Trump, Declassification, and Leverage

American Thinker, by Mark Wauk, October 10, 2018:

There’s a reason why President Trump has not unilaterally declassified the documents exposing perfidy against him: leverage.  As the whole Russia hoax is beginning to come into some sort of global perspective – quite literally, as we’ll see – the extent of the advantage he now maintains by holding back declassification as a threat outweighs the benefits of transparency.  Recent posts by observers who write from widely varying perspectives give us the ability to discern the current state of play.

Let’s start with the domestic front of the Russia hoax.  Sundance at Conservative Tree House has an excellent post up: “President Trump and DAG Rod Rosenstein – “No Collusion”, No Immediate Worries…”  The overall theme is one that’s dear to Sundance’s heart: leverage.  The state of play is this: the congressional investigation has progressed to the point that it’s clear beyond cavil that the entire Russia narrative is, in fact, a hoax and fraud – both on the American people in general and on our legal system.  This is to say real criminal liability exists for the key players who developed the plot against Trump.  John Solomon summarizes what Congress has discovered in succinct fashion:

There is now a concrete storyline backed by irrefutable evidence: The FBI allowed itself to take political opposition research created by one party to defeat another in an election, treated it like actionable intelligence, presented it to the court as substantiated, and then used it to justify spying on an adviser for the campaign of that party’s duly chosen nominee for president in the final days of a presidential election.

And when, nine months later, the FBI could not prove the allegation of collusion between Trump and Russia, unverified evidence was leaked to the media to try to sustain public support for a continued investigation.

But Sundance spells out very specifically where the greatest risk – and therefore the greatest leverage – lies:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein created the special counsel under fraudulent pretense.  That origination material (Ohr 302’s, FISA pages, origination EC, and Page/Strzok messages) is now a risk to the Deputy AG.

There are many other players, in addition to Rosenstein, who are at serious risk.  But from the perspective of leverage, Rosenstein is the key because he created the special counsel part of the hoax and because – as a result of A.G. Sessions’s recusal – he remains in charge of the special counsel operation.  Rosenstein can exercise as much or as little control over Mueller as he wants.  Trump’s threat of declassification of the “origination material” gives Trump complete leverage over Rosenstein and therefore over Mueller.

Trump’s leverage ensures that Rosenstein will very much want to restrain Mueller.  If Rosenstein wants to restrain Mueller, Mueller will be restrained.  This may explain why we are now seeing key members of Mueller’s team leaving and returning to their old jobs.  The importance of this is that Mueller has posed the greatest threat to the Trump administration, the greatest annoyance.  That threat is now defanged for the immediate future.  If Mueller steps out of line, boom!  Declassification.  By putting declassification on hold, Trump maintains his leverage.  And Congress continues to investigate and slowly reveal the truth.

The benefits of this leverage via threat-of-declassification extend well beyond the Russia hoax to other practical political matters.  I believe we saw that at play in the Kavanaugh nomination battle.  Rod Rosenstein, as DAG, directly supervises the FBI director, Christopher Wray.  To say the FBI acted with alacrity and efficiency in exposing the machinations behind the accusations leveled at Kavanaugh would be an understatement.  But consider: Sundance himself was distinctly alarmist during the Kavanaugh hearings, alleging a plot of Deep State FBI-DOJ insiders to torpedo the nomination.  As we’ve seen, however, exactly the opposite occurred.  The FBI leaped to Kavanaugh’s defense, and I attribute that to Trump’s leverage over the DOJ-FBI through Rosenstein.

How will this play out for the midterm elections?  Will Trump at some point declassify that crucial “origination material”?  While Trump stressed that his hold on declassification doesn’t change his commitment for transparency sooner rather than later, I believe that the Kavanaugh nomination has given Trump and his newly committed GOP allies the issue they need for the midterms.  Polling has repeatedly shown that Supreme Court nominations are a hot-button issue for Republican voters, and it has the advantage of being readily comprehensible.  Trump used his leverage to get his nominee confirmed while energizing “normals” for the midterms.  After the election, declassification could play a significant role in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Let’s turn to that global perspective now.

Justin Raimondo at Anti-War.com has a blog post up that complements Sundance’s “leverage” perspective quite nicely: “The Final Truth of Russia-gate: As the hoax unravels, the real story of ‘foreign collusion’ comes out.”  Raimondo focuses on the role of foreign “allies” in the plot against Trump.  As on the domestic front, there were multiple players: Australia, Ukraine, Estonia, Israel.  The key player was undoubtedly the U.K.  Without massive intelligence involvement by the U.K., the entire Russia hoax would likely never have gotten off the ground.  Here, Raimondo encapsulates that involvement sufficiently for our purposes (much more could be said):

This entire episode has Her Majesty’s Secret Service’s fingerprints all over it.  Steele’s key role is plain enough: here was a British spook who was not only hired by the Clinton campaign to dig up dirt on Trump but was unusually passionate about his work – almost as if he’d have done it for free.  And then there was the earliest approach to the Trump campaign, made by Cambridge professor and longtime spook Stefan Halper to Carter Page.  And then there’s the mysterious alleged “link” to Russian intelligence, Professor Joseph Mifsud, whose murky British-based thinktank managed to operate openly despite later claims it was a Russian covert operation.

It was Mifsud who orchestrated the Russia-gate hoax, first suggesting that the Russians had Hillary Clinton’s emails, and then disappearing into thin air as soon as the story he had planted percolated into plain view.  Some “Russian agent”!

Leverage, anyone?  Declassification would expose all these foreign players, but the heaviest hit by far would be against the U.K. and its Australian poodle.  And so we learn that “key allies” “begged” Trump not to declassify that “origination material.”  Raimondo notes:

Trump’s decision to walk back his announcement that the key Russia-gate intelligence would be declassified tells us almost as much as if he’d tweeted it out, unredacted.  For what it tells us is that public knowledge of the contents would constitute a major break in relations with at least one key ally.

Yes, Trump smoked them out and got them begging for mercy, as reported by the major media in all too transparent detail.  Trump ends up with all the leverage he needs over “Her Majesty’s Government” for as long as that leverage is useful.

Well played, Mr. President!

Mark Wauck is a retired FBI agent who blogs on religion, philosophy, and FISA at Meaning in History.

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The Silent Professionals

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Why Are Brennan, Comey, and Rogers Transcripts Being Withheld?

Also see:

Trump declassification order commences total war with the deep state

Alex Wong | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, September 18, 2018:

After months of keeping his powder dry, President Trump has fired the first shot in his war on the unaccountable, unelected “fourth branch” of government, otherwise known as the deep state. By firing off his declassification and transparency order, the president has set up an imminent showdown with the federal bureaucracy that wants to maintain its grip on the levers of power in Washington D.C.

On Monday evening, President Trump ordered the “immediate declassification” of materials related to the Russia investigation and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications used to spy on former campaign aide Carter Page. He has also directed the Department of Justice “to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr.”

Transparency advocates and supporters of the president celebrated the order as an important step in restoring the chief executive’s duly elected mandate, which has been endlessly challenged, threatened, and blocked by Justice Department bureaucrats and special counsel Robert Mueller’s endless Russia investigation. Mueller’s probe, which has yet to uncover a single piece of evidence related to “Trump-Russia collusion,” continues to advance Moscow’s goal of sowing discord in the United States, while undermining the president’s capabilities.

The president’s directive followed months of lobbying from top conservative congressional leaders and some of his most influential supporters. They urged President Trump to declassify the FISA applications and Russia investigation materials, arguing that these radical transparency measures will show the public that the Russia investigation is a farce and that the Department of Justice and the FBI are in desperate need of immediate reform.

Democrats and their media allies go full anti-transparency

Democratic leaders and their allies in the legacy media are pulling out all the stops to convince the public that the president should not be allowed to use his declassification authority. Immediately following the president’s statement, they moved in lockstep, arguing that declassifying information and making it available to the public somehow interferes in active investigations.

But as many have pointed out, declassification is the opposite of interference, and the president, as the leader of the executive branch, has command over decision-making at the Department of Justice. The spin coming from CNN, MSNBC, and Democrat leaders simply does not hold much intellectual weight.

Expect Rosenstein and the deep state to rebel against the order

There are concerns that the FBI and other intelligence agencies will attempt to slow-walk or completely rebel against the order to declassify and unredact the documents and text messages, given their consistent tendencies to rebel against administration orders. In the past, the FBI has used “national security” as an excuse to redact important facts about the Bureau’s conduct during the Russia investigation.

It’s also important to remember that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will inevitably play a major role in the declassification process, was responsible for appointing Robert Mueller. His investigation has yet to find any evidence of collusion, while costing U.S. taxpayers a small fortune. Rosenstein also signed off on several controversial FISA applications, which appear to have used the salacious and unverified Trump-Russia dossier as evidence against Trump campaign and transition officials. Rosenstein has every reason to continue to thwart these transparency efforts, because the end result will undoubtedly expose his reckless actions.

What’s next?

Yes, the president ordered “immediate declassification,” but knowing how things work in Washington, the resulting stream of information may not come so quickly. While the order concerning the Carter Page FISA application is relatively cut and dried, declassifying text messages related to the Russia investigation will likely take some time. Given that the Justice Department may have to sort through materials that could deal with national security sources and methods, one can expect this often used excuse for classification and redaction to considerably delay the timeline of released materials. In order for the declassification process to succeed, the president may need to devote substantial resources to the process, even if that means personally overseeing it.

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Judicial Watch Director of Investigations Chris Farrell reacts to the Department of Justice’s response to President Trump’s FISA declassification request.

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Also see:

#Obamagate Raises the Question: Should We Repeal FISA?

Angelo Codevilla says yes. John Guandolo says no.

Jail the Guilty, Repeal FISA, at American Greatness by Angelo Codevilla, February 6, 2018

The House Intelligence Committee’s summary memo of highly classified FBI and Justice Department documents confirms what has been public knowledge for over a year: Some of America’s highest officials used U.S. intelligence’s most intrusive espionage tools to attempt to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and then to cripple Donald Trump politically. Being of one mind with the rest of the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, these officials acted symbiotically and seamlessly with them, regardless of any cooperation that may have existed.

The party-in-power’s use of government espionage to thwart the opposition violates the Fourth Amendment and sets a ruinous precedent. Having done so under color of law—specifically, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)—makes it a lot worse.

Unfortunately, the summary memo—to say nothing of the Democrats’ and their kept media’s reaction to it—focuses largely on whether the FBI and Justice Department dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s as they obtained a warrant from the FISA court to do the spying. This misrepresents high crimes as merely technical violations. Worse, it risks leaving in place a law under which those in charge of the government may violate the basic tenets of American political life with reasonable hope of impunity.

FISA’s Origins
Prior to FISA, American intelligence agencies had done national security electronic surveillance under the president’s power as commander in chief of the armed forces. The president and his agents were responsible for doing it properly. I was part of the Senate Intelligence Committee staff that drafted FISA in 1978. The legislation was meant to answer complaints from leftists who sued the FBI and the National Security Agency after learning they had been overheard working against the United States during the Vietnam War. They wanted to extend the principle that no one may be surveilled without a court order to Americans in contact with foreigners.

But the main push for FISA, in fact, came from the FBI and NSA. Wishing to preclude further lawsuits, the agencies issued Congress an ultimatum: no more national security wiretaps unless each tap has the approval of a judge (thus absolving them of responsibility). FISA established a court to review warrant applications for national security electronic surveillance, in secret and without contrary argument. It commanded the agencies to observe procedural safeguards for the Americans involved.

I opposed FISA as a Senate staffer. I also argued against the legislation in an American Bar Association debate with Antonin Scalia, who was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School at the time. My view then and now is that the FISA court creates an irresistible temptation to political abuse and that officials would interpret any procedural safeguards accordingly.

The Memo Reveals a Bigger Problem
In what is arguably the key passage of the Nunes memo, the committee states:

Neither the initial application [for surveillance of the Trump campaign] in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier [which was a basis for the application] were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

If that’s true, then the officials who signed the applications—including FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, then-acting Attorney General Dana Boente, and then-acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—are guilty of misrepresenting material facts to a federal court. All of them belong in the slammer—for at least a little while.

And at some level, they know this. Hence the public relations campaign to downplay the crime. For example, the New York Times on February 2 quoted David Kris, who served as President Obama’s head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. According to Kris, if the FISA application merely told the court that “Mr. Steele’s research was motivated to undermine Mr. Trump’s campaign,” then “the FISA application would be fine.” Note well what narrow distinction, subject to a wide latitude of interpretation, supposedly separates a high crime from “that’s fine” under the law.

But the FISA court’s procedures and requirements—inherently subject to self-interested interpretation as they are—are of far less importance than the fact that FISA was a big mistake to begin with. The law removed responsibility for the substance of executive judgment from the shoulders of the very people who make such judgments.

Today, Comey, Rosenstein, and others may well believe their own claims that they were merely turning government’s neutral wheels and that the judges would judge. Nonsense. They decided to become partisans in the 2016 presidential campaign because they were as convinced as were countless others of their class that they had the right and the duty to protect America (and their place in it) from unworthy challengers.

Perhaps only their failure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s may make it possible for them to be jailed for their crime. But because their successors may be similarly motivated and more careful, it behooves us to erase doubt about who is responsible for electronic surveillance by repealing FISA.

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FISA is a Constitutional & Needed Weapon in This War, by John Guandolo, Feb. 4, 2018:

With news full of reports about the fraudulent dossier used to obtain the FISA warrant to intercept communications of Carter Paige and the release of the memo last week, the following is provided to UTT readers to help them understand what it takes to obtain a FISA warrant, that FISA is constitutional, and that FISA is needed for the national security of America.

F.I.S.A. stands for the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, and was legislated by the U.S. Congress in 1978 to ensure American citizens were protected from overzealous government intrusion into their privacy in the name of “national security.”

The FISA Court provides a means for the U.S. government to collect on subjects of sensitive/classified investigations (counterintelligence and terrorism for example) without endangering sources and means of the investigation.

FISA judges are federal judges who have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate and chosen by the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Understanding the Threat’s President John Guandolo served as a Supervisor in the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters during his career in the FBI.  In that capacity, he was the affiant – one who swears to the veracity of an affidavit – in support of numerous FISA warrants.

When an FBI agent in the field needs a FISA warrant, he/she contacts their supervisor at FBI headquarters who acts as the affiant for the warrant.  The two work through the affidavit, sometimes over 100 pages long, until the FBIHQ Supervisor is satisfied the legal standard of Probable Cause is met and the facts are verified.

The FBIHQ supervisor works with a Department of Justice attorney, and the cover sheet for the affidavit must be signed off by a DOJ official.  The affidavit is also reviewed and signed off by the FBI Director or Deputy Director.

It is not unusual for the FBI supervisor and DOJ attorney to meet with the FBI Director over a weekend at his home while the Director reviews the affidavit, asks questions, and is satisfied the affidavit can go to the judge.

Then the FBI supervisor and DOJ attorney sit before the FISA judge who reads the affidavit and asks questions.  When the judge signs the affidavit, the technical process begins to intercept the subject of the investigation.

This entire process is legal, constitutional and an important tool in the national security toolbox for dedicated servants inside the government.

In the current case before us, FBI and Department of Justice leaders put forth an affidavit that – as the memo released last week makes clear – was fraudulent and the FBI knew it.  The dossier from Christopher Steele was fabricated and purchased by Hillary Clinton/DNC, and yet this information was not provided to the FISA judge during the initial application for the FISA warrant nor at any of the three times when the warrant was renewed.

In a vacuum, these actions are violations of federal law.  At a minimum, this is perjury and tampering with a federal election by those involved.

But it is much worse than that.

Robert Mueller’s investigation was predicated on a request for Special Counsel which did not allege any crime.  The FISA warrant for Paige was predicated on lies using a source known by the FBI to lack credibility (Steele).

In reality, these actions – efforts to tamper with a federal election and, now, undermine and overthrow a duly elected President of the United States – constitutes “Sedition.”

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Also see:

Nunes memo raises question: Did FBI violate Woods Procedures?

Attkisson on New Strzok-Page Texts: What’s in the 5 Months of Messages We Haven’t Seen?

Grassley-Graham Memo: Dossier Author Christopher Steele Lied to FBI, FBI Didn’t Tell FISA Court

The Other Secret Dossier

Latest FBI Texts: ‘Hillbillys,’ ‘OUR Task,’ Obama ‘Wants to Know Everything’

BREAKING: Senate Homeland Committee drops BIG document dump on FBI’s Hillary email investigation [READ THEM HERE]

Exclusive — Rep. Paul Gosar: Obama’s Fast and Furious, Benghazi, IRS Scandals All Connected to DOJ, FBI Corruption in Trump Probe

Outraged About The FISA Court? Maybe You Should Think About Who Is Surveilling You

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