Tuesday, April 25, 2017
About that Russian thing
The White House is refusing to cooperate with the congressional probe into the Flynn matter and it's very odd unless they have something to hide, don't you think? It's not like the guy still works there.
Anyway, it is probably a good thing if it pushed congress to appoint and independent commission since neither the tainted House probes or the slow-walking Senate probe are going to get the job done.
The people are already behind it:
Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they want an independent, non-partisan commission instead of Congress to investigate Russia's involvement in the 2016 election, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Seventy-three percent of respondents prefer the independent investigation, versus 16 percent who pick Congress.
Still, a majority of Americans — 54 percent — believe that Congress should investigate whether there was contact between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, which is essentially unchanged from February's NBC/WSJ poll.
But they don't have much faith in the outcome:
There's good reason for this. The congress is investigating very haphazardly. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was a member of the Trump transition and he talks a good game but he's doing as little as possible so I wouldn't get my hopes up:
The Senate’s main investigation into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile intelligence and scandal probes in Congress, which could potentially affect its progress, according to sources and a Reuters review of public records.
With only seven staff members initially assigned to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s three-month-old investigation, progress has been sluggish and minimal, said two sources with direct knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity.
A committee aide, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said two more staff members were being added and a few others were involved less formally.
“We need to pick up the pace,” Senator Martin Heinrich, a committee Democrat, told Reuters on Monday. “It is incumbent on us to have the resources to do this right and expeditiously, and I think we need additional staff.”
While some directly involved in the investigation disputed characterizations of the probe as off track, the appearance of a weak Senate investigation could renew calls by some Democrats and other Trump critics for a commission independent of the Republican-led Congress to investigate the allegations.
The intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have taken the lead in Congress in examining whether Russia tried to influence the election in Republican Trump’s favor, mostly by hacking Democratic operatives’ emails and releasing embarrassing information, or possibly by colluding with Trump associates. Russia has denied such meddling.
With the House intelligence panel’s investigation for weeks stymied by partisan squabbles, the Senate committee’s parallel probe had appeared to be the more serious of the two, with Republican Chairman Richard Burr and top Democrat Mark Warner promising a thorough and bipartisan effort.
Burr, a member of Congress since 1995, last month called the Russia probe one of the biggest investigations undertaken in Congress during his tenure.
Previous investigations of national security matters have been much larger in terms of staffing than the one Burr is overseeing, according to a review of official reports produced by those inquiries, which traditionally name every staff member involved.
A House committee formed to investigate the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans had 46 staffers and eight interns.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s years-long study of the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration had 20 staff members, according to the panel’s official report.
A special commission separate from Congress that reviewed the intelligence that wrongly concluded former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction ahead of the 2003 invasion of Iraq involved 88 staffers.
A special Senate committee’s 1970s investigation into Watergate-era surveillance practices tapped 133 staffers.
A joint House-Senate probe of the 1980s Iran-Contra affair during Ronald Reagan’s presidency involving secret sales of arms to Iran to try to win the release of American hostages, with proceeds going to Nicaraguan rebels, had 181 staffers.
Spokeswomen for Burr and for Warner declined to comment on the staffing levels.
The listed sizes of various investigations may be an imperfect comparison because not all staffers listed may have actually had a substantial role, congressional sources said. Investigations often grow in size over time, and a committee aide said the panel had secured $1.2 million in additional funding for the Russia election investigation.
But the numbers are still broadly “relevant as indicators of a commitment to an investigation,” said Steven Aftergood, a secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists.
“For this investigation to be successful, the committee must recognize the enormity of the job and provide the resources to tackle it,” Senator Ron Wyden, another committee Democrat, said in a statement.
Wyden sent a letter last month to Burr and Warner requesting that the probe include a thorough review of any financial ties between Russia and Trump and his associates.
None of the staffers possess substantial investigative experience or a background in Russian affairs, two of the sources said.
Apparently interference into American elections is no big deal to the Republican party. Well, as long as the Russians are trying to help them win. I guess they feel they're kindred spirits, which they are: authoritarian kleptocrats are the new right. So, it makes sense.
By the way, this piece by NBC from last week about that weird RT dinner is interesting. Flynn and Jill Stein were the American stars seated right there at the big table with President Putin for the event. Flynn was very enthusiastic.
This new story about Flynn's Turkish connection is also startling. It turns out the Turkish contact is also heavily connected to Russia. What in the hell was he thinking?
digby 4/25/2017 05:00:00 PM