Okay, let me get this straight: three members of Trump’s staff — Michael Ellis, from the White House counsel’s office, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, from the National Security Council, and John Eisenberg, also from the National Security Council — provided information to the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, regarding transition officials being caught and named in intelligence intercepts of foreign targets. https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2017/03/30/us/politics/30reuters-usa-trump-russia-report.html?_r=0. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/three-white-house-officials-tied-to-files-shared-with-house-intelligence-chairman/2017/03/30/de4b8c30-1589-11e7-9e4f-09aa75d3ec57_story.html?utm_term=.4290584e66e5
Interesting, right? Maybe they were whistle-blowers and wanted to get the information to the oversight committee for further action?
But if so, what Nunes did next makes no sense. Rather than brief the entire committee — or even the ranking Democrat on the Committee, Adam Schiff — about the information he had received, Chairman Nunes instead rushed back to the White House to brief the President on the information — that Nunes had just gotten from the President’s own staff, ON WHITE HOUSE GROUNDS, the night before.
Let’s be super clear about this: the FBI and the House Intelligence Committee are investigating the Russian attack on our election, and, more specifically, involvement by Trump associates (and possibly Trump himself) with that attack.
For the FBI to share information with the House Intelligence Committee is one thing. After all, they are both ostensibly on the same side of the investigation. They are both investigating, in part, the White House.
So for the FBI or the House Intelligence Committee to share information with the target of its investigation — ie the White House — is another thing altogether. Why would Chairman Nunes take information he had received that directly relates to the Committee’s investigation into the Trump connections with Russia, and present it to Trump himself?
And, even more worrisome to me, why did those three White House staffers have the information to begin with?
Rachel Maddow wondered the same thing: “What were white house officials doing reading raw FBI intercepts of foreign surveillance that involved top transition officials, and then asking for those names to be unmasked? How on earth would that have come up in the normal course of their duties in the National Security Council, or the White House Counsel’s office? . . . What were they doing monitoring who the FBI was listening in on?” http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show#!#full-episodes (at 20:20).
Maddow concludes: “What it means is the White House appears to be tracking . . . listening in on . . . monitoring the FBI’s investigation of the White House.” http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show#!#full-episodes (20:58)
Wait, what? The White House is tracking the FBI investigation? Remember my rant a couple of weeks ago about how there’s no one in the government who is actually going to look into this mess? http://profgrose.com/hello-is-there-a-prosecutor-in-the-house/ Well, is there a prosecutor in the House (or the Senate or the Justice Department)?
The FBI is and always has been an independent part of the independent Justice Department. But here, the White House appears to be tracking the FBI investigation by looking into wiretap claims and requesting raw FBI data. That seems like a clear and direct violation of that time honored rule of non-interference with Justice Department investigations — including those led by the FBI.
Again, let’s be super clear. Imagine this were an actual court case (a law professor can dream, can’t she?). Let’s say that the Trump White House is the defendant. The prosecutors are the FBI and the House Intelligence Committee. And let’s say some of the evidence includes these FBI intercepts of foreign surveillance
Would the defense team (ie the Trump White House) have access to that evidence? Remember, the FBI is, for the purposes of my fantasy, the prosecutor. So how would members of the defendant’s staff (e.g. Eisenberg, Ellis and Cohen-Wattnick) have access to evidence collected by members of the prosecution’s staff (e.g. the FBI)? How would they even know about such evidence?
And would a member of the prosecution team (ie the House Intelligence Committee) provide that evidence to the defendant (ie the White House) without revealing it first to the rest of the prosecution team (ie the rest of the Committee)?
I don’t think you need to be a lawyer to answer those questions. Defendants don’t get access to what the prosecutor has on them until both sides go through the “discovery process” whereby the sides exchange evidence. If a member of the prosecution team were to go off on his own and brief the defense on some new evidence, that would most certainly be grounds for disciplinary, if not criminal, sanctions against that prosecutor.
But isn’t that what has happened here?
I’ll let Senator John McCain have the last word: “There’s a lot of aspects of this whole relationship with Russia and Vladimir Putin that requires further scrutiny. And, so far, I don’t think the American people have gotten all the answers. In fact, I think there’s a lot more shoes to drop from this centipede.” http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/12/politics/john-mccain-donald-trump/.
Keep paying attention as they drop.