What did the President know and when did he know it?
by AMBASSADOR HENRY F. COOPER
March 7, 2017
"I think the President was not correct certainly in saying that President Obama ordered a tap on a server in Trump Tower. However, I think he is right in that there was surveillance, and that it was conducted at the behest of the... Justice Department through the FISA court." ~ Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey on ABC's This Week
The political debate of the past several weeks was brought to a head by President Trump's now famous tweet last Saturday morning. Until then, the press had largely reported on allegations that Russian hacking affected our recent election focused, according to Democrats, on favoring President Trump. And this debate continues even though there has been no confirmation of such claims, including from ongoing congressional and intelligence community investigations.
Now President Trump has placed another issue on the table - the role of President Obama and/or his administration in leaks directed for political purposes. He tweeted early in the morning last Saturday: "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped' in Trump Tower before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"
This claim was an exaggeration, as noted by Attorney General Mukasey, but it seems clear that there is a lot of smoke there and where there's so much smoke there's usually fire. Click here for a transcript of his full informative interview on ABC News' This Week. Among other things, he noted that President Obama's Justice Department made two requests in June and October of 2016 to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to monitor communications involving Donald Trump and several advisers.
Because the first FISA request was denied, the second request was narrower and focused on a computer server in Trump Tower suspected of transmitting links to Russian banks. . . . "It means there [was] some basis to believe that somebody in Trump Tower may have been acting as an agent of the Russians, for whatever purpose, not necessarily the election, but for some purpose. And the FBI keeps track of people who act as agents of foreign governments," Mukasey said. "They keep track of people who act as agents of the Chinese, the Russians, the Israelis, everybody."
So, what is the basis of President Trump's tweet?
This question now overlays months of haranguing over as yet unsubstantiated Democrat allegations that Trump campaign influenced Russian attempts to influence the outcome of our November election. These claims are subjects of ongoing Congressional investigations - that have fueled numerous media reports.
As an example of the consequences of these continuing charges and how they are linked to leaks that surely annoy President Trump, consider how Lt. General Michael Flynn was outed as President Trump's National Security Advisor. The causal information was from the illegal release of his taped conversation with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, an intercept that presumably was legally obtained by the U.S. intelligence community during the Obama administration. At that time, General Flynn was a private citizen working in Trump Tower for then Presidential Candidate Trump, and this leak of a private U.S. citizen's conversation was a felony. Click here for an example of Democrat demands for public release of these highly classified conversations, as part of their continuing efforts to charge the Trump campaign of colluding with Russia. This stage was in concert with their related efforts to block Attorney General Jeff Sessons, who eventually recused himself from all campaign-related activities that might become of interest to the Department of Justice. There is no confirmation of the Democrats' still claimed collusion.
There is of course nothing new in claims that the Russians attempt to influence our election - they have often done that in our and our allies' elections, dating back at least to the 1980 and 1984 elections with which I am most familiar. By the way, prominent Democrats are known to have joined those efforts.
The only thing new is their exploiting modern technology, and we should not be surprised. We also use modern technology against adversaries. For example, check here for a recent New York Times article on cyber attack efforts to counter North Korea's menacing ballistic missile development programs.
Moreover, the Russians hacked both the RNC and DNC - but the RNC had protected their use of the web and the DNC had not. Furthermore, to my knowledge, none of the related WikiLeak's disparaging information on then-Candidate Clinton has been proven to be false.
Whatever, there is a more balanced set of investigations in process as Congress is now to investigate both the Russian hacking threat to our election process and the suggested Obama administration hacking of Trump associates - hence the pertinence of famous quotation from then Senator Howard Baker, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
The "President" could be either President Trump or former President Obama. You pick the President you prefer to discuss.
We've heard the claims from Democrats for months, and there is nothing new to report. What about what new may be known by President Trump? Especially that influenced his Tweet quoted above, as clarified by former Attorney General Mukasey?
This issue will be debated publicly and behind closed doors, no doubt accompanied by numerous selective leaks to the press. To inform yourself of the merits of this debate, I strongly urge you consider two recent exhaustive discussions of these issues.
Andrew McCarthy Commentaries
First, consider a discussion of the merits of the arguments by the former New York Assistant U.S. Attorney who put Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheik," behind bars for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Click here for Andrew McCarthy's early morning Sunday assessment and its links to his previous analyses that bear on the current debate. He claims that President Trump's Saturday morning tweet exploded the uncovered scandal Andy has been writing about since January. Click here for a later morning message that elaborates his views on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
McCarthy reports that after the early Obama Justice Department/FBI criminal investigation of Trump Associates (re. the Russian hacking) came up with nothing by June 2016, the Justice Investigation converted it into national security investigation under FISA provisions, which allow for electronic surveillance of those it alleges are "agents of a foreign power."
Such considerations are highly classified - so leaks from such surveillance are illegal. After turning down the first request for surveillance of the Trump campaign, the FISA Court approved a second request months later in October 2016 for surveillance of at least some Trump associates - i.e., just before the November 8 election.
Presumably (my assumption), Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn may have fallen prey to one of the products of a FISA approved surveillance exercise - the transcript might have been obtained from the library of all, repeat all, communications maintained by the National Security Agency (NSA) under President Reagan's Executive Order 13222, as the U.S. Freedom Act approved it during the George W. Bush administration.
The Justice Department maintains some independence in these matters - re. White House authority, but the NSA also reports, perhaps more directly, to the President through a different chain of command, i.e., through the Secretary of Defense - as pointed out yesterday by Judge Napolitano on Fox News. Click here for Andy McCarthy's related discussion that makes clear that the President can access the FISA Court actions, in any case.
Click here for a February 15, 2017 Breitbart News' report that William Binney, a former highly placed NSA official turned whistleblower, contended in an exclusive interview that the NSA is "absolutely" monitoring the phone calls of President Donald Trump.
Regarding General Flynn's case, Binney stated: "If they [the NSA] weren't behind it, they certainly had the data. Now the difference here is that FBI and CIA have direct access inside the NSA databases. So, they may be able to go directly in there and see that material there. And NSA doesn't monitor that. They don't even monitor their own people going into databases. So, they don't monitor what CIA and FBI do. And there's no oversight or attempted oversight by any of the committees or even the FISA court. So, any way you look at it, ultimately the NSA is responsible because they are doing the collection on everybody inside the United States. Phone calls. Emails. All of that stuff."
Andy McCarthy's bottom line was that "there does not appear to be any evidence . . . to suggest that any surveillance or request to conduct surveillance against then-candidate Donald Trump was done outside the FISA process." Whatever . . .
To the best of my knowledge, the public still does not know the content of that surveillance, except that according to Trump spokesmen General Flynn resigned for misleading Vice President Pence, not for a violation of the law.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a partial casualty of this process - by recusing himself from involvement in anything to do with the Trump Campaign. Click here for Andy McCarthy's argument that the case against Sessions for perjury is meritless. Click here for his additional related commentary, along with arguments against appointing a special prosecutor as advocated by the Democrats, given that there is no crime to prosecute. And click here for his persuasive arguments that there is no such thing as an Independent Counsel.
Click here for his most recent message yesterday afternoon, which claimed that "While you weren't looking, the Democrat-Media Election-Hacking Narrative just collapsed." He claims "this happened in the now familiar way: jaw-dropping tweets by President Trump." His encouraging bottom line assessment is well worth reading.
Hope springs eternal . . .
Mark Levin Commentary
The Second contribution I encourage you to consider is by Mark Levin, who was the Justice Department's Chief of Staff under Attorney General Edwin Meese during the Reagan administration - and he well understands how the system works.
What makes Levin's contribution so interesting and informative is that he makes a similar strong, and perhaps easier for the layman to understand, case based on numerous publications from the main stream media, not known for their support of Donald Trump either as a candidate or as President. Indeed they are well known as bending the truth to undercut him. Included are Heat Street, the BBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Guardian, and McClatchy news services, not "right wing media" as the lame stream media has claimed.
He concludes from his analysis of this main stream media that the Obama administration was "spying." The issue was not whether they spied, but "who did they spy on" and "the extent of the spying." His analysis indicates such activity began nearly a year ago.
Mark Levin's analysis of this openly published information noted the involvement of the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, Treasury Department Financial Crimes Unit, and Representatives of Director of National Intelligence - and that some of the "wiretapped communications [had] been provided to the White House."
Near the end of the Obama administration these media reports indicated that highly classified information was proliferated throughout the government - enabling leaks of that information.
Moreover, Levin charges that if the logical conclusion from these publications is true, then these actions of the Obama administration amount to "Police State" activities.
Click here for his Sunday morning interview on Fox and Friends. Stay for the full 12-and-a-half minutes and get his whole presentation, including his recommendations about what should be done. Click here for a useful summary of Mark's views by Breitbart News, based on his earlier radio broadcast on the same subject.
He emphasized the problem that the Obama administration has "squirreled in" their representatives to continue to undermine the Trump administration, while the Senate Democrats are delaying the confirmation of Trump officials.
Levin's bottom line was that "these were Police State" tactics. They demand action - Congressional oversight, especially by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, to get to the bottom of this publicly identified situation.
Implications from Obama Spokesmen
Spokesmen for the Obama administration have asserted that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. For example, Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said last Saturday that "Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false."
However, former speechwriter Jon Favreau warned on Twitter against accepting Lewis' statement: "I'd be careful about reporting that Obama said there was no wiretapping. Statement just said that neither he nor the WH ordered it." Click here for related discussion. Hmmmm!
Sooo . . . as Senator Howard Baker asked in the Watergate Hearings that led to President Nixon's resignation, "What did the President know and when did he know it?"
And when asking the same question today, you can substitute whichever President you wish.
As I recalled Senator Baker, I could not help musing on his important career and remembering his role in initiating Japanese participation in our Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) programs and particularly the Aegis BMD - which is in my opinion our very best BMD system today. Click here for my June 30, 2014 remembrance of his many contributions, including this capability that is very important to today's concerns about North Korea.
Click here for a New York Times discussion of this threat which is more than troubling today. And North Korea's ally Iran is not far behind, if any. I had planned to discuss this situation and what we should be doing to counter it in today's message, but thought the above message was more pertinent.
What can you do?
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Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all "powers that be" to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
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Ambassador Henry F. Cooper is Chairman of High Frontier and a former Acquisition Executive for all U.S. ballistic missile defenses. He also served in several other senior USG acquisition and policy positions, including as President Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union. He is currently focused on helping local, state and federal authorities protect against the natural and manmade EMP threat by building effective ballistic missile defenses and hardening the electric grid. Otherwise, loss of the electric grid would freeze America's "just in time" economy, leaving most Americans without means for survival.