FBI, NSA directors called back to give closed-door testimony to House Intel
S A Miller, Washington Times, Mar 24 2017
The House Intelligence Committee has asked FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers to testify in closed session for the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and allegations of Obama administration surveillance of the Trump campaign. Committee Chairman Devin Nunes announced Friday that the closed-door session would be added to the calendar and cancelled a previously scheduled open hearing where Obama administration officials were set to testify about Russian meddling in the election. Comey and Rogers testified in an open hearing Monday but declined to answer numerous questions, including questions about whether the FBI was investigating allegations by Pres Trump about surveillance of his campaign by the Obama administration. However, Comey did confirm an investigation into alleged collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia. Nunes said:
The committee seeks additional information from Monday’s hearing that can only be addressed in closed session. It’s necessary to get both of them back down here before we can move onto other interviews.
Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, blasted the decision to cancel the open hearing, telling reporters at the Capitol:
We don’t welcome cutting off public access to information.
Nunes this week said that he received information about dozens of reports for the intelligence community that showed Trump transition officials were “unmasked” when picked up in incidental surveillance activities, which could be a violation of federal privacy laws. Nunes said the addition of the closed-door session was not connected to the intelligence documents he received.
Nunes: Manafort has agreed to be interviewed
Austin Wright, Politico, Mar 24 2017
Paul Manafort has agreed to be interviewed by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees as part of their investigations into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election. Manafort, Pres Trump’s former campaign chairman, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks of his lobbying work on behalf of clients aligned with Russia, including an AP report (below) that Manafort worked a decade ago to advance the interests of Putin. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said it had not yet been decided whether Manafort would appear before his panel for a public hearing or a private interview. At a press briefing, Nunes also announced the cancelation of a public hearing on Tuesday with members of the Obama administration to discuss Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Scheduled to testify were former Clapper, Brennan and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. Adam Schiff, the intelligence panel’s top Democrat, blasted the decision. He suggested it might have been done to avoid the kind of bad publicity for the White House that followed a public hearing earlier this week, when FBI Director James Comey confirmed the FBI is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Schiff said Friday:
There must have been very strong pushback from the White House about the nature of Monday’s hearing. It’s hard for me to come to any other conclusion about why an agreed-upon hearing would be suddenly canceled.
Nunes said Manafort’s counsel had contacted the committee and offered his client for an interview. Manafort’s counsel reached out to the Senate Intelligence Committee with the same offer, according to a Senate source. Representatives for Manafort, who is represented by Reginald Brown with the law firm WilmerHale, emphasized that the appearances would be voluntary interviews, suggesting that it would not be sworn testimony. A spox for Manafort said:
Mr Manafort instructed his representatives to reach out to Committee Staff and offer to provide information voluntarily regarding recent allegations about Russian interference in the election. As Mr Manafort has always maintained, he looks forward to meeting with those conducting serious investigations of these issues to discuss the facts.
Manafort’s plan to advance Putin’s interests
AP, Mar 22 2017
Jeff Hurwitz, Chad Day, Jack Gillum, Eric Tucker, Julie Pace, Ted Bridis, Stephen Braun, Julie Bykowicz in Faschingstein; Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow and Kiev, and Jake Pearson in New York.
FASCHINGSTEIN — Pres Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Pres Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics, AP has learned. The work appears to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort that he never worked for Russian interests. Manafort proposed in confidential strategy plans as early as Jun 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside Pindostan, Europe and the FSU to benefit the Putin government, even as Pindo-Russian relations under grew worse under Bush 43. Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10m/yr contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by AP. Manafort and Deripaska maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, according to one person familiar with the work. Manafort wrote in the 2005 memo to Deripaska:
We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin Government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success. It will be offering a great service that can re-focus, both internally and externally, the policies of the Putin government.
Manafort’s plans were laid out in documents obtained by AP that included strategy memoranda and records showing international wire transfers for millions of dollars. How much work Manafort performed under the contract was unclear. The disclosure comes as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI investigation and two congressional inquiries. Investigators are reviewing whether the Trump campaign and its associates coordinated with Moscow to meddle in the 2016 campaign. Manafort has dismissed the investigations as politically motivated and misguided, and said he never worked for Russian interests. The documents obtained by AP show Manafort’s ties to Russia were closer than previously revealed. In a statement to AP, Manafort confirmed that he worked for Deripaska in various countries but said the work was being unfairly cast as “inappropriate or nefarious” as part of a “smear campaign.” Manafort said:
I worked with Oleg Deripaska almost a decade ago representing him on business and personal matters in countries where he had investments. My work for Mr Deripaska did not involve representing Russia’s political interests.
When asked Wednesday about Manafort’s work for Deripaska, White House spox Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:
We do not feel it’s appropriate to comment on someone who is not an employee at the White House.
Sean Spicer, asked on Monday about possible campaign contacts with Russia, said Manafort “played a very limited role” in the Trump campaign, albeit during the critical run-up period to the RNC. Lindsey Graham said of the disclosures about payments to Manafort, if true:
That’s basically taking money to stop the spread of democracy, and that would be very disturbing to me.
Democrats on congressional intelligence committees raised more questions. Sen Ron Wyden said:
Any financial connections between Russia and Trump associates need to be thoroughly investigated.
Adam Schiff, top Demagog on the House panel, tweeted:
Manafort worked w/ oligarch to advance Putin’s interests and was Trump campaign chair when Russia released stolen docs. Another coincidence?
Rep Eric Swalwell said on MSNBC that Manafort should appear before the committee, and he raised the specter of a subpoena should Manafort not appear on his own. Deripaska became one of Russia’s wealthiest men under Putin, buying assets abroad in ways widely perceived to benefit the Kremlin’s interests. Pindosi embassy cables from 2006 described Deripaska as “among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis … a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin’s trips abroad.” In response to questions about Manafort’s consulting firm in 2008, at least three years after they began working together, Deripaska spox said that Deripaska had never hired them. Another Deripaska spox in Moscow last week declined to answer AP’s questions. Manafort worked as Trump’s unpaid campaign chairman from Mar to Aug 2016. Trump asked Manafort to resign after AP revealed that Manafort had orchestrated a covert lobbying operation until 2014 on behalf of Ukraine’s Party of Regions. Manafort told a colleague this year he continues to speak with Trump by telephone. Manafort’s former business partner in Eastern Europe, Rick Gates, has been seen inside the White House, helped plan Trump’s inauguration and now runs a nonprofit to back the White House’s agenda. Gates, whose name does not appear in the documents, told AP that he joined Manafort’s firm in 2006 and was aware Manafort had a relationship with Deripaska, but he was not aware of the work described in the memos. Gates said he stopped working for Manafort’s firm in Mar 2016, when he joined Trump’s presidential campaign.
Nunes Calls Comey, Rogers For Closed Session
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Mar 24 2017
Last night we highlighted a Fox News story which suggested that Devin Nunes expected the NSA to deliver a “smoking gun” which would prove that the Obama administration spied on the Trump transition team, and possibly the president-elect himself, as early as today. Moments ago, Nunes fanned that speculation by holding an impromptu press conference announcing that he’ll call both FBI Director Comey and NSA Director Rogers before a closed session of the House Intelligence Committee to discuss topics which “they couldn’t answer in a public setting.” Here is Nunes’s full statement:
And some early takeaways:
There are just questions that we have for Dir Comey and Adm Rogers probably that they couldn’t answer in a public setting.
Nunes also revealed that Pres Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has volunteered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on his alleged connections to Russia.
We thank Mr Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee.
Nunes continues to decline requests from the press to reveal his sources.
But did confirm there was “no wiretapping of Trump Tower; That didn’t happen”
This follows Nunes’s appearance on Fox News last night in which he declared he had an obligation to raise issues he’s discovered about the unmasking of Americans’ names during serveillance.
@DevinNunes on “incidental” surveillance revelations: I had a duty and obligation to tell the President. … What I saw had nothing to do with Russia. This has nothing to do with the Russia investigation. … The lack of a leak investigation is quite concerning. We need to make sure that these leaks are being tracked down. …. I have information that indicates Pindosis’ names were unmasked during surveillance. … Clearly when I see a problem, I’m going to point it out. … Names for sure if they’re picked up in any incidental collection of any kind, they should be minimized.
Meanwhile, proving that Nunes may actually be on to something here, WaPo has quickly called for an immediate investigation into his behavior.
General McInerney Says Obama Was ‘Heavily Listening to What Was Going on in the Trump Campaign’
The_Real_Fly, Zero Hedge, Mar 24 2017
Lt-Gen Thomas Mcinerney weighed in on Devin Nunes’ bombshell revelations that said the Trump team were being spied on by the NSA/CIA, and it wasn’t Russia related. The whole cover for the surveillance was supposed to be because Trump had a bunch of Ivans working for him, but that simply wasn’t the case, or the concern, inside the Obama White House. McInerney believes when all of the evidence comes out, Obama will rue the day he decided to spy on Trump. Moreover, he said the Demagogs are chimping out and fabricating a Russian spy novel in order to avoid Trump investigating the Clinton server and how both Hillary and Obama violated the espionage act, a crime punishable by heavy fines and up to 10 years in prison.
Section 793(f) of the federal penal code (Title 18): With lawful access to highly classified information she acted with gross negligence in removing and causing it to be removed it from its proper place of custody, and she transmitted it and caused it to be transmitted to others not authorized to have it, in patent violation of her trust.