Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Tale Of Two House Intel Committee Hearings - "Leaks" Vs. Collusion


"And I do want to know 'bout how serious these leakin' crimes are, sir!"
schiff-comey
"We do have  good case to be made for the Trump-Russian ties, do we not?"


It was surreal watching the House Intelligence Committee Hearings yesterday, and coming away with the perception that the members' narratives and realities split into two irreconcilable manifestations. On the one hand there were the Repukes, including Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the committee, Trey Gowdy of SC, and Thomas Rooney of FLA, all trying desperately to steer the hearings toward the marginal issue of leaks.  To these disingenuous goofballs the paramount crime was the leaking of classified information to reporters of the NY Times, WaPo etc.. Information, let us bear in mind, that enabled us to ascertain that Michael Flynn was in communication with the Russians and discussed ways around the just issued Obama sanctions.

Btw, it was none other than Trey Gowdy - so clearly on his self-righteous high horse and in high dudgeon over past leaks, who actually leaked the name of a CIA source during the Benghazi hearings. We have no idea the degree to which that source has been compromised but one hopes Gowdy's  reckless stunt didn't jeopardize the CIA source's life or job.

Given all this bullshit leak obsession it was no surprise that the Repukes used their questions to FBI Director  Comey as a way to criticize the news coverage about the Russia investigation and chastise government officials who speak anonymously to journalists. Thus, we beheld Nunes, barking:

We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so that these individuals can be brought to justice."

Good luck, Sparky, you'll need it! So long as these leakers, all likely members of the intel community disgusted by Trump's antics,  keep using snapchat and its instant delete function, Nunes has as much chance bringing the leakers "to justice", as I have finding the Roswell aliens' bodies buried in my backyard.

But as I noted in previous posts, i.e. after Flynn was outed as a Russkie contact, it is the leakers who merit awards for their patriotism in the face of a fascist administration trying to get away with high crimes and misdemeanors.  Make no mistake those of us who want to get to the bottom of the Trumpian snake pit that passes for a White House, want the leaks to continue unabated - to press further investigation as occurred in Watergate. 

A recent column in the Columbia Journalism Review was even titled 'Flynn Resignation Shows Leaks Under Trump Are Working - Keep 'Em Coming"  The author argued, and I totally agree - as does John Dean- that "leaks to the press are vital to democracy".  Indeed they have the same import and value as whistle blowing on the power mongers, especially when they are acting without any transparency.  There are then, some laws that trump immediate "security" laws because they pay homage to the Constitution above all else.  (And btw, contrary to the suggestions of Gowdy et al, it is not unlawful for journalists to receive and publish leaked information from anonymous sources.)

Even conservative Joe Scarborough on his Feb. 15  show commended whoever leaked the information on Flynn, noting:

"The only reason we're finding out about it now is because a patriot did leak this to the Washington Post. Did get this information out there or else we wouldn't even have known about it."

On the other reality side of the hearing, the emphasis was where it ought to have been: on the Trump cabal's likely collusion with the Russians to grab the 2016 election, and putting the kibosh on Trump's stupid claim he was wiretapped.  Regarding the first, what we beheld first and foremost was the FBI Director confirm that there is an active investigation into the campaign of the sitting president over questions of collusion with a foreign power. .

Upholding the reality part of the hearings, Rep. Adam B.  Schiff  of California, ranking Dem member of the Committee,  held firm that the issue was about possible Russian collusion with the Trumpites in the 2016 election.

As Schiff put it:

"Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated.”

Reinforcing Rep. Schiff's  remarks we saw Director Comey, take  the extraordinary step on Monday of announcing that the F.B.I. is investigating whether members of Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.  Make no mistake that Comey’s  acknowledgement before the House Intelligence Committee has created a treacherous political moment for Trump, who has insisted that “Russia is fake news” that was cooked up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency. But if it really was fake news the FBI wouldn't have  expended eight months worth of resources on it....and still counting. That singular and extraordinary confirmation by Comey basically blew away all the leaking smokescreen set up by the Repuke committee members.

Indeed, Comey in real time fact-checked then slapped down a tweet sent by Trump to the effect that "NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence electoral process". In fact, what Comey said is the FBI "had no view and no information because it was never something we looked at".  That is a different thing from asserting there was no influence on the electoral process.  But as I've pointed out before, subtle distinctions in language appear to escape Trump's mental processing.

In the midst of all the technical jargon and back and forth about "masked U.S. persons" and FISA 702s, the key blockbuster moment could well have escaped many viewers. Essentially,  Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said bluntly agents would pursue it “no matter how long that takes.”  Typically, only extraordinary conditions would see an FBI Director admitting this in an open hearing, and to quote Comey: "This is one of those circumstances,”

Even more gratifying,  Comey confirmed once and for all that Trump is either a damned liar, or lunatic who can't discern fact from fiction.. He did this when he dismissed Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor during the campaign, an unfounded accusation that has served as a distraction in the public debate over Russian election interference. Comey’s response (to Schiff's question about Trump's tweet) that "no information" was available to show any wiretapping had the analogous effect of squashing a bug with a sledgehammer.  But this didn't appear to phase another bug, Sean Spicer, who simply doubled down on his simple -minded claim there was still "something there".

On a related note, it is time the media get real and cease reporting that "the White House fired back" whenever these nitwits react to a statement or - in the case yesterday - to Comey's exposure of Trump's nutso claim as bollocks. In fact the only thing the Trumpies are firing back is blanks.  A serious media wouldn't dignify their "responses" by reporting them.

This ought to send chills down the spines of all those Repukes who attempted to twist the hearing into outing the leakers, as well as the inveterate Trump backers, especially now that their lunatic man is doubling down on his idiotic claims.  As Sen. Richard Blumenthal noted, with Comey's testimony we're now in a constitutional crisis and this may require a Supreme Court subpoena of Trump.

A key test for Neal Gorsuch in his questioning tomorrow - given such a subpoena grows more and more likely -is whether he will try to block it. Or, will he "let justice be done or the heavens fall".



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