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Democratic rebuttal to GOP FISA memo sparks reactions from politicians

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The House Intelligence Committee on Saturday released a long-anticipated Democratic rebuttal that attempts to dismantle claims made in a GOP memo alleging the government used improper surveillance tactics during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The rebuttal claims that officials at the FBI and Justice Department “did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

The Democratic rebuttal backed the FBI and DOJ in its pursuit of the FISA warrant, saying that the agencies “would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.”

They added that the DOJ met the “rigor, transparency, and evidentiary basis” needed to meet FISA’s probable cause requirement.

The GOP memo, released in early February, asserted that the FBI and DOJ relied on a Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier to ask the FISA court for a warrant to monitor Page, a one-time adviser to President Donald Trump. They also claimed that the agencies left out the DNC’s funding of the dossier and the anti-Trump motivations of author Christopher Steele, a onetime British spy, in its request for a warrant.

The Democratic memo was voted out of committee earlier this month but a redrafting was ordered after the White House demanded that sensitive information be stripped out before the document be made public. The Justice Department and FBI claimed the initial draft would reveal information about sources and methods, ongoing investigations and other sensitive information.

President Trump tweeted following the rebuttal memo’s release, calling it “a total political and legal BUST.”

He added: “Dem Memo: FBI did no disclose who the client were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”

Here are some other reactions to the memo:

White House

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calls the rebuttal a “politically driven document” which “fails to answer serious concerns raised by the Majority’s memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate, loaded with uncorroborated allegations, as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate, at the height of a presidential campaign.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, who spearheaded the rebuttal’s release, said it should “put to rest” any concerns about conduct by the intelligence agencies. Along with a copy of the memo, he tweeted Saturday: “Some time ago, Republicans on our committee released a declassified memo that omitted and distorted key facts in order to mislead the public and impugn the integrity of the FBI. We can now tell you what they left out.”

In a follow-up tweet, Schiff responded to Trump’s comment about the memo confirming “all of the terrible things that were done.”

“Wrong again, Mr. President,” Schiff said. “It confirms the FBI acted appropriately and that Russian agents approached two of your advisors, and informed your campaign that Russia was prepared to help you by disseminating stolen Clinton emails.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, D-Calif., who spearheaded the release of the GOP memo, said in a statement that Americans “now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt pair for the by Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party.”

“Furthermore, the FISA court was misled about Mr. Page’s past interactions with the FBI in which he helped build a case against Russian operatives in America who were brought to justice,” Nunes said. “It defies belief that the Department of Justice and the FBI failed to provide information to a secret court that they had provided to an open federal court regarding their past interactions with Mr. Page.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tweeted that “the Schiff memo is a well-considered rebuttal to the misinformation in the Nunes memo,” which she added, “shouldn’t have seen the light of day.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Democratic memo indicated “that Chairman Nunes cherry-picked and distorted information from sensitive inteligence to sow discord and undermine” the FBI. 

“By initially delaying the release of hte memo, the president purposefully silenced any Democratic rebuttal to the fabricated conspiracy theories pushed by Chairman Nunes,” he added. “Obviously, there is something the president is afraid of.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement said the Democratic response “helps set the record straight on Republicans’ attempts to obstruct the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.”

She added that it was “imperative” for lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to “end their political charades” and said Congress needed to “take real action to investigate the Russian attacks on our democracy.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA

Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, called the FBI’s actions “fully appropriate and entirely lawful” and said it was “deeply unfortunate that House Republicans decided to the release classified information in order to mislead the American people for partisan political purposes.”

“Now that the Nunes memo has been thoroughly debunked, the White House and its allies in Congress must put a stop to the dangerous partisan sideshows that jeopardize classified sources and methods and focus on Russia’s unprecedented interference in our election.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Madeline Farber and Kaitlyn Scallhorn contributed to this report.



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Biden announces new science team, elevates office to Cabinet

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WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden announced new members of his science team on Saturday as well as his plan to elevate the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to a Cabinet-level position for the first time, a move meant to highlight his commitment to science.

“We’re going to lead with science and truth,” Biden said at a speech introducing his new appointees in Delaware on Saturday. “We believe in both.”

Biden nominated Eric Lander to the position. Lander, who will require Senate confirmation, is a mathematician and geneticist who helped map the human genome and founded the Broad Institute, a biomedical research center known for their work on the gene-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9.

Lander is also a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School and previously served on President Barack Obama’s council of science advisers.

The decision to elevate Lander to Cabinet-level is a sharp break from President Donald Trump who spent much of his term downplaying and second-guessing health and science experts. The position Lander will fill sat vacant for nearly two years under Trump.

Biden also announced Saturday that Dr. Alondra Nelson will serve as deputy director for science and society of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Maria Zuber and Frances Arnold will serve as co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

Dr. Francis Collins will stay on as Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose mother was a scientist, said that she grew up with a fundamental belief in collecting data and making decisions “based on evidence.”

“The science behind climate change is not a hoax. The science behind the virus is not partisan. The same laws apply, the same evidence holds true regardless of whether or not you accept them,” Harris said.

Biden said his science team will focus on five key areas: the coronavirus pandemic, the economy, the climate crisis, industry technology advancements and the long-term health of science and tech in the country.

Biden, who lost a son to cancer, said that ending the disease will also be a top priority for his administration and it would be a signature issue for incoming first lady Dr. Jill Biden.

“When I announced that I would not run for president in 2015, I said that I had only one regret  —  that I wouldn’t be the president who presided over the end of cancer as we know it,” Biden said. “As president, I will do everything we can to get it done.”

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Federal prisons on lockdown in run-up to Biden inauguration

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NEW YORK — All federal prisons in the United States have been placed on lockdown, with officials aiming to quell any potential violence that could arise behind bars as law enforcement prepares for potentially violent protests across the country in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

The lockdown at more than 120 federal Bureau of Prisons facilities took effect at 12 a.m. Saturday, according to an email to employees from the president of the union representing federal correctional officers.

“In light of current events occurring around the country, and out of an abundance of caution, the decision has been made to secure all institutions,” the Bureau of Prisons said in a statement.

The lockdown decision is precautionary, no specific information led to it and it is not in response to any significant events occurring inside facilities, the bureau said.

To avoid backlash from inmates, the lockdown was not announced until after they were locked in their cells Friday evening.

Shane Fausey, the president of the Council of Prison Locals, wrote in his email to staff that inmates should still be given access in small groups to showers, phones and email and can still be involved in preparing food and performing basic maintenance.

Prison officials patrol around the United States Penitentiary at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Ind., on. Jan. 15, 2021.Bryan Woolston / Reuters

Messages seeking comment were left with Fausey on Saturday.

The agency last put in place a nationwide lockdown in April to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

During a lockdown, inmates are kept in their cells most of the day and visiting is canceled. Because of coronavirus, social visits only resumed in October, but many facilities have canceled them again as infections spiked.

One reason for the new nationwide lockdown is that the bureau is moving some of its Special Operations Response Teams from prison facilities to Washington, D.C., to bolster security after President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Authorities are concerned there could be more violence, not only in the nation’s capital, but also at state capitals, before Trump leaves office Jan. 20.

A Bureau of Prisons spokesman said the agency was coordinating with officials at the Justice Department to be ready to deploy as needed. Earlier this month, about 100 officers were sent to the Justice Department’s headquarters to supplement security staff and were deputized by the U.S. Marshals Service and given special legal powers to “enforce federal criminal statutes and protect federal property and personnel,” said the spokesman, Justin Long.

The specialized units typically respond to disturbances and other emergencies at prisons, such as riots, assaults, escapes and escape attempts, and hostage situations. Their absence can leave gaps in a prison’s emergency response and put remaining staff at risk.

“The things that happen outside the walls could affect those working behind the walls,” Aaron McGlothin, a local union president at a federal prison in California.

As the pandemic continues to menace federal inmates and staff, a federal lockup in Mendota, California, is also dealing with a possible case of tuberculosis.

According to an email to staff Friday, an inmate at the medium-security facility has been placed in a negative pressure room after returning a positive skin test and an X-ray that indicated an active case of tuberculosis.

The inmate was not showing symptoms of the lung disease and is undergoing further testing to confirm a diagnosis, the email said.

As a precaution, all other inmates on the affected inmate’s unit were placed on quarantine status and given skin tests for tuberculosis.

The bacterial disease is spread similarly to Covid-19, through droplets that an infected person expels by coughing, sneezing or through other activities such as singing and talking.

Mendota also has 10 current inmate cases and six current staff cases of Covid-19.

As of Wednesday, the last day for which data was available, there were 4,718 federal inmates and 2,049 Bureau of Prisons staff members with current positive tests for Covid-19.

Since the first case was reported in March, 38,535 inmates and 3,553 staff have recovered from the virus. So far, 190 federal inmates and 3 staff members have died.

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Victory for Germany's ‘mini-Merkel’ will push more countries to quit EU, warns ex-MEP

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ANGELA Merkel’s probable replacement as Germany’s leader – sometimes referred to as ‘mini-Merkel’ in recognition of his close ties with the departing Chancellor – is likely to pursue policies which will drive more of the EU27 to consider following the UK out of the bloc, a former MEP has said.

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