Just yesterday, we featured commentary on a story detailing the ways in which outgoing Alabama sheriffs sabotaged incoming sheriffs who had beaten them fair and square at the polls. It seems they did everything possible to lay traps for the new sheriffs in town, by destroying financial records, phones and hard drives (a la Hillary Clinton); wasting revenue to keep it out of their hands when budgets were tight for necessities; and even playing childish pranks.
You’d think that by the time people with experience in government got to the White House or the upper-echelon of the Executive Branch, they would be professionals and would act accordingly. Think again. In politics, when it comes to sabotaging the incoming administration, there may be no limits to what some people will do.
Thanks to reporting by Charlie Savage in The New York Times, we’ve been aware for some time that in the last days of the Obama administration, the National Security Agency headed by James Clapper adopted new rules regarding what may be done with sensitive raw intelligence gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations. Before this change, only three agencies could share the information. Clapper made sure this list was expanded so that 17 separate agencies could have access to it.
The question has nagged ever since this was first reported in 2017: Why was it so important to the Obama team to do this as they were headed out the door?
SIDE NOTE: Savage has been reporting on NSA surveillance and FISA abuse for years. The controversy did not start with Trump. For perspective, you might want to take a look at this piece from 2013.
Anyway, the American Center for Law and Justice has just obtained emails that show how urgently Clapper and his people were working to get this particular policy changed. One such communication from the Office of the Department of National Intelligence referred to “...my personal interest in having the procedures signed by the attorney general before the conclusion of this administration.” The DNI general counsel, Robert Litt, wrote that they “really want to get this done...and so does the boss.” (“The boss”? Who dat? Clapper? Obama?)
“We could have a signature from the AG as early as this week, certainly prior to the 20th Jan.,” said an email sent by a National Security Agency employee (name redacted). And what, pray tell, was the 20th of January, 2017? Why, President Trump’s Inauguration Day!
To go into effect, this change had to be steered through the process by James Clapper and signed by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
Imagine that the most sensitive raw –- as in, unverified –- intelligence is spread out through 17 different government agencies. How is it possible to trace it, to know who has it and what they are doing with it, such as what media or congressional committees they might be leaking it to? What an ingenious way to cover up what any one individual or department is doing.
The emails that have just come to light were exchanged a couple of weeks before the end of Obama’s second term. These people were obviously concerned about getting something done that normally would have been highly unusual to rush through like that.
Trump attorney and ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow was on Sean Hannity’s Monday radio show and later on his TV show to explain the importance of this. What we’ve learned is that a couple of weeks before Trump’s inauguration, Clapper was moving aggressively to get this new policy in place. Until then, throughout the entire Obama administration –- eight years –- they had been fine with the policy the way it was. Sekulow also suggested that it would have been unusual for President Obama not to have known about such a drastic proposal.
Obama was on his way out. So was Loretta Lynch. So why was the NSA so all fired-up to put this change in place? What other reason could it be but to undermine the incoming President?
And if they needed it in place before they left, why did they wait so long to make it happen? Investigative reporter Jeff Carlson has a theory that it was that deliberate delay that enabled the Obama administration to spy on the Trump campaign. You see, by the time the new order (an update of executive order #12333 that also placed some restrictions to the collection of information) was signed on January 3, 2017, all information relating to the Trump campaign had already been collected and was in the possession of the Obama White House. Carlson’s piece gets pretty far “into the weeds,” but here are the details if you have some time, as he wrote them in December of 2017…
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was on with Hannity Monday night and reminded us of what Chuck Schumer once said: that if you mess with the intelligence community, they have “six ways from Sunday” of getting back at you. This appears to me to be one of those six ways, along with the dossier, the perjury trap for Flynn, the spying on Papadopoulos, etc.
Remember, Attorney General Bill Barr’s investigation will cover “unauthorized surveillance” and “political surveillance,” both very serious, and it will extend far beyond the FBI. Just as 17 agencies have been privy to raw intelligence, investigator John Durham will be able to look at what officials at all those agencies have been doing with it. This move by Clapper in the first weeks of 2017 may be an important reason why Barr structured the investigation so widely.
Speaking of Papadopoulos, Trey Gowdy says now that there’s a certain piece of evidence he has seen that made him change his initial positive opinion of Robert Mueller and his investigation. At this writing, Gowdy has to be rather cryptic about what it is, as it hasn’t been made public yet and apparently is still classified, but from what we know, he seems to be referring to exculpatory evidence in the form of transcripts of recorded conversations with Papadopoulos and/or Carter Page. Any exculpatory evidence is REQUIRED BY LAW to be included in a FISA warrant application, and it was hidden from the court. If this was deliberate, it’s not only unethical but criminal. And if it was done to take down a duly-elected President of the United States, it’s unethical and criminal to the tenth power.
If you’ve read Papadopoulos’ book, DEEP STATE TARGET, you know that from all appearances, Stefan Halper was recording him during their meetings. Papadopoulos, when asked in conversation about Russia, made it very clear “for the record” in speaking with Halper that neither he nor the Trump campaign was working with Russia in any way, that this would be illegal. It’s likely the exculpatory evidence to which Gowdy refers is the transcript of that conversation.
While Barr and Durham do their work, the Republicans in Congress are still trying to get documents relating to the Steele “dossier” that they’ve been requesting literally for years. California Rep. Devin Nunes, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has just written a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray which asks when the FBI received information from the State Department about Steele’s problems as a credible source, including the fact that Steele was desperate to have his information made public before the 2016 election.
“...The FBI failed to provide these materials to the [Intel] committee pursuant to requests made as part of its investigation,” Nunes wrote. He copied investigator John Durham on the letter. Chris Wray may stall on providing this information to congressional Republicans, but he better think twice before slow-walking it to Durham.
Oh, and one last note. There’s going to be yet another book by a former FBI lawyer to avoid buying when it comes out: Mueller’s notoriously unethical “pit bull” prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, who by some miracle was not disbarred before becoming the top official on the special counsel team, is reportedly writing a book. Here’s an idea for the title: HOW TO HIDE EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE, DESTROY COMPANIES AND RUIN LIVES. Foreword by James Clapper.