Put the March 20 House Intelligence Committee Hearing into Perspective

In an interview with RT yesterday, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern put yesterday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing, “Russian Active Measures Investigation,” into perspective:

(1) The Democrats and the media are committed to the Trump/Russia election interference narrative, because they refuse to accept that Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate, and because the Anglo-American elite are intent on ensuring that there is no rapprochement with Russia under any circumstances;

(2) The hearing itself was a circus, in which nothing fundamentally new was revealed, but the hearing has been completely mischaracterized by the news media, who are the main problems for Trump;

(3) There was no Russian hacking to tip the scales for Trump as assessed in the U.S. intelligence community reports to Barack Obama of January, 2017, the precipitating event for the current Senate and House investigations of Russian interference in the elections and coordination with the Trump campaign. McGovern continues to insist that the so-called hacks of the DNC were leaks internally from the DNC by people appalled by how Clinton was stealing the election from Bernie Sanders;

(4) McGovern said that the attempt to impute to Putin a desire for Trump to be elected and to take reckless actions to effect this result, flies in the face of everything he knows about the Russians, whom he studied for more than 20 years in the CIA. Why would Putin want someone in the White House who is profiled as rash, impulsive, and unpredictable? Why would he take a shot on Trump when every poll showed him losing and the Russians themselves believed he would lose? McGovern said that the propaganda campaign now occurring in the United States reminds him of the techniques and methods used in the run-up to the Iraq war.

The transcript of the hearing, itself, shows that McGovern is largely correct. The overall hearing transcript is a frontal assault on Putin and Russia as the bad actor of all world history, by both Republican and Democratic Party congressmen.

The headlines are that James Comey, Director of the FBI, announced that there is an ongoing counterintelligence investigation of Russian interference in the elections and whether there was coordination in these activities with individuals associated with the Trump campaign. This investigation has been in existence since July of 2016. As is normal in such processes, Comey said, it would include an assessment as to whether any crimes were committed. He refused to put a time frame on when this investigation would be completed, stating that, in terms of counterintelligence investigations, this one was fairly young. This provoked repeated appeals to fundamental fairness and the need for domestic stability from some Republican Congressmen, most notably Peter King from New York, but Comey refused to provide a time frame.

Comey stated that he was authorized by the Department of Justice to report this classified investigation publicly in Monday’s hearing, a highly unusual and very political gambit. He has been attacked by legal ethics experts as violating legal ethics, both in his public discussions of the Hillary Clinton investigation during the election and now, in his discussion of this investigation in the current climate. As Lyndon LaRouche commented today, the FBI is clearly trying to stir up trouble.

The fact of the investigation itself is not new. It has otherwise been widely reported through leaks in the press generated by individuals in the intelligence community, the Clinton campaign, and by the Obama Administration, during the election campaign and subsequently. The FBI Director’s public characterization of it and the words he used, however, were sure to set off a media firestorm, and he knew that.

The opening of this investigation occurred shortly after the DNC went public with its claim that its computers had been hacked by the Russians. Comey also confirmed in the hearing that the FBI had been alerted about the DNC hacks in August of 2015, a full one year earlier, and that his agents had followed normal procedures in immediately notifying the DNC. British newspaper reports have stated that the original 2015 notification came to the FBI through British intelligence, specifically GCHQ, concerned about Trump’s pro-Russian stance. Comey also confirmed that the FBI was never given access to the DNC’s computers and instead relied on the forensics provided by Crowdstrike, the anti-Putin, Ukrainian intelligence-connected vendor the DNC hired to examine them.

The second headline from the hearing concerns the President’s claim that he was illegally surveilled by the Obama Administration. The media and the Democrats have focused on the literal term ‘wiretap’, the literal reading of Trump personally as the target, and the literal allegation that Obama personally authorized it, to portray the President as an unhinged madman. Comey and NSA Director Rogers confined their testimony to stating that nothing like what the President said in a literal sense in his tweet actually occurred.

Former NSA Executive William Binney, however, has continued to state, as recently as March 7th, that the surveillance of Trump evidenced by such things as the leaking of transcripts of his calls with foreign leaders as well as other leaks of classified information, are based in NSA programs under E.O. 12333 and have nothing to do with the FISA regime discussed at the hearing. With respect to the claim that GCHQ was responsible for the surveillance, both the NSA’s Rogers and the FBI’s Comey only stated that neither they nor Obama asked the GCHQ to do this.

Otherwise, the House Republicans focused on the leaks themselves, and on the fact that unmasking the names of U.S. citizens swept up in FISA-authorized surveillance is a crime, punishable by 10 years in prison. They elicited testimony that numerous people in the core intelligence community and its largely privatized contractors have the authority to unmask names, however, making a leak investigation extremely difficult.

The Republicans were also focused on the fact that James Clapper and others stated no less than two weeks ago, that, despite all of the hullabulloo, there was absolutely no evidence of any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian hacking episode. All ranking members of the Committee, including Schiff and Chairman Nunes, had also been presented with the entirety of the FBI’s investigation to date in a classified setting. Nunes and other Republicans familiar with that presentation stated unequivocally prior to the hearing, that they had seen no evidence of any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. Comey’s presentation clearly obscured what has otherwise been very clear.

The Democrats were absurd and obscene, weaving conspiracy theories and innuendos in an overt and disgusting display of McCarthyism. The opening statement of ranking Democrat Adam Schiff was typical. He wove a long, circumstantial case to paint the President and his close advisers as Russian agents, entirely based on the dodgy dossier of British MI6 Agent Christopher Steele. Much of the hearing consisted of Democrats making this or that wild assertion based upon Schiff’s opening statement and asking Comey or Rogers to comment. Both refused to comment, because they are not allowed to comment about anything involving a specific U.S. person or any matters involved in classified investigations. This is what created the media circus atmosphere cited by Ray McGovern.

Finally, FBI Director Comey testified that the FBI had changed its view that the Russians’ alleged hacks were meant to interfere in the elections and hurt Clinton, to the view that the hacks were directed at helping Trump only in December of 2016. This was, of course, when the CIA, under John Brennan, made its widely debunked assessment to this effect.

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