WASHINGTON – A government watchdog group is turning the tables on two key Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee who appear to be trying to block a probe into whether the Obama administration spied on the Trump team.
Judicial Watch has requested the House Office of Congressional Ethics launch an investigation into whether Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., “disclosed classified information to the public in violation of House ethics rules.”
That is the exact charge in the ethics complaint filed against Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
However, while Judicial Watch maintains Nunes’s statements were “innocuous,” the group provided information that appears to show the two Democrats seem to have done exactly what they accused the chairman of doing: improperly disclosing classified information.
“The irony is a fair investigation would likely exonerate Nunes and ding Schiff and Speier,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told WND.
The ethics probe launched against Nunes caused him to step aside from chairing his committee’s investigation into possible Russian election interference and possible Obama administration political spying on the Trump team, in order not to be a distraction.
By applying the same standards to Democrats as those used against Nunes, Judicial Watch’s logic in requesting the ethics probe appears rather straight-forward and even-handed.
The request states:
“If the standard for filing a complaint or opening an ethics investigation is that a member has commented publicly on matters that touch on classified information, but the member does not reveal the source of his or her information, then the complaints against Chairman Nunes are incomplete insofar as they target only Nunes.
“At least two other members of the House Intelligence Committee have made comments about classified material that raise more directly the very same concerns raised against Chairman Nunes because they appear to confirm classified information contained in leaked intelligence community intercepts.”
Judicial Watch provided publicly available evidence to back up its argument, using the Democrats’ own words.
The request notes that, Schiff, who is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, gave a speech at the Brookings Institute on March 21, 2017, in which he discussed an intelligence community intercept of a December 29, 2016 conversation between Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislayak and retired U.S. Army General Michael Flynn, who had been chosen by then-President elect Trump to serve as National Security Adviser.
Judicial Watch pointed out both the fact that there was such a conversation obtained by intelligence, and the conversation’s contents, “were leaked to the news media and reported widely.”
In his speech at Brookings, Schiff said:
“And then you have leaks that expose malfeasance or illegality. Now, I put that kind of leak, I put the Flynn leak in that category. And what was most disturbing to me, frankly, about that was: here you had a situation where the president is informed that his national security adviser . . . has lied to the vice president, and probably others . . . about a conversation with the Russians over sanctions imposed over hacking in the election to help the president.”
Of note, Schiff was not complaining that the information had been leaked. He was, in fact, facilitating the leak and may have been acting as a de facto leaker himself, by sharing the contents of the conversation.
Judicial Watch also cited an April 3, 2017, report in the Daily Caller that quoted Speier commenting publicly on the contents of the Kislayak-Flynn conversations.
She also spoke about Flynn’s subsequent “unmasking” (he revealing of names within the intelligence community of U.S. citizens whose communications have been monitored during foreign surveillance) as a U.S. person whose communications were incidentally intercepted by the intelligence community:
“Now, if in fact, it was unmasked and if it was General Flynn, you have to understand the context in which it was unmasked. We do know that. Ambassador Kislayak and General Flynn were freelancing sanctions relief at the end of December, when he had no portfolio in which to make any kind of negotiations with Ambassador Kislayak,” Speier was quoted as saying.
Neither Schiff nor Speier disclosed how they knew about the conversation between Ambassador Kislayak and General Flynn or about General Flynn’s “unmasking.”
But, Judicial Watch asserted, the statement attributed to her appears to confirm the contents of leaked, classified information.
All of that is why Judicial Watch has now asking “the Office of Congressional Ethics conduct a preliminary investigation into whether Rep. Schiff and Rep. Speier disclosed classified information to the public in violation of House ethics rules.”
Said Fitton in a statement, “At least two leading Democrats, Reps. Schiff and Speier, on the House Intelligence Committee seem to have improperly disclosed classified information.”
“While the Ethics Committee examines Rep. Nunes’s innocuous statements on Obama’s surveillance on the Trump team, it ought to expand its investigation to include the other members of the Intelligence Committee who seem to have flagrantly violated the rules,” he added.
Nunes has pointed out that the ethics probe against him was triggered by complaints filed by such leftist activist groups as MoveOn.Org, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and Democracy 21.
On April 6, Nunes decided to step aside as chair of the panel investigating potential Russian election meddling and possible Obama administration political spying, saying he didn’t want the ethics probe to be a distraction overshadowing the committee’s investigation.
“Despite the baselessness of the charges, I believe it is in the best interests of the House Intelligence Committee and the Congress for me to have Representative Mike Conaway, with assistance from Representatives Trey Gowdy and Tom Rooney, temporarily take charge of the Committee’s Russia investigation while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter,” said Nunes in a statement.
That was shortly after two bombshell revelations.
On April 4, multiple media outlets, including WND, cited sources that named former National Security Adviser Susan Rice as the Obama administration official who requested the unmasking of incoming Trump administration officials.
Rice subsequently did not deny the unmasking, she only claimed she did not leak the names of those unmasked.
As WND reported, Rice tacitly admitted she had lied just a few weeks before when she denied knowing about the unmasking Nunes had referred to, by not explicitly denying the reports she had done the unmasking.
In her defense, Rice merely asserted in an interview with MSNBC that she did not leak unmasked names to the press and that the unmasking wasn’t politically motivated.
Howver, that claim was undercut by the other bombshell preceding Nunes’ recusal, which came on March 31: WND reported that the spying by the Obama administration on then-presidential candidate Donald Trump appeared even worse than what he had alleged, and it had nothing to do with Russia but everything to do with politics.
Sources in the intelligence community claimed the potentially illegal revealing of names, or unmasking, of people in the Trump camp who were under surveillance was done purely “for political purposes” to “hurt and embarrass (candidate) Trump and his team.”
The stunning revelations came from rank and file members of the intelligence community who were fighting back against a stonewall by the leaders at the nation’s spy agencies, according to Fox News.
Reporter Adam Housley said the sources are “not Trump” people but are “frustrated with the politics that is taking place in these (intelligence) agencies.”
And what they revealed was amazing. They told Fox:
1) Surveillance targeting the Trump team during the Obama administration began months ago, even before the president had become the GOP nominee in July.
2) The spying on the Trump team had nothing to do with the collection of foreign intelligence or an investigation into Russia election interference.
3) The spying was done purely “for political purposes” that “have nothing to do with national security and everything to do with hurting and embarrassing Trump and his team.”
4) The person who did the unmasking was someone “very well known, very high up, very senior in the intelligence world, and is not in the FBI.”
5) Congressional investigators know the name of at least one person who was unmasking names.
6) The initial surveillance on the Trump team led to “a number of names” being unmasked.
7) House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has known about the unmasking since January.
8) Two sources in the intelligence community told Nunes who did the unmasking and told him at least one of the names of someone in the Trump team who was unmasked. The sources also gave Nunes the serial numbers of the classified reports that documented the unmasking.
9) It took Nunes a number of weeks to figure out how to see those intelligence reports because the intelligence agencies were stonewalling him, and not allowing the chairman or other people to see them.
10) There were only two places Nunes could have seen the information: where the sources work, which would have blown their cover; and the Eisenhower Executive Office building on the White House grounds, which houses the National Security Council and has computers linked to the secure system containing the reports he sought.
Judicial Watch’s complaint isn’t the first action taken against Schiff.
Last week, attorney and WND columnist Larry Klayman filed a complaint with the House Ehtics Committee, on behalf of the group he heads, Freedom Watch, charging Schiff with “Obstruction of justice and ethics violations.”
The complaint says: “It is now clear that as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff has been fully aware of and sought to cover up widespread crimes, multitudes of felonies, of warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens within the domestic United States for partisan political purposes and partisan advantage, invasion of privacy, and illegal disclosure of classified information.”
In his WND column posted the day after filing the complaint on April 6, Klayman listed excerpts “explaining why Schiff must now be forced off the investigation and referred to the U.S. Department of Justice for possible prosecution, notwithstanding House Ethics Committee sanctions:
- “The crimes at issue threaten the corruption of government through threats, intimidation, and coercion with compromising information obtained through illegal surveillance.
- “Schiff’s efforts are to interfere with actual prosecution of real crimes in federal court and before a federal grand jury. Schiff seeks to silence the Chairman and squelch any legitimate investigation.
- “In other words, Barack Obama and Susan Rice ‘hacked’ the 2016 presidential election.
- “When finally the issue is getting notice, Schiff is working to attack anyone seeking to investigate these crimes, to prevent the full revelation and prosecution of those crimes.
- “Instead of fulfilling his duties to uphold the law, report violations of law, protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, protect the civil liberties and constitutional rights of U.S. citizens and the integrity of the U.S. Government with regard to illegal surveillance intimidation of U.S. officials, Ranking Member Adam Schiff is actively furthering these violations of the law and seeking to obstruct justice by covering them up, also committing the crime of misprison of many felonies. In short, Ranking Member Schiff is actively committing obstruction of justice.”