nunes memo is being disregarded and cast as part of the purported partisan leadership of the FBI, according to a senior law enforcement official.

Wray’s stance is “raising hell,” one source familiar with the matter said.

Wray has not directly threatened to resign after clashing with Trump over the possible release of the memo, the source added, because that is not his style of dealing with conflict.

Chuck Rosenberg, the former Acting Director of the DEA (2015-2017), US Attorney for both the Eastern District of Virginia and Southern District of New York, and Counsel to the Director of the FBI when Bob Mueller was the director, thinks otherwise (autoplay video interview at the link).
“You can’t threaten resignation every time someone does something dumb,” Chuck Rosenberg says on whether Chris Wray would resign over the memo release.

Director Wray went with then FBI Director Comey and Deputy and Acting Attorney General Comey and told President Bush (43) that they would all resign if he overruled the DOJ and implemented the surveillance program that had been deemed to violate constitutional protections. His new acting deputy is David Bowdich. Bowdich’s bio reads like he’s the poster child for the bureau. He has also been appointed to important positions by both Bob Mueller and James Comey when they were running the FBI. Including his most recent assignment as Associate Director of the FBI.

We just don’t know what will or won’t happen at this point. It is possible that Wray stays on and stay angry and distrustful of the President and we get a repeat or a variant of the President Clinton-Director Freeh relationship from the 1990s.

Jonathan Swan at Axios is reporting, however, that White House officials are now beginning to worry that the Nunes memo will blow up in their faces.

Inside the Trump administration, sources who’ve been briefed on the Nunes memo expect it will be underwhelming and not the “slam dunk” document it’s been hyped up to be.

What we’re hearing: There is much more skepticism inside the administration than has been previously reported about the value of releasing the memo, according to sources familiar with the administration discussions.

This is somewhat in line with my speculation last night that:

I can authoritatively and preemptively state that whatever gets released, keeping Schiff’s statement tonight in context, will be garbage. It will look sloppy to the professionals who will quickly pick it apart. And it will, in short order both blow up in Nunes’ and the Administration’s faces while at the same time become gospel truth on the right and that gospel truth will be disseminated via Fox, Breitbart, Dim Jim, Rush, Drudge, Hewitt, RT, Sputnick, GG, a ton of twitter feeds including Russian bots and trolls, etc.

Remember, the only two members of the House to actually see the underlying classified information are Congressman Gowdy acting as stand in/proxy for the supposed to be recused Congressman Nunes and Congressman Schiff the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Himes voices his concern that the committee will apparently be releasing the memo unredacted, noting that “an immense amount of classified information will be available to the public.” He warns about the dangers of voting on both memos’ release before any of the committee members beyond Schiff and Gowdy view the underlying intelligence.

Congressman Nunes, the staffers that helped him write the memo, the other 431 members of the House and all of their staff, have NOT seen the underlying classified information that Nunes memo is based on. This is not a recipe for doing one’s best work. It also makes me wonder where Congressman Nunes and his staff got the underlying classified information that is, supposedly, in the memo. If they’ve not seen any of the underlying information that the memo allegedly addresses, what exactly is in the memo?

If the President does indeed kick this back to the House of Representatives to release without a declassification order, it will be released under the House’s rules. Specifically Rule X (of the Standing Rules), Clause 11, subsection G.

Once a member of the committee requests such a vote, the committee shall meet within five days to vote on the matter. (That’s what took place last night when the committee convened to vote on the memo’s release.)  If the committee approves the public disclosure of classified information that was submitted to it by the executive branch, and the executive branch asks for the information to remain secret, the committee must notify the president about its decision. (Because of the closed nature of the process, and the disagreement within the executive branch, it’s unclear whether the executive branch made a formal request to keep the memo under wraps, but House Republicans are certainly behaving as if that happened.)  From there, another five-day clock begins ticking.  Once that five-day window expires, the committee may release the information unless the president “personally in writing” has notified them that the disclosure of the information presents a “threat to the national interest … of such gravity that it outweighs any public interest” in the release.

If the president does issue such an objection, the committee has two choices.  It can let the matter die, or it can, by majority vote, refer the issue to the full House for a vote.  If the committee does send the question to the full chamber, yet another clock begins ticking.  If the HPSCI chair does not move to take up the matter within four calendar days on which the House is in session, then any member has the ability to interrupt the House’s daily order of business to move to consider the question in closed session.  Debate on whether to disclose the information is limited to two hours.

At this point all we can do is wait.

We are off the looking glass and through the map.

Stay frosty!

Open thread.

Release The Memo: A Quick Note

Tomorrow is likely to be a bit nutso as we now know that the Nunes memo will likely be released.

As you might imagine, the FBI is not amused.

Washington, D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691
January 31, 2018

FBI Statement on HPSCI Memo

The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.

With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.

Given the reporting, I’m not quite sure how FBI Director Wray doesn’t resign in short order if this thing is released. Fortunately, I’m not FBI Director Wray.

Congressman Schiff has now provided even more worrying information about what has been approved for release tomorrow.

Now for the quick note: If the Nunes memo, which is really more like a four page report, is released without an order of declassification from the President, the material released will still be classified. Since I am not read on to any of this stuff – the material used to get the FISA warrant and extension alleged to be the focus of the Nunes memo, as well as the material that Nunes and his staff cherry picked to produce the report – I cannot and will not read the memo, the reporting about the memo, and cannot and will not comment on them. This would violate the terms of my clearance.

Mark Zaid, who runs one of the top law practices dealing with clearance issues, as well as whistle blower protection, delineates the key issues here:

Click across and read the entire thing.

Zaid goes on to state:

To redirect: if this is released tomorrow without a specific declassification order, I’m going to be silent on it. On the actual report being released, what it means, etc. I’m sure others here will pick up the slack. And I highly recommend that you all check out Zaid‘s and his partner Brad Moss‘s twitter feeds as they’ll have expert commentary. I also highly recommend Ben Wittes‘s, Susan Hennessy‘s, Asha Rangappa‘s, Richard Painter‘s, and Walter Schaub‘s twitter feeds among others. And I’m sure Lawfare will have coverage too.

Sorry about this, but the rules are the rules and I’m not placing my clearance in jeopardy because Congressman Nunes is Congressman Nunes.

Open thread!