Archive for August 3, 2017

Senate confirms 65 Trump nominees on last day before August break

August 3, 2017

Senate confirms 65 Trump nominees on last day before August break, Washington Examiner, Susan Ferrechio, August 3, 2017

The U.S. Senate confirmed more than five dozen Trump administration nominees Thursday, reflecting a deal between Republicans and Democrats that will let lawmakers in both parties return home for the summer.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved the nominations in a large package agreed to by voice vote, meaning no senators objected.

Among those confirmed were former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican of Texas, who will be Trump’s ambassador to NATO, and Robert Wood Johnson, who was confirmed as ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Democrats agreed to move the nominees forward quickly, ending months of delays and obstructions to nearly every single Trump nominee. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had been dragging out the process of confirming the nominees to protest the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare by using a procedural move that would have thwarted the ability of Democrats to filibuster.

With the effort to move that bill stalled indefinitely and bipartisan hearings on the embattled healthcare law underway, Schumer agreed to move what became known as “the package” of nominees.

“The Senate has confirmed more executive branch nominees this week than all of the executive branch nominees confirmed this year combined,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “I hope this agreement represents a way forward on confirming nominees so our government can be fully staffed and working for the American people.”

Among others, the Senate confirmed Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr to two vacant positions on the Federal Communications Commission. “Looking forward to working with them to promote the public interest,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tweeted after the voice vote.

The list also included top and lower tier positions in many different departments and agencies ranging from Health and Human Services to the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, where Christopher Giancarlo was approved to serve as chairman and Brian Quintens was confirmed a its commissioner.

The longest list of nominees confirmed were under the State Department and included Mark Andrew Green to serve as administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and eight ambassadors.

In addition to Bailey Hutchinson and Johnson, Sharon Day was confirmed as the ambassador to Costa Rica, John P. Desrocher of New York was confirmed as ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, and George Edward Glass of Oregon was confirmed as Ambassador to Portugal.

The list included U.S. attorneys and deputy attorneys general and assistant secretaries for the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Commerce and Homeland Security.

The confirmations come after months of frustration for Republicans and President Trump. While Democrats and Republicans in the past have generally sped through many executive branch nominees under a new president, Democrats slowed Trump’s picks to a crawl, requiring the GOP to use all required debate time which meant single nominations took days rather than minutes or hours.

McConnell said earlier this week he has determined that under the hurdles set by Democrats, it would take 12 years to confirm all of Trump’s nominees.

Schumer told Republicans he was slowing the process because he was opposed to their effort to repeal Obamacare, which is now on hold after the Senate failed last week to move a bill.

Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas called the passage of the confirmation package “a big day,” and should have happened much sooner “but for the obstruction and foot-dragging of our colleagues across the aisle.”

Robert Mueller impanels grand jury in Russian meddling investigation: Report

August 3, 2017

Robert Mueller impanels grand jury in Russian meddling investigation: Report, Washington ExaminerMelissa Quinn, August 3, 2017

Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia probe, has impaneled a grand jury to look into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, according to a report.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the grand jury has begun its work in Washington in recent weeks.

News that Mueller has impaneled a grand jury signals that the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling and ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials is ramping up, and that Mueller could be close to subpoenaing witnesses for documents or testimony.

A letter from H.R. McMaster said Susan Rice will keep her top-secret security clearance

August 3, 2017

A letter from H.R. McMaster said Susan Rice will keep her top-secret security clearance, CircaSara A. Carter, August 3, 2017

Almost one month after it was disclosed that former President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice was unmasking members of President Trump’s team and other Americans, Trump’s own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, sent an official letter giving her unfettered and continuing access to classified information and waiving her “need-to-know” requirement on anything she viewed or received during her tenure, Circa has confirmed.

The undated and unclassified letter from McMaster was sent in the mail to Rice’s home during the last week of April. Trump was not aware of the letter or McMaster’s decision, according to two Senior West Wing officials and an intelligence official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named.

This is the letter from McMaster to Rice. Names, phone numbers and personal addresses have been blurred.

“I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a ‘need-to-know’ to access any classified information contained in items you ‘originated, reviewed, signed or received while serving,’ as National Security Adviser,” the letter said. The letter also states that the “NSC will continue to work with you to ensure the appropriate security clearance documentation remains on file to allow you access to classified information.”

Circa revealed in March that during President Obama’s tenure, top aides — including Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch — routinely reviewed intelligence reports received from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad. They were doing so by taking advantage of rules Obama relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats, according to documents obtained by Circa.

In June, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Rice as part of the committee’s larger investigation into the unmasking of Americans under the Obama administration. Rice maintains that she never accessed the information inappropriately and has agreed to testify before the committee.

Under the law, and under certain conditions, it is common practice for some senior government officials to be given the unfettered access to classified information, and their “need to know” is waived under “Executive Order 13526 Section 4.4 Access by Historical Researchers and Certain Former Government Personnel.” But the White House officials told Circa that under the current congressional investigation, and given President Trump’s ongoing concern that members of his team were unmasked, Rice’s clearance should have been limited to congressional testimony only or revoked until the end of the investigation. Rice and Brennan have confirmed they sought the unredacted names of Americans in NSA-sourced intelligence reports, but insisted their requests were routine parts of their work and that they did nothing improper. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also has legal authority to unmask officials.

In a June tweet, Trump called the revelation that Rice and other Obama senior officials were unmasking members of his team the “big story… the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ that took place during the Obama administration.”

“Basically, this letter which was signed in the last week of April undercuts the president’s assertion that Susan Rice’s unmasking activity was inappropriate. In essence, anybody who committed a violation as she did would not be given access to classified information,” said a senior West Wing official, who was shown the document by Circa and verified its authenticity. “In fact, they would have their security clearance and right to ‘need-to-know’ stripped.”

“The point is, is that it lowers the bar for her,” the Senior West Wing official said.

“This memo McMaster sent to Rice makes it so that she doesn’t have to prove a continuing ‘need-to-know’ to have access to classified information and in effect is a White House pardon of Susan Rice and could be used by other Obama officials who conducted targeted unmasking of the campaign as a defense,” the official added.

The White House has not responded to requests for comment.

An intelligence official told Circa “that the NSA decision to provide this level of access to the subject of several ongoing investigations and to waive her ‘need-to-know’ requirement raises serious legal, moral and ethical concerns.”

According to information obtained by Circa, dozens of times in 2016, those intelligence reports identified Americans who were directly intercepted talking to foreign sources or who were the subject of conversations between two or more monitored foreign figures.

Sometimes Americans’ names were officially unmasked; other times they were so specifically described in the reports that their identities were readily discernible. Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports about U.S. citizens were Rice, his Brennan and Lynch.

Shortly after Circa released the redacted documents disclosing the change in rules, it was revealed that Power had also extensively requested permission to unmask American names in incidental foreign intercepts.

Rep. Steve King on Obama’s Interference in Foreign Elections

August 3, 2017

August 2, 2017 by y

Source: Rep. Steve King on Obama’s Interference in Foreign Elections | Gates of Vienna

Rep. Steve King on Obama’s Interference in Foreign Elections

The talking heads in the media and Democrats in Congress have been obsessing about supposed Russian interference in last fall’s presidential election. In response to the continuous Trump-Russia-Putin litany, Congressman Steve King (R-IA) came back with his own list of the Obama administration’s interference in foreign elections — including one in Macedonia, which I had forgotten about. Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals translated into Macedonian, paid for by the American taxpayer!

But that evil Vlad Putin, he’s the REAL election meddler who needs to be watched…

For more on Rep. King’s efforts to investigate Obama and the Clintons, see this Sioux City radio report, or The New York Post.

Many thanks to Vlad Tepes for subtitling and uploading this video:

Video transcript (including footage at the end that was left out of the video above):

00:00 Thank you Mr. Chairman, I’m listening to this debate and it strikes me that there is a few things that
00:04 have been left out of this discussion, and I do support
00:08 the gentleman from Florida’s amendment, and I follow
00:12 the ideology of this in the process. One of the things I would say to that is that
00:16 as I listen to the gentleman from Tennessee address this subject matter…
00:20 and raise his voice pretty strongly about the allegations of Obama vs.
00:24 Russians vs. Putin, I would make a couple of points on this, one is, it’s pretty
00:28 clear that the Obama administration sent their people over to Israel to work against
00:32 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Pretty much openly.
00:36 Significant dollars invested in that campaign over there. The president of the United States
00:41 with at least the moral support of the people that had worked for him…
00:45 in the country of Israel, seeking to shift the results of the election against the seated…
00:49 Prime Minister, Bibi Netanyahu. Then,
00:53 the gentlemen, no I won’t yield, I have a lot of things I must say but thank you.
00:57 Then, the gentlemen did object to US tax dollars being used.
01:01 I just came back not that long ago from the Balkans where I sat in a place
01:05 like Macedonia. And there I learned that the United States
01:09 Government, borrowing money from China and Saudi Arabia,
01:14 had handed over somewhere at least $5,000,000.00 in contracts
01:18 transferred through USAID into George Soros’ organizations that were used
01:22 to manipulate elections in the Balkans. And that’s just particularly Macedonia,
01:26 not including the neighboring countries that are there. And some of that money
01:30 was used to translate Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals
01:34 into Macedonian, to distribute the books, and…
01:38 the Rules for Radicals and the actions of radicals were manifested within the election
01:42 in that part of the world, so I would say that
01:46 the Obama administration is a long way from clean on this, as far as being
01:50 involved in elections in other countries, not to mention little comments like
01:55 the British one, “If you vote BREXIT you are going to have to go to the back of the queue.”
01:59 So that is the taxpayer dollars piece of this but, the long string
02:03 that we should be looking at with this investigation and special counsel
02:07 so that is our request here, it goes a long way back. it goes clear back
02:11 to Huma Abedin, Anthony Weiner,
02:15 650,000 emails which we still have access to! And
02:19 the question that was answered to us by James Comey which is
02:23 there was nothing to see there. We did a fast software search of 650,000
02:27 Emails, and in a case of Huma Abedin and Anthony
02:32 Weiner sharing laptops and sharing emails there was nothing new
02:36 in 650,000 emails, and what we have done in this Congress so far
02:40 is just taken his word for that. Now it seemed fairly logical to take his word at the time,
02:44 until you examine the investigation that he conducted
02:48 of Hillary Clinton, oh by the way, it was a matter…

Trump reportedly thinking about making Mike Pompeo national security adviser, shipping H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan

August 3, 2017

Trump reportedly thinking about making Mike Pompeo national security adviser, shipping H.R. McMaster to Afghanistan, Washington ExaminerDaniel Chaitin, August 2, 2017

(Please see also, McMaster, On ‘Warpath,’ Purges Key Trump Allies From White House NSC. — DM)

President Trump is looking at shifting CIA Director Mike Pompeo to the White House as national security adviser, according to a report Wednesday evening.

The move would bump H.R. McMaster, the current national security adviser. McMaster, a three-star Army general, would in turn be sent to Afghanistan to command U.S. forces in that country, the New York Times reported, citing several unnamed administration officials. The move could help McMaster earn his fourth star.

Trump has reportedly expressed frustration with Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, because the U.S. and its allies are not “winning” the war there.

The White House shuffle, if it came to pass, would be the latest in a string of staffing changes, including the exit of Reince Priebus as chief of staff. He was replaced by John Kelly, a retired general who had been serving as secretary of homeland security.

McMaster too has overseen a National Security Council that has recently seen some people ousted.

McMaster was named national security adviser in February, replacing Michael Flynn after it was revealed he misled the administration about his communications with a Russian envoy. Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas, was sworn in as CIA director in January, days after the inauguration.

Top Lawmaker Pushes Trump Admin to Freeze Pakistani Assets Tied to IT Breach Scandal

August 3, 2017

Top Lawmaker Pushes Trump Admin to Freeze Pakistani Assets Tied to IT Breach Scandal, Washington Free Beacon, , August 3, 2017

Debbie Wasserman Schultz / Getty Images

A leading lawmaker on the House oversight committee is urging the Trump administration to pursue a court order freezing recent wire transfers to Pakistan made by Democratic IT staffers who are accused of stealing computer equipment from House lawmakers’ offices and penetrating internal congressional networks, the Washington Free Beacon has learned.

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.), an oversight committee member and chair of its national security subcommittee, petitioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions to disclose if federal investigators are moving to freeze recent wire transfers of nearly $300,000 by Imran Awan, a top IT staffer for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D., Fla.) and scores of other Democrats who was recently arrested on charges of bank fraud.

Awan and several of his family members are believed to have stolen computer equipment used by Congress and penetrated sensitive networks linked to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and other networks.

Awan and others allegedly involved in the scandal remained on the congressional payroll for months after their activity became public, prompting calls by senior lawmakers for an independent investigation in Wasserman Schultz’s handling of the situation.

Awan is also believed to have defrauded the House of Representatives by using taxpayer funds to buy computer equipment that is now missing.

DeSantis, who has spearheaded efforts to move forward with the probe into this scandal, told the Free Beacon on Thursday that the Trump administration must take immediate steps to freeze any assets that may have been transferred by Awan to Pakistan.

“The DOJ needs to do what it can to freeze proceeds from any illicit transactions made by Awan,” DeSantis said. “Given the allegations against him it would be unthinkable that he’d be allowed to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pakistan.”

In his letter to Sessions, DeSantis seeks to ascertain what steps the DOJ is taking to investigate Awan and his wife, Hina Alvi, who is also tied to the scandal.

“Given the alarming amount of funds that were wired to Pakistan, has the Department of Justice utilized the United States Department of Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to investigate the financial records of Awan and Alvi to discover evidence of other potential crimes?” DeSantis asks.

“Have any U.S. financial institutions filed reports of suspicious activity on any bank account held by Awan or his wife?” the letter continues.

“Is the Department of Justice investigating whether any funds generated from the sale of stolen property of the House of Representatives were included as part of the wire transfer to Faisalabad, Pakistan?” DeSantis asks.

“Finally, will the Department seek a court order freezing the proceeds of any real estate transaction or from the sale of stolen technological equipment?”

DeSantis has described the situation as one of the biggest congressional scandals in the past 30 years, and other sources intimately familiar with the matter have told the Free Beacon that Congress has been roiled by the situation.

There is concern that sensitive information potentially obtained by Awan and other Democratic staffers could be used against lawmakers who may have been bound up in the penetration of sensitive congressional networks.

“I hope that we can work together to undo the serious damage done by these individuals while in the employment of the House of Representatives,” DeSantis writes. “While we can never tolerate breaches of the public trust, the wire transfer to Pakistan is particularly alarming as Pakistan is home to numerous terrorist organizations. I look forward to your timely response into these matters.”

The Free Beacon first disclosed earlier this week that Congress is seeking a brief from Capitol Police into their investigation of the situation, which some feel has proceeded too slowly.

Senior congressional sources say that investigators should set their sites on Wasserman Schultz, who has been accused of stonewalling on the matter. Some have even called for Wasserman Schultz to resign.

“The extent of the potential breaches has been made more clear” in recent weeks, according to one senior congressional source who would only speak on background when discussing the sensitive matter. “The inexplicable nature of the conduct of Wassermann Schultz and others has broadened” congressional interest.

Lawmakers are confused as to why Wasserman Schultz continued paying Awan and other staffers implicated in the breach for several months after this information came to light.

“At best for her that is gross misapplication of public funds that could merit resignation alone,” the source said. “There’s got to be more to that story.”

NSC Purge: McMaster ‘Deeply Hostile to Israel and to Trump’

August 3, 2017

NSC Purge: McMaster ‘Deeply Hostile to Israel and to Trump’, Breitbart, August 3, 2017

(According to President Trump’s agenda for today, he will meet with McMaster following his daily intelligence briefing. — DM)

Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick wrote Wednesday evening that National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster is purging pro-Israel staff from the National Security Council (NSC), turning the administration against President Donald Trump’s policies.

In a Facebook post, Glick noted that “all of these people” whom McMaster has fired this week — Rich Higgins, Derek Harvey, and Ezra Cohen-Watnick — “are pro-Israel and oppose the Iran nuclear deal, positions that Trump holds.”

She noted that the firings were the latest evidence that NSA McMaster is “deeply hostile to Israel and to Trump”:

According to senior officials aware of his behavior, he constantly refers to Israel as the occupying power and insists falsely and constantly that a country named Palestine existed where Israel is located until 1948 when it was destroyed by the Jews.

Many of you will remember that a few days before Trump’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו and his advisers were blindsided when the Americans suddenly told them that no Israeli official was allowed to accompany Trump to the Western Wall.

What hasn’t been reported is that it was McMaster who pressured Trump to agree not to let Netanyahu accompany him to the Western Wall. At the time, I and other reporters were led to believe that this was the decision of rogue anti-Israel officers at the US consulate in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t. It was McMaster.

And even that, it works out wasn’t sufficient for McMaster. He pressured Trump to cancel his visit to the Wall and only visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial — ala the Islamists who insist that the only reason Israel exists is European guilt over the Holocaust.

Glick noted that the three latest firings were not McMaster’s first attack on pro-Israel officials, or those critical of radical Islam. Two others had already been assigned to other jobs outside the National Security Council, she said.

Meanwhile, she noted, McMaster has replaced pro-Israel officials with anti-Israel, anti-Trump officials, and he allowed anti-Israel Obama holdovers to continue in their jobs:

[McMaster] fires all of Trump’s loyalists and replaces them with Trump’s opponents, like Kris Bauman, an Israel hater and Hamas supporter who McMaster hired to work on the Israel-Palestinian desk. He allows anti-Israel, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, pro-Iran Obama people like Robert Malley to walk around the NSC and tell people what to do and think. He has left Ben (reporters know nothing about foreign policy and I lied to sell them the Iran deal) Rhodes’ and Valerie Jarrett’s people in place.

(Malley was notoriously fired by Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign for meeting with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and advocating negotiations with them. He was later brought into President Obama’s administration to negotiate with Iran, and advised Obama — evidently poorly — on how to fight the Islamic State.)

Glick noted that “McMaster disagrees and actively undermines Trump’s agenda on just about every salient issue on his agenda,” including the Iran deal: “As for Iran, well, suffice it to say that McMaster supports the deal and refuses to publish the side deals Obama signed with the Iranians and then hid from the public.”

She also noted the irony that Trump had only hired McMaster, under pressure, because he was recommended by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):

Finally, there is the issue of how McMaster got there in the first place. Trump interviewed McMaster at Mara Lago for a half an hour. He was under terrible pressure after firing Flynn to find someone.

And who recommended McMaster? You won’t believe this.

Senator John McCain. That’s right. The NSA got his job on the basis of a recommendation from the man who just saved Obamacare.

Glick expressed disbelief that Trump could fire former General Michael Flynn as NSA “essentially for nothing,” while allowing McMaster to attack Israel, and undermining the rest of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, with impunity.

She suggested that Trump replace McMaster — or else Israel might begin to reconsider its embrace of Trump:

If McMaster isn’t fired after all that he has done and all that he will do, we’re all going to have to reconsider Trump’s foreign policy. Because if after everything he has done, and everything that he will certainly do to undermine Trump’s stated foreign policy agenda, it will no longer be possible to believe that exiting the nuclear deal or supporting the US alliance with Israel and standing with US allies against US foes — not to mention draining Washington’s cesspool – are Trump’s policies. How can they be when Trump stands with a man who opposes all of them and proves his opposition by among other things, firing Trump’s advisers who share Trump’s agenda?

She said that Trump should not fear criticism for firing another adviser:

One source claims that Trump’s political advisers are afraid of how it will look if he fires another national security adviser. But that makes no sense. Trump is being attacked for everything and nothing. Who cares if he gets attacked for doing something that will actually help him to succeed in office? Why should fear of media criticism play a role here or anywhere for this president and this administration?

Glick added, wryly: “Obviously, at this point, Trump has nothing to lose by angering McCain. I mean what will he do? Vote for Obamacare?”

Read Glick’s full post here.