The current kerfuffle began a week ago when the director of national intelligence dropped a bombshell on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
By Ray McGovern
Special to Consortium News
Home alone yesterday evening, and apparently emboldened by the steroids he is now taking, President Donald Trump sent out a storm of Tweets that included a unprecedentedly bold challenge to the FBI and CIA to stop their foot dragging and declassify documents related to Russiagate and Hillary Clinton.
It was probably his plummeting poll numbers as much as the steroids that accounted for his rhetorical forcefulness, but Trump has now openly thrown down the gauntlet to the National Security State.
Yes, he is the president, but he is not likely to prevail.
What the president-elect didn’t know on Jan. 3, 2017, when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer publicly warned that the intelligence community “has six ways to Sunday” to thwart a president, he does know now.
Trump understands that taking on the FBI and CIA is inherently risky. His public upbraiding and instructions to them on Twitter should be seen as a sign of desperation.
Trump is likely to come across as impulsive and impotent in the weeks remaining before the election because — if past is precedent — the security agencies will probably double-down on slow-walking his declassification demands.
The stakes are high for senior officials of the FBI, CIA and Justice Department. Remember: they fully expected Hillary Clinton to win in 2016; they took liberties with the law to make sure she did; and, when she didn’t, they had to hustle to hide their tracks.
On Tuesday night Trump tweeted:
I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions! https://t.co/GgnHh9GOiq
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2020
“I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax. Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”
In a subsequent tweet (now apparently deleted) the president added:
“All Russian Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago. Unfortunately for our Country, people have acted very slowly, especially since it is perhaps the biggest political crime in the history of our Country. Act!!!”
“Long ago?” A president, of course, has the authority to declassify virtually all classified intelligence-related information. Senior Republican congressmen have begged him again and again to use that authority.
During a TV interview Sunday, for example, Republican Devin Nunes, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, visibly agitated and angry, said:
“Every Republican senator and member of Congress should be saying… we want every damn bit of evidence that every intelligence agency has or it’s maybe time to shut those agencies down.”
Tilting Trump’s Tweets
Standard practice in recent years has seen the heads of the FBI and CIA take their own sweet time to comply — the more so, when the data to be declassified puts themselves in a negative or even criminal light.
The heads of the National Security State bureaucracy have shown considerable adroitness in finding ways to delay or simply not comply (as though invoking their Fifth Amendment rights regarding self-incrimination).
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If they were to really “follow the book,” Executive Order 13526, section 1.7 provides that information that is evidence of a crime, should not remain classified.
On Oct. 21, 2017, Trump tweeted that in accordance with a law passed by Congress,
“I will be allowing, as President, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”
Six days later, came a headline in The Washington Post: “JFK files: The promise of revelations derailed by CIA, FBI.”
Trump’s decision to delay release of 30,000 of the potentially most sensitive files for another six months frustrated historians. The issue was supposed to be revisited in 180 days, but nothing further was heard of it.
Thus, 54 years after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA and FBI demanded more time to decide what secrets to keep hiding – and a chastened President Trump bowed to their power.
Dragging Four Feet
It will take more than a presidential Tweet to get recalcitrant players like FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel, and the powerful institutions they lead, to comply.
Wray has been a major stumbling block and will remain inclined to give priority to protecting his former colleagues. Haspel, who reportedly was directly involved in the off-shore Russiagate operations from her perch as CIA chief of station, London, has her own derriere, as well as those of her fellow workers, to protect.
Trump could have already fired both for slow-walking release of evidence. He could also fire them now, of course, but it is doubtful that, even on steroids, he would have the temerity to do so.
Big Hat, No Cattle
The current kerfuffle began a week ago when Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe dropped a bombshell in response to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsay Graham’s standing request for information regarding the FBI’s handling of its Russiagate investigation.
Ratcliffe provided the following declassified information to the committee:
“In late July 2016, U.S. intelligence agencies obtained insight into Russian intelligence analysis alleging that U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee. The IC does not know the accuracy of this allegation or the extent to which the Russian intelligence analysis may reflect exaggeration or fabrication.
“According to his handwritten notes, former Central Intelligence Agency Director Brennan subsequently briefed President Obama and other senior national security officials on the intelligence, including the ‘alleged approval by Hillary Clinton on July 26, 2016 of a proposal from one of her foreign policy advisors to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services.’
“On 07 September 2016, U.S. intelligence officials forwarded an investigative referral to FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Assistant Director of Counterintelligence Peter Strzok regarding ‘U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s approval of a plan concerning U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian hackers hampering U.S. elections as a means of distracting the public from her use of a private mail server.’”
Ratcliffe noted that “additional declassification and public disclosure of related intelligence remains under consideration.”
Those who harbored hopes for fuller disclosure were disappointed on Tuesday when Ratcliffe released notes taken by CIA Director John Brennan on a briefing to President Barack Obama about an alleged Hillary Clinton plot to dirty up the Trump campaign by linking it to the DNC Hack/Russia.
It was heavily redacted and shed no new light on what Ratcliffe had released a week ago.
While that particular “declassification” took place before Trump started his shower of Tweets Tuesday night, past experience suggests it may be a harbinger of things to come, even though Trump is now saying: “No redactions!”
Seeing is believing. The de-classifiers will have to do a far better job to satisfy the demands of Nunes and others for release of additional “smoking gun” documents said to contain details of Russian intelligence referring to the reported authorization given by Hillary Clinton to link President Trump to Kremlin “interference” in the 2016 election.
Did Hillary Clinton Make It All Up?
If Americans had read more than what is in The New York Times, they would not be surprised at that possibility. Are they not aware that the NYT does not carry all the news that’s fit to print?
If they looked beyond the Times, they might have learned that exactly five months ago, on May 7, 2020, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff was forced to release sworn testimony by former FBI official Shawn Henry, head of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, that there is no technical evidence that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks were hacked — by Russia, or by anyone else.
Adding insult to injury, Schiff was able to hide Henry’s testimony from Dec. 5, 2017, until May 7, 2020. Quick! Someone tell the Times that another five-month delay on top of that is not on.
If you didn’t know that the evidence-impoverished charge that the Russians hacked the DNC emails had fallen apart, recall that then-FBI Director James Comey deferred to CrowdStrike to do the forensics on the so-called “Russian hack” of the DNC.
There are no forensics. CrowdStrike did not even provide the FBI with a finished report.
Moreover, if you reconstruct the events at the end of July 2016 and notice how Clinton and the Democrats poured blame on Trump and the Russians with the support of the intelligence community, especially the FBI and CIA — not to mention the full throated support of the Establishment media — you wouldn’t need a report from Russian intelligence to figure out who might be behind Russiagate, and why.
So Mr. President, go ahead and declassify and un-redact. But much of the information is already available — just not on “mainstream media.” You can start by searching Consortiumnews.com.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-City Washington. A CIA analyst for 27 years, he served as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and conducted the early morning briefings downtown of the most senior national security officials permitted to see The President’s Daily Brief.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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Ray, very likely, you are correct that Trump’s panicky efforts to get necessary information/evidence about who was behind Russiagate into public awareness will be stymied.
Thus, Russiagate, and those behind it, will prevail, will become an acceptable part of the Official History.
A Biden “win” will ensure a further loss of legitimacy for the pretend “democracy” and millions of “liberals” will go back to snooze mode as the U$ empire continues to wreak lethal harm uppn the planet and to any nation which does not kowtow to hegemonic Full Spectrum Domination.
It is interesting that even Kissinger can discern the dangerous consequence of continuing containment strategies against China.
Yet the ongoing belligerence toward Russia is equally idiotic.
However, a public easily swayed by fear mongering politicians and a stenographic media happily pushing Security State propaganda suggests that the idiocy will prevail even as economic disaster, on a Great Depession scale, destroys the lives of millions within the U$.
Presumably, at some point, when things become undeniably terrible even for the still comfortable “middle” class who have, clearly, aligned their “interests” with the kakistocratic elite and the “lesser evil” political class, then it might be possible for some wee tiny bit of positive change to be contemplated.
If the Russiagate mechanations prevail, then, as we have previously agreed, it must be understood that any voices still daring to advocate changes of policy, from foreign to domestic failure and brutality, be it war, sanctions or economic “belt-tightening”, for the many, will be increasingly stifled and attacked.
A Biden/Harris “win” may not be so much a “victory” over presumed fascism as the installation of an even more virulent form of suppression and a further narrowing of “acceptable” discourse.
Bring in the Marines and charge all fbi doj and cia with SEDITION….invoke the sedition act and arrest them all…send them to GITMO for Military Tribunals…NOW as President or later when HE is a ‘Lame Duck’ President…for surely if he waits he loses this rigged election…BETTER NOW THAN LATER…imo
I was puzzled when Trump appointed Haspel to head the CIA. It was known that she had been CIA station chief in 2016, when Russiagate started. And by that point it was clear that Brit intel and the CIA were very much involved in Russiagate. As the London station chief in London, Haspel must at the least have been aware of what was going on, to some extent. I wondered why Trump was appointing her to be Director.
Sorry for my ignorance, naivity, confusion but for the longest time I’ve wondered who exactly gives the orders to the people at the top of our over indulged multi billion dollar boondoggle that we call the “national security” apparatus or do they intuit what’s expected of them by osmosis or do they just feel free to decide for themselves what serves empire and that they can improvise on what they devine is in the national interest of the power behind the scenes….it should be obvious I guess but given the chaos they are known to reign down on this earth and the vengence they have towards whistleblowers I just don’t get how this goes on for decades and decades without accountability.
I remember that Cheney would have secret meetings with Big Oil so he surely used their input to chart that grisly course.
Who grooms the ambitious who must leave their consciences behind to rise to the top of intelligence?
Do they learn by osmosis what’s expected?
Given President Eisenhower’s departing warning about the MIC and Ray McGovern’s upgrade of that to the MICIMATT I ask who they really work for – who do they answer to? Why is there such disregard for the millions of people who they ignore but who pay for the “unintended” consequences – sometimes explained away as “20/20 hindsight?
I thought that the Bay of Pigs invasion might have been endorsed by the wealthy elite who lost property in Havana and wanted it back.
Who looks out for the millions of people living in Cuba and in the U.S. whose lives are turned upside down as the collateral damage of these secretive ventures.
It seems that the levels of secrecy are simply there to hide ventures that most people would find abhorant given the bad outcomes that we’ve learned about….
I got a hint of what may happen from the wikileak of Sec Clinton’s speech to GS when their CEO opined at that closed door speech his interest in interfering in some small ME country….why is a Wall Street Banker so certain about interfering in that small country?….is that how simple and banal and shallow this all really is?
Yes yes yes. Get the CIA to release all its documents on Russiagate, like he got the CIA to release all documents on JFK’s assassination.
How does what Trump is doing differ from what Assange and Snowden did – apart from the fact that he has the power to authorize the “leaks”?
Assange and Snowden did quite different things. Manning and Snowden are more comparable. Both worked in intelligence and leaked classified information – about war crimes and mass surveillance respectively. Wikileaks and a number of media partners, including the Guardian and New York Times published Manning’s material. Assange worked as editor-in-chief of Wikileaks. In February 2011, after 9 months of publications, two Guardian journalists, one of whom had the password to decrypt the entire trove of unreacted cables, published the password as the title of a chapter in a book. In August 2011 the password was used to decrypt the un-redacted cables and on September 1st they were published on cryptome.org and made available via The Pirate Bay. Wikileaks re-published the material the following day. None of the initial media partners of Wikileaks, nor those who first published the un-redacted cables have been indicted. Only Assange, the editor of Wikileaks, and it is still not quite clear what he’s charged with by the Trump administration. As for the material that Manning and Snowden leaked and the others published, it is still classified. Trump has the power to declassify information and release it into the public record. He can use Executive Order 13526 Section 1.7 to declassify evidence of crime. He may uncover crime against his presidency, but it seems unlikely he would target the kind of crime Manning and Snowden revealed, against millions. Therein perhaps lies the fundamental difference.
Zero Hedge has an article that differentiates “ordering” from “authorizing”. According to him, what the president has done is “authorize” the complete de-classification of Russiagate related material. If he really had any “huevos” he’d order it done and fire anyone who disobeyed or “slow walked” the order. But of course he’d probably be dead from unexplained cardiac arrest shortly thereafter, and we still wouldn’t get to see what America and the world needs to see- the ugly face of Empire.
Someone said Trump only “authorizing” the release is meaningless and something he’s done before. If he’d said he “ordered” the release it would’ve been more meaningful-but still no guarantee. Why hasn’t anyone told Trump that he looks weak and pathetic making these announcements that everyone knows will be ignored if only because the Queen will call and claim national security?
Trump is playing a dangerous game against a American Deepstate Organisation that has committed Worldwide Coup d’états, Assassination’s & Election interference in other Nations for decades? Who does Trump think he is? The last President who went up against this Cabal was JFK & we all know what happened to him? If this Cabal really felt threatened by Trump’s feverish COVID induced, hollow announcements he’d end up, pretty quickly, in a wooden box!
It might be a fine point, but JFK did not “go up against” the Establishment cabal so much as disregard their advice on numerous occasions, as he was constitutionally authorized to do. He never engaged in an open articulated direct confrontation as he pursued policies which were popular and had political support, but which led in different directions than the postwar consensus exemplified by the Eisenhower administration. Kennedy was killed because he was going to win a second term and continue his policies – which were an extension of the New Deal.
Most of this description is on the surface true. However, he did fire Allen Dulles and maybe (can’t quite remember) his deputy over suckering him into approving the Bay of Pigs.
Kennedy had ordered the withdrawal of troops (advisors) from Vietnam, realizing it was hopeless. He had already cut bait in Laos and Cambodia. To the CIA and the Pentagon this was near treason.
His not following through with air cover at the Bay of Pigs got him on the Cuban Emigre’s s–t list.
Then there is the mob, brother Bobby was the first AG to go after them since the ’20’s. Get rid of Jack and Bobby goes too, he didn’t get along with LBJ.
Finally we have Israel, Kennedy was determined the Zionist state would not get the bomb.
So JFK made a lot of enemies, very powerful entrenched enemies. Douglas, JFK and the Unspeakable, why he died and why it matters , it the best of many works on the assassination/coup de tat.
Lot of good killing Kennedy did, ever president since has continued those policies. Reagan and Trump included.
In the April 25, 1966 edition of the New York Times it was reported:
Former President Truman, whose Administration established the C.I.A. in 1947, said in 1963 that by then he saw “something about the way the C.I.A. has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic positions, and I feel that we need to correct it.”
And President Kennedy, as the enormity of the Bay of Pigs disaster came home to him, said to one of the highest officials of his Administration that he “wanted to splinter the C.I.A. in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.”
That would certainly get the CIA’s attention. Now the article was 3 years after the murder of JFK and the quote was from an anonymous source but, if true, it was a good motive to stop him.
So this must have have been what it was like to watch Rome burn.
If Only….This version of Rome needs to go down quickly without taking any more people, cultures, societies with it.
Ray, if you recall the 2017 best selling book “Shattered” by mainstream investigative journalists Johnathan Allen and Amy Parnes, which alleged that Clinton campaign managers Robby Mook and John Podesta concocted the Russiagate explanation as to why Hillary Clinton lost the election to Donald Trump. So this newly released report is not so farfetched at all by any standards.