Is the Trump WH Spying on the FBI?
This is the very interesting question of Barton Gellman, a guy who knows a lot about the cyberworld.
Is Trump’s White House using the surveillance assets of the U.S. government to track the FBI investigation? https://t.co/BvuHgkn4oI
— Barton Gellman (@bartongellman) March 30, 2017
“This brings me to the second question, which I see as the core disclosure of the Times story (even though the Times does not explicitly mention it). If Nunes saw reports that named Trump or his associates, as he said, the initiative for naming names did not come from the originating intelligence agency. That is not how the process works. The names could only have been unmasked if the customers—who seem in this case to have been Trump’s White House appointees—made that request themselves. If anyone breached the president’s privacy, the perpetrators were working down the hall from him. (Okay, probably in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door.) It is of course hypocritical, even deceptive, for Nunes to lay that blame at the feet of intelligence officials, but that is not the central concern either.”
“If events took place as just described, then what exactly were Trump’s appointees doing? I am not talking only about the political chore of ginning up (ostensible) support for the president’s baseless claims about illegal surveillance by President Obama. I mean this: why would a White House lawyer and the top White House intelligence adviser be requesting copies of these surveillance reports in the first place? Why would they go on to ask that the names be unmasked? There is no chance that the FBI would brief them about the substance or progress of its investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to the Russian government. Were the president’s men using the surveillance assets of the U.S. government to track the FBI investigation from the outside?”
Yesterday afternoon, Sean Spicer was very keen to tell journalists what they should be reporting. Per Spicer ‘forget the process stuff.’ What matters is this material that Nunes got his hands on ‘Vindicates Mr. Trump.’
This is the whole problem. The process by which this information was gotten to Nunes is so problematic that one or more crimes may have been committed. It’s also ironic as Nunes until now has been unwilling to release this allegedly vindicating material for Herr Trump.
What this amounts to is some kind of intelligence laundering scheme from political people in the Trump WH to Devin Nunes.
Rick Wilson has some very interesting thoughts:
Devin Nunes Is Just the Errand Boy in the Trump-Russia Scandal
“The manic flailing before the cameras, the ridiculous lie about a ‘whistleblower’ who turned out to be two White House officials—no, the intel chair wasn’t the brains behind this farce.”
“Nunes’s manic flailing left a chain of confused, exhausted reporters trying to parse his daily lies, revisions, walkbacks, and pushbacks. His use of amateur intel slang was as cringeworthy as it was unconvincing. He did everything but show up in a fedora and trenchcoat. As he tried to change the subject from Russia and its influence over President Trump to the evil NSA’s boundless perfidy in “tappping” a poor, innocent, hard-working New York real estate developer on behalf of that evil Kenyan Muslim Barack Obama, it became increasingly obvious that Nunes didn’t get this information from the intelligence community, but rather from the Trump White House.”
Let me just say that this piece by Wilson is both on target and laugh out loud with every word. But the takeaway is that the Trump WH gave Nunes this info for political reasons. In other words you have political people rifling through raw intelligence.
“Over the weekend, the first cracks in Nunes’s ludicrous story emerged. Michael Ellis, a former general counsel for Nunes, now works in the White House General Counsel’s Office on—wait for it—national security matters. The Washington Occam’s Razor, in this case, led many to focus on the former Nunes staffer, and Nunes’s obvious discomfort when asked made it clear he was being fed intel from the White House. House Intelligence Committee staffers were leaking far and wide that they weren’t the source.”
“On Thursday, the Trump White House was rocked and rocked hard when The New York Times revealed that the bombshell of alleged illicit surveillance of Trump was provided to Nunes by Ellis and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the current intelligence director for the National Security Council. From whence did the memorably named Cohen-Watnick emerge? He is disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s stay-behind agent in the new H.R. McMaster-led NSC. McMaster, a thoroughgoing national security professional, sought to fire Cohen-Watnick from his earliest days in the position.”
“But Cohen-Watnick went over McMaster’s head-McMaster was promised he’d run his own show but sometimes Trump is less than truthful as shocking as that might sound. He went to Jared. Kushner that is, and, naturally, Stephen Bannon. They went to Trump and Cohen-Watnick stays. Sorry General McMaster.”
“What justified this level of protection and intervention? The pieces seem to click together easily. Bannon needed Cohen-Watnick to stay in place in the National Security Council, with the concomitant level of access to intelligence, in order to support the political pushback on the growing Russia story. The coverup and political pushback Bannon has personally led is fraught with danger, with obstruction of justice on the low end of the risk scale. That Bannon, Cohen-Watnick, and Ellis apparently worked together to loop the hapless Nunes into Bannon’s scheme was too dumb by a mile. In Washington, good conspiracies are as rare as hen’s teeth, and this one is utterly obvious. A good conspiracy needs a patsy, a great one needs an operator. Nunes is the former.”
Nunes is such a bumbling clown you wonder if he makes the opening skit of SNL this week. If not, it’s comedic malpractice.
“Nunes made himself the star of the drama without the requisite political or acting skills. As the Times revealed, Nunes got this highly classified COMINT (which is ALL Top Secret Sensitive Compartmentalized Information, for all of you playing our game at home) and leaked it to achieve a political end for the White House. He leaped out of an Uber as if his ass was on fire, met Cohen-Watnick and Ellis in secret at the White House, tattled to the president, then raced to vomit out specific details in a press conference. He lied frequently and badly, to try to keep up the game.”
Wilson has a way with words:
“This ridiculous farce didn’t spring fully formed from Nunes’s brow. He shows—as the past week abundantly demonstrates—few of the skills needed to engage in the big games of either intelligence or of the real cut-and-thrust of the D.C. demimonde. Washington rewards talented liars of both parties and punishes the clumsy ones.”
“Nunes is a clumsy liar and it shows. He’s an errand boy sent by grocery clerks with just enough understanding of the game and the stakes to think this is going to work out because their base is always with them.”
Wilson-who obviously has deep roots in GOP circles-argues that Paul Ryan is in a very tough bind with Nunes. But that he can’t stick by him forever:
“It’s not just the White House that’s in crisis. It’s increasingly obvious that the House of Representatives is also in trouble. Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearings were serious, probing, informative, and bipartisan; a marked contrast to the alternate reality Nunes and his allies tried to cast in their first hearings. For the House, Nunes has almost singlehandedly wrecked the credibility of its intelligence committee, raising the specter of either a Senate committee that dominates the investigation or a select committee with sweeping powers that will terrify this White House.”
“At this very moment, Speaker Ryan is desperately trying to cobble together a governing majority in the body from its disparate camps of Freedom Caucus firebreathers, mainline Republicans, the Trump Cheer Squad, and the 20 or so members in swing seats. Ryan can’t afford more embarrassments, and Nunes may have put him in an untenable position. This is particularly painful for Ryan because just two days ago he vigorously defended Nunes’s performance as head of the House Intelligence Committee and because Nunes claims he informed Ryan what he was up to before going to the president.”
An errand boy sent out by grocery clerks. What crimes did the errand boy and/or the grocery clerks commit in this absurd and clumsy scheme?
In leaking classified information for purely political ends?
P.S. As we saw in my poll out last week, the long awaited poll results are in, and right now I’m just 11 points down vs. Peter King (GOP-NY-District 2). And the voters don’t even know who I am yet.
There is nothing more important in getting answers to Trump-Russia collusion than a Democratic House in 2019. Please donate to help me in my part of the effort to fight for a Dem House.
Thank you. We must have a Dem House. And so, we will