Trump’s FISA tweets throw Washington into chaos

President Donald Trump’s sunrise tweet casting aspersions on the domestic surveillance program his own intelligence officials have called essential set off a thunderclap of concern in Washington — and underscored the pitfalls of the President’s morning television tweet-alongs.

Phones at the White House began ringing almost immediately after Trump wrote at 7:33 a.m. ET that the FISA program up for reauthorization in the House on Thursday may have been used to “badly surveil” his campaign.

On the blinking lines: Republican lawmakers and top intelligence officials perplexed that Trump had appeared to contradict more than a week of public statements from the administration in support of the reauthorization, which allows the government to conduct warrantless spying on US soil.

Ultimately, the measure passed handily. But not until after a 101-minute long scramble to clean up the President’s position ahead of the midday vote, which Republican leaders had been eying with optimism after spending weeks rounding up votes and batting down demands from the conservative and libertarian elements of their conference.

“(Chief of staff John) Kelly’s phone was ringing off the hook,” said one senior Republican official close to intelligence matters on Capitol Hill.

“No one could believe it,” another Republican supportive of the FISA reauthorization said.

[CNN]

Reality

Trump was simply responding to a segment of Fox and Friends, a TV show he retweets regularly.

It’s Official, Devin Nunez Made Up Rice Unmasking Controversy

Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) on Friday told CNN claims that Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, improperly unmasked individuals within Donald Trump’s campaign were “created by Devin Nunes,” the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The unmasking thing was all created by Devin Nunes, and I’ll wait to go through our full evaluation to see if there was anything improper that happened,” Burr said. ”But clearly there were individuals unmasked. Some of that became public which it’s not supposed to, and our business is to understand that, and explain it.”

Burr’s comments come as Rice met privately with the committee on Friday in their investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Rice was roped into the probe after Nunes held a hastily-organized press conference in March alleging the names of Trump officials were illegally unmasked by Obama’s national security adviser.

Nunes’ press conference seemed to give credence to Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower during the campaign. The News Yorker’s Ryan Lizza reports the White House put out an “all-points bulletin” to “find something” that would substantiate the president’s charge. Rice has maintained she did not do anything improper involving “unmasking” Trump officials.

“Ambassador Rice met voluntarily with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence today as part of the committee’s bipartisan investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election,” Erin Pelton, a spokesperson for Rice, said. “Ambassador Rice appreciates the Committee’s efforts to examine Russia’s efforts to interfere, which violated one of the core foundations of American democracy.”

Burr told CNN the committee intends to interview officials in both the Trump and Obama administrations.

“I think we’re interested in any folks that were in the last administration that had some hand in what we did or did not do in response to Russian meddling in our elections,” Burr said. “I won’t get into when they’re coming or what the extent of the list is, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ve had everybody that was involved in decision-making at the last administration on our list, and they’re periodically coming. Some have been in. Some still have yet to come in.”

[Raw Story]

 

Trump: ‘Big story’ is unmasking, surveillance during Obama administration

President Trump on Thursday turned his attention to “unmasking and surveillance” in the Obama administration, calling it the “big story.”

“The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Trump’s comments come after the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday issued seven new subpoenas in its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Three of the subpoenas focus on allegations of improper “unmasking” of Trump campaign officials, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Those three subpoenas went to the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency and are related to questions — primarily from Republicans — about how the names of Trump associates were un-redacted and distributed in classified Obama administration reports during the transition period.

Republicans have signaled they see unmasking as the key to investigating the source of media leaks damaging to the Trump administration.

Trump and his aides have often railed against the leaking of information to the media and Trump has blasted the Russia probe as a “witch hunt.”

[The Hill]

 

 

Trump Kicks Reporter Out of Oval Office After Wiretapping Questions

President Trump cut off an Oval Office interview with CBS anchor John Dickerson and gestured for him to leave the room when Dickerson repeatedly asked about the president’s unfounded wiretapping claims.

Trump signaled that he still believes, as he tweeted on March 4, that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.”

Obama aides, intelligence community officials and some prominent Republican lawmakers have all disputed the claim. And the president has provided no evidence to back it up.

But when Trump brought it up during an interview taping on Saturday, and Dickerson followed up, Trump said, “I think our side’s been proven very strongly and everybody’s talking about it and frankly, it should be discussed.”

Trump added, “We should find out what the hell is going on.”

When Dickerson pressed him, Trump said: “You can take it any way — you can take it any way you want.”

Dickerson: “I’m asking you because you don’t want it to be fake news. I want to hear it from President Trump.”

Trump: “You don’t have to ask me. You don’t have to ask me.”

Dickerson: “Why not?”

Trump: “Because I have my own opinions, you can have your own opinions.”

Dickerson: “But I want to know your opinions. You’re the president of the United States.”

Trump: “That’s enough. Thank you. Thank you very much.”

The president walked away from Dickerson and sat down at his Oval Office desk.

The abrupt end to the tough interview was in marked contrast to some of the smoother interviews Trump has had recently. Media critics have pointed out his preference for friendlier outlets, like conservative-themed shows on Fox News.

Afterward, CBS anchor Gayle King remarked on the awkwardness of the abrupt ending: “Well, he was done with that conversation.”

King asked Dickerson if he was escorted out of the Oval Office.

“I think it was pretty clear that I was to escort myself out, or I would be escorted out — I would be moved along,” he said. “It was time for our conversation to be over.”

Later in the day on Saturday, however, Dickerson still traveled with the president as planned to a 100th-day rally in Pennsylvania.

The network’s morning show, “CBS This Morning,” was broadcast from the White House on Monday.

Several administration officials were interviewed live on the program, including Vice President Mike Pence, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump.

(h/t CNN)

Media

CBS

FBI Monitored Former Trump Campaign Adviser Carter Page on Russia

The FBI obtained a warrant to monitor President Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser, Carter Page, last summer on suspicions he knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, The Washington Post is reporting.

The FBI and Justice Department obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor the communications of Page, who has called himself a junior member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory team, as part of their investigation into possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, the newspaper says, citing unnamed law enforcement and other US officials.

The FBI and Justice Department obtained the warrant after convincing a FISA judge there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign government (Russia), the report says. The warrant presents the strongest information to date that the FBI had reason to believe a Trump adviser was in touch with Moscow and met with foreign operatives during Trump’s presidential campaign.

FBI Director James Comey has acknowledged that an investigation was opened last year into Russia’s efforts to influence the election and the question of whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin. But Comey stopped short of naming anyone working for the campaign who may have been involved.

CNN is working to confirm The Washington Post’s story.

Page, however, called the FISA warrant “unjustified” in a statement to CNN’s Manu Raju.

“There have been various reports [about FISA documents and FBI surveillance of him],” Page said. “But I was so happy to hear that further confirmation is now being revealed. It shows how low the Clinton/Obama regime went to destroy our democracy and suppress dissidents who did not fully support their failed foreign policy. It will be interesting to see what comes out when the unjustified basis for those FISA requests are more fully disclosed over time, including potentially the Dodgy Dossier — a document that clearly is false evidence, which could represent yet another potential crime.”

Page was referring to a leaked dossier of unverified information compiled by a former British intelligence official for Trump’s political opponents. Then-President-elect Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the existence of the dossier before Trump’s inauguration, CNN reported.

When asked in March of last year to list members of his foreign policy team in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump included “Carter Page, PhD.”

Page has said he sent policy memos to the campaign and participated in conference calls as well as gatherings that included Trump, but also said he never personally briefed Trump or was in “small meetings” with him during the election. But Trump said at a White House news conference in February that he doesn’t think he ever met Page.

“I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him,” Trump said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met him. And he actually said he was a very low-level member of I think a committee for a short period of time. I don’t think I ever met him. Now, it’s possible that I walked into a room and he was sitting there, but I don’t think I ever met him.”

Page told CNN he had never shaken Trump’s hand and that by saying he had met with Trump, he had meant meetings in the “Russian sense,” which he said meant he had attended rallies Trump spoke at.

In recent interviews, Page described himself as a “junior member” of Trump’s foreign policy team, and has denied working on any Russia-related policies for the campaign. He also said in February that he is still in contact with some people in the Trump orbit.

(h/t CNN)

Reality

A lot of right-wing news media and Carter Page himself have declared this revelation to be some sort of vindication, that finally there is some proof that Obama wiretapped Donald Trump at Trump Tower during the election.

But first, this is none of those things.

And most importantly, Page should not be excited over this news because you don’t get slapped with a FISA warrant unless the court thinks you could be the agent of a foreign power. U.S. officials convinced a FISA court judge during the presidential campaign that there is probable cause that Page was “knowingly” working as an agent of a foreign government while advising Trump.

Classified Docs Contradict Nunes Surveillance Claims, GOP and Dem Sources Say

After a review of the same intelligence reports brought to light by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and aides have so far found no evidence that Obama administration officials did anything unusual or illegal, multiple sources in both parties tell CNN.

Their private assessment contradicts President Donald Trump’s allegations that former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice broke the law by requesting the “unmasking” of US individuals’ identities. Trump had claimed the matter was a “massive story.”

However, over the last week, several members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees have reviewed intelligence reports related to those requests at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland.

One congressional intelligence source described the requests made by Rice as “normal and appropriate” for officials who serve in that role to the president.

And another source said there’s “absolutely” no smoking gun in the reports, urging the White House to declassify them to make clear there was nothing alarming in the documents.

Still, some members of Congress continue to have concerns about the justification given for the unmasking requests and the standards for the intelligence community to grant such requests, which reveal the private data of US persons mentioned in intelligence reports based on routine intelligence collection aimed at foreign nationals.

Such collection regularly targets officials and nationals from Russia, Taiwan, Israel and other countries.

The lawmakers’ assessment comes after Trump, in a New York Times interview last week, accused Rice of breaking the law.

Trump has not revealed which intelligence reports he is relying on to make his charge that Rice may have acted illegally.

“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Trump said. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world.” He also called it “truly one of the big stories of our time.”

Asked by the Times if he believed Rice’s actions were criminal Trump responded, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

Sebastian Gorka, a Trump foreign policy aide, cast Rice’s actions as worse than the Watergate scandal that felled President Richard Nixon in an interview with pro-Trump Fox News host Sean Hannity.

“Losing 14 minutes of audiotape in comparison to this is a little spat in the sandbox in the kindergarten,” Gorka said.

Rice defended her actions last week on MSNBC, saying her requests were “absolutely not for any political purposes, to spy, or anything.”

“There were occasions when I would receive a report in which a US person was referred to — name not provided, just a US person — and sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance of the report, and assess its significance, it was necessary to find out, or request the information as to who the US official was,” Rice said.

“The notion that some people are trying to suggest, is that by asking for the identity of a person is leaking it, is unequivocally false,” she said. “There is no connection between unmasking and leaking.”

Rice is among the list of witnesses that House and Senate Intelligence officials want to interview as part of its probe into Russian attempts to meddle with the US elections.

House Democrats and Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are near agreement on the list of witnesses to interview, with the GOP mostly focusing on people who may have leaked classified information and the Democrats hoping to question Trump associates who may have ties to Russia.

But the House review has been thrown into turmoil after Nunes last month expressed alarm about the unmasking of US persons, including Trump advisors, caught up in incidental collection. He reviewed the documents on White House grounds with the help of White House officials, despite House Speaker Paul Ryan saying Nunes informed him that the information came from a “whistleblower.”

Critics said Nunes appeared to be giving political cover to Trump in the aftermath of the president’s unsubstantiated tweet last month that Obama ordered wiretaps of Trump Tower to spy on him during the campaign.

Nunes’ office has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Nunes last week abruptly recused himself temporarily from the Russia investigation as the House Ethics Committee announced it is investigating whether he revealed classified materials, but he is still serving as chairman of the panel.

(h/t CNN)

Trump, Citing No Evidence, Suggests Susan Rice Committed Crime

President Trump said on Wednesday that he thought that the former national security adviser Susan E. Rice may have committed a crime by seeking the identities of Trump associates who were swept up in the surveillance of foreign officials by American spy agencies and that other Obama administration officials may also have been involved.

The president provided no evidence to back his claim. Current and former intelligence officials from both Republican and Democratic administrations have said that nothing they have seen led them to believe that Ms. Rice’s actions were unusual or unlawful. When Americans are swept up in surveillance of foreign officials by intelligence agencies, their identities are supposed to be obscured, but they can be revealed for national security reasons, and intelligence officials say it is a regular occurrence.

“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”

He declined to say if he had personally reviewed new intelligence to bolster his claim but pledged to explain himself “at the right time.”

When asked if Ms. Rice, who has denied leaking the names of Trump associates under surveillance by United States intelligence agencies, had committed a crime, the president said, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

Ms. Rice has denied any impropriety. In an interview on Tuesday with MSNBC, she said: “The allegation is that somehow the Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes. That’s absolutely false.”

Mr. Trump’s comment broke with normal presidential conventions. Presidents traditionally refrain from suggesting that anyone is guilty or innocent of a crime out of concern for prejudicing any potential prosecution or legal proceedings. When they have violated that unwritten rule, defense lawyers have sometimes used a president’s comments to undercut prosecutions.

Mr. Trump did not make clear what crime he was accusing Ms. Rice of committing. It is legal for a national security adviser to request the identities of Americans mentioned in intelligence reports provided to them, and former national security officials said any request Ms. Rice may have made would have been subject to approval by the intelligence agencies responsible for the report.

Leaking classified information could be a crime but no evidence has surfaced publicly indicating that Ms. Rice did that and she flatly denied doing so in the interview with MSNBC. “I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have and never would,” she said.

Mr. Trump criticized media outlets, including The New York Times, for failing to adequately cover the Rice controversy — while singling out Fox News and the host Bill O’Reilly for praise, despite a Times report of several women who have accused Mr. O’Reilly of harassment. The president then went on to defend Mr. O’Reilly, who has hosted him frequently over the years.

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” said Mr. Trump, who during the interview was surrounded at his desk by a half-dozen of his highest-ranking aides, including the economic adviser Gary Cohn and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, along with Vice President Mike Pence.

“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled,” said Mr. Trump. “Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Mr. Trump described the chemical attack in Syria as a “horrible thing” and “a disgrace.”

“I think it’s an affront to humanity,” he said, adding it was “inconceivable that somebody could do that, those kids were so beautiful, to look at those, the scenes of those beautiful children being carried out.”

Asked about what it meant for Russia’s role in terms of Syria, Mr. Trump said, “I think it’s a very sad day for Russia because they’re aligned, and in this case, all information points to Syria that they did this. Why they did this, who knows? That’s a level first of all they weren’t supposed to have this.”

Mr. Trump again pointed to President Barack Obama for drawing “the red line in the sand, and it was immediately violated, and it did nothing,” and he suggested reporters won’t focus on it.

The president declined to say whether he would speak personally to President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

(h/t New York Times)

Trump Claims Wiretap Tweet ‘Is Turning Out to Be True’

President Donald Trump claimed in an interview Sunday that his unsubstantiated allegation that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower “is turning out to be true.”

Trump launched the explosive claim in a string of March 4 tweets, alleging without evidence that Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” And although no officials have confirmed the veracity of his claims on the record, the president has no regrets.

“I don’t regret anything, because there is nothing you can do about it,” he told Financial Times in an interview published Sunday. “You know if you issue hundreds of tweets, and every once in a while you have a clinker, that’s not so bad.”

Trump said his infamous tweet — “the one about being in quotes wire tapped, meaning surveilled” — “is turning out to be true.”

(h/t Politico)

Reality

To date there is still no evidence to back up Donald Trump’s claim that he was surveilled before the election.

Trump Sunday Morning Tweet Promises ‘Love and Strength’ of GOP Will Eventually Take Away Obamacare

President Donald Trump was off and running on Twitter Sunday morning, once again attacking the media for saying his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is “dead.”

Ten days after House Majority leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) pulled his Trumpcare bill in the face of certain defeat and Trump administration officials said the president was moving on to budget and tax matters, Trump declared on Sunday that he still intends to get rid on Obamacare.

The president then asserted the real story the press should be covering is “surveillance and leaking.”

“Anybody (especially Fake News media) who thinks that Repeal & Replace of ObamaCare is dead does not know the love and strength in R Party!” Trump tweeted before adding, “Talks on Repealing and Replacing ObamaCare are, and have been, going on, and will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck.”

Trump’s mention of “love and strength in the R party” strikes a conciliatory tone from his recent Twitter attacks on the hard right Republican Freedom Caucus that torpedoed Trumpcare.

On Saturday, Trump’s social media director Dan Scavino called for the defeat of Freedom Caucus Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) to be defeated at the polls.

You can see Trump’s Sunday tweets below:

(h/t Raw Story)

Trump Tells NBC to Stop Covering Russia Story

President Trump on Saturday called for NBC News to devote more attention to his unproven claims that President Obama spied on him and stop covering the investigations into Russia’s interference in the election.

“When will Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd and @NBCNews start talking about the Obama SURVEILLANCE SCANDAL and stop with the Fake Trump/Russia story?” Trump tweeted just before 9 a.m.

“It is the same Fake News Media that said there is ‘no path to victory for Trump’ that is now pushing the phony Russia story. A total scam!” he added shortly after.

It was not immediately apparent what NBC coverage Trump was taking issue with. Chuck Todd on Friday interviewed top Washington lawyer Abbe Lowell and former Obama press secretary Josh Earnest on “MTP Daily” about the latest Russia developments.

Russian interference in last year’s election is the subject of investigations by the Senate Intelligence Committee, House Intelligence Committee and the FBI.

Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn has volunteered to be interviewed by the FBI and congressional committees probing possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

The president has frequently decried coverage of the investigations into Russian meddling as “fake news.”

Trump last month claimed in a series of tweets that Obama “wiretapped” him before the election. He did not supply any evidence.

FBI Director James Comey says he knows of “no information” validating Trump’s accusation. Trump has stood by the allegations, and the White House has said the comment refers to the Obama administration’s surveillance activities more broadly.

(h/t The Hill)

 

 

1 2 3