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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence. The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump's opinions on Russia. Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort. read more


Twenty-three million fewer Americans would have insurance under legislation that House Republicans narrowly passed last month, the Congressional Budget Office reported on Wednesday.The agency also predicted the deficit would come down by $119 billion over the next decade ― and that premiums for people buying insurance on their own would be relatively lower than those premiums would be if the Affordable Care Act stays in place. But the reasons health insurance would be less expensive for some aren't much to cheer about, the budget report makes clear. Prices would come down for healthy people because those who are sick or have illness in their medical histories would have less access to coverage ― and the policies available on the market would tend to be a lot less comprehensive. In other words, the price for lower premiums would be some combination of higher out-of-pocket costs, fewer covered services, and coverage that would be harder to get for the people who need it most. read more


Jack Goldsmith - Lawfare - As is well known, President Trump told his Russian friends in the Oval Office: "I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off." Shortly afterwards, Sean Spicer tried to explain away the President's comments as follows: "By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia." Did Comey grandstand and politicize the investigation? During a January 10 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Comey specifically declined to confirm or deny whether the FBI was investigating relationships between Trump associates and Russia. Comey first confirmed the existence of the Russia investigation during the March 20 House Intelligence Committee hearing on the Russia investigation that he was invited to attend. read more


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Donald Trump asked two of the government's top intelligence chiefs to publicly deny evidence of cooperation between his campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, multiple current and former US officials confirmed to CNN Monday. Trump spoke to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers after then-FBI Director James Comey revealed in March that the bureau had launched a probe into alleged collusion. Both Coats and Rogers were uncomfortable with the nature of the President's request and refused to comply, the sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN. read more


Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination as he notifies a Senate panel that he won't hand over documents in the probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The notification will come in a letter to the Senate Intelligence committee expected later Monday. The person providing details spoke on condition anonymity in order to discuss private interactions between Flynn and the committee. Flynn's decision comes less than two weeks after the committee issued a subpoena for Flynn's personal documents. Legal experts have said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the personal documents without immunity because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so. Flynn has previously sought immunity from "unfair prosecution" to cooperate with the committee.


Comments

Surprise, surprise, surprise!

"Forty Republican representatives who voted for the American Health Care Act held shares in health-care companies valued at $23 million and earned more than $2 million off those investments, a Daily Beast review of the most-recent financial records found."
The guillotine reaction is sounding more and more promising with each jaw-dropping revelation of the unconscionable sellout of America's well-being by the GOP.

"The problem wasn't so much asking them to issue statements, it was asking them to issue false statements about an ongoing investigation," a former senior intelligence official said of the request to Coats.

In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, according to people familiar with the matter. The officials said the White House appeared uncertain about its power to influence the FBI.

"Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?" one official said of the line of questioning from the White House.

Trump's effort to use the director of national intelligence and the NSA director to refute Comey's statement and to say there was no evidence of collusion echoes President Richard Nixon's "unsuccessful efforts to use the CIA to shut down the FBI's investigation of the Watergate break-in on national security grounds," said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel at the CIA. Smith called Trump's actions "an appalling abuse of power."

I keep repeating myself but every single day with every new leak I find myself speechless. I had no idea that Trump is so recklessly stupid about how our government works. He really believes every civil servant works for him and him alone.

Mr. Khan was right. Trump has no idea what the Constitution dictates and it's painfully obvious by the relentless revelations indicating his obliviousness now coming forward most every single day.

#39

Far too much to explain in one post, but here's the latest:

Ousted National Security Adviser Michael Flynn appears to have "lied" about a payment from Russian operatives when he was interviewed by investigators in the course of renewing his top-secret national security clearance, the House Oversight Committee's ranking Democrat alleged Monday.

"The Oversight Committee has in our possession documents that appear to indicate that General Flynn lied to the investigators who interviewed him in 2016 as part of his security clearance renewal," Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland in a letter to Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

At issue is the $45,000 the retired lieutenant general was paid to speak at a 2015 Moscow gala put on by Kremlin-run news outlet RT, where he was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cummings' letter asserted that documents "the Oversight Committee has in our possession" show that Flynn told investigators that he was paid by "U.S. companies" when he traveled to Moscow for that gala, when the "actual source of funds" for the trip was RT itself.

Flynn also left a line blank on his security clearance renewal application that asked him to disclose any business relationships or transactions with foreign entities, a U.S. official with direct knowledge told NBC News, calling it a "lie of omission."

Knowingly accepting payments from foreign governments as a former military officer is a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, and intentionally lying to federal investigators is a felony punishable by a sentence of up to five years imprisonment. Flynn faces further legal trouble for failing to report $530,000 he received to lobby for a Turkish businessman on his financial disclosure form -- work that forced him to retroactively register as a foreign agent after leaving the White House.

"We need to know what the President, Vice President, White House Counsel, and other top officials knew about General Flynn -- and when they knew it," Cummings wrote.

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