What Does The Surveillance of Paul Manafort Mean?

The big story these days is the breaking news that Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was under FBI surveillance. This has brought forth a flurry of claims that Trump was right about his charges of wiretapping, that the FBI only tracked Manafort to find out what Trump was doing and that Manafort was only guilty of talking to Russian diplomats.

The real story is that this news isn’t breaking news at all. The story broke during the campaign that there was an active FISA warrant for surveillance of members of the Trump campaign staff. A November 2016 article by Heat Street (which has since been acquired by MarketWatch) reported that a broad FISA warrant request in June 2016 included Donald Trump as a target. This request was denied, but a subsequent, more narrow request was granted in October.

This was confirmed by the BBC in a January 2017 article which described how the warrant was issued to investigate two Russian banks. The investigation stemmed from intelligence passed to the US by an unnamed Baltic nation in April 2016. The intelligence allegedly included a recorded conversation “about money from the Kremlin going into the US presidential campaign.” The BBC article mentioned, but did not name, “three of Mr. Trump’s associates were the subject of the inquiry.”

One of the three was Michael Flynn. Flynn was Trump’s first national security advisor. Flynn was fired early in the Trump Administration after it was revealed through leaked surveillance information that he had lied about conversations with the Russian ambassador. Flynn’s contacts with the Russians were apparently uncovered as an incidental target as the intelligence community monitored Russian diplomats. Flynn is still under investigation by both the Pentagon and Mueller’s task force.

In April 2017, the New York Times named a second target of the investigation. The report stated explicitly that Carter Page had been the target of a FISA warrant after he left the Trump campaign. “The Justice Department considered direct surveillance of anyone tied to a political campaign as a line it did not want to cross,” the report said, citing an unnamed official.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was the third target of the investigation. Manafort had long had ties to the Putin government. He had worked as a consultant for the pro-Russian political party that controlled the Ukraine until it was toppled by a revolution in 2014. Manafort’s name was listed in the so-called “Black Ledger” that detailed secret payments by the Ukrainian ruling party. The ledger, which was discovered after the revolution, showed that Manafort received at least $1.2 million from the pro-Putin ruler of Ukraine per AP reports. Manafort was fired by Trump in August 2016 after the story of the Ukrainian payments broke.

The new story by CNN detailing Manafort’s surveillance says that Manafort was the subject of two FISA warrants. The first, centered on his work in the Ukraine, began in 2014 and “was discontinued at some point last year [2016] for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.”

The dates for the second warrant are not known but it apparently began after “FBI interest deepened last fall because of intercepted communications between Manafort and suspected Russian operatives, and among the Russians themselves.” The warrant reportedly continued until early 2017. The dates suggest that Manafort was not monitored while he was an official part of the Trump campaign, although they do cover a period when he had discussions with President Trump. “It’s unclear whether Trump himself was picked up on the surveillance,” CNN notes.

Another report by the New York Times says that federal agents raided Manafort’s home in July 2017. Again, this was after his official role as a member of Donald Trump’s campaign staff was long over.

So was Donald Trump right when he claimed that Obama was “tapping” his phones? So far there is still no evidence of this. Surveillance of Trump’s associates is not the same as surveillance of Trump himself. This is especially true if the surveillance did not occur during the period when Trump’s associates were working on his campaign. This would also indicate that the surveillance was not to find out what the Trump campaign was up to.

Further, the surveillance of Paul Manafort was not the result of business-as-usual contacts with Russian diplomats. A FISA warrant was issued for Manafort because he was communicating with Russian agents. A FISA warrant is not proof of guilt, but it does require probable cause. The denial of the June 2016 warrant request is proof that warrants are not issued on a frivolous basis.

The investigation into Paul Manafort and the Russian interference in the 2016 campaign is not yet complete. In the weeks and months to come, we may learn exactly why Manafort was talking to the Russians and what was said. At this point, there is no smoking gun, but there are indications, such as the decision to threaten Manafort with indictment, that Special Counsel Mueller is building a strong case. Part of that case may be on incriminating evidence that resulted from surveillance under the FISA warrant.

Trump Claims ‘Vindication’ For Something Comey Never Said

In the days since the Senate testimony by former FBI Director James Comey, the Trump camp has claimed that the testimony vindicated the president. Beginning with a tweet by the president the following day, Trump supporters claim “total and complete vindication” from Comey’s statements under oath. However, the claim focuses on only one part of Comey’s testimony and the claim of vindication is for something that Comey never said.

The focus of the Trump Administration since last Thursday when Comey testified was Comey’s statement under oath that President Trump was not under investigation by the FBI. The problem with this claim is that Comey had never claimed that the president was personally under investigation.

It is likely that many people may have assumed after Comey’s Senate testimony in March that President Trump was being investigated, but a look back shows that Comey never made that claim. Comey’s testimony a month before he was fired contained the bombshell revelation that the FBI was investigating the Trump campaign for its links to Russia, but he never said that the president was under direct scrutiny.

Here is a look back at what then-FBI Director James Comey said before Congress on March 20, 2017 (video available here):

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. That includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment as to whether any crimes were committed.

Comey told Congress that the FBI was investigating “individuals associated with the Trump campaign,” not the president. The individuals were left unnamed, but FBI inquiries about Mike Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort had been known for months. Carter Page was the target of a FISA warrant obtained by the FBI prior to the election last year.

At some point after the March testimony, President Trump apparently became obsessed with the idea of proving that he was not under investigation. Comey testified that he privately assured the president that he was not under investigation on several occasions. Comey also said that the president asked him to publicly announce that he was not under investigation, a request Comey resisted because “because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.” In his letter firing Comey, Trump awkwardly thanks Comey for “informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.”

Trump supporters seem to believe that, since the president was not under investigation, that Comey’s firing could not be an obstruction of justice. To the contrary, Trump was alleged to have interfered with the investigation of Michael Flynn, not an investigation into his own ties with Russia. Even though the FBI probe was targeted at Flynn, Page and the others instead of Trump, firing the FBI director to interfere with the investigation could still represent obstruction of justice.

A second trope by Trump supporters is that since Trump was not under investigation, the inquiries by the Congress and the Special Counsel should be halted. This represents a misunderstanding of what the investigations are about. These investigations were also not targeting Trump personally. The purpose of the congressional investigations is to determine exactly what Russia did to interfere in the 2016 elections. The investigation by Special Counsel Bob Mueller focuses on whether any members of the Trump campaign worked with Russian operatives and whether any crimes were committed.

Despite the Trump Administration spin, James Comey’s testimony did not clear the president. In fact, the most damaging part of Comey’s June 8 testimony may be a statement that has scarcely been mentioned. When asked why he thought Trump fired him, Comey answered, “Again, I take the president’s words. I know I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was in some way putting pressure on him, in some way irritating him, and he decided to fire me because of that.”

The investigations will continue and President Trump is not in the clear.

Mike Flynn Is the Key To the Trump-Comey Dispute

As the furor rages unabated after the testimony of James Comey, both sides are coming to the realization that it settled nothing. Comey said just enough to allow both sides to reinforce their preconceived notions and declare a victory. Comey’s testimony is not the end, but is more like pulling a thread that causes other threads to unravel. Even though Comey did not present irrefutable evidence of criminal activity by the president, he did make a blatant accusation that the president is corrupt. The investigations will continue and, at this point, it seems that the trails all point toward Michael Flynn.

The investigation of Michael Flynn is at the center of the dispute between James Comey and President Trump. In Comey’s opening statement, the former director claimed that it was the investigation of Flynn that prompted Trump’s alleged request that, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy.”

Who is Michael Flynn? Flynn is a retired US Army general who rose to command the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Obama. He served honorably in both the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters of the War on Terror. Flynn abruptly retired a year early from his position at the DIA, apparently under pressure from the Obama Administration. Sean Spicer confirmed in May that Barack Obama had warned the Trump camp about getting too close to Flynn.

In fact, Flynn became an early advisor to the Trump campaign and was considered as a vice presidential candidate. Flynn eventually was appointed as President Trump’s National Security Advisor after delivering a fiery speech to the Republican National Convention.

As National Security Advisor, Flynn lasted just over three weeks. The issue was false statements that Flynn had made to Vice President Pence, Press Secretary Spicer and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Before the election and during the transition, Flynn had secret communications with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in which he discussed sanctions that the Obama Administration had imposed on Russia in response their interference in the election. Flynn denied discussing the sanctions until the Washington Post reported that leaks revealed that there was evidence from surveillance that Flynn was not being truthful.

Even after Flynn’s duplicity was revealed, Trump waited 18 days before finally deciding to fire him. Shortly after the Flynn’s dismissal on the basis of loss of trust, The Hill reported that Trump called him “a wonderful man” and said that the media had treated him “badly.” The is in sharp contrast to the firing of Comey, who was attacked by Trump on Twitter in the days after his dismissal.

Since leaving the White House, Flynn’s troubles have only gotten worse. Flynn is under investigation for failing to disclose a $33,000 payment from the Russian state-owned propaganda network, RT, after leaving the DIA. The New York Times reported in April that Flynn initially failed to disclose other payments from “companies linked to Russia.”

Flynn also may have broken the law by doing consulting work that benefitted the government of Turkey without the permission of the US government. After being fired by Trump, Flynn registered with the US government as a paid foreign agent for work done the year before that could have aided the Turkish government. Flynn may have also failed to fully disclose his contracts and payments from the Turkish consulting work.

Further, the Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn met with Turkish government contacts last summer, while he was still working for the Trump campaign, and discussed the possibility of returning Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric that Turkey blames for last summer’s failed military coup, without going through legal US extradition procedures. Former CIA Director James Woolsey said the discussion involved “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” Woolsey said he did not hear a specific plan and would have objected if he had.

Even before Donald Trump was nominated as the Republican candidate, Flynn drew criticism for his ties to Russia. In December 2015, Flynn was paid $45,000 by RT to speak at the network’s 10th anniversary gala. The network also paid airfare for the trip and hosted Flynn at a luxury hotel in Moscow according to NBC News. Flynn sat at the same table as Russian President Vladimir Putin at the event.

In 2013, as head of the DIA, Flynn arranged a controversial trip to Russia for a group of US intelligence officers with the goal of building a working relationship with the GRU, Russian military intelligence. Flynn planned to host GRU officers in the US, but the Russian invasion of Crimea led to chilled relations between the two countries.

There are many questions about Mike Flynn that are unanswered. There is not even a definitive answer on how Flynn and Trump came to know each other. In an interview with the New Yorker, Flynn claimed he hit it off immediately with Trump in an August 2015 meeting in New York. In his interview with NBC News in May 2017, Trump denied knowing Flynn in 2015 In any case, Flynn was identified as an advisor to Trump by February 2016.

Trump’s relationship with Michael Flynn is central to the question of whether the president tried to interfere in the investigation of Flynn and whether he abused his authority in firing Director Comey. Trump is also alleged to have asked other intelligence officials to back off from the Flynn investigation. When asked by senators, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Advisor Mike Rogers said that they have never been “pressured” to interfere in an investigation. Neither would answer the question of whether Trump had ever broached the subject, however.

Right now, even after James Comey’s testimony, there are far more questions than answers. At this point, it is unknown whether a crime has been committed by either Mike Flynn or Donald Trump, but if there has been no crime then what has the White House cover-up been about? Did President Trump act illegally to protect Flynn? If so, why? Why did Trump really fire Comey? And why fire him when he did, months after taking office and seemingly out of the blue? The timing of the firing endangered the Republican legislative agenda at a time when the Republican health care reform had just passed the House and the party was looking towards tax reform.

Mike Flynn seems to hold many of the answers, but he isn’t talking. The retired general is invoking his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination and refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  Flynn also initially refused to comply with a subpoena for personal documents relating to his businesses. Eventually Flynn agreed to provide some documents after senators issued subpoenas his businesses as well.

With Special Counsel Bob Mueller likely investigating Flynn alongside the Senate Intelligence Committee, the probe into the Russian interference in the election and possible collaboration by members of the Trump campaign isn’t over yet. It’s just getting started and the relationship between President Trump and Gen. Flynn is likely to generate many more headlines before it’s over.

Comey: “Lordy, I Hope There Are Tapes.”

“Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”

This was former FBI Director Comey’s response to president Trump’s implication that their meetings were recorded.

As Comey answers questions in front of a Senate committee hearing today about his short tenure under the president and subsequent firing, we are getting a window into president Trump’s behavior that we rarely see. The full transcript can be found HERE. In the least, it confirms some of the implications we’ve read in the press, but weren’t sure about. It should be noted that both Republicans and Democrats have unanimously praised Comey on his integrity and attention to detail. So, it stands to reason that his testimony today is considered by them to be truthful. And, on that basis, it shows us the president is not. If that is all that comes out of this testimony, it will be significant. Most obviously, we see that the president lied when he denied asking Comey to end the investigation of Flynn’s Russian connections. The biggest question for me today is the same I had for Flynn: “if this is all manufacture fake news, and all were innocent, why lie about it?”

The timeline of events also appear more clearly than it did before. When all this began in the hours following Comey’s humiliating firing, news came out that Comey disagreed with the president’s account of their meetings. In response, the president tweeted, as usual:

In testimony today, Comey says he countered this by asking a colleague to leak unclassified information about the memo he wrote detailing their interaction. Note that this “leak” was not illegal. Perhaps he foresaw a possible scenario like this, and that factored into why he wrote the memo in a way it could remain unclassified and be shared. He knew that leaking it would not be a crime, were it needed at some point. He specifically said his hope was that knowledge of the memo would lead to a special counsel, and it did.

This back and forth may have best served the country by pushing the real investigation behind closed doors with special counsel, former Director Robert Mueller, where proper procedure and an apolitical investigation can happen. Both parties trust Mueller, and he should be able to assemble the mountain of circumstantial evidence into one or more conclusions. But in the end, it appears Comey played this perfectly under the circumstances. I cannot imagine myself acting any better, and likely not as prudent. The interactions between Comey and Trump are detailed in full HERE.

The takeaways from today’s testimony:

  1. Comey stated the president repeatedly affirmed (three times) that he would remain director, then reversed it in his meeting when he asked to clear the room on Feb 14.
  2. According to Comey, the president made his staff, including Sessions, Kushner and Preibus feel uncomfortable by asking them to leave the room so he could talk privately with Comey.
  3. Comey felt the president would lie about the event, so he wrote “the memo,” and shared the encounter with colleagues.
  4. When asked about Trump’s comments about tapes of the event, Comey said, “Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
  5. Obstruction of justice was not something he could prove, but thought was possible, and believes Mueller is looking at. “The Special Counsel has all the memos.”
  6. The president lied about denying he asked Comey to end the investigation.
  7. The president repeatedly asked Comey for “loyalty,” and Comey rightly refused. In the midst of an “awkward silence,” Comey accepted Trump’s augmented request for “honest loyalty.”
  8. Comey stated, unequivocally that the president lied about him and the FBI, when Trump claimed the agency was “in disarray,” and had “lost confidence” in him. “Those were lies,” he said.
  9. As he keeps reminding us, president Trump was NOT a subject for investigation, but he is NOW. And it’s by his own doing. The tweeting and public denials invite scrutiny.

During these investigations in the House and Senate, some answers have been found, but the scope keeps getting larger, which should worry the Trump administration. While it doesn’t appear Trump himself “colluded” with Russia (despite his televised invitation to Russia to hack the DNC days before it did), but from Paul Manafort, to Michael Flynn, to even Jared Kushner, the amount of smoke is not to be ignored. And now, it appears paying attention to that smoke is shaking out questionable behavior by the administration itself. What took down president Andrew Johnson in 1868 (impeached, but not convicted) was not his actions in dealing with the South after the Civil War, but his attempt to appoint preferred officials in his administration with Congress in recess. It wasn’t the Watergate burglary itself that took down Nixon, but his attempt to obstruct justice and cover it up. President Clinton was not impeached on his questionable land deals during the Whitewater investigation, but lying about an affair under oath.

It may be that Trump’s demise may have nothing to do with members of his circle colluding with Russian interests, but rather his attempts to obfuscate and obstruct investigations into his associates on the Russia matter. Even if no real crimes are proven to have been committed, this presidency is forever tainted with unprofessional, “improper” behavior, and blatant dishonesty. If no real crimes happened, one has to wonder why so many of the president’s closest associates follow a pattern of omission, misleading, or flat out denial.

As expected, the Trump team is declaring victory by focusing on the color of the leaves, rather than the forest of trees. And on cue, Trumps attorney Marc Kasowitz claimed today that Comey “leaked” classified memos. He also said, “Mr. Comey made clear that the president never pressured” him. This is simply untrue. He said the exact opposite. So, the battle has now been reduced to “who is lying?” Well, I know where I stand.

No matter what happens over Trussiagate, removal of Russian sanctions, the $500 billion oil field, Ukraine policy, NATO or any other controversy, conservative Americans will have to grapple with the reality that our president is simply a dishonest and improper man, and is trying to hide something. While Chris Christie dismisses it as “normal New York conversation,” I’m reminded of Ted Cruz pressing on this during the primaries, when Trump said, “being from New York, my views are a little different than if I lived in Iowa.” No kidding. Maybe it doesn’t bother Christie, or Trump. But it bothers most of the rest of us.

Recent polls that show even half of Republicans, despite strong party loyalty, see the president as dishonest. Nixon resigned when he lost his party. How far behind is the GOP of 2017?

Obama-Era Illegal FBI Intelligence Sharing Raises Questions

Adding to the mountain of reasons why former FBI Director James Comey had to go, a 2015 now-declassified ruling highlights “hundreds of violations of the FBI’s privacy-protecting minimuzation rules that occurred on Comey’s watch.”

A shocking report by Circa outlines the once Top Secret FISA court ruling. The FBI has long had issues with balancing its counter-terrorism and counterintelligence roles with its primary function of investigating, collecting evidence, and support prosecution of crimes. But in the days after President Obama took office, the agency increasingly tended toward maximum data collection in its efforts to fight threats.

The FBI normally is forbidden from surveilling an American without a warrant. But Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Act, last updated by Congress in 2008,  allowed the NSA to share with the FBI spy data collected without a warrant that includes the communications of Americans with “foreign targets.”

Yet the agency in 2009 assured compliance with rules regarding intercepts gathered overseas about Americans on U.S. soil.

But the IG said it reviewed the same data and easily found evidence that the FBI accessed NSA data gathered on a person who likely was in the United States, making it illegal to review without a warrant.

For years, this cowboy mentality and kid-in-a-candy-shop attitude of having data and using it in creative ways has brought nothing but trouble for the FBI. Comey took over in 2013 from Robert Mueller, who originally oversaw the implementation of FISA Section 702.

Comey and now Mueller have been the chief investigators of the Trump-Russia investigation, at the same time the FBI was–admittedly not the majority of the time, but significantly–playing fast and loose with secret warrantless intercepts on U.S. citizens.

The most serious involved the NSA searching for American data it was forbidden to search. But the FBI also was forced to admit its agents and analysts shared espionage data with prohibited third parties, ranging from a federal contractor to a private entity that did not have the legal right to see the intelligence.

The agency pushed back, claiming that fast-moving counter-terrorism operations don’t allow time for agents to obtain permission every time they need data.

“If we require our agents to write a full justification every time think about if you wrote a full justification every time you used Google. Among other things, you would use Google a lot less,” a lawyer told the court.

It’s true that in a pluralistic, free society like America, homegrown and foreign terrorists would have an easier time operating if it weren’t for Big Brother listening. But remaining a pluralistic, free society is more important than trying to know everything, all the time, wouldn’t you agree?

The availability of nearly-unlimited data, what traitor (and hero to some) Edward Snowden exposed as widespread and comprehensive collection on just about anyone the Feds want, and many degrees of freedom beyond that (called “incidental” but collected nonetheless), might prove an irresistible temptation for some in government whose purposes are less than righteous.

This is why the “unmasking” requests by political appointees in the Obama White House are so troubling (especially that they were considered “routine”). Ben Shapiro raised a couple of important questions on how this relates to former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn (and now presidential advisor Jared Kushner).

Trump acolytes will undoubtedly suggest that this is precisely what happened with Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, who was caught up in surveillance of Russian third parties, unmasked by the Obama administration, and then revealed to the press by someone in the know. They will suggest that we now know that the FBI was often exceeding its mandate by searching data without a warrant that they should not have, and by occasionally allowing that information to flow outside of established channels.

In reality, the business of national security is sloppy. Mistakes will undoubtedly be made. The question is twofold: what sort of mistakes were made with regard to leaking the identity of Flynn to the press? And more generally, were the systems in place for restricting the free flow of classified information about American citizens sufficient?

It’s become more obvious that the safeguards between political and counter-terrorism operational access to and use of intelligence data are too weak. And as Sen. Rand Paul has been arguing for quite some time, we may need to look very closely at how, exactly what, and who is collecting data about American citizens.

House Oversight Committee: Michael Flynn Violated the Law by Not Disclosing Russian Payments

There are still so many questions outstanding in the probe of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The House Oversight Committee has joined the fray, with revelations of their own.

To begin with, it seems Flynn very likely ran afoul of the law, when he failed to disclose payments he received from Russia on paperwork submitted to renew his security clearance.

From The New York Post:

“As a former military officer, you simply cannot take money from Russia, Turkey or anybody else,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the committee. “And it appears as if he did take that money. It was inappropriate and there are repercussions for the violation of law.”

He also traveled to Moscow in 2015 and had dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin – something that has raised questions about the permissions received for that trip, given the current turn of events.

Lying on national security documents is a crime, as well as a military officer taking payments from a foreign government, the bipartisan leaders of the committee said.

The comments came after reviewing classified documents for the first time on Flynn’s national security clearance application in 2016.

“They are extremely troubling,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said after emerging from the classified briefing at the Capitol.

Furthermore, the White House has refused to turn over information requested by the House Oversight Committee, stating that they don’t have all the documents the committee is seeking.

Robert Kelner, Flynn’s lawyer, has offered that his client was in touch with the Defense Intelligence Agency about his trips to Russia and payments received from RT, the Kremlin’s propaganda arm.

“General Flynn briefed the Defense Intelligence Agency, a component agency of DoD, extensively regarding the RT speaking event trip both before and after the trip, and he answered any questions that were posed by DIA concerning the trip during those briefings,” Kelner told the Wall Street Journal.

Several weeks ago, Flynn’s lawyers made it known that their client was willing to testify for immunity, something Flynn, himself, has said is not asked for unless someone is guilty of something. Maybe this is why.

This latest revelation is another troubling spark to many that have already gone before.

How long before this whole investigations is a full-blown fire?

Jason Chaffetz: Why is Michael Flynn Asking for Immunity?

Thursday’s news that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had reached out to the FBI, as well as the House and Senate Intelligence committees, stating he was willing to testify, in exchange for immunity has raised a lot of questions.

Foremost has to be: Immunity from what?

Flynn was forced to step down from his role as national security adviser in February, after it was learned that he lied to Vice President Pence about conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

On Friday morning, President Trump took to Twitter to call the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election a “witch hunt” and said Flynn should seek immunity.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee spoke with Fox News later in the morning and seemed to disagree with the president.

“No, I don’t think it’s a witch hunt,” Chaffetz said. “Look, it’s very mysterious to me, though, why all of a sudden General Flynn is suddenly out there saying he wants immunity. A, I don’t think Congress should give him immunity. If there’s an open investigation by the FBI, that should not happen. I also don’t believe that actually that the president should be weighing in on this. They’re the ones that actually would prosecute something.”

“And I don’t think Donald Trump should be weighing in on this at this point,” he said. “But I don’t think there should be given immunity, either. I mean, immunity from what? We don’t know what that is.”

I have to agree with Rep. Chaffetz, here.

We don’t know what this is.

I’ve heard from several lawyers who seem to be of the same belief, that when it comes to seeking immunity, it could be something, but could just as easily be a big, procedural nothingburger.

What does not need to happen is for a sitting president to take to social media and turn the heat up, by shining a bigger spotlight on the issue.

Let the process play out.

Asked if Flynn’s request for immunity indicated that he may be guilty of something, Chaffetz conceded that “it doesn’t look good.”

“If all of a sudden you have somebody stand up and say, ‘Hey, I need immunity,’ you know, it kinda raises your eyebrows,” he said. “Even General Flynn back in the day said and used that same thing against Hillary Clinton. So, you know, it comes around to bite you, and I just think they need to get to the facts.”

Chaffetz is referring to a comment Flynn made in September 2016, regarding the probe into Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, where her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and four aides all asked for immunity.

While speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Flynn said you don’t ask for immunity unless you’re guilty of something.

Well, that’s unfortunate.

Chaffetz went on:

“There are some swirling things that need to be answered,” he added.

And he is right.

There are things that need to be answered, but with each new day, there seems to be another twist of intrigue to this tale.

Spies Don’t Trust Trump with Intelligence

In what may be an unprecedented move, America’s intelligence community is reportedly keeping the country’s most sensitive intelligence information from its president. A Wall Street Journal report cited both current and former intelligence officials who said that concerns that the information might be leaked or compromised had prompted the agencies to withhold certain information.

Even before the forced resignation of Gen. Flynn due to his lack of forthrightness about his contacts with Russia, the Trump Administration was at odds with the intelligence community. President Trump was one of the few to deny the findings of the FBI and the CIA that Russia interfered in the presidential election. In January, Trump hinted at a restructuring of the intelligence community in what some thought was retribution for the investigation into Russia’s role in the election. Also in January, Russia was rumored to have compromising information on Donald Trump himself.

Flynn was also not the only member of the Trump camp to have suspicious ties to Russia. Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was fired during the campaign for his connections to Russia. CNN reported that “high-level advisors” to the Trump camp were in “constant communication during the election with Russians known to US intelligence” according to “multiple current and former intelligence, law enforcement and administration officials.” Manafort was named by CNN in the article, but it may also refer to Carter Page, Roger Stone and others.

Manafort denied the accusation. “I have knowingly never talked to any intelligence official or anyone in Russia regarding anything of what’s under investigation,” he said. “I have never had any connection to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin or the Russian government before, during or after the campaign.”

According to the Journal, intelligence information is sometimes sanitized to protect sources before it is given to government officials, but there is no known precedent for restricting the president’s access due to fears about “trustworthiness and discretion.” The report said that there was no known instance in which vital information relating to security threats or plots had been restricted.

The Journal’s sources cited two specific reasons for restricting Mr. Trump’s access. The first is the general statements of admiration that Trump made for Vladimir Putin at numerous times. The second is the specific request that Mr. Trump made for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.

Officially, the intelligence community denies the Journal report. ““Any suggestion that the U.S. intelligence community is withholding information and not providing the best possible intelligence to the president and his national security team is not true,” said a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Likewise, the White House also disputes the account. “There is nothing that leads us to believe that this is an accurate account of what is actually happening.”

Regardless of whether information is being withheld, there is clearly a strained relationship between the Trump Administration and the intelligence community. “It’s probably unprecedented to have this difficult a relationship between a president and the intelligence agencies,” said Mark Lowenthal, a retired senior intelligence official. “I can’t recall ever seeing this level of friction. And it’s just not good for the country.”