Lazy Saturday Reads

Original Expressionist Painting Peru Art, ‘Woman Reading with Peacock’

Good Afternoon!!

Most politics watchers spent yesterday laughing at Devin Nunes and his highly anticipated memo. But the moron in the White House thinks it completely vindicates him.

“Their” was no “Collusion” according to the barely literate “president.” Does anyone understand the Trump rules of spelling, capitalization, and the use of quotes? The moron probably spent the day watching Fox News and doesn’t even know that he and Devin Nunes were the butt of jokes everywhere else. Some reactions:

Politico: Even if You Take the Nunes Memo Seriously, It Makes No Sense, by Paul Rosenzweig (former Whitewater investigator).

Under the most fair reading of the memorandum, the argument it makes is as follows: The Steele dossier—a collection of reports filed by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele—is a biased and flawed document produced by someone out to “get” the president; FBI and Justice Department officials knew of the bias and did not disclose it to the judges of the FISA court who approved the FISA warrant; as a result, the rights of an American citizen (Carter Page) were violated; and (more importantly, from the perspective of the Republican Party) the FBI’s reliance on the Steele dossier corrupted the FBI investigation of the Trump campaign—all of which is, in effect, the “fruit of a poisonous tree” that should no longer be credited.

Given that story line, one can only conclude that the Nunes memo fails to make its case—and fails quite badly at that.

Lost Pocketbook, by Sally Storch

Consider, first, the obvious timing problem. The Nunes memo begins with a FISA application dated October 21, 2016. That date is significant for a number of reasons. As an initial matter, coming less than 20 days before the election, it seems a particularly poor way of trying to influence the outcome of the election. A FISA application just a few days before November 9 would not actually have produced any evidence until well after the election—making Nunes’ implicit charge of a corrupted investigation chronologically implausible. In addition, the focus on this date has to deal with the uncomfortable fact that the surveillance of Page it authorized started roughly a month after Page officially left the Trump campaign—so, again, it is a poor way of effectuating a bias against Trump to collect evidence relating to the actions of a former campaign volunteer.

But the most important reason to focus on the 2016 date is that it ignores another, earlier date. We know from public reports that the FBI opened its inquiry into Page’s Russian connections as early as 2013, at which time the bureau already had probable cause to think Russian intelligence operatives might be trying to recruit him. (The Russian spies, by the way, thought that Page was “an idiot,” according to court documents.) Any story of the investigation of Page that starts in the middle is incomplete at best—and since we don’t know what was in the earlier Page application or in the rest of this October application, we can’t really know how incomplete it is. But that careful incompleteness is, by itself, grounds to doubt the memo’s conclusions.

I know. You knew that already. But it’s an interesting piece that demolishes the Nunes memo piece by piece.

Lawfare: Thoughts on the Nunes Memo: We Need to Talk About Devin, By Quinta Jurecic, Shannon Togawa Mercer, Benjamin Wittes. You’ll need to read the whole thing to follow the complete argument, but here are some brief excerpts:

…let’s briefly put aside the reality that the memo is probably neither a complete nor a fair account of the FBI’s handling of the Page matter. For a moment, let’s assume that every fact in the memo is true and that the memo contains all relevant facts on the matter—in other words, that it is entirely accurate and not selective. What would that mean?

“Reclining Woman with Book,” by Imre Goth (1893-1982). Oil on canvas, 99 x 75cm. London art market (Bonhams), 1993.

As the document tells the story, on Oct. 21, 2016, the Justice Department and FBI successfully applied for a FISA warrant against Carter Page from the FISA court. Presumably, though the memo does not state this explicitly, it did so under Title I of FISA, as Page is a U.S. citizen and the warrant seems to have been an individualized one directed at him. The initial warrant was renewed three times, once every 90 days, each time requiring renewed showing of probable cause that Page was acting as the agent of a foreign power….

To the extent that the complaint is that Page’s civil liberties have been violated, the outraged are crying crocodile tears. For one thing, it is not at all clear that Page’s civil liberties were, in fact, violated by the surveillance; the memo does not even purport to argue that the Justice Department lacked probable cause to support its warrant application. It does not suggest that Page was not, after all, an agent of a foreign power. What’s more, the only clear violation of Page’s civil liberties apparent here lies in the disclosure of the memo itself, which named him formally as a surveillance target and announced to the world at large that probable cause had been found to support his surveillance no fewer than four times by the court. Violating Page’s civil liberties is a particularly strange way to complain about conduct that probably did not violate his civil liberties.

To the extent the complaint is that the FBI relied on a biased source in Steele, the FBI relies every day on information from far more dubious characters than former intelligence officers working for political parties. The FBI gets information from narco-traffickers, mobsters and terrorists. Surely it’s not scandalous for it to get information from a Democrat—much less from a former British intelligence officer working for Democrats, even if he expresses dislike of a presidential candidate.

To the extent the complaint is that the bureau was insufficiently candid with the tribunal, that is a potentially more serious matter. But as Orin Kerr argued on Lawfare this week, it is far from clear that the allegation—even if true—would create any kind of legal defect in the warrant. And in any event, the court itself has the power to demand accountability to the extent judges feel misled. In Friday’s Lawfare Podcast, David Kris suggests that the government is likely considering how best to officially advise the FISA court of the Nunes memo and so provide the court with an opportunity to respond to the memo’s allegations.

Much more at the link above.

There has been much GOP outrage over Nunes’ claim that the FISA judges weren’t told that the Steele dossier was the product of political opposition research. But that isn’t true according to The Washington Post: Justice Dept. told court of source’s political influence in request to wiretap ex-Trump campaign aide, officials say.

Lempicka, Tamara de; 1898-1980. “Wisdom”, 1940/41. Oil on wood.

The court that approved surveillance of a former campaign adviser to President Trump was aware that some of the information underpinning the warrantA request was paid for by a political entity, although the application did not specifically name the Democratic National Committee or the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

A now-declassified Republican memo alleged that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was duped into approving the wiretap request by a politicized FBI and Justice Department. The memo was written by House Intelligence Committee Republicans and alleged a “troubling breakdown of legal processes” flowing from the government’s wiretapping of former Trump aide Carter Page.

But its central allegation — that the government failed to disclose a source’s political bias — is baseless, the officials said.

The Justice Department made “ample disclosure of relevant, material facts” to the court that revealed “the research was being paid for by a political entity,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

A few more links to check out:

Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast: Sources: Devin Nunes Memo Is ‘100%’ Wrong About Andrew McCabe and Steele Dossier.

Phillip Carter at Slate: Survival at All Costs. By releasing the Nunes memo, Trump betrayed the intelligence community to save his own skin.

John Harwood at CNBC: Trump and the House GOP face an uphill battle against the FBI and the Justice Department.

Frankly, I’m much more concerned about another story that hasn’t gotten enough attention: a meeting between U.S. intelligence chiefs with the heads of Russian intelligence agencies. Keep in mind that we only learned about this meeting because it was covered by Russian news outlets.

PBS: Democrats question U.S. meeting with Russian spy chiefs.

Democrats want to know why the Trump administration allowed two Russian spy chiefs under U.S. and European sanctions to meet last week in Washington with American intelligence officials.

Russia’s U.S. ambassador said Sergei Naryshkin, head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, was in the United States to discuss counterterrorism with his American counterparts.

By Malcolm Liepke

Naryshkin was accompanied at the meeting in Washington by Alexander Bortnikov, who directs the top KGB successor agency known as the Federal Security Service, according to two U.S. officials, who were not authorized to disclose the information and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The two Russian intelligence officials were sanctioned in 2014 in response to Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine — Naryshkin by the U.S. and Bortnikov by the European Union.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the timing of the meeting is suspicious because it came just days before the Trump administration decided not to issue new sanctions against Russian politicians and oligarchs over Russian interference in the election. He released a letter early Thursday demanding that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats disclose details of the meeting by Feb. 9.

Schumer said sanctions against Naryshkin impose severe financial penalties and prohibit his entry into the U.S. without a waiver.

Politico: Pompeo on meetings with Russians: ‘We vigorously defend America in these encounters.’

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday pushed back Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s suggestion that Russian intelligence officials’ visit to the United States last week may have played a role in the Trump administration’s move to hold off on new sanctions against Moscow.

Pompeo told Schumer in a letter that his meetings with Russian intelligence counterparts focused on anti-terrorism cooperation and followed similar talks held by previous administrations in both parties. Three top Russian intelligence officials held U.S. meetings last week — Alexander Bortnikov, Sergey Naryshkin, and Igor Korobov — a notably high-level presence to some observers of U.S.-Russia relations.

Pompeo did not address Schumer’s question about whether sanctions against Russia were discussed at his meeting with the Russian officials, which took place days before the Trump administration opted to forestall new penalties that Congress called for in bipartisan legislation last year.

“When those meetings take place, you and the American people should rest assured that we cover very difficult subjects in which American and Russian interests do not align,” Pompeo wrote to Schumer.

Yeah, right. We need to know a lot more about this meeting and why U.S. media and why we had to learn about it from the Russians.

Finally, a new story about what Trump may have handed over to the Russians in that meeting the day after the Comey firing. NPR: Journalist Details Israel’s ‘Secret History’ Of Targeted Assassinations. During this Fresh Air interview, Israeli journalist suggested that Trump’s betrayal of Israeli intelligence sources was much worse than has been reported.

This is FRESH AIR, and we’re speaking with Ronen Bergman. He’s a veteran investigative reporter in Israel. His new book is “Rise And Kill First: The Secret History Of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.”

Richard Edward Miller, Miss V in Green

You know, you’ve written that the United States and the Israeli intelligence services have developed a very close set of joint operations and exchange of information. And of course earlier this year, there was a huge controversy when President Trump apparently revealed information in a meeting with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador which betrayed some Israeli sourcing. Where do things stand with these relationships between American and Israeli intelligence in the Trump administration?

BERGMAN: Well, Dave, just a year ago, I published a story that created a lot of controversy. I said – and I was surprised to hear that from my sources in the beginning – that a group of American intelligence officers, in a regular meeting with the Israeli counterparts, just before Trump was elected and before the inauguration, they suggested that the Israelis stop giving sensitive material to the White House. They said we are afraid that Trump or someone of his people are under leverage from the Russians. And they might give sensitive information to the Russians who, in their turn, would give that to Iran. They said we have evidence that part of the material that Edward Snowden stole from the CIA and NSA – and was not yet published – found its way to Iran. And we believe, of course, that he gave everything he had to the Russians.

And the Israelis were shocked. They have never been in such an occasion. They have never heard Americans say something of that kind about their chief and commander – about the president. And when, just few months after that, it turned out that everything – all the predictions that the Americans have made to the Israelis as warnings – not because they knew it was going to happen but they thought it might – everything came to be true. And President Trump apparently gave secret information. And I know the nature of that information. It is indeed delicate and very, very secret.

It just instilled a sense of miscomfort (ph) inside Israeli intelligence. And I think, if I recall something that I heard just recently, they feel – Israeli intelligence feel that the American administration is in chaos – is in havoc. It’s not function properly – not intentionally, but that lead to further leaks. And they are very hesitant with sharing everything they have, as they did in the past, with their American counterparts.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?

 

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21 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads”

  1. dakinikat says:

    I’m beginning to think that the Russians have kompromat on every Republican. The news on the Israelis is not new but still deeply disturbing. Why are the Trump people so involved with Russians?

    • Pat Johnson says:

      That is the underlying question to all of this. Hopefully Mueller has figured it out.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Without Russian money “pouring in to” the tRump family business, they would have been bust years ago. Donnie Jr. has said as much.

      I also think tRump relates to the oligarchic system they have in Russia, and he obviously thinks leaders should be authoritarians like Putin and Dutarte. They’re his kind of people.

      The GOP stinks of Russian money and has for a while:

      https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/08/03/tangled-web-connects-russian-oligarch-money-gop-campaigns

      We’ve been sold down the river. And we’re supposed to believe Pompeo is defending us by meeting with Russian intelligence? Really?

    • bostonboomer says:

      The news that Trump revealed much more to the Russians than has been reported was new to me. The fact that the journalist couldn’t reveal the details doesn’t make me think he’s lying.

    • NW Luna says:

      Deeply, deeply disturbing. And when Trump and his ilk are put away, how long will it take to build up enough protection to after so much infiltration of our intelligence capabilities and processes? We’ll be vulnerable for a long time due to blabbermouth traitor Trump.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    Love and appreciate your fine eye when choosing to include these paintings. It is refreshing to concentrate on something that otherwise lifts the spirits.

    Collusion? How much more needs to be spelt out? He refuses to honor the sanctions. He has permitted Russian spies on a “no admittance” list to enter the country and meet with Pompeo. He is in frequent contact with Putin. He has done nothing with regard to future election tampering by the Russians. WTF?

    We are witnessing treason play out before our eyes. All for the sake of this madman. We are at the mercy of thieves, religious bigots, unqualified morons, corrupt officials, and an amoral leader.

    America needs to wake up and inform itself as to what is happening to its democracy before we all disappear into the abyss without recovery.

    And BTW: Go Pats! Tomorrow’s game may be historic for both Brady and Belicek. Like them or hate them, theirs has been a winning combo with Brady being one of the greatest – if not THE greatest – quarterback in football history. G.O.A.T!

    Just had to “sneak” that in.

  3. quixote says:

    Sometimes the twitmemes say it all. “#YoMemo so bankrupt it used to be a Trump casino.”

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Devin Nunes’ staff lawyer is profiled by the NYT.

    Kashyap Patel, Main Author of Secret Memo, Is No Stranger to Quarrels

  5. dakinikat says:

    • Enheduanna says:

      I certainly would rather watch these women than Mathews, Hayes or Williams. Still a fan of Ari Melber and Laurence O’Donnell though.

      At any rate I’ve mostly quit the nighttime shows. I tune in to AM Joy on weekend mornings.

  6. NW Luna says:

  7. NW Luna says:

  8. dakinikat says: