Email #162: “a full explanation of the facts”?

National security adviser H. R. McMaster told reporters Monday evening:

“The story that came out tonight as reported is false… I was in the room. It didn’t happen.”

McMaster was of course referring to reports that the President revealed highly classified information to Russian officials. Deputy national security adviser Dina Powell also stated:

“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

Despite these and other initial denials from White House staff, the President confirmed the reports in a Tuesday morning tweet:

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”

Although the President is allowed to use classified however he likes, his actions concern many members of his own party. Republican Senator John McCain tweeted Monday evening:

“If true, deeply disturbing…”

Republican Senator Bob Corker told reporters:

“To compromise a source is something you just don’t do.”

Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher said Tuesday morning:

“For the purpose of transparency, the White House should share a transcript of the meeting with the House and Senate intelligence committees.”

Republican Rep. Justin Amash agreed:

“The administration should promptly share with Congress, in a classified setting, the precise details of the president’s meeting.”

Even Republican Speaker Paul Ryan announced:

“protecting our nation’s secrets is paramount. The speaker hopes for a full explanation of the facts from the administration.”

By yesterday afternoon, Republican Senator Thom Tillis joined:

“If it is in fact true that this information was shared with the Russian ambassador, it seems to me it’d be O.K. to be shared with U.S. senators.”

Republican Senator Susan Collins said:

“The disclosure of highly classified information has the potential to jeopardize sources and to discourage our allies from sharing future information vital to our security.”

Republican Senator Tom Cotton said:

“I suspect the administration will brief the Congress more fully on exactly what transpired.”

Even your fellow Virginia Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock said:

“We need to have immediate classified briefings on what occurred at this meeting so that Congress can at least know as much as Russian leaders and know the impact on our national security, our allies, and our men and women protecting our country.”

And yet you, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, have said nothing. Instead your office posted a press release late afternoon yesterday titled “Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Strengthen Immigration Enforcement,” boasting about a set of anti-sanctuary-city measures you are co-sponsoring. While I’m sure you’re very proud of your bill, the timing of the irrelevant press release underscores your silence on the historical crisis facing Congress. Oversight of the executive branch is your most vital responsibility, one you are ignoring despite your Republican colleagues’ demands for the President to explain his actions to Congress.

Since you are demonstrating such an inability or reluctance to fulfill your constitutional duty, I ask that you please step aside as chair and ask Speaker Ryan to assign leadership of the Judiciary to a more capable and willing Republican.

Email #132: “the American people’s trust”?

Thank you for your letter in response to my concerns about Russia’s interference in the election of Donald Trump. Your letter, however, only deepened my concerns. You begin by acknowledging the FBI investigation, but then you follow with a non sequitur:

“In this effort, I coauthored a letter on March 24, 2017 … which pressed key intelligence agencies about leaks of classified information and the impact they have on the American people’s trust in vital national security programs.”

I am fully aware of this letter and have already written you about it. While leaks of classified information are a serious concern, they pale in contrast to Russia interfering with the election and the possibility that the Trump campaign colluded in that process.

Setting that self-evident fact aside, in what possible sense does your writing about leaks help “in this effort”? The subject of my letter and your opening paragraph is the Russian investigation. That’s the referent of your phrase “this effort.” Not only does your writing letters about leaks not aid that effort, claiming that it does violates basic logic.

You then discuss leaks for two more paragraphs—in a letter about Russia aiding the election of Donal Trump. More importantly, you don’t even acknowledge that the Trump campaign is under investigation too. This is an extraordinary omission from the member of Congress most responsible for overseeing the executive branch. You instead change the topic again, stating:

“I want to emphasize that the intelligence community has found no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

The same is true of President Trump’s claim that he lost the popular vote due to massive voter fraud. But in that case, you appeared on TV to defend his claim—despite having no evidence to support it. As far as Russia, no one has ever suggested that it interfered with balloting. Why then do you “emphasize” a non-issue?

If the goal of your letter to me is to increase the “American people’s trust” in your ability to conduct “rigorous oversight” of the Trump administration, I strongly urge you to rewrite it. At minimum, please correct the typo in the concluding paragraph:

“I appreciate you taking the time contact me.”

Your staff writers left out the word “to.” Some might read that error as Freudian—an unconscious acknowledgement of insincerity. Given its extraordinary omissions, contorted logic, and irrelevant asides, it’s difficult not to read your entire letter as an insincere and surprisingly incompetent exercise in political doublespeak.

Your integrity aside, is this really the best your staff can come up with? That fact alone suggests how profoundly wrong you are about an issue of historic proportion.

Bob Goodlatte replies about Russia election interference

Dear Mr. Gavaler:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I am actively seeking answers from the intelligence community and ensuring the Committee maintains rigorous oversight of Executive Branch agencies within the Committee’s jurisdiction.

On March 20, 2017, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James B. Comey publicly announced that the FBI is conducting an investigation into possible connections between Russian officials and President Trump’s presidential campaign. While this is an ongoing investigation, and information is therefore kept confidentially within the FBI, I am monitoring all developments in the investigation.

In this effort, I coauthored a letter on March 24, 2017, with my colleagues Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas which pressed key intelligence agencies about leaks of classified information and the impact they have on the American people’s trust in vital national security programs. In this letter to the leaders of the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Central Intelligence Agency, we expressed deep concern about leaks of classified information from unnamed sources to the media and the continuous repercussions of prior unauthorized and damaging disclosures about national security programs. These leaks are especially damaging as the House Judiciary Committee seeks to reauthorize and reform foreign surveillance programs in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) later this year. This program, which targets the communications of non-U.S. persons outside of the United States in order to protect national security, reportedly encompasses more than a quarter of all NSA surveillance and has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent horrific terrorist plots against our country.

All leaks of classified information have the potential to erode the American people’s trust in their government’s ability to protect both the security of our country and privacy of U.S. persons.  In our letter, we call on the intelligence community to openly dispel any false accusations of widespread illegal surveillance.  Moreover, it is vital for the intelligence community to publicly describe the value of FISA Section 702 in thwarting terrorist plots. Finally, we have requested a briefing on efforts made by the intelligence agencies to weed out any leakers of classified information and bring them to justice.

Furthermore, I share your concerns of the prospect that the Russian government or affiliated foreign agents attempted to interfere with our elections and are seeking to meddle with upcoming general election campaigns in France and Germany this year.

I want to emphasize that the intelligence community has found no evidence that there was any interference in the voting or balloting process in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, testified that Russia “definitely did try to influence the campaign.”

Right now, the FBI and the House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence are pursuing separate investigations to determine what level of interference the Russians did play in attempting to influence the 2016 election, and what relationship existed between the Russian government and the Trump presidential campaign. Rest assured I will monitor the respective investigations and work to ensure the investigations into Russia’s action will be conducted professionally and will follow the facts wherever they may lead.

I appreciate you taking the time contact me. It is important to keep an open line of communication so I can best serve the interests of Virginia’s 6th District. I hope you will continue to be in touch as Congress debates issues of importance to the United States.

Sincerely,


Bob Goodlatte
Member of Congress

Email #39, Subject: Russian blackmail?

President-elect Trump initially and repeatedly denied multiple intelligence reports that unanimously reported Russian interference in the election. Now the President-elect appears to be acknowledging the reports as true. But new allegations claim that he was always aware because Russia contacted him directly with damaging information they had collected about him. Again, the President-elect is denying this. If it were true then he was not merely manipulated indirectly, but was blackmailed into what could be prosecuted as treason. I have no idea if these new allegations are true. As Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, the committee in charge of Presidential impeachment, you too must be especially concerned. What steps are you taking to investigate these claims? There is no greater issue before the nation right now than the legitimacy of the next Commander-in-Chief. Should the Republican-controlled Congress choose not to investigate, the damage to the party will be immense. Having already attempted and publicly failed to move the Office of Congressional Ethics under Republican control, you have created the appearance that Republicans are unwilling and so unable to police their own party.  Even if the allegations are false, you will have deepened the impression of endemic corruption by ignoring them. Should these allegations be proven true but without a Republican-led effort to investigate them, you will be unable to distance yourself from the fallout. Please act responsibly and fulfill your duties to your office.

Chris Gavaler

Email #14, Subject: Russian crisis

The FBI and CIA agree that Russia interfered in the election. If you voted for Trump, this doesn’t mean you’re a traitor. It doesn’t even mean Trump is a traitor. It means Trump and Trump voters were pawns in Russia’s successful attempt to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming President. If this had happened during the Cold War, we’d be at DEFCON 5 now. Since our President-elect not only benefitted from Russia’s interference but is also denying what both the CIA and FBI are telling him are facts, he appears to be incapable of dealing with this crisis. He lost the popular vote by 2%, and his margins in the three deciding states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, were all under 1%. Do you sincerely believe that he would have won those states if Russia hadn’t hacked DNC emails and strategically released them in the lead up to the election? If the Electoral College appoint him President on Monday, how will you, as a leader of the GOP, deal with this crisis?

Chris Gavaler

Email #9, Subject: New Cold War

I read in the Washington Post that the CIA has now officially concluded that Russia “intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency.” This is a massive fact. A foreign power, the former “Evil Empire” that battled the U.S. in a half century of Cold War conflicts, hacked our country and then used its hacked information to elect the candidate who made repeated pro-Putin statements against the candidate who made repeated anti-Putin statements. If this had happened in the 50s or 60s or 70s or 80s, it would have been enough to start World War III. It certainly would have gotten GOP leaders talking openly about direct retaliation, military and otherwise. The GOP will now run every branch of our government, so it’s up to you to act. How are you responding to this extraordinary act of Russian aggression? How are you going to fight this New Cold War?

Chris Gavaler