The Justice Department is refusing to let top FBI staffers be interviewed by Senate investigators, who want to ask questions about details surrounding the controversial firing of former FBI director James Comey and other issues.
In a letter obtained by Fox News, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ranking Member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that top FBI officials James Rybicki and Carl Ghattas will not be provided for interviews.
The DOJ seemed to cite concerns about interfering with the ongoing special counsel probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“As a threshold matter, the scope of the Committee’s inquiry has not been de-conflicted with Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation,” the letter said. “… Therefore, in order to protect the integrity of the Special Counsel’s investigation, as we have previously indicated, we will not be able to provide Mr. Ghattas or Mr. Rybicki for interviews at this time.”
One of those officials, Rybicki, has been in the spotlight lately after partial interview transcripts emerged in which the former Comey chief of staff and another bureau official suggested Comey had started drafting an exoneration statement for Hillary Clinton in the private email investigation weeks before she was interviewed.
The claims, which emerged in interviews by the Office of Special Counsel and were disclosed by members of the Judiciary Committee, prompted some GOP lawmakers to question Comey’s past statements to Congress.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News last week he wants to haul back Comey to Capitol Hill; Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, said Monday that Comey “absolutely” should be brought back to testify.
The claim of an exoneration statement raised concerns for Ratcliffe, because the congressman seemed to get a different explanation from Comey during a September 2016 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. At the time, Ratcliffe asked Comey whether he made the decision not to recommend criminal charges against Clinton before or after she was interviewed by the FBI in early July.
“After,” Comey said.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also said Tuesday the DOJ should consider prosecuting Comey for various alleged “improper” actions. Sanders said the former FBI director “politicized an investigation by signaling he would exonerate Hillary Clinton before he ever interviewed her or other key witnesses.”
But Trump, for his part, faced intense criticism for his handling of the Comey firing earlier this year, including accusations from Democrats that he was trying to muffle the Russia meddling probe – which later was taken over by the special counsel.
Grassley and Feinstein repeatedly have asked for the two senior FBI officials to come before the committee, only to be turned down – and made clear from the start they had questions about Comey’s removal.
The Senate Judiciary Committee originally asked in July to interview Rybicki and Ghattas, who is with the FBI’s national security branch. The senators subsequently agreed to limit the scope of their request, reiterating that they had questions about Comey’s firing, but were rebuffed by DOJ.
The two officials could have unique insight about Trump’s views and actions toward Comey.
Asked about the latest letter, the Department of Justice referred Fox News to the Office Special Counsel, which declined to comment.
Inside Judicial Watch: The Comey Memos
In this installment of “Inside Judicial Watch,” Carter Clews joins Mark Tapscott, the Executive Editor of the Daily Caller News Foundation, to discuss the missing memos of James Comey and the controversy surrounding the former FBI director.
Another story about another criminal leftist
Liar Susan Rice Admits She DID Unmask Trump Officials
Apparently, disgraced liar Susan Rice actually DID unmask Trump officials.
Rice testified in private, before House investigators, and admitted to unmasking individuals to find out why the prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York.
What kind of pathetic excuse is that?
Rice didn’t care about the prince of the UAE, she helped unmask Trump administration officials because she was dedicated to undermining the Trump campaign.
In the end, Susan Rice is a dangerous criminal and a liar, who has committed perjury by lying under oath.
She, along with so many other “protected” establishment elites, belongs in prison.
It’s where you and I would be if we had done what she did.
Former national security adviser Susan Rice privately told House investigators that she unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, multiple sources told CNN.
The New York meeting preceded a separate effort by the UAE to facilitate a back-channel communication between Russia and the incoming Trump White House.
The crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, arrived in New York last December in the transition period before Trump was sworn into office for a meeting with several top Trump officials, including Michael Flynn, the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his top strategist Steve Bannon, sources said.
The Obama administration felt misled by the United Arab Emirates, which had failed to mention that Zayed was coming to the United States even though it’s customary for foreign dignitaries to notify the US government about their travels, according to several sources familiar with the matter. Rice, who served as then-President Obama’s national security adviser in his second term, told the House Intelligence Committee last week that she requested the names of the Americans mentioned in the classified report be revealed internally, a practice officials in both parties say is common.
Rice’s previously undisclosed revelation in a classified setting shines new light on a practice that had come under sharp criticism from the committee chairman, California Rep. Devin Nunes, and President Donald Trump, who previously accused Rice of committing a crime.
But her explanation appears to have satisfied some influential Republicans on the committee, undercutting both Nunes and Trump and raising new questions about whether any Trump associates tried to arrange back-channel discussions with the Russians.
“I didn’t hear anything to believe that she did anything illegal,” Florida Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican helping to lead the panel’s Russia invesigation, told CNN of Rice’s testimony. He declined to discuss any of the contents of her classified remarks.
Through a spokeswoman, Rice declined to comment about her testimony. Nunes refused to answer questions when asked about Rice Tuesday evening.
It’s unclear precisely which Trump officials Rice discussed at the House meeting. But multiple sources have confirmed to CNN that Zayed met at the time with Flynn, Kushner and Bannon. The three-hour discussion focused on a range of issues, including Iran, Yemen and the Mideast peace process, according to two sources who insisted that opening up a back-channel with Russia was not a topic of discussion.
Still, the fact that the New York meeting occurred prior to the Seychelles session and that the UAE did not notify the Obama administration about why the crown prince was coming to the United States has raised questions in the eyes of investigators on Capitol Hill.
A secret meeting in the Seychelles
But the Trump Tower meeting came shortly before the UAE brokered a meeting to open lines of communications with the United States and Russia, with a clandestine January meeting in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, according to reports in CNN and The Washington Post. That meeting is now under investigation on Capitol Hill, though it’s unclear whether Rice mentioned the Seychelles meeting in the testimony.
A senior Middle East official told CNN that the UAE did not “mislead” the Obama administration about the crown prince’s visit, but acknowledged not telling the US government about it in advance. The meeting, which took place December 15, 2016, the official said, was simply an effort to build a relationship with senior members of the Trump team who would be working in the administration to share assessments of the region.
“The meeting was about ascertaining the Trump team’s view of the region and sharing the UAE’s view of the region and what the US role should be,” the official said. “No one was coming in to sell anything or arrange anything.”
A spokesperson for the crown prince declined to comment.
The Seychelles meeting — and the circumstances around it — has been a subject of interest to Hill investigators looking at any potential link between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Washington Post initially reported in April that the UAE brokered a pre-inauguration meeting between the founder of the security firm Blackwater, Erik Prince, who is a close Trump ally, and an associate of Vladimir Putin’s in the Seychelles Islands. The purpose of the meeting was part of an effort by the UAE to persuade Russia to curtail its relationship with Iran, including in Syria, according to the Post.
And it occured shortly after Bannon, Flynn and Kushner also met in Trump Tower with Zayed, whom the Post said helped arrange the Seychelles meeting with Russia government officials to set up the private discussions with the Trump team.
But the senior Middle East official told CNN this week that Prince’s name was not discussed at the Trump Tower meeting. And Prince himself has said he did nothing wrong, telling CNN’s Erin Burnett last month: “I was there for business.”
Both the White House and Prince have strongly denied that Prince was working as a liaison for the Trump administration.
Prince said he met with a Russian while at the Seychelles but “I don’t remember his name.”
“It probably lasted about, as long as one beer,” he said about the meeting.
For her part, Rice had been called to the House Intelligence Committee to testify partly over what Nunes and other Republicans believed was an abuse in the practice of “unmasking” — or revealing the identities of Americans who were communicating with foreign officials under surveillance by the US intelligence community. Simply unmasking the names of individuals in classified reports does not mean that their identities will be revealed publicly, and Rice denied to the committee that she leaked classified information to the press, sources familiar with the matter said.
But Rice’s suggestion that she unmasked the names of US individuals — who turned out to be Trump associates — over concerns about the propriety of the crown prince’s visit to the United States could help her fend off attacks that she was out of line in the actions she took.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who is helping lead the House investigation, told the Daily Caller “nothing that came up in her interview that led me to conclude” that she improperly unmasked the names of Trump associates or leaked it to the press.
Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, did not say explicitly whether Trump still believes Rice committed a crime but added the issue of leaking and unmasking needs to be investigated.
“We’ve seen illegal leaking of classified materials, including the identities of American citizens unmasked in intelligence reports,” Sanders told CNN. “That’s why the President called for Congress to investigate this matter and why the Department of Justice and Intelligence Community are doing all they can to stamp out this dangerous trend that undermines our national security.”
Nunes was forced to step aside from running the Russia investigation amid a House ethics inquiry into whether he improperly disclosed classified data. The ethics inquiry came in the aftermath of his bombshell comments that Obama administration officials had improperly unmasked the names of Trump associates, a revelation that Trump used as cover for his unsubstantiated claim that Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped during the election to spy on him. The Justice Department said in a court filing Friday that the DOJ and the FBI have no evidence to support Trump’s claims.
But on Tuesday, the Republican who took over the investigation from Nunes said there was no reason to bring Rice in for further questioning.
“She was a good witness, answered all our questions,” Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican now running the House Russia probe, told CNN. “I’m not aware of any reason to bring her back.”
In Less Than 2 Minutes On MSNBC Susan Rice Exposed The Entire Obama “Russian” Motive…
Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice only needed to confirm one aspect of the intelligence unmasking story for all of the dots to connect. She made that confirmation within two minutes of her interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
From the MSNBC transcript, emphasis mine:
Susan Rice @00:51 – …”Let me explain how this works. I was a National Security Adviser, my job is to protect the American people and the security of our country. That’s the same as the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and CIA Director.; and every morning, to enable us to do that,we receive – from the intelligence community – a compilation of intelligence reports that the IC, the intelligence community, has selected for us –on a daily basis– to give us the best information as to what’s going on around the world.”
Note, right there. STOP. No need to go any further. There it is – Susan Rice is describing the Presidents’ Daily Briefing, aka the “PDB”. She continues:
“I received those reports, as did other officials, and there were occasions when I would receive a report in which, uh, a ‘U.S Person’ was referred to. Name, uh, not provided, just ‘U.S. Person’.
And sometimes in that context, in order to understand the importance in the report – and assess it’s significance, it was necessary to find out or request, who that U.S. official was.”
This is the important detail. Susan Rice was requesting unmasking of U.S. person’s names, which she moments later describes as “U.S. official[s]”, to understand the context and importance for the intelligence being given within the Presidents’ Daily Brief.
Under President Obama’s communication and intelligence directives, the Presidential Daily Briefing was widely shared with dozens of administration persons in various agencies.
From a Washington Post story explaining the PDB and Obama’s use therein. (again, emphasis mine):
(Washington Post) […] It’s the president’s book. And indeed, it is tailored to each president’s individual needs. CIA officers in 1961 designed what was initially known as the President’s Intelligence Checklist specifically for John F. Kennedy’s tastes, using punchy words and phrases while avoiding clunky bureaucratic language and annoying classification markings. That checklist evolved into the President’s Daily Brief in late 1964 , as the agency reformatted and retitled the book of secrets to appeal to Lyndon Johnson’s preferences. While the name has stuck, the content and format have continued to evolve. President Obama receives his in digital form and reads it on a tablet .
But while through most of its history the document has been marked “For the President’s Eyes Only,” the PDB has never gone to the president alone. The most restricted dissemination was in the early 1970s, when the book went only to President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who was dual-hatted as national security adviser and secretary of state.
In other administrations, the circle of readers has also included the vice president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with additional White House staffers. By 2013, Obama’s PDB was making its way to more than 30 recipients, including the president’s top strategic communications aide and speechwriter, and deputy secretaries of national security departments. (link)
The post article was written December 26th 2016, after the election – and was presumably written due to post-election media reports the intelligence community had concerns over sharing information with President-elect Trump; this was the preferred, and false, anti-Trump narrative for a few weeks. I digress.
The important aspect two fold: #1) the PDB is electronic viewable by POTUS Obama on his iPad; and #2) how many people were getting the PDB information 30+, against the backdrop of Rice’s admitted unmasking of names within the raw intelligence for PDB user comprehension.
There you can see that “more than 30 recipients” would be privy to the unmasked information within the PDB as an outcome of the protocols instituted by the White House and President Obama’s National Security Advising team.
From Rice’s MSNBC interview the departments of “State (John Kerry et al) and Defense (Ash Carter et al)”, along with CIA (Director John Brennan), NSA (Director Mike Rogers) and ODNI James Clapper, all participated.
As such, and as outlined by the Washington Post on distribution, deputies within Defense and State, along with “other national security departments” would have access to the unmasked PDB information.
Here’s where you realize within those “more than 30 recipients” you find people like Secretary Hillary Clinton, Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy and various high level officials in the Office of the Secretary and its Executive Secretariat (S/ES) past and present. This is also where the Deputy Secretaries of Defense like Dr. Evelyn Farkas come into play. All of these officials would be accessing, or at least have access to, the President’s Daily Brief, and the unmasked intelligence within it.
When you recognize how widely the Obama administration disseminated the PDB you begin to realize how easy it was for any foreign entity, including the Russians, to have access to the EXACT SAME daily intelligence brief as President Obama and his National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
An additional character within this wide-dissemination construct would be John Podesta. Remember, after Hillary Clinton stepped down from Secretary of State, she inserted, with Obama’s approval, John Podesta within the White House Senior Advisory staff to keep a communications line open with direct information. (As pictured below) Podesta remained in that position throughout 2013, 2014 and into 2015.
Having a known entity like John Podesta with access to the PDB and the unmasked intelligence therein, puts the appropriate highlight on the risk carried by Russian hacking into Podesta’s electronic communications, stored data and email correspondence.
Is it any surprise Russian, or any foreign intelligence group, would then be making attempts to enter the unsecured private email accounts of Secretary Hillary Clinton and her top level staff?
And John Podesta is only one of numerous people who would have access to this PDB information. All of which would potentially be at risk of being read daily by enterprising hackers, or various spies, who would glean a gobsmacking level of information by actually reading the same unmasked intelligence as the President of the United States.
Oh, the angles are almost limitless.
Not only would President Obama and his entire NSC team be gathering operational political intelligence on their political adversaries to include President-Elect Donald Trump and his transition team, but they would also be gathering intelligence and unmasking it on other U.S. Officials…..
…..That same unmasked and widespread surveillance, under the auspices of intelligence gathering, was then shared with dozens of administration officials -beyond the likes of the National Security Council, Asst. Defense Secretary Farkas and politicos like John Podesta- which means it was more than likely reviewed, via hacking etc., by our most critical national enemies.
Follow that trail to where it leads and you’ll likely discover the real story that encompasses the motive to create the ‘vast Russian conspiracy‘.
It only took Susan Rice two minutes on MSNBC to highlight the entire motive.
Another March 2nd MSNBC interview takes a new context:
“I was urging my former colleagues, and, and frankly speaking the people on the Hill [Democrat politicians], it was more actually aimed at telling the Hill people, get as much information as you can – get as much intelligence as you can – before President Obama leaves the administration.”
Because I had a fear that somehow that information would disappear with the senior [Obama] people who left; so it would be hidden away in the bureaucracy, um, that the Trump folks – if they found out HOW we knew what we knew about their, the Trump staff, dealing with Russians – that they would try to compromise those sources and methods; meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence.
So I became very worried because not enough was coming out into the open and I knew that there was more. We have very good intelligence on Russia; so then I had talked to some of my former colleagues and I knew that they were also trying to help get information to the Hill. … That’s why you had the leaking”.
“if they found out HOW we knew … that they would try to compromise thosesources and methods; meaning we no longer have access to that intelligence “,
Indeed they would Dr. Farkas. Indeed they would.