Tag Archive for: Russiagate

‘About To Combust’: Republicans Have Golden Opportunity To End Spying On Americans — But It’s Tearing Them Apart

Intelligence community abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) have gone from a niche issue for libertarian-minded politicos to a priority among the Republican Party base, thanks largely to former President Donald Trump.

Republicans have a chance to put an end to the law once and for all – or at least significantly reform it – but the party has spent months trying to reach a consensus on how to balance national security with the rights of Americans.

“It’s delicate right now. The place is about to combust,” a GOP source on Capitol Hill told the Daily Caller on Monday.

Under Section 702 of the FISA, the government has the authorization to gather foreigners’ communications who have been flagged in relation to national security matters. The communications can be gathered even if the subject was talking about, or with, Americans.

FISA was elevated from a relatively niche issue with the attention of privacy hawks in D.C. to a critical sticking point for Republicans after it was used to spy on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election season. Based on FISA-enabled surveillance, the national security state and corporate media were able to undercut Trump’s first term in office by perpetuating the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory, the former president’s allies have argued in the years since.

The surveillance bill is set to expire on April 19, and after punting negotiations in December, Republican lawmakers, including avowed Trump allies, are now forced to consider the contentious issue.

The GOP is divided into two broad camps over various proposed reforms, perhaps most notably a warrant requirement. National security hawks aligned with the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have expressed more opposition to the requirement and other privacy-minded reforms — members aligned with the Judiciary Committee are stressing that FISA must no longer be a tool that can be used to spy on Americans, like what happened with the Trump campaign.

In February, negotiations restarted on the legislation, a GOP source explained to the Daily Caller. At the time, the GOP source said, the rough agreement was that the Intelligence bill would be the base while the Judiciary would be given the opportunity to add amendments. The arrangement led to some disagreements over what the base of the bill should be, the source continued.

The battle has since gotten more heated, after Speaker Mike Johnson put forward a compromise reform bill: the Reforming Intelligence and Securing America Act (RISAA).

“I don’t think [RISAA goes far enough] I think that these are a lot of papered over reforms that FBI was doing internally, or were claiming that they’re doing internally,” Republican Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs told the Caller.

“RISAA doesn’t go nearly far enough in protecting Americans from illegal spying by their own government. It is a sham reform, and House Republicans should not vote for any FISA reauthorization that lacks a warrant requirement. Speaker Johnson and the GOP majority have a real opportunity to end this madness, and they should take it,” Rep. Mike Lee told the Daily Caller in a statement.

Ahead of the renewal fight this week, Speaker Johnson put forward RISAA, a bill backed by Ohio Rep. Mike Turner and the intelligence committee. Privacy hawks across the political spectrum have said the legislation doesn’t go far enough.

“Speaker of the House Mike Johnson claims that RISAA reflects a compromise,” reads a joint statement from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Brennan Center for Justice and Freedomworks. “In reality, this bill is not a ‘compromise,’ and its 56 ‘reforms’ codify the unacceptable status quo.”

“Making 56 ineffective tweaks to a fundamentally broken law is not reforming it. Absent significant amendment, RISAA will do nothing to prevent the government’s repeated abuses of Section 702 to spy on Americans.”

“Any member of Congress who supports extending FISA without radical reforms should receive a ‘Deep State-approved’ logo to burnish for their reelection campaign,” longtime D.C. journalist Jim Bovard, who focused on privacy rights and civil liberties, told the Caller.

“If Congress cannot yank in the reins on the FBI and NSA after millions of confirmed violations of Americans’ rights, only a fool would expect Congress to ever give a damn about the Constitution.”

Much of the pressure that is mounting is being directed at Speaker Mike Johnson. Johnson has faced increasing criticism from the Trump wing of his conference, with Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene threatening to oust him from the speakership for helping pass a government funding bill, among other complaints.

The move to put forward RISAA has invited more criticism for Johnson from within his own conference.

“FISA is tricky right now. It’s expected that Mike Johnson will just roll over on this — like everything else he’s done,” a GOP source told the Daily Caller before the Speaker indicated that he would try to bring RISAA to the floor.

“Mike Johnson is a constitutional conservative who was fighting for the judiciary committee six months ago, and now when you look at his actions, since he’s become speaker, it kind of seems that he switched teams. They’re going to deny it and say ‘well you know he’s the speaker now,’” a senior GOP aide told the Daily Caller.

Turner’s office offered an unequivocal defense of the bill, stating it is “not an expansion of warrantless surveillance on American citizens.” Turner has consistently denied that his version of FISA reform constitutes a warrantless surveillance program against Americans.

Some Republicans have gone on the record to question Johnson’s personal record on privacy issues.

“House leadership, including @SpeakerJohnson and @RepJeffries, voted for a FISA 702 warrant requirement in 2018. Now they’re both opposing a warrant requirement. Why do the Intel Bros™️ get to tell House leadership what to do?” Lee tweeted Tuesday.

A failure on the GOP’s part to properly rein in FISA could send a bad signal to Republican voters, journalist Matt Taibbi told the Caller.

“If Republicans don’t vote for extensive FISA reform, it will mean they were never serious about getting to the bottom of the abuses in the Trump/Russia investigation. It would send a devastating message to Republican voters in particular,” he said.

“When I started working on the Russiagate story, I started hearing horror stories from Hill staffers, who apparently were surprised to learn how pervasive the misuse of FISA has been since passage of the FISA Amendments Act in ’08,” he continued. “The unmasking procedure has proved to be a joke with no real safeguards, and parallel structure (i.e. using intelligence illegally obtained from programs like this in ordinary criminal investigations) is probably far more common than we think.”

Johnson did previously vote to extend FISA surveillance in 2018, despite Trump’s opposition, but has fought along Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan to push back on FISA abuses more recently.

Trump has been a vocal critic of FISA abuses, due to the law being used to surveil his campaign during the 2016 election.

“‘House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.’ This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?” the then-president tweeted in Jan. 2018.

During the 2016 election, the FBI used a document complete with opposition research on the former president to earn the approval from a secret court that oversees FISA to secretly monitor Trump aide Carter Page, according to CNN. The document, the infamous Steele Dossier, included unverified claims that the Russian government had compromising personal and financial information on the eventual president.

The former president’s White House later put out a statement undercutting Trump, clarifying that the administration believed Section 702 “is vital to keeping the nation safe” while adding that renewing the bill “is a top priority of the administration.”

It was later revealed in 2023 through court documents that the FBI had been using data obtained through FISA improperly to search Americans, including some who attended the Jan. 6, 2021, riot and Black Lives Matter protests, Newsweek reported.

As a result of Trump’s vocal opposition, and the way FISA was used against his campaign, the issue has become pressing for many of his supporters.

The FISA debate last reared its head in December of 2023 when Congress was considering the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). An extension of Section 702 until April was added to the bill, and nearly 150 House Republicans voted for the package.

When the package passed in December with the inclusion of FISA extension, Trump’s supporters, who blame the legislation for spying on the former president, became enraged. Trump-aligned figures like Charlie Kirk and Kash Patel blasted House Republicans.

Some in Trump’s orbit are sounding the alarm this time around too: “We know that 702 was abused to spy on Americans and specifically to spy on Donald Trump,” former Trump administration official Ric Grenell told the Caller. “The current draft doesn’t fix the abuses and therefore the bad outweighs the good.”

Lawmakers who have aligned themselves with Trump, yet voted for the NDAA with FISA extension within it, include Kentucky Rep. James Comer, Speaker Johnson, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, Texas Rep. Ronny Jackson, South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace and Ohio Rep. Brad Wenstrup.

Mace, Comer, Boebert and Johnson’s offices explained to the Daily Caller why they chose to vote for the NDAA in 2023. All noted separate issues and funding that were folded in the NDAA that persuaded them to vote for the package, despite the inclusion of the FISA extension.

The NDAA has long been considered a “must-pass” bill by Congress for national security reasons. The urgency to pass the NDAA has resulted in controversial provisions being included before, such as in 2011, when President Barack Obama signed the 2012 NDAA into law and codified the indefinite detention of American citizens allegedly linked to terrorism.

Boebert’s office noted that she promised her voters she would get the Pueblo Jobs Act signed into law, and Comer’s office said that his district’s military base needed funding.

“Congressman Comer fully supports Representative Jim Jordan’s ongoing FISA reform efforts,” Comer’s spokesperson told the Daily Caller. “In 2023, he supported the National Defense Authorization Act because the legislation secured badly needed funding for his district military base Fort Campbell and delivered support to our men and women in uniform by repealing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and providing a boost in pay.”

Mace’s office told the Daily Caller in a statement that the congresswoman did not support the inclusion of the FISA extension in the NDAA, despite her vote for the package in December 2023. The congresswoman’s spokesperson Gabrielle Lipsky noted that the bill included a “variety of priorities important to the thousands of active-duty service members she represents.”

“Rep. Mace did not support the inclusion of a FISA extension in the NDAA and does not support a FISA extension without significant reforms to section 702 to ensure the protection of Americans’ 4th Amendment rights,” Lipsky told the Daily Caller in the statement.

Still, 73 House Republicans, about one-third of the conference, voted against the NDAA.

Stefanik, Jackson and Wenstrup did not respond to questions regarding their previous support for the NDAA and how they would handle the upcoming Congressional vote.

Meanwhile, prominent civil liberties organizations and advocates on both ends of the political spectrum have made an effort to persuade Congress to change its approach to FISA.

“Demand Progress plays a leading role advocating for and organizing civil society in support of Congressional action to rein in warrantless surveillance,” Demand Progress, a left-wing civil liberties organization with a focus on internet issues told the Daily Caller in statement. “We have further driven tens of thousands of contacts to Congress opposing FISA reauthorization absent major new privacy protections for Americans against warrantless surveillance and have conducted exhaustive research documenting FISA abuse.”

“We will go and identify and work with those members to go and reach out and branch into other members of Congress and their offices where we can so like, I’ve met with all different kinds of, you know, different committees that have interests on this topic. We’re always talking with them about what this trade off is, and why it’s so important. We’re certainly pushing very hard as often as we can,” a member of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity told the Daily Caller.

For the time being, Republicans seem likelier to take up the intel committee’s version of reforms, which Turner’s office insisted to the Caller is sufficient to protect Americans.

“It’s the largest reform to FISA and the FBI in a generation. This bill contains over 50 reforms to prevent another Carter Page/Russia Hoax abuse from happening and drastically reduces FBI querying,” Jeff Naft, the communications director for Turner, told the Daily Caller in a statement.

AUTHOR

REAGAN REESE

White House correspondent. Follow Reagan on Twitter.

RELATED ARTICLES:

‘Scare Tactics’: FBI Warrantless Surveillance Renewal Was Unnecessary For Stopping Terrorism, Experts Say

‘You’re A Moron!’: Fuming Glenn Beck Goes Nuclear On Republicans Who Voted To Extend Spying Powers

Biden Admin Quietly Asks Court To Extend Warrantless Spying On Americans Without Congress Approval

BREAKING: Undercover Video: CIA Officer/Former FBI Boasts: We “Can Put Anyone in Jail.. Set Them Up” – FBI “Did What We Wanted” with Alex Jones “Took His Money Away”

RELATED VIDEO: What is It That Radically Changes a Man Like Mike Johnson?

EDITORS NOTE: This Daily Caller column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

An Arrest and FBI Corruption

Trump wasn’t working for Russia, but it’s hard to find anyone in D.C. who isn’t.


On Saturday, the FBI arrested one of its own. Charles McGonigal, who used to head counterintel for the Bureau in New York and investigated Trump over Russiagate, was busted at JFK Airport and has been charged with violating the sanctions placed on Oleg Deripaska.

Deripaska, a Russian oligarch allied with Putin, has his name scrawled on parts of Russiagate. Before Christopher Steele was brought on board to produce the infamous dossier aimed at Trump, the British ex-agent had been working on a project for Deripaska to go after Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, who would also prove to be an FBI target.

In the tangled relationship that is an apt metaphor for Russiagate, the Russian billionaire appeared at times to be an FBI asset and at other times employed FBI personnel.

McGonigal is reportedly one of a number of ex-FBI agents who became freelance consultants, like American versions of Steele, under investigation. And connections between ex-FBI officials and the Russians have gone even higher than McGonigal. Louis Freeh, Bill Clinton’s former FBI director, represented a number of Russian oligarchs and his deceased predecessor, Director William Sessions worked for a top Russian mafia figure linked to Putin.

We may very well find that the retired FBI officials who haven’t gotten contracts as commentators for cable news have gone to work for the Russians. And McGonigal may be the first of a number of FBI figures who were tasked with fighting Russian influence who instead learned enough to go to work for the Russians.

If McGonigal is guilty, it’s because he was following in the footsteps of retired FBI directors and top elected officials. Deripaska had previously managed to purchase the services of former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole to “persuade U.S. officials his client isn’t a criminal” and of a firm linked to Hillary’s communications director and Bill Clinton’s deputy press secretary. When you can buy both sides of the 1996 presidential election, why quibble at a mere FBI official? Russia may be a mafia state, but unfortunately we’ve become one too.

A long list of American political elites had taken Deripaska’s money. And the FBI had been corrupted into serving the political interests of that elite rather than protecting the homeland.

When it came to Deripaska, the FBI’s priorities were helping Hillary Clinton win an election.

Even while Deripaska was suspected of, according to the New York Times, “extortion, bribery and even murder”, he was able to spend time in New York while the FBI tried to solicit information from him about Trump’s Russian connections. Instead of ‘flipping’ Deripaska, the Russian oligarch allegedly flipped the head of FBI counterintelligence operations in New York who would have likely led efforts to gain information from him on Trump.

Deripaska had apparently employed quite a few former government officials like Jonathan Winer, a former top Kerry aide, who lobbied for the Russian oligarch and who also promoted the Steele dossier. The Russian oligarch claims to be the victim in all this. As does Igor Danchenko: the alleged source for much of the Steele dossier and the subject of a failed prosecution effort by Special Counsel Durham. And yet even defenders of the Steele dossier have been forced to argue that it was ‘tainted’ by Russian intelligence. And that means the FBI was tainted too.

But the FBI was tainted as a secondary effect of being politicized by tainted figures.

The Clintons, who had initiated Russiagate, as usual had led the way. In 2009, Hillary Clinton arrived bearing a ‘Reset Button’. The button, pilfered from a hotel swimming pool, was meant to symbolize the desire of the Obama administration for a new relationship with Russia. All it really symbolized was that the Clintons, like the Russians, would steal anything that wasn’t nailed down. And the real relationship launched with that button was between Russia and the Clintons.

This was the same year that Deripaska hired a firm tied to the Clintons. The head of that firm, who would also work for the Russian foreign ministry, would later show up working with Steele and a Justice Department official involved in Russiagate to help the Russian oligarch.

In 2010, a Russian investment bank paid Bill Clinton $500,000 to deliver a speech and Putin called to offer his personal appreciation. Meanwhile the Russians were slowly swallowing Uranium One while investors wrote their checks to the Clinton Foundation. Hillary Clinton, who would later reinvent herself as a hawk, conveniently opposed sanctions on Russia.

In 2015, McGonigal was CC’d on a briefing given by the FBI to the Clinton campaign warning that the Bureau had information that a foreign government was “attempting to influence Hillary Clinton through lobbying and campaign contributions”. Rather than investigating potential criminal activity and national security violations by the Clintons, the FBI instead gave them a ‘heads up’ that there was suspicious behavior taking place.

McGonigal had been working on Russian counterintelligence matters since at least the 90s. He had close ties to former FBI Director James Comey. When Trump fired Comey, McGonigal, speaking in an official capacity, called him “one of the most loved leaders that we’ve had” and stated that “many of us who were nominated for leadership positions by him will forever hold him in esteem as we progress through our FBI careers.”

Comey, along with other FBI figures, had signed off on Hillary Clinton’s actions. And there was every reason to believe that the Clintons were the ones who were actually tied to Russia.

Russiagate was a masterstroke that took one of Hillary’s greatest legal vulnerabilities and turned it around so that the country has spent the last six years debating Trump’s ties to Russia while at the same time justifying illegal surveillance and prosecution of her opponent’s associates.

But that victory was ultimately pyrrhic. Hillary still lost the election and her corruption, like that of the Biden family, provided an opening for foreign countries looking to buy influence in America. Beginning with the Clinton era, a generation of FBI officials have alternated between working for the Clintons and the Russians while compromising our national security and domestic politics.

A corrupted FBI leadership did the dirty work of the Clintons, who were looking to redirect the blame for their Russian ties, and then in some cases decided to cut out the middleman by working directly for the Russian oligarchs.

In Washington D.C., retired generals go to work for defense contractors, retired IRS officials teach corporations how to avoid paying taxes and retired FBI officials go to work for the Russians. And aspiring presidents, like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, open nonprofits that allow them to legally take cash from foreign countries while prepping their future administrations.

FBI officials are just copying what they’ve seen top elected officials get away with doing.

Russiagate and what happened to the FBI can’t be understood apart from the routine corruption of a city whose public servants work for the government in order to trade on that knowledge. The grand hypocrisy of Russiagate was that this corrupt political class used its Russian and international connections to smear Trump with their own crimes. Trump wasn’t working for Moscow, but sometimes it seems as if it’s hard to find anyone in Washington D.C. who isn’t.

AUTHOR

RELATED ARTICLE:

New Jersey: Army vet sent her jihadi lover money as he fought in Syria and threatened to strike in U.S.

Facebook welcomes Ukraine’s neo-Nazi Azov Regiment back on its platform

EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.