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Ash writes: "Don't make the mistake of believing that yesterday was just another day in Washington. It was anything but. You may think you know who James Comey is or Mike Rogers is, or what the Democrats or Republicans will ultimately do, but it cannot be known at this stage. Normal is off the rails, big time."

FBI Director James Comey testifying before congress on interactions between the Trump administration and Russia. (photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
FBI Director James Comey testifying before congress on interactions between the Trump administration and Russia. (photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Uncharted Territory

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

22 March 17


“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”
– FBI Director James Comey, before Congress, March 20, 2017

on’t make the mistake of believing that yesterday was just another day in Washington. It was anything but. You may think you know who James Comey is or Mike Rogers is, or what the Democrats or Republicans will ultimately do, but it cannot be known at this stage. Normal is off the rails, big time.

For context, go back and listen to Comey’s testimony, and every time the Democrats ask him if he has evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Putin government, he says, “I can’t answer that.” That most likely means “yes.” In fact there is little doubt that substantial evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives in the run-up to the election does exist, in abundance. So much so that analysts are wondering why the Russians did not do more to conceal their incursions.

Democratic House members Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Jackie Speier were brutal. Each asked detailed, precise questions citing specific communications and events involving Donald Trump his closest supporters and Russian functionaries in the lead-up to the November 8th, 2016, U.S. presidential elections. Each time they asked, Comey was forced to say, “I can’t answer that.” A full list of questions Director Comey declined to answer appears below.

Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, looked the part and pressed his case relentlessly. There were no witnesses and no responses, but he left no doubt that if there had been, he had the goods.

Try not to lose sight of the big picture: The FBI is investigating the president of the United States and his closest advisors for ties to to the Russian government. Specifically, to determine if the president won the election with the aid of Russian actors. That is, in political terms, a nuclear bombshell and foreshadows the very real likelihood of a constitutional crisis.

Cautionary Takeaways

Anti-Russian demagoguery ran rampant during yesterday’s proceeding. Russia was defined as an adversary, an armed invader of Crimea, and a suppressor of democratic institutions worldwide, among other things. For such accusations to be leveled by American members of Congress invites well deserved counter-accusations from nations around the world. Beware the new red scare. It appears to be coming.

The confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch could factor into this equation. If confirmed, Gorsuch could potentially participate in any cases related to the Trump administration or its Russian entanglements that might come before the court. If it comes to that. So yes, the Gorsuch hearings matter.

Fasten your seat belts, folks. This has the potential to get very wild and crazy. We live in interesting times.

List of questions Comey declined to answer via CNBC:

[Be aware that this list of questions does not by any means encompass the entire scope of alleged (often documented) contacts between Trump, Trump associates, Trump officials, Trump family members, and Putin government players. It merely recaps the questions that were asked at yesterday’s hearing. – ma]

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.: “Was there any request made by the FBI or Justice Department to wiretap Donald Trump, turned down by a court?”

Schiff: “Are you aware that [Roger Stone] was a partner of Paul Manafort?” (Stone has been an advisor to Trump. Manafort was the Trump’s campaign chairman until he resigned in August.)

Schiff: “Do you know how Mr. Stone would have known that Mr. Podesta’s emails were going to be released?” (John Podesta was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.)

Schiff: “Do you know that Mr. Podesta has said that at the time he was not even aware of whether his emails that had been stolen would be published?”

Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala.: “Can you say with any specificity what kind of coordination or contacts you’re looking at in your investigation generally when confronted with something like this?”

Sewell: “Can you discuss whether or not there was any knowledge by any Trump-related person and the Russians?”

Sewell: “Can you characterize what the nature of your investigation generally — when you do an investigation of this sort — can you talk a little bit about the process, generally?”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.: “Do you know whether Director Clapper knew the name of the U.S. citizen that appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post?”

Gowdy: “Did you brief President Obama on any calls involving Michael Flynn?”

Gowdy: “Director Comey, there’s been some speculation this morning on motive. I’m not all that interested in motive. First of all, it’s really hard to prove. Secondarily, you never have to prove it. But I get that people want to know. I get the jury always wants to know why. I think you and I can agree there are a couple of reasons that you would not have to unlawfully, feloniously disseminate classified material. It certainly wasn’t done to help an ongoing criminal investigation, because you already had the information, didn’t you?”

Schiff: “Director Comey, are you aware that Roger Stone played a role on the Trump campaign?”

Schiff: “Have you read press reports where Mr. Stone proudly boasts of engaging in political dirty tricks?”

Schiff: “I mentioned before that Mr. Stone was in direct communication with a creature of Russian G.R.U. — ‘Guccifer 2.0’ — and that’s something the intelligence assessment talked about, the role of ‘Guccifer 2.0.’ Mr. Stone, on August 17— are you aware — received communication from ‘Guccifer 2.0’ that said, ‘I’m pleased to say that you are great. Please let me know if I can help you anyhow. It would be a great pleasure to me.’ Are you aware of that communication from, essentially from Russian G.R.U. through ‘Guccifer 2.0’ to Mr. Stone?”

Schiff: “Are you aware that Mr. Stone also stated publicly that he was in direct communication with Julian Assange and Wikileaks?”

Schiff: “Are you aware that Mr. Stone also claimed that he was in touch with an intermediary of Mr. Assange”

Schiff: “In early October, are you aware that Mr. Stone tweeted, “I have total confidence that my hero, Julian Assange, will educate the American people soon”? Are you aware of that tweet?

Schiff: “And are you aware that it was only days later that Wikileaks released the Podesta emails?”

Rep. Himes, D.-Conn.: “Paul Manafort, as reported in The New York Times and other outlets, and his deputy, Rick Gates, ran a campaign in Washington to lobby government officials and push positive press coverage of pro-Russian Ukrainian officials. Paul Manafort began officially working for former Ukrainian President Yanukovych at least as far back as 2007, according to The Washington Post. It was only discovered by Ukraine’s new national anti-corruption bureau, which found secret ledgers in Kiev indicating almost $13 million in undisclosed cash payments from Ukrainian government coffers to Paul Manafort for lobbying done between 2007 and 2012 for Mr. Yanukovych. Director Comey, did Paul Manafort ever register as a foreign agent under FARA [Foreign Agent Registration Act]?”

Himes: “Paul Manafort was, however, Donald Trump’s campaign manager in July of 2016, correct?”

Himes: “Have you been asked to provide assistance to the current Ukrainian government with respect to Paul Manafort, and how do you intend to respond to that request?

Himes: “The story says that the DOJ confirmed that there have been requests for assistance on this matter. You can’t go as far as confirming that, in fact, there have been these requests made?”

Sewell: “Does the FBI generally assume that Russian ambassadors to the United States, like Ambassador Kislyak, are at least overtly collecting intelligence on influential Americans, especially political leaders?”

Sewell: “Would someone like Ambassador Kislyak play [the role of a spy acting as a diplomat] for Russia?”

Rep. Devin Nunes, R.-Calif.: “Do you think that [inaudible] Russians would not be trained to infiltrate Hillary Clinton’s campaign, get information on Hillary Clinton and try to get to people that are around that campaign or The Clinton Foundation?”

Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y.: “Do either you or Adm. Rogers have any reason to disagree with the conclusion of Gen. Clapper that there’s no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign?”

Schiff: “I’m not going to put you in the spot of answering whether this is an accurate characterization of Mr. Trump’s views, but it would be logical for the Kremlin to want someone [elected president] who had a dim view of NATO?”

Schiff: “Would [the Russians] have a preference for a candidate that expressed an openness repealing the sanctions over Ukraine?”

Sewell: “I’m sure you can understand my concern that Mr. Flynn not only failed to disclose the contacts with the Russian ambassador, but he said he did not remember whether he discussed sanctions against Russia with that ambassador. I find that really hard to believe. Wouldn’t you think that at the height of our concern about Russian hacking that Mr. Flynn would have remembered meeting with the Russian ambassador and would have told him to stop meddling in our affairs, but that didn’t happen, did it?”

Sewell: “Now, Mr. Comey, do you think that Mr. Flynn’s failure to disclose the communication and contact he had with the Russian ambassador and their topic of conversation, along with the blatant lie to Vice President Pence meet the standard for an investigation by the FBI?”

Sewell: “Given Russia’s long-standing desire to cultivate relations with influential U.S. persons, isn’t the American public right to be concerned about Mr. Flynn’s conduct? His failure to disclose that contact with the Russian ambassador, his attempts to cover it up and what looks like the White House’s attempts to sweep this under the rug — don’t we, as American people, have a right to know and shouldn’t our FBI investigate such claims?”

Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner
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