The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Point Devin Nunes Is Making That Trump Critics Refuse to Acknowledge

The Point Devin Nunes Is Making That Trump Critics Refuse to Acknowledge

It’s perfectly fair to ask whether the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee should be traveling to the White House to brief the president when the FBI director just announced that there is an ongoing investigation into whether there was any collusion between the president’s campaign and a foreign government in the past year.

But everybody is whacking Representative Devin Nunes around like a piñata right now, and it’s easy to forget he’s raising a perfectly valid concern.

On January 12, the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote:

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated? The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is a leak of classified information. Michael Flynn was not, as far as we know, a target of any U.S. government surveillance. He was one of the figures whose conversations was “incidentally” recorded, presumably as part of the regular monitoring of Kislyak.

People within the U.S. government are not supposed to take the information that is incidentally recorded and then run to David Ignatius because they don’t like the American citizen who was recorded. That’s not the purpose of our domestic counterintelligence operations. Even if Flynn had violated the Logan Act — which, as we all know, no one has never been prosecuted for violating — there are legitimate avenues for dealing with that, namely going to law enforcement and a prosecutor.

(Invoking the Logan Act in this circumstance is particularly nonsensical, because the interpretation Ignatius floats would criminalize just about any discussion between a presidential candidate, a president-elect or his team and any representative of a foreign government on any matter of importance. If you ask a foreign official if his country would make a concession on Issue X in exchange for a U.S. concession on Issue Y, BOOM! Call out the SWAT teams, we’ve got a Logan Act violation!)

There are a lot of reasons not to like Michael Flynn, but that doesn’t change the fact that somebody broke the law and leaked classified information in an effort to get him in trouble. That is wrong and that is illegal, and Nunes is right to point out we’re going down a dangerous road when information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies about American citizens starts getting strategically leaked for partisan purposes.

Here’s what Democrats and their friends in the media are too shortsighted to recognize: any skullduggery they excuse now will be used against them in the future. Anything that the Obama administration did during the transition can be done by figures in the Trump administration against future Democratic candidates.

Just about any serious presidential campaign and any presidential transition is going to speak with someone under U.S. government surveillance at some time. It seems reasonable to think that every ambassador and representative of a foreign government, but particularly those of Russia, China, and any other not-always-friendly country, is monitored 24/7 or as close to that as possible. Executives at foreign and international companies, scholars, retired officials — anyone connected to a foreign government is probably a potential source of intelligence and a potential target of surveillance.

The default setting for most of the media right now is, “well, the eavesdropping on Trump’s transition team was incidental; no harm, no foul.” But leaking of even incidental eavesdropping is harmful and is a foul. Nunes has a right to be angry, and to remind us that this strategic illegal leaking should bother us as well.

These Guys Hurt All of Us. Why Aren’t All of Us Punching Back Simultaneously?

Considering how Islamist terror, and particularly ISIS, targets everyone, you would think it would be easier to build a robust and aggressive global coalition that could hit ISIS with so much ordinance, it makes “shock and awe” look like “milk and cookies.”

The toll in London:

Consistent with the multicultural character of London, the victims of the attack — three dead and around 40 others wounded — included 12 Britons, at least four South Koreans, three French schoolchildren, two Romanians and one citizen each of China, Germany, Greece, Ireland and Italy.

The police also said that they had lowered the death toll in the attack on Wednesday to four from five, including the assailant. He drove his vehicle over pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then fatally stabbed a police constable, Keith Palmer, 48, before being shot dead by the police.

A moment of silence was observed in London at 9:33 a.m. on Thursday, to be followed by a 6 p.m. vigil in Trafalgar Square. But even as the city returned fairly quickly to normalcy, and as Parliament resumed normal business — starting with a debate on trade policy — police officers were pursuing leads in the case.

Regarding the perpetrator…

Prime Minister Theresa May described the assailant as a British-born man whom the country’s domestic intelligence agency had investigated for connections to violent extremism.

Addressing lawmakers in Parliament who only a day earlier had been under lockdown, Mrs. May said Thursday morning that the attacker was “a peripheral figure” who had been examined by MI5, Britain’s domestic counterintelligence agency, but who had not been “part of the current intelligence picture.”

Why are people not afraid of being connected to violent extremism?

A Proposed ‘Deal’ That Sounds More Like a ‘Unilateral Concession’

Ladies and gentlemen, the worst deal proposal for Republicans on judges since Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico proposed nominating both Neil Gorsuch and Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court:

A group of Senate Democrats is beginning to explore trying to extract concessions from Republicans in return for allowing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.

The lawmakers worry that Gorsuch could be confirmed whether Democrats try to block him or not — and Democrats would be left with nothing to show for it. That would be a bitter pill after the GOP blocked Merrick Garland for nearly a year.

News flash to Democrats: Gorsuch indeed will be confirmed whether Democrats try to block him or not.

The deal Democrats would be most likely to pursue, the sources said, would be to allow confirmation of Gorsuch in exchange for a commitment from Republicans not to kill the filibuster for a subsequent vacancy during President Donald Trump’s term. The next high court opening could alter the balance of the court, and some Democrats privately argue that fight will be far more consequential than the current one.

Wait, where’s the upside for Republicans? The GOP can nuke the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations now or they can do it later. It doesn’t make much difference for them.

Here is the brutal reality for Democrats: As long as 1) Trump is president and 2) he picks qualified legal minds that conservatives like such as the names on his list of 21 potential choices and 3) Republicans control the Senate, then Trump’s nominees will end up on the court. As the late Bill Paxton would say, “Game over, man, game over.”

This sort of deal would represent Republicans accepting a Democratic veto of Trump’s next pick in exchange for Democrats not building a speed-bump on this pick.

For everything else going wrong in this world, at least conservative legal eagles got a good laugh out of this proposal.

Leonard Leo, one of Trump advisors for the Supreme Court who’s on leave from Federalist Society, called the proposal “delusional.”

“This absurd ‘deal’ would prolong an environment in which Democrat Supreme Court nominees get up or down simple majority votes and Republican nominees get filibustered,” he said in a released statement. “That’s not a deal, it’s unilateral disarmament.”

Judicial Crisis Network policy director Carrie Severino: “Now that Neil Gorsuch is well on his way to confirmation, Democrats hope Republicans will fumble at the one yard line. The silly proposal being floated by Democrats would merely prolong their ability to filibuster exceptionally qualified nominees, while giving Republicans nothing in return. Republicans would be fools to take it, and I don’t think they are fools.”

ADDENDA: Just when you think the world can’t get any more bizarre…

A youth with both American and Israeli citizenship is suspected of being behind a host of fake bomb threats directed at Jewish institutions worldwide.

The cyberattack unit of Israel’s fraud squad arrested the suspect, 18, on Thursday in wake of information it received from the FBI and other law enforcement authorities abroad. The police seized computers and other items that allegedly allowed him to perpetrate the threats in a manner that made it difficult for the police to locate him.

The suspect has lived in Israel many years. The army refused to draft him on personal grounds after finding him unfit for service. The suspect’s motive is unknown. The police also detained his father for questioning.


The Latest