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BBC story on Trump kompromat expands the narrative of the FISA court order. A joint USG task force!
Last April, the CIA director was shown intelligence that worried him. It was – allegedly – a tape recording of a conversation about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.
It was passed to the US by an intelligence agency of one of the Baltic States. The CIA cannot act domestically against American citizens so a joint counter-intelligence taskforce was created.
The taskforce included six agencies or departments of government. Dealing with the domestic, US, side of the inquiry, were the FBI, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Justice. For the foreign and intelligence aspects of the investigation, there were another three agencies: the CIA, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Agency, responsible for electronic spying.
Lawyers from the National Security Division in the Department of Justice then drew up an application. They took it to the secret US court that deals with intelligence, the Fisa court, named after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They wanted permission to intercept the electronic records from two Russian banks.
Their first application, in June, was rejected outright by the judge. They returned with a more narrowly drawn order in July and were rejected again. Finally, before a new judge, the order was granted, on 15 October, three weeks before election day.
Neither Mr Trump nor his associates are named in the Fisa order, which would only cover foreign citizens or foreign entities – in this case the Russian banks. But ultimately, the investigation is looking for transfers of money from Russia to the United States, each one, if proved, a felony offence.
A lawyer- outside the Department of Justice but familiar with the case – told me that three of Mr Trump’s associates were the subject of the inquiry. “But it’s clear this is about Trump,” he said.
That's four sources, though obviously we don't know if they're all getting their information from the same place. Nor do we know if any of this is true. It might still all be baseless innuendo.
Interesting From last year:
Posted by kpete | Thu Jan 12, 2017, 07:10 AM (1 replies)
Posted by kpete | Thu Jan 12, 2017, 07:03 AM (11 replies)
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 10:22 PM (1 replies)
Remarks of Walter M. Shaub, Jr., Director, U.S. Office of Government Ethics,
as prepared for delivery at 4:00 p.m. on January 11, 2017, at the Brookings Institution
I wish circumstances were different and I didn’t feel the need to make public remarks today. You don’t
hear about ethics when things are going well. You’ve been hearing a lot about ethics lately.
I need to talk about ethics today because the plan the President-elect has announced doesn’t meet the
standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every President in the past four decades has met.
My hope is that, if the Office of Government Ethics can provide some constructive feedback on his plan, he
may choose to make adjustments that will resolve his conflicts of interest.
I’ll limit the scope of my remarks today, and I won’t be talking about nominees whose ethics packages
have not gone to the Senate. With that limitation, there’s still much that can be said. For starters, I’m happy to
report that it’s not all bad news. OGE has been able to do good work during this Presidential transition. I’m
especially proud of the ethics agreement we developed for the intended nominee for Secretary of State, Rex
Mr. Tillerson is making a clean break from Exxon. He’s also forfeiting bonus payments worth millions.
As a result of OGE’s work, he’s now free of financial conflicts of interest. His ethics agreement serves as a
sterling model for what we’d like to see with other nominees. He clearly recognizes that public service
sometimes comes at a cost. The greater the authority entrusted in a government official, the greater the potential
for conflicts of interest. That’s why the cost is often greater the higher up you go.
We’ve had similar success with some of the President-elect’s other intended nominees. Some of them
haven’t quite gotten there yet, as I explained in recent letters to the Senate. But with an example like
Mr. Tillerson’s ethics agreement, I anticipate we’ll get them there, too. In connection with this work, it’s
important to recognize that OGE is not the enforcement mechanism but the prevention mechanism. OGE is nonpartisan
and does its work independently. Our goal—our reason for existing—is to guard the executive branch
against conflicts of interest.
We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for
profit. That’s why I was glad in November when the President-elect tweeted that he wanted to, as he put it, “in
no way have a conflict of interest” with his businesses. Unfortunately, his current plan cannot achieve that goal.
It’s easy to see that the current plan does not achieve anything like the clean break Rex Tillerson is
making from Exxon. Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict of interest
perspective. The Presidency is a full-time job and he would’ve had to step back anyway. The idea of setting up
a trust to hold his operating businesses adds nothing to the equation. This is not a blind trust—it’s not even
I think Politico called this a “half-blind” trust, but it’s not even halfway blind. The only thing this has in
common with a blind trust is the label, “trust.” His sons are still running the businesses, and, of course, he
knows what he owns. His own attorney said today that he can’t “un-know” that he owns Trump tower. The
same is true of his other holdings. The idea of limiting direct communication about the business is wholly
inadequate. That’s not how a blind trust works. There’s not supposed to be any information at all.
Here too, his attorney said something important today. She said he’ll know about a deal if he reads it in
the paper or sees in on TV. That wouldn’t happen with a blind trust. In addition, the notion that there won’t be
new deals doesn’t solve the problem of all the existing deals and businesses. The enormous stack of documents
on the stage when he spoke shows just how many deals and businesses there are.
I was especially troubled by the statement that the incoming administration is going to demand that OGE
approve a diversified portfolio of assets. No one has ever talked to us about that idea, and there’s no legal
mechanism to do that. Instead, Congress set up OGE’s blind trust program under the Ethics in Government Act.
Under that law anyone who wants a blind trust has to work with OGE from the start, but OGE has been left out
of this process. We would have told them that this arrangement fails to meet the statutory requirements.
The President-elect’s attorney justified the decision not to use a blind trust by saying that you can’t put
operating businesses in a blind trust. She’s right about that. That’s why the decision to set up this strange new
kind of trust is so perplexing. The attorney also said she feared the public might question the legitimacy of the
sale price if he divested his assets. I wish she had spoken with those of us in the government who do this for a
living. We would have reassured her that Presidential nominees in every administration agree to sell illiquid
assets all the time. Unlike the President, they have to run the gauntlet of a rigorous Senate confirmation process
where the legitimacy of their divestiture plans can be closely scrutinized. These individuals get through the
nomination process by carefully ensuring that the valuation of their companies is done according to accepted
industry standards. There’s nothing unusual about that.
For these reasons, the plan does not comport with the tradition of our Presidents over the past 40 years.
This isn’t the way the Presidency has worked since Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act in 1978 in
the immediate aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Since then, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan,
George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all either established blind trusts or
limited their investments to non-conflicting assets like diversified mutual funds, which are exempt under the
conflict of interest law.
Now, before anyone is too critical of the plan the President-elect announced, let’s all remember there’s
still time to build on that plan and come up with something that will resolve his conflicts of interest. In
developing the current plan, the President-elect did not have the benefit of OGE’s guidance. So, to be clear,
OGE’s primary recommendation is that he divest his conflicting financial interests. Nothing short of divestiture
will resolve these conflicts.
This has been my view from the start. The media covered some messages I sent the President-elect
through Twitter. While some people got what I was doing, I think some others may have missed the point. I
was trying to use the vernacular of the President-elect’s favorite social media platform to encourage him to
divest. My thinking was that more pointed language would have been too strong at a time when he was still
making up his mind. I reiterated my view in a written response to questions from the Senate, which is posted on
OGE’s website. I’ve been pursuing this issue because the ethics program starts at the top. The signals a
President sends set the tone for ethics across the executive branch. Tone from the top matters.
I’ve had the honor and great privilege of serving as Director of the Office of Government Ethics for four
years now. But I’ve been in ethics for much longer than that, having come up through the ranks as a career
government ethics official. Over the years, I’ve worked closely with countless officials in administrations of
both major parties. Ethics has no party.
The job hasn’t always been easy, though, especially when I’ve had to ask nominees and appointees to
take painful steps to avoid conflicts of interest. I can’t count the number of times I’ve delivered the bad news
that they needed to divest assets, break open trusts, and dissolve businesses. Most of these individuals have
worked with us in good faith. Their basic patriotism usually prevails, as they agree to set aside their personal
interests to serve their country’s interests. Sometimes these individuals have required more persuasion, but
every OGE Director has been buoyed by the unwavering example of Presidents who resolved their own
conflicts of interest.
As I said, every President in modern times has taken the strong medicine of divestiture. This means
OGE Directors could always point to the President as a model. They could also rely on the President’s implicit
assurance of support if anyone balked at doing what OGE asked them to do. Officials in any administration
need their President to show ethics matters, not only through words but also through deeds. This is vitally
important if we’re going to have any kind of ethics program.
Now, some have said that the President can’t have a conflict of interest, but that is quite obviously not
true. I think the most charitable way to understand such statements is that they are referring to a particular
conflict of interest law that doesn’t apply to the President. That law, 18 U.S.C. § 208, bars federal employees
from participating in particular matters affecting their financial interests. Employees comply with that law by
“recusing,” which is a lawyerly way of saying they have stay out of things affecting their financial interests. If
they can’t stay out of these things, they have to sell off their assets or get a waiver. That’s what Presidential
appointees do. But Congress understood that a President can’t recuse without depriving the American people of
the services of their leader. That’s the reason why the law doesn’t apply to the President.
Common sense dictates that a President can, of course, have very real conflicts of interest. A conflict of
interest is anything that creates an incentive to put your own interests before the interests of the people you
serve. The Supreme Court has written that a conflict of interest is, and I’m quoting here, “an evil which
endangers the very fabric of a democratic society, for a democracy is effective only if the people have faith in
those who govern, and that faith is bound to be shattered when high officials and their appointees engage in
activities which arouse suspicions of corruption.”
That same Court referred to what it called a “moral principle” underlying concerns about conflicts of
interest. The Court cited, and I’m quoting again, “the Biblical admonition that no man may serve two masters, a
maxim which is especially pertinent if one of the masters happens to economic self-interest.” A President is no
more immune to the influence of two masters than any subordinate official. In fact, our common experience of
human affairs suggests that the potential for corruption only grows with the increase of power.
For this reason, it’s been the consistent policy of the executive branch that the President should act as
though the financial conflict of interest law applied. One of my tweets and my letter to Congress cited an OGE
opinion issued during the Reagan administration that articulated this very policy.
Back when he was working for the Justice Department, the late Antonin Scalia also wrote an opinion
declaring that a President should avoid engaging in conduct prohibited by the government’s ethics regulations,
even if they don’t apply. Justice Scalia warned us that there would be consequences if a President ever failed to
adhere to the same standards that apply to lower level officials. The sheer obviousness of Justice Scalia’s words
becomes apparent if you just ask yourself one question: Should a President hold himself to a lower standard
than his own appointees?
I appreciate that divestiture can be costly. But the President-elect would not be alone in making that
sacrifice. I’ve been involved in just about every Presidential nomination in the past 10 years. I also have been
involved in the ethics review of Presidents, Vice Presidents, and most top White House officials. I’ve seen the
sacrifices that these individuals have had to make.
It’s important to understand that the President is now entering the world of public service. He’s going to
be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He’s going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk
their lives in conflicts around the world. So, no, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the
President of the United States of America.
As we all know, one of the things that make America truly great is its system for preventing public
corruption. For a long time now, OGE has helped developing countries set up their own systems for detecting
and preventing conflicts of interest. Our executive branch ethics program is considered the gold standard
internationally and has served as a model for the world. But that program starts with the Office of the President.
The President-elect must show those in government—and those coming into government after his
inauguration—that ethics matters.
All of this is to say there are reasons why experts and others are expressing concern. These calls for
divestiture have been bipartisan. You have the examples of President Obama’s ethics counsel, Norm Eisen, and
President Bush’s ethics counsel, Richard Painter. The conservative Wall Street Journal recommended
divestiture. So did conservative columnist Peggy Noonan.
It’s plain to see that none of this reflects any partisan motivation. All you have to do is imagine what
will happen if the President-elect takes this advice and divests. He’ll be stronger. He’ll have a better chance of
succeeding. So will the ethics program and the government as a whole. And, in turn, America will have a better
chance of succeeding. We should all want that. I know I want that.
In closing, I would just like to add that I’m happy to offer my assistance and the assistance of my staff.
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 10:20 PM (7 replies)
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 09:33 PM (4 replies)
Update to include CNN's response:
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 07:20 PM (19 replies)
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 07:16 PM (1 replies)
WASHINGTON, D.C.—All over Capitol Hill, anywhere there was a TV monitor of any kind tucked into marble alcoves or behind brass representations of long-dead American heroes, people gathered in small knots to watch the press conference being conducted by the man who, two weeks hence, will be able to issue killing orders from this very city. There was a quiver running through all the groups, as though we'd all been granted a guided tour of the Fuhrerbunker just as the Red Army was arriving three blocks down the platz.
What was beaming in from New York was nothing less than a genuine aspiring American dictator having what amounted to a very public tantrum. By the way, you knew it was a bag job when you saw that El Caudillo del Mar-A-Lago had brought in his own personal claque of hecklers and cheerleaders. (It should be noted for the record that the "fake news" chant is merely lugenpresse for the digital age.) And the first thing he did on Wednesday morning was intimate that it's the American intelligence community that is a bunch of fascists.
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 07:05 PM (3 replies)
WOW LISTEN HERE:
BBC correspondent says there's more than one source, more than one tape & more than one date of allegations in Trump intel dossier
BBC correspondent: Ex-British intelligence officer ‘not the only source’ for Russia’s Trump dossier
During a BBC 4 radio broadcast on Wednesday, Wood revealed that the former British spy was not the only source claiming to have knowledge that Russia is possession of sex tapes that could embarrass the president-elect.
“The rumors or the allegations or whatever you want to call them have been circulating for a number of months now,” Wood explained. “I saw the report, compiled by the former British intelligence officer, back in October. He is not, and this is the crucial thing, the only source for this.”
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 06:52 PM (4 replies)
This is big-Dramatically increases the number of people who can leak classified details from report
House Intel Committee voted to allow ALL House members access to classified hacking report, briefing by CIA, FBI, DNI, NSA chiefs on Friday
Posted by kpete | Wed Jan 11, 2017, 03:39 PM (5 replies)