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Schiff Says CIA, NSA Withhold Relevant Documents From Congress

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

On ABC’s This Week, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff confirmed a grim report that surface last week: The nation’s top intelligence officials are pushing Congress to cancel their usual annual testimony to Congress on the nation’s top national security threats because they don’t want to publicly contradict Donald Trump’s false intelligence claims.

“Unfortunately, I think those reports are all too accurate. The intelligence community is reluctant to have an open hearing, something that we had done every year prior to the Trump administration, because they’re worried about angering the president,” Schiff responded.

It isn’t an idle concern, from intelligence officials. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was forced out of his position shortly after confirming to Congress that despite Trump’s claims to the contrary, the U.S. had no evidence Iran had an active nuclear weapons program. Trump had a public meltdown, which is a now-daily occurrence, and Coats was given the boot; in the latest degradation of this nation into a kleptocratic and autocratic state, government officials are now reluctant to testify in public about the true dangers facing the nation because if their pronouncements do not match Dear Leader’s political claims, Dear Leader will mark them as personal enemies.

Schiff’s follow-up, if possible, sounded worse: He also asserted that this nation’s intelligence agencies are now also withholding documents pertaining to the impeachment charges now filed against Trump.

“And I’ll say something even more concerning to me, and that is the intelligence community is beginning to withhold documents from Congress on the issue of Ukraine. The NSA, in particular, is withholding what are potentially relevant documents to our oversight responsibilities on Ukraine, but also withholding documents potentially relevant that the senators might want to see during the trial. There are signs that the CIA may be on the same tragic course.”

While Rep. Schiff was intentionally opaque on what Ukraine-related documents were being withheld from lawmakers, there does seem to be a new effort to withhold documents that the agencies had originally been expected to produce. Politico reports an unnamed Intelligence Committee “official” as saying: “Both the NSA and CIA initially pledged cooperation, and it appears now that the White House has interceded before production of documents could begin.”

We have long been told that Congress had, in cases of impeachment, necessarily sweeping oversight powers. Again we are learning that these powers can simply be taken away, so long as sufficient numbers in the president’s own party are willing to sign their own names to that act.

‘Urgent And Frightening’: Trump Promise To Foreign Leader Triggers Whistleblower

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-NY) revealed last weekend that an intelligence community whistleblower has been stymied by the director of national intelligence while trying to push through a formal complaint about an undisclosed “urgent” matter. And on Wednesday night, the Washington Post broke a story citing anonymous officials claiming to reveal the explosive outlines of that claim — which reportedly centers on President Donald Trump and an unnamed foreign leader.

“Trump’s interaction with the foreign leader included a ‘promise’ that was regarded as so troubling that it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community, said the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly,” the Post reported.

The Post did not share further details about the promise or the foreign leader, though it said one former official claimed the communications occurred over the phone.

Dan Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, has refused to turn over the official complaint to Congress, citing a higher authority directing him not to and claiming a protected privilege.

However, Schiff has argued that Maguire’s refusal violates the law. The intelligence inspector general determined the whistleblower’s complaint was credible and of “urgent concern,” which triggers reporting to the proper congressional oversight bodies. Inspector General Michael Atkinson went to the House and Senate intelligence committees to notify them about the existence of the whistleblower, even while he was unable to give any details about the actual complaint.

When Schiff went public with the dispute, many immediately assumed the issue regarded the president or his inner circle. The president is the only official directly superior to the director of national intelligence, and thus the only plausible higher authority that could order the DNI around. The claim of “privilege” and the assertion that the complaint concerned “conduct by someone outside of the Intelligence Community” also suggested the president could be involved.

The Post reported that the complaint was filed on Aug. 12 and that “the president has spoken with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks”:

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half-brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

“This is now an overwhelmingly urgent and frightening matter,” said Susan Hennessey, executive editor of Lawfare, in response to the report. “Congress must be provided absolutely all of the relevant information, immediately.”

“Yet another set of troubling arguments – confidentiality & privilege – that raise serious challenges to Congressional oversight,” said MSNBC legal analyst Maya Wiley of the refusal to hand over the complaint.

Danziger: But We Prefer ‘Alt-Right’

Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam as a linguist and intelligence officer, and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. Born in New York City, he now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.

#EndorseThis: Colbert Serves Up Trump Roast, Well Scorched

When incoming vice president Mike Pence burbled that his strategy session with House Republicans on Obamacare repeal felt “like a pep rally,” he inspired Stephen Colbert to come up with a peppy chant: “Two, four, six eight, make the poor self-medicate! Go, go, [bleep] yourself!”

Obviously in fine form, the Late Show host rapid-fired a series of Trump topics in the news, from Obama’s advice that Democrats name whatever healthcare plan the Republicans propose “Trumpcare” — “because he hates putting his name on things” — to the pitiful talent lineup for the inaugural festivities (“anybody who’s anybody is going to be there, except for…anybody”).

Noting the persistence of that “whole Russia chose our president thing,” Colbert questioned Trump’s series of sarcastic tweets mocking the US intelligence community as “very strange” indeed, since he will have to rely on those agencies to defend the country as commander in chief.

After Colbert finishes roasting him, Trump is well scorched…