Posts tagged with "Senate Intelligence Committee"

Warner counters Burr: Committee cannot rule on collusion until investigation wraps up

February 14, 2019

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia—who serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee—broke ranks on February 12 with committee Chair Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Warner contested his Republican colleague’s assessment that the panel had found no evidence of collusion to date during its inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Respectfully, I disagree,” Warner said, according to CNN. “I’m not going to get into any conclusions I’ve reached because my basis of this has been that I’m not going to reach any conclusion until we finish the investigation. And we still have a number of the key witnesses to come back.”

His statement came just hours before President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal lawyer Michael Cohen told the committee that he would defer his testimony “due to post-surgery medical needs.”

Cohen had been subpoenaed by the committee on January 24 as a key source of information on the campaign’s contacts with Russia—one of the few individuals with a behind-the-doors perspective on Trump’s campaign machinations—but he has backed out three times. At least one of those times, Cohen claimed he was reluctant to talk  because of “ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudolph] Giuliani.”

On Tuesday night, CNN reported, Burr told reported on Capitol Hill, “I can assure you that any goodwill that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone.”

Burr reiterated that his committee had “no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia,” but that he wanted to interview Cohen before the former lawyer for President Donald Trump reports to federal prison next month.

“I would prefer to get him before he goes to prison, but you know, the way he’s positioning himself, not coming (to) the committee, we may help him go to prison,” Burr said.

However, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis said the surgery excuse was accurate. “Mr. Cohen was expected to and continues to suffer from severe post shoulder surgery pain, as confirmed by a letter from his surgeon, which was sent to Senator Burr and Senator [Mark] Warner,” Davis said. “The medication Mr. Cohen is currently taking made it impossible for him to testify this week.”

The split in public comments between Burr and Warner marked a rare instance of a partisan divide between the two committee leaders.

Another panel member, Senator Angus King (I-Maine), backed Warner up, telling The Hill that the Intelligence Committee “has not concluded anything.”

“Several of the individual members have made statements, but I certainly am not prepared to make a statement as to what was found or not found,” he said.

Warner told CNN that lawmakers are still hoping to speak with a few witnesses, including Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen. The longtime Trump associate was scheduled to testify Tuesday, but postponed his appearance, citing medical reasons after a recent shoulder surgery.

Trump has repeatedly maintained that his campaign did not collude with Russia and he has welcomed Burr’s  comments as proof of that fact.

Research contact: @jeremyherb

Trump: Worldwide threats assessment by Intelligence officials is ‘wrong’ and ‘naïve’

January 31, 2019

On January 28, the highest officials in the U.S. intelligence community—the FBI’s Christopher Wray, the CIA’s Gina Haspel, the State Department’s Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, the National Security Agency’s Adm. Mike Rogers; and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency’s Robert Cardillo—spoke truth to the Senate Intelligence Committee during the Worldwide Threats hearing.

In doing so, they contradicted President Donald Trump’s own version of the truth.

Indeed, speaking without compunction, they testified that, while Iran is not currently seeking to develop its nuclear weapons capabilities, North Korea continues to do so—and is unlikely to give up its nuclear ambitions.

What’s more, the officials disagreed with the president’s viewpoint on terrorism—testifying that ISIS remains a threat to the United States despite Trump’s repeated comments that they have been defeated. They noted that, while ISIS has lost geographic ground, the group continues to build support for terrorist attacks worldwide.

Hacking and election interference also remain the go-to methods of manipulating the West. Coates said, “China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea increasingly [are using] cyber operations to threaten both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways —to steal information, to influence our citizens, or to disrupt critical infrastructure.”

And the threat from America’s two biggest global enemies continues to grow. Indeed, Coates warned the Senate panel, “Moscow’s relationship with Beijing is closer than it’s been in many decades.”

President Donald Trump did not take the pushbacks to his recent policy statements in stride. On Wednesday, The Hill reported, he blasted the intelligence leaders for being “wrong” about their new assessment on Iran’s nuclear developments.

“The Intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning in a pair of tweets.

The president, who claimed Iran has recently tested rockets, also mocked the intelligence leaders in his administration, suggesting they “should go back to school.”

The Worldwide Threats testimony received heavy attention in the media for its contrast with Trump’s comments.

Research contact: @Olivia_Beavers

Cohen’s lawyer: House has ‘an obligation’ to scrutinize Giuliani over ‘witness tampering’

January 25, 2019

The expected repercussions have begun, following a decision this week by President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” and personal attorney Michael Cohen to postpone his second round of Congressional testimony since 2017 because of “ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudolph] Giuliani.”

First, Cohen was subpoenaed on January 24 to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, his spokesperson and attorney Lanny Davis confirmed to CNN.

Second, Davis called on Thursday for a criminal investigation into President Donald Trump‘s person lawyer in the Russia probe, Rudy Giuliani, for alleged witness tampering, The Hill reported. 

Let me be very clear, the House of Representatives now has an obligation,” Davis said on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America in an interview with anchor George Stephanopoulos.

A resolution of censure when the president of the United States indisputably intimidates and obstructs justice to prevent a witness from testifying is an order. So is a federal criminal investigation of Rudy Giuliani for witness tampering.”

Davis said in a statement earlier this week that Cohen would postpone testimony before Congress because of “ongoing threats” his family has received from Trump and Giuliani. 

“Due to ongoing threats against his family from President Trump and Mr. [Rudy] Giuliani, as recently as this weekend, as well as Mr. Cohen’s continued cooperation with ongoing investigations, by advice of counsel, Mr. Cohen’s appearance will be postponed to a later date,” Davis said, referring to testimony Cohen was prepared to give to the House Oversight and Reform Committee on February 7. The testimony had been scheduled after Cohen admitted to Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he had lied in his previous appearance before Congress.

Cohen was sentenced late last year to three years in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges related to bank and tax fraud and campaign finance violations. He also pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the timing of negotiations surrounding a Trump Tower development in Moscow.

Cohen said Trump directed him to commit the campaign finance violations. 

The president, however, has repeatedly castigated Cohen, going so far as to call him a “rat on Twitter.” He said earlier this month that Cohen was cooperating with investigators in order to get a reduced sentence, advising Fox News that Cohen was “Lying to reduce his jail time! Watch father-in-law!”

Giuliani on January 20 told CNN’s “State of the Union” that Trump was “defending” himself by calling out Cohen’s father-in-law, adding that “he may have ties to something called organized crime.”

Davis condemned the two on Thursday, saying that “calling out a man’s father-in-law and wife in order to intimidate the witness is not fair game.”

Research contact: @JustinWise

Senate Intelligence Committee asks WikiLeaks’ Assange to testify

August 9, 2018

WikiLeaks—the organization led by Julian Assange that posted candidate Hillary Clinton’s private emails, as well as emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on its website at several critical junctures during the 2016 presidential campaign—broke news on August 8 that the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee “has called on editor @JulianAssange to testify.”

In a letter signed by Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the chairman and vice chairman of the select committee—and delivered by U.S. embassy personnel in London directly to Assange, who remains in hiding to avoid extradition under the U.S. Espionage Act at Ecuador’s embassy—the group asked the WikiLeaks editor to make himself available for a closed-door bipartisan discussion “at a mutually agreeable time and location” to discuss “Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.”

Interestingly enough, WikiLeaks pointed out, eight other legislators, not all of them on the panel, also had “demanded today that @JulianAssange’s asylum be revoked in violation of international law. Remember them.” Those legislators included Senators Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia), Dianne Feinstein (D-California), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire).

Committee members Kamala Harris (D-California), Martin Heinrich (D,New Mexico), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) were rather conspicuously absent from that list; as were all Republicans, save Burr.

In response to the letter, WikiLeaks’ legal team said they are “considering the offer, but testimony must conform to a high ethical standard.”

A CNN poll conducted at the end of June found that most Americans continue to believe that the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election “is a serious matter that should be investigated.”

Research contact: @wikileaks

Haspel confirmation appears likely

May 17, 2018

Gina Haspel’s nomination to the position of CIA director was approved (10-5) in a closed-door meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee early on May 16, CBS News has reported. It now goes to the Senate floor, where confirmation appears likely—although many Americans are still questioning her values and qualifications.

Committee Chairman Senator Richard Burr, (R-North Carolina), said after the vote that Haspel represents the “most qualified person the President could choose to lead the CIA and the most prepared nominee in the 70 year history of the Agency.”

Vice Chairman Senator Mark Warner, D-Virginia, who originally  had expressed concern about Haspel’s history at the agency —during which she took the lead on harsh forms of interrogation, including waterboarding, used on al Qaeda detainees at one of the CIA’s “black site” prisons—stated that he believes Haspel will be a “strong advocate for the Agency’s workforce, and an independent voice who can and will stand up on behalf of our nation’s intelligence community.”

He added, “Most importantly, I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral – like a return to torture.”

However, Americans continue to be split on whether overseeing torture should disqualify Haspel from getting the joba HuffPost/YouGov survey of 1,000 U.S. citizens over the age of 18 finds.

Told that Haspel reportedly supervised a “black site” where CIA personnel tortured suspected terrorists to gain information, 20% say they consider that to be a good thing and 39% view it as a bad thing.

Just under a third consider that record sufficient reason for her not to be confirmed to head the CIA, while 36% say it is not.

Those polled appear more troubled by reports that Haspel also helped to destroy videotapes documenting the torture of detainees. By a 2-to-1 margin, 44 percent to 22 percent, they say those actions should disqualify her from becoming the CIA’s director.

The only Senate Republicans who are not expected to vote for her are Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Arizona’s John McCain, who is battling brain cancer and is not expected to be present for the ballot.

Research contact: @HuffPost