Daily Beast: 'Reckless' memo names Comey, other top men in FISA probe
By TATIANA PROPHET
Photo: In the film "Raiders of the Lost Ark," once Indiana Jones brings the Ark of the Covenant to America, the U.S. government locks it away in a crate marked "top secret." When Jones asks his government handler what will happen to it, the man says, "We've got top men working on it right now." "Who?" Jones demands. "Top men," he replies.
Top secret. That is the description we've been hearing from the top men running our counterintelligence investigations. "I'm sorry, that's classified." It's gotten to the point where everything is classified, and very little makes sense. Now It seems that Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, led by co-chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), are ignoring warnings from the Department of Justice and Democrats, and are getting ready to vote to release some secrets about top men that may be potentially damaging to their reputation and the procedures they followed (or lack thereof).
The memo was written by Nunes and his staff based on documents the committee requested from the Justice Department in connection with alleged surveillance of the President and his associates. Yeah, remember back when Trump claimed that President Obama "wire tapped" him? That might actually be sort of true.
Already the memo has been released to House members, and the Republicans who have read it are saying the American public deserves to know what it contains, comparing it to Watergate. But Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), co-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, has been urging caution, stating the memo is an attempt to discredit Mueller's investigation.
Now the Daily Beast has learned that the memo names former FBI Director James Comey, current deputy director of the Department of Justice Rod Rosenstein, and current FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
The Internets have been abuzz about "the" memo, with the hashtag #releasethememo trending on Twitter. Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein have claimed it was Russian bots that were fueling the clamor; but according to an (anonymous) source talking to the Daily Beast, Twitter has determined the hashtag is being posted by mostly Americans.
How did a claim by President Trump, which burned through any Presidential cred he had after his first State of the Union speech, end up actually being a realistic proposition? It all has to do with the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, or FISA (rhymes with wiser). After Trump's outlandish claim, James Comey in particular has said he had no knowledge of such surveillance. It is illegal to wire tap a U.S. citizens unless appropriate measures are taken to "minimize" their appearance in the intelligence materials, including masking their identities.
A little background: All three men normally report to the attorney general because the FBI is overseen by the Department of Justice; but in the case of the Russia investigation, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself shortly after taking the AG job, since he failed to disclose a meeting with the Russian ambassador that took place when he was a senator. So these three have (or had) more power in the Russia investigation than Sessions does. In May 2017, it was the newly appointed Rosenstein who named Robert Mueller as special counsel overseeing the department's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
While FBI directors generally stay in the background, Comey had come into the political spotlight mainly because he served under two attorneys general who had distanced themselves from high-profile investigations. First, he served under Obama appointee Loretta Lynch, who stepped aside from the Hillary Clinton criminal investigation into her e-mails in 2016 after it came out that she had met with former President Bill Clinton for 30 minutes in her plane on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport. After outrage by Congressional Republicans, Lynch announced she would accept whatever recommendations the FBI and career prosecutors made in the Clinton case.
As everyone now remembers, Comey took the lead in speaking to the press about the FBI's decision not to prosecute the former secretary of state. Later in the year, he inserted himself into the election by being a one-man October surprise.
Under Sessions, he also enjoyed more power and notoriety, testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3, 2017, just six days before he was fired.
Yeah, it was a dizzying year. It seems like ancient history that Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he felt "mildly nauseous" at the thought he might have affected the outcome of the election, "but honestly, that wouldn't change the decision," he added.
The idea that Comey doubled down on highly irregular FBI procedure, as documented by former DOJ officials and prosecutors in this enlightening Vanity Fair piece, was completely swept away when President Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that he "wanted someone to do a good job" in the Russia investigation. Wait, that wasn't what he said. He said, "there's never a good time to fire someone." No, that wasn't it. Wait! That's right. He said he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. I can't put that in quotes because that's not exactly what he said. What came out instead was a bizarre string of tangents that showed that a) Trump made the decision himself, even though his letter dismissing Comey said he was accepting Rosenstein's recommendation b) that Comey had to go even though an investigation was under way and c) that Trump wanted someone to do "a good job."
Democrats and media, equally certain that the artless Trump let it slip out that he put Rosenstein up to the letter, have failed to consider all options.
Based on the Holt interview, and Comey's subsequent testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the loudest observers are certain that the President, like Nixon before him, was obstructing justice in the Russia investigation.
Yet it is just as plausible based on the facts that the Rosenstein letter was a formality, not an excuse. The President might actually be telling us that the decision rested ultimately with him and that he had checked with his advisers to make sure, then went ahead with the dismissal.
The Daily Beast's story is a pretty balanced one; the headline reveals that the memo could implicate some top men, yet includes a quote in the sub-headline which states: "Facts be damned." This is attributed later in the story to Ron Hosko, former head of the FBI's criminal intelligence division, who called those behind the memo "conspiracy theorists."
It was a nice surprise to find some sources explaining the internal situation to be actually named.
Yet, a curious thing is that it is not rank-and-file FBI agents who are under scrutiny. It is a former FBI head, and Department of Justice officials.
What kind of struggle is going on at DOJ?
This story says:
"That letter also said the department is “unaware of any wrongdoing” related to the FISA process—indicating the department disagrees with the scores of congressional Republicans who say Nunes’ memo provides proof of wrongdoing."
Yet in April, a top secret 99-page report was apparently compiled by the FISA court, leaked here, revealing that there had been "significant" non-compliance with NSA minimization procedures of U.S. persons during the "2016 court "certification."
How could the DOJ be unaware of this investigation?
I have been watching Comey ever since his sneaky memo right before the election, informing Congress that Hillary Clinton was again under investigation due to the sudden discovery of Anthony Weiner's laptop.
I've watched all his hearings. While I'm not sure exactly what's going on with him, I can safely say that in all his public testimony from 2017, he did nothing to help investigators figure out what was actually going on with our Republic, and everything to hide behind "classified." For what?
Classified is going to be a cover no more.
What does this mean for James Comey?