Senate Investigation Update: ‘Collusion is still an open question,’ but Russian Interference is Sure

by Mark Sumner – Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr and ranking Democratic member Mark Warner appeared on Wednesday to give an update on the committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. While the committee was not ready to give definitive answers on any topic, they indicated that they were very close to closing out a few issues. An example: the original intelligence assessment indicating that Russia was behind actions to steal and distribute Democratic emails was accurate. While most of the focus was on the extent of the investigation to this point—over 100 interviews, over 100,000 documents, thousands of hours of evaluation—there were several points on which Burr and Warner would not give a definitive statement. In particular, when it comes to the central issue of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials, Burr would only say that the issue of collusion was “still open.” Burr had effusive praise...

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What Was in That Steele Dossier Anyways — Besides the ‘salacious claims’?

by jamess – Now that the ‘Steele Dossier’ is getting a second read — largely due to the recent 10 hour testimony to the Senate Intel Committee by the report’s sponsor — I thought it would be worth taking a second look, into that “mother of all” Trump-Russia reports.  Especially, at some of its “finer details” — that did not make the ‘salacious headlines’ news-feeds, the first time around … 10 key Donald Trump allegations from the classified Russia dossier Mr Trump calls the memo ‘fake news’   by Adam Withnall and Kim Sengupta, www.independent.co.uk — 12 January 2017 Russia has been “cultivating” Trump for at least five years Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian foreign ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump...

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Kushner Admits to Four Contacts With Russians that the White House Previously Denied

by Rebekah Entralgo – “I did not collude.” Ahead of his closed-door testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday morning, Jared Kushner released an 11-page opening statement attempting to exonerate himself, writing: “I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government.” In his first public statements detailing his contacts with Russians during the Trump campaign and into the transition, Kushner describes himself as an overworked, non-politician who was unprepared for the spotlight placed on him. After Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president, Kushner became what he describes as a “point of contact for foreign government officials,” taking on responsibilities he didn’t have while on the campaign. While the statement offers insight into 4 key meetings with Russian foreign nationals, many of the details contradict previous remarks from White House officials, including their initial, categorical claim that there was no contact between the Trump...

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Senate Intelligence Committee Widens Basis of Investigation into Trump–Russia Connection

by Mark Sumner –   Following the Friday night revelations that Jared Kushner had additional, previously-unrevealed communications with the Russian ambassador, and that Kushner had worked with the Russians in an attempt to set up a secret, back-door communications channel—one that was genuinely based on the idea that Trump’s people would come directly to the Russian embassy so they could connect to the Kremlin without being overheard—the Senate has decided to expand the scope of its investigation into Trump–Russia. The Senate Intelligence Committee acted quickly to ask the Trump campaign to preserve all Russia-related documents going back to the start of the campaign. The Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race, has asked President Trump’s political organization to gather and produce all Russia-related documents, emails and phone records going back to his campaign’s launch in June 2015, according to two people briefed on the request. The reasoning...

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Is Michael Flynn Trying to Confess?

by ReasonaBill – Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, reportedly will exercise a perfectly valid legal right today to not incriminate himself following his rejection of a subpoena issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Flynn previously sought immunity from the same committee for his testimony.  Did I miss something, did Michael Flynn just confess to a crime?  He told us in his own words, “when you are given immunity, that means you have probably committed a crime.” I guess it is foolish for me to point out the rampant hypocrisy of the current White House staff both current and former.  The head of this merry little band of hypocrites is the emperor with no clothes, Donald Trump. The tweeting thumb thug, or John Miller or John Barron or whatever name he is using to spread propaganda these days is facing truth and is scared http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-spokesman-impersonation_us_5735e7e9e4b08f96c182eedd.  Trump, one of the pioneers of...

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Fired and Smeared by Trump, Comey Wants to Talk Under Oath… and ‘In Public’

by Jon Queally – What consequences await the U.S. president if ousted FBI director gets ‘day in front of the entire political world to tell his story under oath in front of a congressional committee’? Though James Comey, the former director of the FBI whose firing by President Donald Trump sparked political uproar this week, has reportedly declined an invitation to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors about his controversial ouster, he is reportedly willing to answer lawmakers’ questions in open session if given the opportunity. The New York Times on Saturday, citing a close associate of Comey, reports the former director “is willing to testify, but wants it to be in public.” Comey’s version of events when it comes to meetings and conversations he had with Trump have now taken on new significance after the White House’s shifting narrative on the reason for his firing was compounded...

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The Senate Investigation into Trump-Russia is a Hot Mess

by Aaron Rupar – And so is the House’s, and so is the DOJ’s… About two months ago, news emerged that Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) had made calls to reporters as part of a White House-directed effort to tamp down reports about contact between Trump campaign members and Russian intelligence officials. That news rightfully drew into question Burr’s ability to oversee an impartial investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. In late March, however, Burr and Senate Intelligence Committee held a joint news conference where they portrayed themselves as ready to work together in a bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of Trump’s Russia ties. But on Monday, both the Daily Beast and Yahoo reported that the Senate investigation of Trump-Russia is a mess, in large part because Burr is obstructing things. Burr’s committee “has yet to issue a single subpoena for documents or...

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The Possible Reasons Flynn was Refused Immunity are all Good for the Blue Team

by TrueBlueMajority – Is it wrong that I am smiling? When I saw that the Senate Intelligence Committee rejected Michael Flynn’s immunity request, I grinned from ear to ear. For hours. In fact, I think I am still smiling now. Let me look in the mirror… yes!  That *is* a smile I see! Because every single thing about this development is good for the Blue Team. It’s a clear sign that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence intends to demonstrate how men who know what they are doing handle this kind of thing. Mark Warner and Richard Burr (sir) may as well have said to Devin Nunes: “Serious people play this game a different way.  Watch and learn, kid.  This is how we do it.” The same crystal clear message has been sent to DJT/Bannon, neither of whom has any idea how Congress works, how investigations work, or what a starship...

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Top Sens on Intel Committee: ‘No Indication’ Trump Tower was Bugged

by Nadia Prupis – “Now that you’ve acknowledged that Trump falsely accused a former president of a felony, what are you going to do about it?” asked ThinkProgress editor Judd Legum. The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Thursday there is no indication that Trump Tower was ever the “subject of surveillance” by the U.S. government. Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking Democrat Mark Warner (Va.), who are also leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged involvement with the presidential election, issued a one-sentence statement that read, “Based on the information available to us, we see no indications that Trump Tower was the subject of surveillance by any element of the United States government either before or after Election Day 2016.” President Donald Trump earlier this month accused former President Barack Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower. Burr and Warner’s conclusion follows a similar statement by House Intelligence Committee...

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Senator Suggests FBI has Transcripts that Might Point to Collusion Between Trump and Russia

by Adam Peck – And he wants the agency to turn them over to congressional intelligence committees. During an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell on Friday, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) expressed frustration that the intelligence community has so far resisted congressional requests to be forthcoming with their investigations into the Trump administration’s communication with Russian officials. He also suggested there were transcripts detailing what the FBI and other agencies know. For months now, the intelligence community has been looking into whether senior officials within the Trump campaign (and now Trump White House) communicated or colluded inappropriately with Russian officials. The administration has already lost one cabinet official for his failure to disclose inappropriate communication with Russian diplomats, and on Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced his recusal from all ongoing and future investigations involving Russia after he too failed to disclose communications with Russian officials. Democrats—and more than a few Republicans—on...

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RUSSIA-GATE: Senate Intelligence Committee Investigation – Let’s Meet the Members Shall We

by Doctor Who – This weekend’s 2.5 hour meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee with FBI Director Comey, ended in a bunch of Senate Committee Members walking out stone faced and pale as if they had seen a ghost, and followed the next day by a letter from the Committee asking all individuals and Agencies to preserve any and all records having to do with Russia-Gate.  With these recent developments I though it might be a good time to take a look at the makeup of this Committee that arguably has the fate of the US Democracy in its hands. So here they are: REPUBLICANS: 1. Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman 2. James Risch (R-ID) 3. Marco Rubio (R-FL) 4. Susan Collins (R-ME) 5. Roy Blunt (R-MO) 6. James Lankford (R-OK) 7. Tom Cotton (R-AR) 8. John Cornyn (R-TX) DEMOCRATS: 1. Mark Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman 2. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) 3. Ron...

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GOP Senator Wants Mike Flynn to Testify Before Congress about his Russia Connections

by Aaron Rupar – Sen. Susan Collins says she’s also open to subpoenaing Trump’s tax returns. Despite many unanswered questions about connections between President Donald Trump, his inner circle, and Russian officials, Republican members of Congress have so far been reluctant to pursue a robust investigation. But during an interview with Maine Public Radio on Wednesday, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) expressed confidence that Congress will conduct a thorough, bipartisan investigation. “I am confident that since this is a completely bipartisan investigation with full-time staff, that we’ll get to the bottom of this,” she said, adding that she anticipates the investigation will culminate in a public report. Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she and other members want former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to testify before them. Flynn lost his job last Monday after it was revealed he had lied about discussing Russian sanctions during his pre-inauguration communications with...

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As the Wheels of the Trump Juggernaut Come Off

by TODD GITLIN – Cracks in Republican Senate servility are beginning to show, while right-wing media hang tough. Say this for Donald Trump: He sets records. It took more than a year of Warren G. Harding’s administration before the Teapot Dome scandal of 1921-22 brought down his Interior secretary for taking a massive oil company bribe. A half-century later, it took two years to expose the immensity of the Watergate crimes and force the conspirators out of their White House holes. It took almost that long for the Reagan administration Iran-Contra revelations to pour forth in the mid-‘80s, though that scandal left the enfeebled incumbent in place. Now, congressional Republicans’ marriage of convenience to the crackpot showman of Fifth Avenue shows signs of post-honeymoon stress. For in just four weeks, Trump has breathlessly caught up with his predecessors in power abuse. Having crashed into a big, beautiful wall, he is, by...

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Senate Intelligence Chair to Constituents: I Don’t Care What You Think

by Mark Jaycox – The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HR 2048, the USA Freedom Act last week. The bill is an attempt by lawmakers to rein in the NSA and fix the infamous “business records program,” which uses Section 215 of the Patriot Act to order telephone companies to hand over Americans’ daily calling records. When asked if the Senate would take up the bill, Senate Intelligence Chair Richard Burr said, “The program as designed is effective, and members are reluctant to change things that are effective just because of public opinion.” But isn’t public opinion exactly what Senator Burr should have an ear towards as the people of North Carolina’s representative? When it comes to public opinion, Americans are loud and clear that they not only want the specific calling records program to end, but that they are also incredibly dubious about the NSA’s collection practices. His reliance on the...

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‘Patriot Act 2.0’? Senate Cybersecurity Bill Seen as Trojan Horse for More Spying

Framed as anti-hacking measure, opponents say CISA threatens both consumers and whistleblowers By Nadia Prupis, Common Dreams – The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee approved a cybersecurity bill during a secret session on Thursday, marking the next step in a process that critics warn will nefariously expand the government’s already substantial surveillance powers. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which passed by 14-1 vote, would ostensibly protect against large-scale data thefts of private consumer information, exemplified by recent hacks of Target, Sony, and Home Depot. But critics—including the lone dissenting voice on the committee Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Or.)—say it would open the door for continued invasive and unlawful government spying operations. Although Wyden denounced the measure as “a surveillance bill by another name,” his opposition was unable to stop the proposal from being approved by the committee. The bill, which reportedly underwent a dozen changes during the meeting, will next go to...

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GOP Senator Seeks to Put CIA ‘Smoking Gun’ Back in Bottle

New Intelligence Committee chairman wants to keep public in the dark about torture by Deirdre Fulton – With his party back in control of Congress, the new GOP chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to return to the CIA a damning internal review, described by some as a “smoking gun,” that exposes the brutality and inefficiency of the spy agency’s torture program. “The Panetta Review was never intended for the committee to have,” Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina told Huffington Post. “At some point, we will probably send it back to where it came from.” The so-called Panetta Review is named for former U.S. Secretary of Defense and CIA director Leon Panetta, who ordered the internal review in 2009 as an attempt by the agency to better understand millions of documents that the CIA was handing over to the Intelligence Committee as it began its investigation into the Bush-era detention...

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How Outraged Is the Obama Administration About Torture?

by Julio Sharp-Wasserman, Truthout | News Analysis – In early December, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the executive summary of a report documenting the CIA’s involvement in torture during the Bush administration, both detailing the graphic horror of the torture itself and exposing the flimsiness of justifications then offered for torture. In response, the Obama administration has issued some eloquent statements that combine moral outrage with magnanimous-sounding encouragements that we all learn from without dwelling upon the misdeeds of the US government in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks. This is insincere and misleading for two reasons. First, the Obama administration has protected all Bush administration culprits from legal punishment and almost all from investigation, thus precluding the honest national self-examination necessary to accomplish what Obama calls “moving forward.” Furthermore, contrary to the current US media consensus that the Obama administration banned torture in 2009, the US...

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A Brutal “Torture Report,” but No Accountability

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report – The long-awaited “torture report” released today by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the CIA’s top secret, post-9/11 torture program is certainly brutal, and the Obama administration does not deny that. The administration is, however, refusing to hold anyone publicly accountable. Yes, it’s brutal. Some detainees were placed in “ice water baths” and at least five were subjected to “rectal feeding without documented medical necessity.” Detainees were forced to stand on injured limbs and kept awake for up to 180 hours, “at times with their hands shackled above their heads.” CIA torturers threatened to kill one detainee’s mother and sexually abuse another’s. In one notorious torture facility, where untrained CIA officers tortured prisoners before President George W. Bush even authorized the formal “enhanced” interrogation program, detainees were shackled in isolated cells in complete darkness amidst constant noise, with only a bucket to collect...

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17 Disgraceful Facts Buried In The Senate’s 600 Page Torture Report

by IGOR VOLSKY – The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s extensive use of torture reveals that the agency regularly misled the White House and Congress about the information it had obtained from detainees and used techniques that are far more brutal than it — or former Bush administration officials — had previously acknowledged. For instance, President George W. Bush insisted that “his government does not torture people” and claimed that the intelligence it produced was instrumental to preventing terrorism on American soil and capturing high-value targets, including Osama bin Laden. But the Committee’s five year investigation — and examination of more than six million CIA documents — reveals all of those assertions to be false. For its part, the CIA acknowledged that it “did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves” and “made mistakes” in how it ran the program, particularly “early...

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UN Experts to Obama: Don’t Bend to CIA Wishes on Torture Report

Open letter reminds Obama the world is watching, urges him to release transparent torture report by Andrea Germanos – A group of United Nations human rights investigators has written to President Obama to urge him not to yield to the CIA but to release in the most transparent way possible the still-classified Senate torture report on post-9/11 abuses. The Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), has been innegotiations with the administration over redactions to the report, thus continuing to delay its release. As David Firestone wrote at the New York Times last week, Deferring to the C.I.A., the White House has blocked Democrats from informing the public as to how much torture went on in the previous administration, and how poorly it worked. The administration is refusing to allow the report to be released if it includes pseudonyms for the C.I.A. officers who participated in the torture program, claiming...

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