Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Obamagate update: Two tangible developments to watch

Amid all the media furor and debate over what is becoming known as Obamagate -- allegations that the outgoing Obama administration ran surveillance on the opposing party's presidential campaign and later his predecessor's transition team -- there were two tangible developments Monday worth noting and keeping an eye on.

First, the group Judicial Watch -- which has been driving presidents of both parties nuts for 20 years -- filed suit against the Department of Justice, the CIA and the Treasury Department for records relating to intelligence leaks regarding an investigation of Genera Mike Flynn. From a news release:
Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United States Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury regarding records related to the investigation of retired United States Army Lieutenant General Michel Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (Judicial Watch v. Central Intelligence Agency et al. (No.1:17-cv-00397)). (The National Security Agency refused to confirm or deny the existence of intelligence records about communications between Gen. Flynn and Amb Kislyak.)

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the agencies failed to respond to a January 25, 2017, FOIA request seeking:

Any and all records regarding, concerning, or related to the investigation of retired Gen. Michael Flynn’s communications with Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak between October 1, 2016 and the present.

This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all related warrants, affidavits, declarations, or similar records regarding the aforementioned investigation.

For purposes of clarification, please find enclosed a CNN report regarding the investigation, which cites information that was provided to CNN by members of the Intelligence Community.

In its complaint Judicial Watch asks the court to order the agencies to search for all records responsive to its FOIA requests and demonstrate that they employed reasonable search methods; order the agencies to produce by a specific date all non-exempt records and a Vaughn index of all withheld records; and instruct the agencies to cease withholding all non-exempt records.
The other was a letter that Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley seeking details on the FBI's reported hiring of a British spy to gather Trump intel during the campaign. From a Grassley release:
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley today is seeking details on the FBI’s reported plans to hire former British spy Christopher Steele to investigate Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, even though the FBI was aware that he was being paid by Democrat political operatives to conduct opposition research on Trump. Steele is the author of the controversial dossier that includes unsubstantiated claims alleging ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

In a letter today to FBI Director James Comey, Grassley is requesting a briefing on the agreement as well as the FBI use of the material in Steele’s memos. Grassley also wants to know whether the FBI ever independently verified the memos’ claims.

“The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for President in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends. It is additionally troubling that the FBI reportedly agreed to such an arrangement given that, in January of 2017, then-Director Clapper issued a statement stating that ‘the IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable, and we did not rely upon it in any way for our conclusions,’” Grassley said in the letter.

In the letter, Grassley is requesting records related to the reported agreement. He is also seeking answers to a number of questions, including who was involved in decisions related to hiring Steele and using his memos, whether the FBI used materials in the memo as the basis for seeking warrants and other investigative tools, and if the FBI has been able to independently verify allegations made in the memos.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, said that panel, too, will be looking into the alleged wiretapping. This thing is real, and the answers these folks receive could lead to potentially explosive revelations in the days and weeks ahead.

Don't simply rely on corporate-owned media at the local or national levels to give you the straight scoop, however. Many of them are in Full Protection Mode, as some of their organizations disseminated the information that was leaked and appear to be a full participant in what was going on. Read as many accounts from as many different independent sources as you can.

A few things to check out: Mark Levin explained over the weekend why he believes the wiretapping occurred; attorney Robert Barnes explained why there could indeed be legal jeopardy for members of the former administration; and Wikileaks reminds of Obama's history of wiretapping friends and rivals.

Also, keep an eye on the reporting of Joel Pollak from Breitbart and Andrew McCarthy of National Review, who've provided lots of context in recent days.

More here as things develop and my schedule allows.

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