for the week ending January 12, 2018
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The renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act succeeded in the House but not without some drama from the White House.
FISA has been around for a while and allows the US government to gather email, phone, text and other communications involving those who are suspected of terrorism.
Trump had signaled support for renewing the law but just before the House vote he concluded that the law may be responsible for investigations and conclusions about Trump himself and his dealing in Russian and around the world. For those reasons he seemed willing not to sign the very important national security law but later clarified to whomever reads his tweets that the law only surveilles the ‘bad guys’ so he is good with it.
If an American in the US or elsewhere is part of the conversation with the alleged terrorist surveilled in a foreign country that information is gathered and archived and can be revisited for future reasons. That was the point of contention threatening passage; while the law protects Americans from such surveillance at also allows access to any information gathered about them and can do so without a warrant. That provision has not changed as the bill moves to the Senate.
A bit unclear what was the arrangement Trump made with Democrats regarding what to do with DACA the Delayed Action on Child immigrants who were brought here as kids, have registered with the government, are either working or going to school and have no criminal record. A benevolent Trump was all about a compromise but as the executive action creating DACA expires next month Congress has begun thinking about the bill; do they combine it with a larger immigration reform law, pass it on its own or add some other political wish to the mix.
Trump has waffled on the issue but has finally dug in his heals requiring financing for the wall proposed on the southern border. Some Members of Congress seem to believe that the wall does not have to be physical but can be a technological wall at a much lower cost. Trump is in line with that thinking. A bill codifying DACA may come up as soon as next week.
Those investigations –
The thickening plot is thinning, at least as far as three congressional investigations are concerned. I will note that we began writing weeks before major media picked up on how Devin Nunes (R-CA) Chair of the House Intelligence Committee investigation shifts its focus away from investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the possibility of collusion and / or obstruction of justice to areas of the matters taken up by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. What Nunes is finding out quickly is that despite his subpoena power the Justice Department and the FBI, now seen by Trump, Nunes, and his cohorts as staffed by biased investigators who favored Hillary Clinton over Trump and acted that way in their investigations, isn’t cooperating.
Nunes and the House Judiciary Committee Chaired by Rep Bob Goodlatte (R-VA-6) have shifted their focus to a vague conspiracy and found support from the Senate Judiciary Committee on the speculation that the ‘dossier’ outlining Trump’s financial investments in Russia and elsewhere as one in which he associated with some unsavory characters including possibly the Russian Mafia was inappropriately considered by the FBI and has not been substantiate.
The dossier was produced by seasoned MI-6 investigator Christopher Steele who was hired by the US firm Fusion GPS that does global background investigations usually involving its client’s financial interests but also does campaign research during major elections here.
Originally the investigation into Trump by Fusion GPS was paid for by a conservative newspaper but later financed by the Democratic Party.
The problem with the dossier as seen by Nunes, Goodlatte, and Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (Both Senate Judiciary Committee) is that the information in the dossier was the reason the FBI began the investigation under Robert Mueller and it has not been substantiated. Grassley and Graham go further to ‘request’ the FBI to investigate Christopher Steele.
What we, the public, now know is that Steel is well respected investigator with extensive knowledge of Russia and financial crimes and was hired by Fusion GPS to carry out the foreign part of the investigation. Steele, when doing the investigation, began to believe that someone had something on Trump and that would be a threat to national security. He informed the FBI and found out the Bureau was already on the case after being tipped off by a reliable source.
So much for the conspiracy thoughts that must keep Grassley and Graham up all night. They have no basis in reality and the US does not investigate friendly foreign agents that do the right thing and inform the FBI as Steele did.
We would be much further into the nonsense of this nonsense had it not been for the release of ten hours testimony before the Senate Committee by Fusion GPS head Glenn Simpson by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The importance of the release is that it appears as Grassley and Graham leaked some parts of that closed doors testimony that supported their conspiratorial beliefs. Now the record is set straight.
Apparently Trump has not gotten the message and in a tweet encouraged the Judiciary investigation onward. Grassley, a bit up the creek after the release, indicated that he would accept a call from Trump on his position.
Is it over? Have these Republican Chairs gotten the picture that their musings border on paranoid freeing them to go back to doing the country’s business and stop wasting time on protecting the President? Time will tell. The testimony Feinstein released is 312 pages. The good stuff starts around page 70 and can be read here.
Senators largely dealt with appointments and nominations this week.
The House took up and passed 16 bills beside the FISA bill. Most bill dealt with tweaking national security through building intelligence relationships with other countries, global aviation security, and bills supporting the demonstrations in Iran and bringing Taiwan closer into the UN community.
The Senate and House are adjourning and will return to work on Monday, January 15th. The next edition of TheWeekinCongress.com will be published Thursday evening January 19th.
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