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How The Obama Administration Weaponized Surveillance Laws To Target Trump

How The Obama Administration Weaponized Surveillance Laws To Target Trump

“The drip-drip-drip of newly declassified documents related to the Trump-Russia investigation, together with recent reports that a classified leak against former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn might not have come from an unmasking request, leaves little doubt that the Obama administration weaponized federal surveillance laws to target Trump associates and undermine the incoming administration,” John Daniel Davidson writes in The Federalist.

“The story thus far is complex, but it reveals a disturbing abuse of power by the Obama administration that suggests congressional reform of federal surveillance laws is needed to ensure this never happens again.”

The latest declassified document, an email written by former White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice detailing a high-level Oval Office meeting on January 5, 2017, directly implicates then-President Obama and other top officials in the targeting of Flynn, including then-Vice President Joe Biden and fired Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey.

According to Rice’s bizarre email, which she wrote to herself as President Trump was being inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, Comey told Obama and Biden he had “some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak,” and that “the level of communication is unusual.” How did Comey know this? Because the FBI had been spying on Flynn as part of a counterintelligence investigation it launched in August 2016.

 

Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador became national news after someone in the Obama administration illegally leaked to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who revealed in a Jan. 12, 2017, column that Flynn had spoken to Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, 2016.

That touched off an effort by Republicans to find out who leaked to the Post. Last week, responding to a request from Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell released a list of former senior Obama administration officials who requested the unmasking of Flynn between Nov. 30, 2016, and Jan. 12, 2017.

The list was revealing. During those weeks, no fewer than 39 Obama administration officials unmasked Flynn, from senior people like Comey and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, to people who had no conceivable reason for unmasking Flynn, like former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough. Even Biden was on the list.

The sheer number of unmasking requests for Flynn, combined with a disturbing pattern of deception by former Obama officials about the unmaskings, raises serious questions about why the outgoing Obama administration was targeting Trump’s incoming national security advisor, and whether it did so as a pretext to continue the Trump-Russia collusion probe after Trump took office.

But the dates of the unmasking requests don’t match up with Flynn’s Dec. 29 conversations with the Russian ambassador, which suggests Flynn was identified in an intelligence report that didn’t require the concealment of his identity. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that, according to an anonymous former senior U.S. official, “When the FBI circulated [the report], they included Flynn’s name from the beginning,” and that, “There were therefore no requests for the unmasking of that information.”

This report matches with a theory floated over the weekend by National Review Online’s Andrew McCarthy, that Flynn’s call with Kislyak might have been “intercepted under an intelligence program not subject to the masking rules, probably by the CIA or a friendly foreign spy service acting in a nod-and-wink arrangement with our intelligence community.”

Susan Rice’s now-infamous memo was blatant bid to cover Obama’s butt

Susan Rice’s now-infamous memo was blatant bid to cover Obama’s butt

“Susan Rice’s memo about a high-level Jan. 5, 2017, meeting plainly aimed to protect the then-national security adviser’s boss, President Barack Obama—but it’s backfiring spectacularly. Rice sent the Jan. 20, 12:15 p.m., note (recently declassified) to herself at literally the last minute: President Trump was sworn in at noon that day; her administration was headed out the door,” the New York Post editorial board writes.

Oh, and Rice’s lawyer says she drafted it “upon the advice of the White House Counsel’s Office,” Fox News reports.

The point? Ostensibly, to memorialize the meeting with her, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, FBI boss James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, following a briefing on Russian hacking.

Obama, the memo claims, stressed that “every aspect of this issue” be handled “by the book” and then “reiterated” that law enforcement proceed “by the book.” Comey “affirmed” he’s “proceeding ‘by the book.’  ” That’s right: She used the term three times.

Could a note scream “cover your butt” any louder? Why would lawyers want a document created, two weeks after the fact and at the very last minute, that purported to show the Russia probe was totally kosher?

Surely because they feared people would think otherwise, because the probe wasn’t.

We now know, in fact, that nothing about that investigation was handled ethically.

Comey, she wrote, had “concerns” about her replacement, Michael Flynn, and said the National Security Council should “potentially” withhold “sensitive information” on Russia from Team Trump. But Rice admits it was Obama who asked whether information should not be shared.

Yet they had no legitimate grounds to keep the new team in the dark about anything. The Obama folks knew full well by then that the FBI had found zero evidence of collusion or of Flynn betraying his country. Because they were listening in on his phone calls to foreign officials.

No outgoing president should push aides to withhold information from his duly elected successor: Their duty is to share every last bit of it and cooperate with his staff to the fullest. This was a full-on bid to sabotage Team Trump — and it worked all too well.

But at least it was by the book.

Pence says upcoming SpaceX launch will show ‘America still moves forward’ during ‘the most challenging times’

Pence says upcoming SpaceX launch will show ‘America still moves forward’ during ‘the most challenging times’

“When the last space shuttle launched in 2011, few people at NASA believed it would be nearly a decade before American astronauts would launch into space again from U.S. soil,” Kristin Fisher Fox News reports.

The pandemic has forced NASA to pause work on critical components of the Artemis program, and the launch of Artemis-1 has recently been delayed until late 2021. At a meeting last week of the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee, several members were skeptical about NASA’s ability to meet the timeline.

Tommy Holloway, a former NASA space shuttle program manager, called the goal “a pipe dream,” and Jim Voss, a former NASA Astronaut said, “I don’t think they have any chance of making 2024.”

The vice president says that kind of criticism, “sounds a lot like the way they talked about Apollo. We had another president, who said that he was going to send a man to the moon before the end of the decade and return safely to the earth, and an awful lot of people said it couldn’t be done.”

The Apollo missions drew massive crowds, and hundreds of thousands of people converged on the Kennedy Space Center to watch the final space shuttle launch. This time, due to social distancing restrictions, NASA is advising everyone to watch the Demo-2 launch from home. But Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey says the Space Coast is open for business and he’s encouraging people to come watch the launch in person.

“Now might not be the time to travel to Florida to see a launch,” Pence said. “But I expect residents in the area will know how to social distance and practice in a responsible way. But to see a rocket go into the air, to know that it is carrying American astronauts, wherever you’re watching it from, “going to be a great, great source of inspiration for every American,” Vice President Mike Pence says.

Trump to meet with Detroit-area black leaders before touring Michigan Ford plant

“President Donald Trump will hold a discussion on efforts to help distressed communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic before touring a Ford manufacturing plant in [Michigan’s] Ypsilanti Township,” Malachi Barrett reports for MLive.com.

The White House confirmed Trump will meet with national and Detroit-area African American leaders at Ford Motor Company’s Rawsonville plant before touring the facility, which has been repurposed to manufacture ventilators and personal protective equipment. A senior White House official told MLive the discussion will focus on how the Trump administration can help underserved populations and minority communities recover from the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately affected black communities in Michigan.

The coronavirus has killed African American residents at a higher rate than white residents. The infectious respiratory disease is more widespread in communities around Detroit compared to the rest of the state.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created a task force on racial disparities to improve access to care and address other issues affecting people of color. The task force is led by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, the state’s first black lieutenant governor.

Trump administration officials met with the mayors of Inkster, Highland Park and Ecorse shortly before the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Michigan, according to the White House. The meetings were part of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, created in 2018 and chaired by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson.

The council is now focused on the medical and economic impacts of COVID-19 in minority neighborhoods, according to the White House. Some of the council’s goals include expanding access to entrepreneurship, broadband internet, affordable housing and health resources.

Thursday’s discussion will also highlight the impact of federal aid for Detroit and other underserved communities secured through the CARES Act. The guest list is being finalized, according to a White House spokesperson.

Trump will deliver remarks after the tour. A White House spokesman said he will likely focus on the collaboration between Ford and General Electric to make ventilators and PPE.

Ford, in collaboration with GE Healthcare and the UAW, began making ventilators the week of April 20 in the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant. Ford’s goal is to produce 50,000 ventilators in 100 days in the Michigan facility.

The president is set to arrive in Detroit on Air Force One shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday. The White House has not released details about the timing of his visit to Ypsilanti.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Monday suspending all non-essential in-person visits to manufacturing facilities, including tours. A White House spokesperson declined to comment on whether Whitmer’s order was considered when the presidential visit was planned.

Zack Pohl, Whitmer’s communications director, said Trump’s visit contradicts the governor’s order.

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