Browsing the archives for the Trump Maladministration category.


White House Lied About Porter’s Security Clearance, and Other Insecurity News

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Trump Maladministration

The White House claimed that Rob Porter’s background check was still pending when he was ousted last week. Today FBI Director Christopher Wray let it be known the FBI had completed Porter’s background check in July.

“What I can tell you is that the FBI submitted a partial report on the investigation in question in March, and then a completed background investigation in late July,” he said, noting that the FBI “followed the established protocol” with Porter.

“Soon thereafter we received requests for follow-up inquiry and we did the follow-up and provided that information in November. And then we administratively closed the file in January,” he continued. “And then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”

White House spokesperson Raj Shah told “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday, describing the White House’s position, that Porter’s background check “had not been completed yet. It was still in the investigative process and had yet to be adjudicated. So prior to an adjudication, the White House is not going to step into the middle of a process and short circuit it.”

The FBI, however, doesn’t give security clearances.

People familiar with the process for obtaining clearance said the FBI does not make any final decisions or recommendations and that the White House, specifically the counsel’s office and the security office, would have been heavily involved in deciding whether to grant Porter clearance.

Porter is among multiple West Wing aides still working on interim clearances, according to administration officials. …

… At Tuesday’s hearing, director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that people with temporary security clearance should get only limited access to sensitive, classified information, calling the process “broken.” Coats did not mention any individuals.

“Sometimes it is necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot, but … access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive,” Coats said. “It needs to be reformed.”

So, this security clearance screwup is entirely the White House’s screwup.

Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, addressed the situation with Russian interference with elections.

“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts” to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign “as a success,” and it “views the 2018 midterm elections” as another opportunity to conduct an attack, said Coats.

His assessment was echoed by all five other intelligence agency heads present at the hearing, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who two weeks ago stated publicly he had “every expectation” that Russia will try to influence the coming elections.

Sen. Mark R. Warner commented,

“What we are seeing is a continuous assault by Russia to target and undermine our democratic institutions, and they are going to keep coming at us.”

“Despite all of this, the president inconceivably continues to deny the threat posed by Russia,” Warner continued. “He didn’t increase sanctions on Russia when he had a chance to do so. He hasn’t even tweeted a single concern. This threat demands a whole-of-government response, and that needs to start with leadership at the top.”

See also Why there’s so much chaos in the Trump administration by Ezra Klein.

Update: Since this morning, Sarah Sanders has been reduced to admitting she doesn’t know what the bleep is going on (“Obviously the press team’s not going to be as read-in, maybe, as some other elements, at a given moment, on a variety of topics.”) Axios reports that John Kelly is becoming more isolated. Nobody is saying whether Trump knew that Porter was a bad security risk, or not.

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Trump’s Infrastructure Plan: Sell off the Infrastructure

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Trump Maladministration

No. Just no.

The Trump administration is making a push to sell off federal assets as part of its infrastructure plan released Monday.

Among the targets: Reagan National and Dulles International airports and two major parkways serving the Washington region, as well as power assets around the country, according to a copy of the proposal.

Power transmission assets from the Tennessee Valley Authority; the Southwestern Power Administration, which sells power in Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas; the Western Area Power Administration; and the Bonneville Power Administration, covering the Pacific northwest, were cited for potential divestiture. The Washington Aqueduct, which supplies drinking water in D.C. and Northern Virginia, also is on the list.

This isn’t fixing; it’s dumping.

“The Federal Government owns and operates certain infrastructure that would be more appropriately owned by State, local, or private entities,” the Trump plan says. It calls for giving federal agencies “authority to divest of Federal assets where the agencies can demonstrate an increase in value from the sale would optimize the taxpayer value.”

I don’t even know what that last sentence means.  What it says to me is that Trump’s going to have a fire sale to benefit his corporate buddies, who will charge us citizen-rubes more in tolls and fees than we are paying in taxes for the same thing.

Some state officials said they were uncertain about how their residents would benefit from such a proposal. Federal assets come with crucial federal dollars that could not easily be replaced, officials said.

The states probably don’t want this stuff and don’t have the resources to take care of them. Or else, state taxes would have to go up.

The whole point of the plan is to pretend you’re doing something about infrastructure without spending any money.

The first thing you need to know about Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan is that it is, in fact, a $200 billion infrastructure plan. For those keeping score at home, it’s $200 billion from Washington and another $1.3 trillion dollars of state, local, and private money to be determined at a later date.

It comes out to $20 billion a year, over 10 years—a modest increase in the federal outlay for building projects. The government routinely spends several times that amount on this stuff: In 2014, for example, Washington spent $96 billion on transportation and water alone. Trump wants this new money to cover those projects—plus rural broadband and power, Superfund sites, and perhaps even commercial space travel.

About that $200 billion, though. It’s not being funded by, say, finally raising the federal gas tax. (That levy hasn’t changed in more than two decades, and it falls far short of paying for the Highway Trust Fund.) Instead, the plan depends on shifting the money from other parts of the government—including the departments charged with funding transportation and water projects. In Trump’s budget, which was also released today, the discretionary budget for the Department of Transportation falls by $3.7 billion; the EPA’s is cut by $2.8 billion. More broadly, the Center for American Progress says it has counted $281 billion in infrastructure cuts in the budget—making the two proposals a net negative for infrastructure spending.

The particular details of how Trump is proposing to parcel out the money are, however, basically irrelevant because of the White House’s stance on financing the program. …
…The really big question about Trump and infrastructure, ever since he won the election, is whether he actually wants to get something done on this or if it was just a campaign line. This proposal answers that question pretty definitively — by mashing up Trump’s vague rhetoric with his staff’s conventional hard-right politics, they’ve landed on a formula with no bipartisan appeal and no actual path forward.
Speaking of infrastructure, what’s up with Amtrak? There have been a string of passenger rail accidents with fatalities lately. Not that Trump noticed, but I have seen these things on the teevee.
Politico reports that the head of the acting chief of the Federal Railroad Administration resigned over the weekend because running railroads was getting in the way of his day job:

A top official charged with overseeing the safety of the nation’s railroads has resigned “effective immediately,” the Department of Transportation said Saturday after POLITICO raised questions about whether he was simultaneously working as a public relations consultant in Mississippi.

The news comes at a time of strain for the Federal Railroad Administration, which hasn’t had a permanent leader for more than a year while it investigates a string of fatal train crashes and deals with a rising trend of rail-related deaths.

Heath Hall became the Federal Railroad Administration’s acting chief after being appointed deputy administrator in June. But he subsequently appeared at least twice in local media reports last summer as a sheriff’s department spokesman in Madison County, Mississippi, where he has long run a public relations and political consulting firm.

The firm also continued to receive payments from the county for its services from July through December, despite Hall’s pledge in a federal ethics form that the business would be “dormant” while he worked at DOT. And Tiffany Lindemann, a former FRA public affairs official who left the agency in September, told POLITICO this week that she had fielded at least three requests from a Mississippi television journalist seeking to speak with Hall during the summer.

This was during a period when Hall was in charge of an agency with a $1.7 billion budget, overseeing the safety of 760 railroads, a multibillion-dollar freight rail industry and the safety of millions of passengers.

Hall has been on an extended leave of absence since last month due to what the FRA has described as a family emergency. But DOT officials said Saturday, after reviewing POLITICO’s latest questions, that his departure is now permanent.

This guy wasn’t supposed to be running railroads, anyway. A vote on Trump’s nominee, Ron Batory, has been held up by Chuck Schumer, who is holding out for federal money for a massive rail project in and around New York City.
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House of Bad Security Clowns

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Trump Maladministration

Conservative opinion writer Kathleen Parker explains why Rob Porter was kept at his job without a security clearance. He was one of the few people working at the White House “who knew how to do anything,” Parker says.

Most likely, Rob Porter was deemed too valuable to the White House given that he, and virtually no one else, including the president and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, understood how the legislative branch of government works. Whatever his military achievements, Kelly may be the least-qualified chief of staff in recent history, including his lackluster predecessor, Reince Priebus, who is James A. Baker III by comparison. …

… Kelly has pleaded ignorance about Porter’s alleged abusive background, saying he only recently found out about it. But it appears that Kelly was informed last fall and that White House Counsel Donald McGahn knew a year ago. The Post reported Thursday: “When McGahn informed Kelly this fall about the reason for the security clearance holdup, he agreed that Porter should remain.” …

… The shock and awe emanating from the White House about Porter aren’t so much a commentary on the man, but testament to the surreal and potentially perilous incompetence surrounding the president.

I would have left out “potentially,” but yeah.

Dozens of White House staff lack permanent security clearances. This includes Jared Kushner; officials say he is not expected to receive a security clearance in the near future.

The president’s son-in-law and close adviser has been allowed to see materials, including the President’s Daily Brief, that are among the most sensitive in government. He has been afforded that privilege even though he has only an interim clearance and is a focus in the ongoing special counsel investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the election.

Get this–

Those in [White House Counsel Donald] McGahn’s office, people familiar with the matter said, feel they cannot take action on other people whose background checks have dragged on because they did not take similar steps with Kushner.

Porter and Kushner and who know who else in the White House surely had and have access to all the intelligence given to Trump, including his famously dumbed-down daily briefs that he apparently can’t read, but which have to be explained to him.

Trump, the Post reports, “has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues” because reading the brief — which every president has been able to do since its existence began — “is not Trump’s preferred ‘style of learning,’ according to a person with knowledge of the situation.”

Trump does not receive his verbal briefing daily, but instead “about every two to three days on average in recent months, typically around 11 a.m.” That’s when “executive time” ends and Trump has to turn off Fox News to listen to officials for a while, before he gets more screen time later in the day.

And then he can’t be bothered to listen to the explanations:

The early briefing sessions had a more freewheeling quality, according to current and former administration officials. Five or more White House aides might join Trump for the briefing, in addition to his briefer and intelligence officials.

The meetings were often dominated by whatever topic most interested the president that day. Trump would discuss the news of the day or a tweet he sent about North Korea or the border wall — or anything else on his mind, two people familiar with the briefings said.

On such days, there would only be a few minutes left — and the briefers would have barely broached the topics they came to discuss, one senior U.S. official said.

This causes one to suspect that people like Kelly, Porter and Kushner are the ones really driving anything the White House actually does. Kushner’s prior experience at being a big shot include turning the once-respected New York Observer into a combination Trump propaganda rag / shopping circular for the Upper West Side and blowing the family fortune on an overpriced white elephant on Fifth Avenue. If he ever actually succeeded at anything, I must have missed it. On top of that, he deliberately falsified security clearance forms and has extensive foreign business ties that ought to have disqualified him for a White House job by themselves.

As for John Kelly, he obviously has failed to bring order to the White House. He also is an immigration hard liner who was among those who were behind the scuttling of the Graham-Durbin budget deal at the “shithole” meeting.

Just three weeks ago, Kelly was being called “President Kelly” at the right-wing National Review. “Donald Trump runs a Twitter account. President John Kelly is running the administration,” Kevin Williamson wrote. Yes, but running it badly.

This is Trump’s latest tweet, btw.

 

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Outrage Fatigue Has Set In

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Trump Maladministration

I’m having a hard time working up any outrage over the Rob Porter scandal. Of course the White House was harboring a domestic abuser. Of course they knew about it and protected him. Of course nobody bothered to ask about his missing security clearance. Of course Porter handled intelligence briefings. Of course Trumpies don’t see what the big bleeping deal is. What else is new? Those people don’t rise to the level of “amateurs.”

Charles Pierce:

The simple fact is that the White House is out of anyone’s control because the president* is out of anyone’s control. (As is his hairwhich appears to be preparing for its annual migration to the forests of Guatemala any day now.) The simple fact is that Rob Porter found a job in the White House that he could keep—for a while, anyway—despite what his bosses knew about his history of domestic violence, because his ultimate boss has faced plenty of his own accusations and ended up becoming the damn President* of the United States. The fish is a bully from the head down. The president* certainly had a lot to talk about with the other guests at the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning.

See here why John Kelly might be the next contestant booted off the island.

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Here Are Your Goose Steppers, Donnie

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Trump Maladministration

You’ve probably heard that The Creature has decided that U.S. military personnel are his personal trained monkeys and has demanded that the Pentagon give him a big military parade “like the one in France.” He’s referring to a Bastille Day parade he saw last year.

France has had Bastille Day parades since 1880 to commemorate one of the world’s most significant populist uprisings. If France wants to do that, it’s fine with me. But what does Trump want to commemorate other than “I got a bigger military than you do”?

Rick Noack writes at WaPo,

France’s Bastille Day parade, which has persisted through two world wars and a Nazi occupation, has also been used to emphasize a very different message, which could be summarized as: We are only strong together. What Trump may have missed while watching the Paris parade last July was that its organizers have frequently invited foreign troops — from Morocco and India to the United States, Britain and Germany — to march alongside French soldiers or to even lead the procession. Instead of the French flag, French soldiers sometimes wave the European Union flag, even though the political bloc does not have its own army.

And Trump?

On a continent where Trump has never had many supporters, defense analysts worried on Wednesday whether the president’s possible misunderstanding of military traditions was a sign of a broader problem. “At what point does healthy appreciation for the military turn into unhealthy obsession?” asked German defense expert Marcel Dirsus. Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics, referred to Trump’s plan as a “strongman military parade” and  an addition to “Trump’s wannabe despot checklist.” …

… “Trump plays with the subject so carelessly and recklessly as if it were some kind of video game,” Aaron David Miller, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars who has advised several secretaries of state, said on Twitter. “My head’s exploding.”

The way Trump discusses nuclear weapons echoes a pattern observed among military officials in the past, researchers have noted. They were referring to a 1985 study by Carol Cohn, who analyzed military remarks that compared nuclear war with “an act of boyish mischief.”

Cohn said that those kinds of remarks were an expression of a “competition for manhood” and “a way of minimizing the seriousness of militarist endeavors, of denying their deadly consequences.” She concluded that they posed a “tremendous danger” in real life.

The next question is, how much would the damn thing cost? NBC News:

President George H. W. Bush held a military parade in Washington on June 8, 1991, to mark victory in the Persian Gulf War. The cost of that parade was $12 million, according to a C-SPAN report at the time, which amounts to about $21 million once adjusted for inflation. At the time it was called the biggest victory celebration in Washington since the end of World War II, with a crowd of around 200,000.

I doubt that Gulf War parade measured up to what France does every year, so it wouldn’t be big enough for Trump. The NBC News story quotes politicians of both parties expressing queasiness at the potential cost as well as at the appropriateness of tanks and big weapons, possibly nuclear, being paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Pentagon is exploring the idea of holding Trump’s Parade on November 11 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. That would make it less political, they think. But that’s all wrong for the Armistice plus 100, I say. For the end of World War I there should be lots of children with doves and flowers, not military stuff.

I say the Pentagon should tell The Creature to blow it up his ass. If he wants a parade, he can hire these guys:

Or, if he’s so taken with France’s Bastille Day, maybe we can round up a few hundred thousand people and re-create it by storming the White House? If someone else wants to organize that, I’m in.

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The Trump Administration’s Opioid “Policy” Is a Bad Joke

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Trump Maladministration

Well, strictly speaking, Trump doesn’t seem to have an opioid policy. He made big promises to address the opioid crisis on the campaign trail. But as president the drug problem has slipped his mind. Last October he directed the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency, which seemed to indicate he was about to do something

“No part of our society — not young or old, rich or poor, urban or rural — has been spared this plague of drug addiction and this horrible, horrible situation that’s taken place with opioids,” Mr. Trump said during an elaborate and emotional ceremony in the East Room of the White House, attended by families affected by opioid abuse, members of Congress and administration officials. “This epidemic is a national health emergency.”

To combat the epidemic, the president said the government would produce “really tough, really big, really great advertising” aimed at persuading Americans not to start using opioids in the first place, seeming to hark back to the “Just Say No” antidrug campaign led by Nancy Reagan in the 1980s.

“This was an idea that I had, where if we can teach young people not to take drugs,” Mr. Trump said, “it’s really, really easy not to take them.” He shared the story of his brother Fred, who he said had struggled with alcohol addiction throughout his life and implored Mr. Trump never to take a drink — advice the president said he had heeded.

“We are going to overcome addiction in America,” the president said.

That’s about as much of a drug policy as we’ve seen so far. There was no follow up even to that much. Brianna Ehley wrote for Politico in last month,

President Donald Trump in October promised to “liberate” Americans from the “scourge of addiction,” officially declaring a 90-day public health emergency that would urgently mobilize the federal government to tackle the opioid epidemic.

That declaration runs out on Jan. 23, and beyond drawing more attention to the crisis, virtually nothing of consequence has been done.

Today we read that Kellyanne Conway is sabotaging what little was being done to address the crisis. Brianna Ehley and Sarah Karlin-Smith write,

President Donald Trump’s war on opioids is beginning to look more like a war on his drug policy office.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway has taken control of the opioids agenda, quietly freezing out drug policy professionals and relying instead on political staff to address a lethal crisis claiming about 175 lives a day. The main response so far has been to call for a border wall and to promise a “just say no” campaign.

Trump is expected to propose massive cuts this month to the “drug czar” office, just as he attempted in last year’s budget before backing off. He hasn’t named a permanent director for the office, and the chief of staff was sacked in December. For months, the office’s top political appointee was a 24-year-old Trump campaign staffer with no relevant qualifications. Its senior leadership consists of a skeleton crew of three political appointees, down from nine a year ago.

“It’s fair to say the ONDCP has pretty much been systematically excluded from key decisions about opioids and the strategy moving forward,” said a former Trump administration staffer, using shorthand for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which has steered federal drug policy since the Reagan years.

The office’s acting director, Rich Baum, who had served in the office for decades before Trump tapped him as the temporary leader, has not been invited to Conway’s opioid cabinet meetings, according to his close associates.

See also  Eric Levitz at New York magazine, “Trump Has Given Victims of the Opioid Crisis Nothing But Contempt“; Jeremy Binckes, “Trump administration gives up on being serious about the opioid crisis“; Denis Slattery and Christopher Brennan, “Kellyanne Conway opts for Trump cabinet members over drug policy experts for opioid epidemic meetings: report.

Levitz writes,

The year Donald Trump was elected president, drug overdoses killed 63,600 Americans. That was 21 percent more drug deaths than America had seen in 2015, which had been the worst year for such fatalities in our nation’s history. It was also more unnatural deaths than gun violence, HIV/AIDS, or car accidents had ever caused in the United States in a single year. The scale of devastation wrought by the opioid epidemic was so vast, life expectancy in the United States fell for the second consecutive year — the first time that had happened since the early 1960s.

The epidemic’s body count was almost certainly higher in 2017, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl continues to grow at its current rate, Stat News forecasts that more than 650,000 Americans will die from drug overdoses over the next decade — which is to say, slightly more than one would expect to perish if a foreign military power incinerated the entire city of Baltimore.

And yet, in his first State of the Union address, Trump did not offer a single concrete policy proposal for combating this “public health emergency.” Instead, he promised to get “much tougher on drug dealers and pushers”; “get treatment for those in need”; and pass restrictive immigration reforms — asserting, without evidence, that building a border wall and ending “chain migration” would “support our response to the terrible crisis of opioid and drug addiction.”

So, about addressing the opioid crisis … never mind.

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What Goes Up Must Come Down

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Trump Maladministration

Trump’s stock market has lost $1 trillion in value in the first five days of February, it says here. The Dow dropped 1500 points today before coming back up a bit. This was “the worst single-day point drop the Dow has ever sustained,” it says here.

This isn’t necessarily a harbinger of anything. The stock market is still pretty high, historically speaking. Most of the talking heads are calling the stock downturn a “correction.” There is also concern that the Federal Reserve is draining money out of the financial system to stop inflation. But probably there’s no reason to panic, they say.

I called it “Trump’s stock market,” however, because Trump has been bragging about how the surging stock market is a reflection of his brilliance.

As the Dow Jones industrial average climbed to new heights early this year, President Trump clamored for credit.

He might regret the campaign to claim ownership of the economy if a sudden pullback turns out to be more than just a blip. …

… Any nuanced view of the stock market acknowledges that many factors can affect prices. No president — certainly not one who has been in office for barely a year — is singularly responsible for surges or declines.

But Trump has suggested that stocks would have “tanked” if not for his victory, and he has complained that the media devotes insufficient attention to the strong market, which he counts among the “many things accomplished by the Trump administration.”

“The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion and more in value in just this short period of time,” Trump said in his State of the Union address last week, referring to gains since Election Day 2016.

See also:

A rocky patch for the markets could become awkward for President Trump. He has repeatedly claimed credit for surging stocks, while business optimism over his push to cut taxes and lessen regulation has helped fuel the “Trump Bump.”

Mr. Trump’s habit of regularly boasting about stock market surges is a practice other presidents avoided. They knew that what goes up may go down again, and they did not want to take the blame for market forces beyond their control.

So, it’s his stock  market. Up or down, he owns it.

Update: See also “‘The president clearly set himself up’: Trump’s stock market miscalculation” by Ben White at Politico.

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Twilight of The Memo

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Trump Maladministration

The Memo wasn’t out for an entire 24 hours before Devin Nunes began backtrackng. He told a Fox News interviewer that no, he hadn’t seen the underlying evidence on which his memo was based (which we already knew, but which probably wasn’t clear to most folks).  All he knows about the underlying evidence he got from Trey Gowdy, he says.

You remember Gowdy, the guy who announced his retirement from the House right after he found out the memo probably was going to be released? Gowdy tweeted this yesterday after the big reveal:

 Helen Nakashima reports for WaPo that intelligence officials say the FISA court was, in fact, informed that some of the intelligence on the warrant application was underwritten by political entities. Although the warrant didn’t specifically name the Democrats, I’m sure the court was smart enough to infer that it would have been someone opposed to Trump who paid for the intelligence.

Many have pointed out that warrants are granted based on dodgy sources all the time — criminals, mobsters, terrorists. Surely Democrats are not outside those bounds. The reason there are warrants is not to go directly to indictment but to check out the intelligence and find out if it is true. Duh.

I already noted yesterday that some guy at RedState found an error in the Nunes Memo that seriously damages its arguments. And although most Fox News bobbleheads are still hyping the memo, I understand Shepard Smith pretty much tore the thing apart on the air yesterday.

Safe, centrist USA Today headlined reactions to the memo release as a backfire on Trump and the GOP.

When the House Intelligence Committee finally did its dramatic reveal of the so-called Nunes memo, several things were immediately clear — and all were bad for committee chairman Devin Nunes and President Trump , the man his efforts were ultimately intended to benefit.  …

…Most of the allegations in the Nunes memo had already been aired, and others were quickly discredited as misleading or undercut by other information that was excluded from the memo. Indeed, to the extent the document contained any surprises, it was the degree to which it actually undermined the attacks that the president and his allies had been advancing.

There’s a longer analysis at the Lawfare blog that’s worth reading all the way through, but I want to just point out a couple of spots. Here’s one:

To the extent that the complaint is that Page’s civil liberties have been violated, the outraged are crying crocodile tears. For one thing, it is not at all clear that Page’s civil liberties were, in fact, violated by the surveillance; the memo does not even purport to argue that the Justice Department lacked probable cause to support its warrant application. It does not suggest that Page was not, after all, an agent of a foreign power. What’s more, the only clear violation of Page’s civil liberties apparent here lies in the disclosure of the memo itself, which named him formally as a surveillance target and announced to the world at large that probable cause had been found to support his surveillance no fewer than four times by the court. Violating Page’s civil liberties is a particularly strange way to complain about conduct that probably did not violate his civil liberties.

Also, too:

But this notion has at least three big problems. First, it’s not remotely clear that anything in the contemporary Mueller investigation is the fruit of surveillance of Carter Page. For all we know, the surveillance of Page produced material of counterintelligence value that is utterly extraneous to anything related to the Mueller investigation. What’s more, if the complaint is that the surveillance of Page somehow amounts to surveillance of the Trump campaign (as Donald Trump Jr. Friday), the dates don’t add up: The FISA court granted the initial warrant against Page in October 2016, almost a month after he  at the end of September. Moreover, as Paul Rosenzweig  in Politico, a FISA warrant granted only weeks before the election would not have been able to produce any evidence until well after votes had been cast.

The other two problems are that “there is no legal basis on which to assert that a defective warrant against one person systematically delegitimizes an entire investigation” and “the memo itself falsifies the premise that the probe was the illegitimate offspring of Christopher Steele.”

Well, so much for that.

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Nunes Showed His Hand. It’s a Busted Flush.

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Trump Maladministration

Well, they released the memo. No bombshell. Nothing in it we hadn’t anticipated. You can read it here.

It’s also the case that there are no redactions, but I see nothing in it that would seem to me to be a security problem. There’s been a lot of hyperventilating over nothing, in other words.

James Comey probably sums it up best: “That’s it?”

Andrew Cohen, at Charles Pierce’s place, posted a graphic:

Cohen also said,

It reads like a shoddy legal brief. Specifically, one written in haste by an attorney who knows he doesn’t have the law or the facts on his side so he gins up a compelling narrative, hoping the reviewing court or opposing counsel doesn’t dig too deep into the record to find all the holes. …

…They’ve written what amounts to a series of political talking points, like the kind you would see in a campaign fundraising letter, designed to make the FBI and the Justice Department look bad, and to make the targets of the investigation, Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, look like victims of dark chicanery. …

…This memo, this creature, would not stand up in court and it should not stand up in the court of public opinion. No judge would allow it into evidence, no expert witness would rely on it for an opinion, no one would swear to its contents under penalty of perjury. It raises countless more questions than it answers—and, really, the only question it answers accurately is how far Rep. Devin Nunes and his fellow travelers at the House Intelligence Committee have been willing to go to protect the White House from an investigation into Russian tampering, an investigation we know that a vast majority of Americans want to see completed.

See also Josh Marshall’s analysis.

The key hinge in the memo is that it consistently seeks to suggest that the Dossier was the heart of the government’s case or even the entirety of the government’s case without actually providing any evidence for this claim or – critically – describing any other evidence the government may have had or may have included in the application. I see two key places in the memo where they make this case. On page 2 the memo states the dossier was “an essential part” of the government application. On the bottom of page 3, the memo says: “Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.”

The latter quote is simply a characterization of what McCabe said. His actual quote would be critical to judging its significance. …

IMO what McCabe allegedly said is the most damaging thing to the investigation in the memo, but as I understand it, disclosing the connection to Clinton was not a requirement. “The idea that you could only put material in a FISA application that is guaranteed not to be tainted by anybody with possibly questionable motives is not an idea that has any currency in law enforcement circles,” Jonathan Swan wrote at Axios. It would be nice also if we had an actual quote, in context.

Again, there’s nothing here that changes what has been speculated about the memo over the past several days. It’s all about disingenuously connecting Hillary Clinton (through the Steele Dossier) to the FISA warrant and claiming that because the warrant application didn’t specify who commissioned the dossier, the warrant was tainted. That’s really all there is to it. We’ve already gone over why the FISA warrant wouldn’t have been extended based on the Steele Dossier alone, and also why it’s not a given that the inclusion of the Steele Dossier on the warrant application was a problem. Basically, it’s only a problem because Trump apologists say it is.

Jonathan Swan goes on to say that the memo could still be used to fire Rod Rosenstein. Also,

Part of the reason this memo is generating such a broad variety of reaction is that the vast majority of Americans don’t know anything about FISA or the authorities the intelligence community have to surveil Americans. Intel geeks are writing this off as underwhelming, but Americans who are uninitiated to FISA may find this troubling.

So it depends on who wins the spin game. But that’s not exactly Democrats’ strong suit, unfortunately.

Along those lines, Dahlia Lithwick thinks the memo is a Trump win:

The Devin Nunes memo is, as was widely expected, a dud. It reveals nothing new, and answers none of the crucial questions raised by former law enforcement officials who have said there is nothing in this report that warrants its release. …

… The memo is so silly, and technical, and logic-defying on its face that it’s easy to miss the fact that its genius lies in precisely that.  Unless one ambles comfortably in the murky weeds of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, this will all be just arcane and confusing enough to mean nothing. For the vast majority of Americans, it will be enough that the president has now declared that his own federal intelligence apparatus is corrupt and out to get him, and has conveniently produced an enemies list that conveniently sweeps in all the villains, from Christopher Steele to Dana Boente to Sally Yates to Andrew McCabe, who have declined to play on the president’s “team.” If the point here is to raise doubts about every investigatory agency capable of scrutinizing Trump, it has been achieved.

On the other hand, they dumped this thing on a Friday, and on Super Bowl weekend, no less. See also “The Nunes Memo Is a Complete Flop” by Jeremy Stahl.

Elsewhere:

Did anyone notice the stock market dropped 666 points today? I’m not making that up — it’s 666 points. I seem to recall that a big dip on a Friday usually leads to a bigger plunge on Monday. We’ll see.

And did you hear the one about three of Rick Gates’s lawyers told a federal court yesterday that they were immediately withdrawing from the case? The reasons for this are sealed. There is speculation that Gates, a former Trump campaign aid who has been indicted by Bob Mueller for money laundering and other things, will start cooperating. Gates recently hired Washington attorney Tom Green, who has defended perps in Watergate and Iran Contra, among other things.

Update: Someone at RedState of all places actually called out an error in the memo that further damages what little credibility it had.

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The Nunes Memo: Say What?

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Trump Maladministration

Yesterday the White House or Trump or somebody said the Nunes memo would be released today. Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff and Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy are, according to several sources, the only Congress critters who have seen the underlying intelligence on which the memo allegedly is based. Late yesterday, Gowdy announced he would be retiring from Congress after his current term ends. Coincidence?

Quinta Jurecic reports for the Lawfare blog that during the January 29 House Intelligence Committee meeting, Rep. Nunes claimed that the Committee had already been investigating the Department of Justice for several months, which was a surprise to many of the committee members.

The motion is to postpone the vote until the FBI and Justice Department can review the Nunes memo in full and brief the committee. Nunes announces that “the Department of Justice and the FBI have been under investigation by this committee for many, many months for FISA abuse and other matters … I would urge my colleagues to vote no, we are not going to be briefed by people that are under investigation by this committee.”

None of the Democrats appear to have been aware of this investigation. Quigley argues that Nunes has violated , which requires the committee to conduct investigations “only if approved by the chair in consultation with the ranking minority member”—meaning Schiff. But Schiff says that this is the first he’s been formally notified of it.

Also, too:

Quigley asks Nunes whether he has coordinated the memo with the White House. “As far as I know, no,” says Nunes. Quigley then asks whether any of the majority’s staff have coordinated with the White House. Nunes refuses to answer and cuts him off.

Translation: Yeah, the White House had a hand in creating the Nunes memo.

Even later yesterday, Schiff announced that the memo sent to the White House that Trump allegedly will approve releasing had been altered from the one Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted to release. Daniel Politi at Slate:

The White House is reviewing the four-page classified memo that is broadly expected to be released as early as Thursday or Friday—although Schiff’s accusations could ultimately push back that decision. Calling the changes to the memo “deeply troubling,” Schiff said “the White House has been reviewing a document since Monday night that the Committee never approved for release.” Although the Democratic lawmaker didn’t reveal what the changes entailed, he characterized them as “substantive” and said the memo should be recalled.

Politi also wrote,

Trump is still very adamant he wants the memo to be released, but Axios reports there are “rumblings that there could be an 11th-hour extenuating circumstance, perhaps related to Schiff’s tweet.”

However, the link Politi provided to Axios doesn’t seem to be working, and I can’t find any such thing at Axios. Perhaps Axios spiked the report.

Lots of news outlets are reporting that Trump is telling associates that the Nunes memo will discredit the various investigations. But this is the same guy who thought that firing James Comey was a good idea. It’s past noon in Washington now, which means Trump will be up and beginning his day of pretending to work. We’ll see if the memo gets released.

Charles Pierce:

… open conflict had broken out between the White House and FBI director Christopher Wray over the release of the memo. It is Wray’s considered opinion that the memo is a crock.

What Wray said yesterday: “With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Charles Pierce continues,

All of which, in combination with the complete surrender of the Republican congressional leadership to this fairy tale, leads to the inevitable conclusion that there is more going on here than political damage control. People are breaking too much rock over this matter for that to be the case. People are risking too much to keep the cover story aloft. The original Watergate cover-up was not designed to shield the burglars; it was to keep a lid on five years of crimes and dirty tricks. There is too much energy being expended in too many directions here for there not to be something seriously wrong at the bottom of this affair.

It might be Russian ratfcking. It might be dirty money being cleaned through the First Family’s” business. It might be a complex combination of both. But not even this president* is dumb and/or arrogant enough to risk a massive constitutional crisis simply to save himself a little embarrassment concerning the circumstances of his election. Even I give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.

I don’t give Trump the benefit of the doubt on that one, but as I wrote earlier this week, I suspect there are people advising Trump to not release it, for his own sake.

Here’s one more tidbit from LawFare:

It’s interesting to compare the unanimous Republican vote to #ReleasetheMemo with the less-than-enthusiastic attitude of much of the committee majority toward the document itself. When Benjamin Wittes and I  to the offices of every committee Republican (except Nunes) and asked whether the representatives had faith in the factual conclusions of the memo, only three members of the committee answered in the affirmative (six did not respond to our repeated requests to contact them, and three responded but conspicuously did not answer our question as to the memo’s integrity). But all thirteen Republicans voted for the document’s release. Likewise, of the majority, only Nunes, Conaway and King speak up over the course of the meeting—and Conaway’s points are mostly procedural, not a substantive defense of the memo. Also notable is that Rep. Chris Stewart told us last week that he would support the Nunes memo’s release if sensitive information were redacted, and yet voted for the unredacted memo’s publication. During the meeting, Conaway similarly voiced concerns over publication of classified information—albeit regarding the minority memo—but voted in favor of the unredacted Nunes memo’s release as well.

This tells me that Republicans on that committee were under crushing pressure to vote for releasing the memo, even if they had doubts about the memo. Make of that what you will.

Update: At Talking Points Memo, David Kurtz writes that Trump himself is giving away the scam.

Trump has no feel for such nuance, no ability to play the long game on this. He’s giving away his own feint! CNN now reports:

President Donald Trump continues to tell his associates he believes the highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools could help discredit the Russia investigation, multiple sources familiar with White House discussions said.

In recent phone calls, Trump has told friends he believes the memo would expose bias within the agency’s top ranks and make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations are prejudiced against him, according to two sources.

All the various angles on the Nunes memo fall away in light of this reporting. The charade is exposed for what it is–an effort to undermine the Mueller probe–which makes it a hell of a lot less effective as a charade.

Kurtz goes on to say that no one on the Nunes team is behaving the way a sober-minded person would behave if he sincerely believed some dastardly “deep state” conspiracy were going on in the Justice Department. Playing games with the memo is too obviously a misdirection tactic, not part of a serious investigation into anything.

Update: Just reported at WaPo — Trump expected to approve release of memo following redactions requested by intelligence officials.

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