New Attorney General William Barr already has an enormous amount on his plate, with many observers demanding to see accountability and the blindfold tied back over Lady Liberty’s eyes but others highly doubtful of any reform.
In the wake of Michael Cohen’s disastrous (for him) testimony last week, and in anticipation of still more closed-door “classified” testimony –- which is just weird, since Cohen doesn’t even have a security clearance –- ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes appeared on FOX News’ Maria Bartiromo’s Sunday show to talk about what actually NEEDS to happen in order to get the real “Russia” story.
He’s put together a list of 32 people he wants to see questioned, including some names that haven’t been mentioned publicly until now, though he gave it to the Republican Task Force at the end of the last Congress, before the Democrats took over in January. This long list should remind us that what we know is still just the tip of the iceberg. But these still-unfamiliar names are important because they may have been involved in the chain of custody for the “salacious and unverified” (James Comey's words) Trump/Russia “dossier.”
As Nunes explains it, “the dossier makes claims that this information is from Russians. So all the names that are on this list...if we’re really looking for Russian collusion, we need to know if any of those people were actually talking to Russians on behalf of the Clinton campaign or any other operative...whether it’s Fusion GPS...what Russians they were actually talking to...These Clinton people could be the ones that were in bed with the Russians.”
Familiar names on the list include a couple of Clinton PR people: Jake Sullivan and Robby Mook. Oh, and there’s longtime Clinton crony Sidney Blumenthal, who is known to have been involved in shopping around a version of the dossier that ended up inside the State Department. These are the same folks who were tweeting out messages pushing the false narrative that Trump “colluded” with Russia. Nunes wants to ask them where they got this information. Did it come directly from Fusion GPS (Glenn Simpson, Nellie Ohr), or were they themselves talking directly to their Russian friends?
Then there’s the media’s role. How were these people “colluding” with the media to spread this information? (Important related question: What are social media doing to control their content to silence conservative voices? But that's another issue.)
Now that Democrats run the committees and prefer to spend their time trying to embarrass the President by grilling a known liar like Michael Cohen, Nunes has no power to subpoena anyone on this list. (He points out that over the past two years, the Republicans gave them every witness they asked for but now Democrats will not return the favor.) His options are 1) to ask these people to come in voluntarily to talk to them –- good luck with that –- and 2) to turn the list over to Lindsay Graham, who now chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. THAT is who needs to work with this list. He actually has subpoena power.
Bill Barr needs the list as well. As the official who is now overseeing the Mueller investigation, he might find it interesting to compare Nunes’ list with the list of people interrogated by Mueller. I’ll bet Mueller didn’t bother questioning any Hillary people if he could help it.
Incidentally, there’s another intriguing piece of information about to drop: thanks to a judge in Florida, the depositions of Christopher Steele and his associate David Kramer from a lawsuit filed in Britain is supposed to be released on March 14. Both of these individuals were involved in the creation and dissemination of the dossier, but Steele wouldn’t talk to Nunes’ committee and Cramer pleaded the Fifth. We’ll finally get to find out what they told the British court under oath.
Nunes has called for complete declassification of everything related to the special counsel, especially the memo that outlined the scope of the investigation, which has been hidden from Congress and the American people all this time. He also wants fundamental FISA reform: “We can never again let the FISA process be used to target political campaigns. We can’t let our intelligence capabilities be...pointed at political campaigns.” He’s right: a counterintelligence investigation is supposed to be used to combat terrorists; it’s certainly not supposed to be opened on a political opponent.
Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan sent a letter to Barr asking for him to explain the actions of two heavily conflicted members of Mueller’s team, Andrew Weissmann and Zainab Ahmad, who were involved in the chain custody of the dossier. We also know that Weissmann was briefing AP reporters –- all of this was inappropriate. If Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were kicked off the team over their biased texts, these people should have been, too. In fact, they and others on the team were clearly Hillary supporters and never should have been put on the team in the first place.
If you’d like to get into the weeds, here are the specifics of what Meadows and Jordan are asking for, on page 6 of the PDF…
Of course, the big question for Barr is, WILL THERE BE ACCOUNTABILITY? Here’s what Nunes had to say: “I believe that if the new attorney general and the Department of Justice, if they don’t take all of this on and do a full scrub and have full accountability and transparency for the American people, you are gonna see generations of conservatives who will not trust the Department of Justice; they will not trust the FBI; and they for sure will not trust the FISA process.”
The second part of reform is that Congress needs to completely start over and rewrite the FISA law that allows the intelligence agencies to go after American citizens.
In case you missed it –- it wasn’t exactly widely reported –- investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson wrote an open letter to AG Barr that appeared in THE HILL on February 25. She has talked to a lot of people within the DOJ, FBI and CIA who, unlike James Comey, Andrew McCabe, John Brennan and that crowd, don’t want the limelight but have stories to tell about what they’ve seen and experienced “on the inside.” They “don’t have a public platform,” she says. “They don’t appear on TV. They don’t tweet. Nobody of consequence asks for their advice. And they won’t have the chance to tell Attorney General Barr in person what they think.” But they told Attkisson what they think, because she asked them. And Attkisson made a list of their 21 recommended priorities for Barr.
These suggestions are from solid, long-time government employees, both in the field and managerial, from both Democrat and Republican administrations. To cite just a few examples, one was a Cabinet-level official serving under Obama; one was a senior-level CIA official; another was an FBI attorney (imagine the sort of knowledge such people would have). Two of them said specifically that some former intel officials should be in jail for offenses they have committed. One commented on their “wanton lawlessness and unconstitutional actions.”
So we were right about the good people in our intelligence community who are fed up and want reform. They really do. Many of their suggestions involve a change of the FISA rules. Another suggestion was that a broader investigation be conducted into Hillary’s email case. Others want a review of the FBI’s conduct relative to the “Russia” investigation. One said that material should be declassified as soon as possible, “because if Donald Trump loses in 2020, all the dirt will never see the light of day.” Another called for a review of cybersecurity “back door” policy as it affects the American people. From another came the call for respect for individual rights, the end to a multiple-tier justice system, and an agenda independent from politics.
Wow, these are the people who should be running the show, instead of the ones who have been in charge for years. I wonder if current FBI Director Christopher Wray is as intent on reform as these seasoned professionals are, because if he is, we haven’t seen any evidence of that so far. But Bill Barr is HIS boss, and maybe he shares that intent. If so, he has his work cut out for him, but numerous people who have been around this mess for a long time are eager to help him set priorities.
Attkisson’s full list of suggestions for Barr is here at the link…
By the way, instead of trying to find out what actually happened in the Russia probe and reforming the FISA process, here’s what the House Democrats are going to be doing all this year and the next, as it appears Mueller may be coming up dry. It can be summed up in two words –- GET TRUMP –- no matter how sweeping the collateral damage or what they have to do to the country. They don’t care about any of that. They’re investigating a man, not a crime; their mission is to FIND a crime. I’ve said this before: they’re like a bed of carpenter ants swarming everywhere, looking for just a bit of soft wood that allows them to tunnel in. They’ll reduce the Constitution to splinters if they have to; we know they want to, anyway.
I hesitated to link to the story about this, as it’s just so horrific and infuriating, but it’s important to stay informed. Elections have consequences, and we're looking at those now. I hope more and more people who typically vote Democrat are seeing this unholy power grab for what it is and are getting out, as in #WalkAway.