The Key Words In Quotes: “Post-Mueller era, post-Mueller scenarios, If Mueller is dismissed, distrust of many Americans in their government, constitutional crisis, constitutional system of checks and balances” – “I ran Congress’ 9/11 investigation. The intelligence committees today can’t handle Russia.” – By Bob Graham – The Washington Post
If they want a real autopsy, they need more resources.
Perspective Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences
Since the Justice Department named a special investigator, Robert Mueller, to handle the government’s official inquiry into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, the weight of public expectation has largely fallen on his shoulders. While the two congressional panels, the Senate and House intelligence committees, continue to hold hearings and question witnesses, including Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, both are led by members of a party that is, with the exception of Charlottesville, skittish about criticizing the president. The greatest hope for an aggressive and impartial inquest seems to lie with Mueller, whose bosses have either recused themselves from the Russia probe (as Attorney General Jeff Sessions did) or volunteered that he would have autonomy to follow the facts wherever they led (as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein did). The pressure, it seems, is off Congress to act as the primary body holding the president to account.
This is a dangerous sentiment. The two intelligence committees should act as if their investigations will be the final (and possibly the only) ones — because they may be. President Trump has worked hard to undermine Mueller’s effort, not only berating it as beholden to a partisan “hoax” but also belittling Sessions in humiliating terms on Twitter in a transparent attempt to force the attorney general’s resignation. That way, the president could replace him with an appointee who would stymie Mueller’s work. A central role for Congress is the only real way to guarantee a full report, with conclusions and recommendations, for the American people.
I oversaw a similarly complex and politically fraught inquiry as co-chairman of the joint congressional inquiry into 9/11, so I know what it takes — as a matter of resources, time, perseverance and, yes, occasional political courage — to run an investigation of this size and importance. And I know this, too: The congressional intelligence committees, as they are constituted today, are not ready for this burden.
They must tackle three problems.
First, the committees need substantially more capacity. After 9/11, the Senate and House leadership decided to merge the two intelligence committees so they could collaboratively and thoroughly investigate the intelligence issues raised by the attacks. The joint committee had a staff of 24 experienced professionals who were dedicated to the inquiry, independent from the regular professional staff of either the House or the Senate intelligence committee. They’d worked at key intelligence and law enforcement agencies and had knowledge of forensic accounting, investigation and intelligence analysis. Staff director Eleanor Hill had previously prosecuted organized crime for the Justice Department and served as staff director and chief counsel for the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Given the number of highly classified documents under review, the joint inquiry also had its own secure office space, separate from each chamber’s committee office. It had its own budget of at least $5 million, dedicated solely to the one-year inquiry. By comparison, the Senate committee had $8.1 million and the House panel $8.6 million to address regular legislative and oversight responsibilities for the two years of the 107th Congress.
Right now, the Senate has 38 staffers and the House 31 devoted to the intelligence committees, with budgets for the 115th Congress of $11 million and $12.1 million, respectively. Those personnel and funds are intended to cover all the legislative and oversight work of the intelligence committees, including the Russia investigation. Early in the inquiry, the Senate committee reportedly had only seven staffers working on the probe. It needs many more.
To complete the Russia investigation, the committees need independent staff members who are solely dedicated to this topic: forensic accountants and specialists in international law, financial crimes, counterintelligence investigations, and cybersecurity and coding. Those devoted to Russian meddling should not be regular committee staffers on overtime, unfamiliar with the tasks unique to the Russian inquiry.
After more than six months of separate activity, it is probably too late to merge the current congressional committees. It is not too late, however, to create independent, experienced and substantially larger staffs capable of fulfilling the committees’ responsibilities, particularly in a post-Mueller era.
Second, the House and Senate intelligence committees must quickly begin planning for post-Mueller scenarios. Yes, perhaps Sessions will stick around and Rosenstein will continue to guard Mueller’s autonomy. But the congressional committees need to devise protocols now that would be activated if Mueller were fired to ensure the protection of, and access to, all documents, transcripts, communications and other materials amassed by the Mueller and James Comey probes. The protocols should ensure that these materials are made available to the congressional committees in their original form. If Mueller is dismissed, the congressional inquiry would probably expand, as in the Watergate investigation, to the consideration of impeachment.
Third, Congress must embrace its investigatory role with renewed urgency. The 9/11 inquiry had a deadline of December 2002, the end of the 107th Congress. This investigation has no such finale. But there are serious consequences to procrastination. If Russia has in fact attempted to interfere with democratic elections in Europe, the United States and elsewhere, disclosing that reality and repelling further intrusions are crucial. Preventing future tampering in elections will require the support of an informed American public, which should be told of Congress’s definitive conclusions as soon as possible. Any delay in publicly sharing clear and convincing evidence will add to the already staggering distrust of many Americans in their government. (Portions of the 9/11 inquiry report remain classified even today, limiting the public’s understanding of the tragic event and its ability to influence policy, especially regarding U.S.-Saudi relations.)
The nation’s best option is for Mueller to continue his investigation until it ends, wherever it leads. Should Trump find some way to remove him, it would spark a constitutional crisis unlike anything since Watergate; Congress must be ready for this worst-case scenario. In our constitutional system of checks and balances, it has the right and duty to exercise full oversight. Now is the time to start preparing for the execution of that responsibility.
Over the past three days the media has been demonstrating just how aggressively Donald Trump and his team were working to build a Trump Tower in Moscow while Trump was running for President of the United States. Now, when Trump is at a particularly vulnerable point in his Russia scandal, and could use the help of the Kremlin more than ever, Vladimir Putin has instead decided to rather cravenly throw him under the bus by making the scandal bigger.
As the New York Times and Washington Post have raced each other to flesh out the Trump Tower Moscow story this week, one of the key details has been that Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen had reached out to Putin through his spokesman for help. The Kremlin could have helped out Trump and Cohen quite a bit by claiming that it never received the email. But instead, according to an on-air report today by NBC News, the Kremlin has released a statement today confirming that it did in fact receive the email.
Michael Cohen admits that he discussed the Trump Tower Moscow project with Donald Trump on several occasions, but he’s claiming that Trump didn’t know he sent the email request for help to Putin’s spokesman. However, Cohen has worked for Trump for decades, and he never would have done something that major unless Trump signed off on it first. So now we know that Trump reached out to Putin for help with a real estate project in Moscow during the election, and that Putin received that message. It proves that Trump and Putin were communication about matters of personal finance during the election, which in turn demonstrates that Trump was using his campaign to try to curry personal favor with Putin. But there’s more.
Vladimir Putin is cutthroat and calculating. He made a clear decision to throw Donald Trump under the bus today, when he could have helped him instead. Either Putin is trying to punish Trump for failing to come through on sanctions relief, or he’s given up on his failed Trump experiement and he’s now trying to finish him off entirely.
The post Vladimir Putin throws Donald Trump under the bus in Russia scandal appeared first on Palmer Report.
Washington Examiner–21 hours ago
Politico–21 hours ago
BuzzFeed News–15 hours ago
Newsweek–19 hours ago
Highly Cited–Fox News Insider–Aug 29, 2017
Sanford J. Ungar is director of the Free Speech Project at Georgetown University and a Lumina Foundation Fellow.
Leaks and leakers. Just the words seem to have a negative aura about them, with unappealing connotations of plumbing problems and weak bladders. Surely, they are a scourge that disgraces journalism and weakens government.
When President Trump wants to discredit the FBI director he fired, James B. Comey, who acknowledged in Senate testimony that he had shared with a friend private memoranda he wrote about his strange meetings with the president, it’s easy: “He’s a leaker,” said Trump, his voice dripping with contempt.
When Jeff Sessions, who, perhaps foolishly, gave up his safe Senate seat from Alabama to become Trump’s attorney general, finds himself facing a barrage of unfair criticism from his patron and is desperately seeking a way back into his good graces, there is a simple path: promise to be relentless about tracking down and punishing the evil leakers. “This culture of leaking must stop,” said Sessionsindignantly.
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What right-thinking American could not be repelled by these appalling people and practices?
But wait a minute. What if leaks — more attractively labeled “inside information” or “revelations” — and leakers — more euphemistically called “sources” or “whistleblowers” — are part of the lifeblood of American democracy, one of the few reliable ways we find out what is actually going on?
Anyone practicing real journalism in this country (and quite a few other places, too) learns right away that he or she cannot necessarily count on government always to offer the full, or truthful, story about what it is doing. The same holds for business, the nonprofit sector, even the art world and sometimes journalistic institutions themselves. The job is not to be a simple transcriber, and leaks are one vehicle for getting things right.
I remember vividly the advice a wise and experienced FBI agent gave me when I was writing a book about the bureau: “Be careful not to get a bad case of the ‘for-reals,’ ” he said. In other words, do not assume that everything happens according to the rulebook or the way officials say it does.
Indeed, during that project and many others, I benefited professionally from leaks, admittedly some more reliable than others. I sometimes made use of those that checked out, fully realizing that I might be denounced by the same people who had given me the information. That’s what they had to do to protect themselves from discovery.
Not all leaks are equal, of course. Many leakers have patriotic motivations, but one must always weigh the intentions of the leaker and deploy a healthy dose of common sense to avoid the risk of being burned or used by a source.
When it comes to national security information, which is what Sessions seems to be particularly worked up about, the record is far different from what he would have us believe. Many well-respected editors and reporters in the mainstream media, including The Post, have consulted with officials before publishing sensitive stories, and they have sometimes held them back from publication, rather than risk damage to national security.
And there are few, if any, examples where it can be shown that leaks did any genuine harm, beyond embarrassment and awkwardness for politicians or policy makers. Not the stories of the United States cracking the Japanese military’s codes early in World War II. Or reports of training Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs invasion. Or the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Or more recent revelations of electronic espionage by the U.S. government.
In fact, despite the tougher stance on the issue begun under the Obama administration, to this day the federal government has never tried to prosecute a reporter for revealing classified information.
Is it useful, on balance, for us to learn from secret transcripts that Trump bullied the leaders of Mexico and Australia in phone conversations with them shortly after taking office? Different people may draw the line in different places, but I would say that’s an easy “yes” and wish for more such transcripts to be leaked — if only to give us an alternative to the president’s self-promoting tweets as a source of information about current U.S. policy.
As for Sessions’s boasts that it will be easy to identify the leakers, skepticism is in order. “Leak investigations” are often long, frustrating dead-ends. That is why J. Edgar Hoover, who usually wasn’t shy about abusing his power during his 48 years running the FBI, was famously reluctant to take on leakers. Hoover didn’t like to fail, and he knew that quite often the source of a national security leak could be the president himself.
The Trump administration is not the first to make the empty threat of leak investigations. When things got bad 45 years ago, President Richard Nixon and his Justice Department tried that, too, but it didn’t work. It intimidated some and struck fear in the hearts of others, but so far as we know, it did not prevent a single leak. Most citizens, including those who serve in Congress, realize the importance of preserving a free press and their own ability to speak (and yes, sometimes leak) freely, even at the risk of displeasing a president and his beleaguered attorney general.