Jan 30

The Russian Connection: Obstruction – What If It Works?

Late yesterday afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee voted along Republican party lines to release the four page memo that was compiled by the committee’s chair, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and the staff to discredit the investigation into the allegations that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and the Trump campaign conspired with them. Republicans claimed that the release was move to create “transparency’ but voted against releasing the competeing Democratic memo. The White House has five days to respond and said late last night that it was reviewing the memo and would not comment further until after tonight’s State of the Union address. The committee also voted to open an investigation into the FBI and the Justice Department.

Disclosure of the memo requires White House approval because the document is based on classified information. Now, the Trump administration will have up to five days to review the document for national security concerns, though it could be released at any point. Even if the administration objects, the full House could hold a rare closed-door vote on whether to publicly disclose the memo anyway.

Once the White House receives the memo — either late Monday or sometime Tuesday — it would receive a detailed review, according to a person familiar with the process. The review might involve redactions before the president approves or disapproves its release, said the person, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been allowed to read the memo, and it’s now being vetted in consultation with the Justice Department, according to a person familiar with the matter. Associate Attorney General Stephen Boyd warned last week that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the memo because it contains classified information.

Schiff said Wray told him he wants to brief the Intelligence panel on concerns regarding release of the memo, but Republicans rejected the Democrats’ request to hear from him. “They were not willing to meet with the FBI director,” Schiff said.

“When you have a deeply flawed person in the Oval Office, that flaw can infect the whole government, and today tragically it affected our committee,” Schiff said.

In a statement released late Monday night, Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said “the House Republicans crossed from dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security into the realm of coverup. In doing so, they disregarded the warnings of the Justice Department and the FBI.”

The memo was written by Republican staff members led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes of California and member Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. It was based on classified material obtained from the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation with House Speaker Paul Ryan’s backing.

Three House lawmakers who have read the document said it claims that FBI officials didn’t provide all the relevant facts in requests made to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to obtain a warrant or warrants on Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate and former investment banker in Moscow.

The three lawmakers said the memo contends a judge might not have approved the request for surveillance aimed at Page if the FBI revealed that it used an unverified dossier on Trump put together by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, and that he had been hired by an opposition research firm funded in part by Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats.

With the ouster of Andrew McCabe as Deputy FBI Director, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow points out that despite the legitimacy of the FBI scrutinizing Carter Page as a foreign agent, Republicans are following Devin Nunes to try to accuse Rod Rosenstein of wrongdoing to give Donald Trump a reason to replace him. She also wonders, what if obstruction of justice works.

The Democratic ranking member of the committee, Rep, Adam Schiff (D-CA), joined Rachel to discuss the unprecedented lengths to which House Intelligence Committee Republicans are going to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation of Donald Trump.

Trump certainly looks more and more like a guilty man who may just get away with conspiring wit a foreign adversary but take heart. What happened today is just the house side of this. Over in the Senate, where more sensible, deliberate heads prevail there is this from Susan Glasser atPolitico

Congress late last year received “extraordinarily important new documents” in its investigation of President Donald Trump and his campaign’s possible collusion with the 2016 Russian election hacking, opening up significant new lines of inquiry in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of the president, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) says in an exclusive new interview.

Warner, the intel committee’s top Democrat, says “end-of-the-year document dumps” produced “very significant” revelations that “opened a lot of new questions” that Senate investigators are now looking into, meaning the inquiry into Trump and the Russia hacking—already nearly a year old—will not be finished for months longer. “We’ve had new information that raises more questions,” Warner says in the interview, an extensive briefing on the state of the Senate’s Trump-Russia probe for The Global Politico, our weekly podcast on world affairs.

Warner also warns about a “coordinated” attack by the president and “Trump zealots” in the House of Representatives to undermine the legitimacy of the investigations against him, an effort Warner says includes the president’s threats to fire special counsel Robert Mueller and other officials as well as a secret Republican memo alleging “shocking” FBI surveillance abuse against Trump that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is now threatening to release. Warner calls out Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, in arguably more explicit terms than any Democrat has yet, saying he has read the underlying classified material used in the memo and that Nunes misrepresented it as part of a McCarthyite “secret Star Chamber” effort to discredit the FBI probe of the president.

“We’re seeing this coordinated effort to try to impede the investigation,” Warner says. The Nunes memo, which is apparently drawn from information contained in the same late-2017 document dumps that have caused the Senate panel to expand its inquiry, is based on “fabrications” and “connecting dots that don’t connect,” Warner asserts. [..]

Warner says he and the Senate panel remain focused almost exclusively on the initial questions surrounding the Russian election intervention and alleged collusion; the senators have decided that questions surrounding possible Trump obstruction of justice, “because it falls into criminality,” should remain largely in the “purview” of Mueller.

If Warner is right, despite the House hot heads, this is far from done. Lets hope the cooler heads in the Senate prevail