May 23

The Russian Connection: More Revelations

Yesterday the Washington Post reported that Trump appealed to two intelligence chiefs for help to push back the FBI investigation into his campaign after then Director James Comey revealed its existence in March.

Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.

Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president. [..]

Trump’s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump’s conversation with Coats. Officials said such memos could be made available to both the special counsel now overseeing the Russia investigation and congressional investigators, who might explore whether Trump sought to impede the FBI’s work.

Today, Director Coats, a Trump appointee, testifies before the Senate Armed Service Committee declining to comment on the veracity of the Post article.

On the House side, former CIA Director John Brennan, not exactly known for his veracity to congress, testified before the Intelligence Committee about what he knew about the contacts between Russia and Trump, it didn’t make Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) very happy.

Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC) was trying to get to a no since Brennan is no longer on board and could easily provide Republicans with sound bites that they could use disingenuously to suggest that there’s nothing to see here in TrumpRussiaGate.

But instead, when Gowdy pushed for evidence of collusion, he got the former CIA Director to say, “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign.

That was not what Gowdy wanted to hear.

Dir. Brennan also commented on Trummp’s passing of highly classified intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador:

Brennan testified that if media reports are accurate, President Trump violated at least two protocols when he leaked classified intelligence to Russia.

During a round of questioning from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), former CIA Director Brennan said, “I don’t know what was shared or said in the Oval Office, but if the reports in the press are true that Mr. Trump decided to spontaneously some intelligence with the Russians, I think he would have basically violated two protocols, and those protocols are one is that such intelligence, classified intelligence is not shared with visiting foreign ministers or local ambassadors…..Secondly, before sharing classified intelligence with foreign partners, it needs to go back to the originating agency to make sure that the language in it is even just providing the substance going to reveal sources and methods and compromise the future collection capability.

Brennan also dispelled the myth being floated by Trump and his administration that Trump leak classified information by pointing out that just because Trump shared it with the Russians doesn’t mean that the intelligence was not still classified.

Brennan also explained to the committee how the Russian connection was a slow walk to treason

Explaining how the Russians work to turn people, Brennan said, “Frequently individuals who go along a treasonous path do not even realize they are on that path until it gets to be a bit too late and that’s why my radar goes up early when I see certain things that I know what the Russians are trying to do to and I don’t know whether the targets of their efforts are as mindful of the Russian intentions as they need to be.” [..]

Brennan’s comments explain how the Russians could have turned people in the Trump campaign towards treason through a very subtle and deliberate process. His description also illustrates that the intelligence community knows what to look for and why red flags were raised based on what they may have seen coming from some people in the Trump campaign.

The Trump campaign landed on the CIA’s radar, and the question of what they were doing with Russia is why the country is in the midst of a scandal today.

The Director then proceeded to give the Republicans on the committee, who were more focused on the leakers than the severity of what was leaked, a lesson in patriotism:

As Republicans once again focus on “leaks” from whistleblowers who are trying to protect the United States against the Republicans in the White House and Congress who are at the very least unwilling to take action to protect the country from hostile, aggressive moves by Russia against the U.S., Democrat Rep. Denny Heck asked Brennan why constituents should care about Russia’s election interference.

The answer Brennan gave was a perhaps unintentional, but nonetheless powerful, schooling of Republicans on patriotism.

Because for the last 241 years, this nation and its citizens have cherished the freedom and liberty that this country was founded on. Our ability to choose our elected leaders as we see fit is, I believe, an inalienable right we must protect with all of our resources and all our authority and power,” Brennan told the committee.

Also appearing before the House Armed Services Committee, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers will most likely face questions about his conversation with Trump. He, too, is expected to decline to answer in an open hearing.

Former White House Nation Security Advisor retired Lt. General Michael Flynn refused to comply with the Senate Intelligence Committee subpoena for his testimony and documents related to his role in the campaign and White House Russian connections based on his Fifth Amendment rights. Not yet willing to charge Flynn with contempt, the committee is considering interim steps to obtain the documents which are business related and are not protected by the Fifth Amendment. In a press conference, following a closed door meeting, the ranking Democratic member. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) revealed that the committee had issued two more subpoenas targeting Flynn’s businesses.

“While we disagree with Gen. Flynn’s lawyer’s interpretation of taking the fifth, it is even more clear that a business does not have a right to take the fifth, it is a corporation,” Warner said Tuesday during a joint press conference with Senate Intel Committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).

“Those subpoenas, one has been served one is in the process of being served,” Warner said, adding the committee is keeping “all options on the table.”

Included in those options is the possibility of holding Flynn in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.

The Senate committee will also seek the testimony of DNI Coates and Adm. Rogers.

The shoes seem to be dropping until late in the evening every day now.