Pubic information now alleges that the sources of the information House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Devin Nunes, had to take to Speaker Ryan and then to the President, come from within the executive branch itself. It increasingly appears that there have been a series of illegal leaks from the White House for the purpose of obstructing the continued multiple investigations into the administration, and any collusion with the Russian intervention into our 2016 election. Leaks of classified material and obstruction of justice appear to be the sources and methods for Chairman Nunes and the people he is trying to protect, through the use of the apparatus of the National Security Council for the protection of the President and his men.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, is the Senior Director for Intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, is a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office, who formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee with Congressman Nunes. These two have been identified as the individuals within the White House who may have provided Chairman Nunes information. Mr. Cohen-Watnick is a former Defense Intelligence Agency official, who was originally brought in to the White House by General Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser. From his fourth-floor office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the National Security Council is based, Cohen-Watnick was reviewing classified reports of ambassadors and other foreign officials, talking about how they were trying to develop contacts within Mr. Trump’s family and inner circle in advance of his inauguration.
According to Mr. Nunes, he received a phone call from a source the night before, and then rushed to meet the person on the grounds of the White House. The real issue, Mr. Nunes has said, was that he could figure out the identities of Trump associates from reading reports about intercepted communications that were shared among Obama administration officials with top security clearances.
Nunes first disclosed the existence of the intelligence reports on March 22, 2017, the day after his late night rendezvous with what increasingly seems to be Cohen-Watnick. The claim that the source for Nunes was a whistleblower within the intelligence community now appears to be false. Nunes said intelligence reports he had viewed suggested that intelligence agencies had incidentally collected information about people connected to the presidential transition team.
The fired national security adviser, General Michael Flynn, had been the source of great consternation as the head of the National Security Council, causing many holdover staffers to consider leaving before the new NSC staff took shape. Michael Ellis was the General Counsel for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Ellis was hired in early March, 2017, to serve as an assistant to John Eisenberg, the new legal adviser for the National Security Council. It should be noted that the new National Security Adviser, General H.R. McMaster, wanted to fire Ezra Cohen-Watnick, but was overruled by the President himself. Mr. Cohen-Watnick also appealed to Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, both of whom seem deeply connected in their own right to foreign contacts, for help in keeping his job.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer has confirmed that there is a letter from the White House Counsel to the Republican Chairmen and the ranking Democratic members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, inviting them to the White House. They will be viewing certain newly uncovered materials, that is in response to the March 15, 2017 letter sent by the House Intelligence Committee, requesting the names of the Obama Administration officials who allegedly had the residence of the 2016 Republican candidate under surveillance.
The White House and Chairman Nunes continue to stall on production of any evidence showing that the Republican candidate, or any of his associates, were the subjects of any “wiretapping” ordered by President Obama. There has also been no information provided showing any names that were improperly “unmasked” by anyone. There is also the testimony by FBI Director Comey to the House Intelligence Committee that there is no evidence to support the President’s claims. Additionally, we have now heard that General Michael Flynn has offered to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The Senate Intelligence Committee has declined the offer at this time while the now stalled House Intelligence Committee has not yet made a decision on the offer.
The administration, along with Chairman Nunes, appear to be grasping at straws attempting to use classified intelligence for the purpose of exculpating the President’s baseless claim that he was the victim of illegal surveillance. They have also been attempting to create the false narrative, that someone in the Obama administration is responsible for the unauthorized unmasking of names contained within classified intelligence documents, incidentally uncovered through FISA authorized surveillance.
Chairman Nunes declared that there has been incidental collection of incidental conversations pertaining to the now President or his,
“Associates and people who were targeted by FISA warrants — that Nunes said did not appear to be illegal.”
This could be an unauthorized disclosure of the fact of the existence of FISA warrants, the existence or non existence of which are classified. 50 U.S. Code § 1806 (a), states in relevant part that,
“No information acquired from an electronic surveillance pursuant to this subchapter may be used or disclosed by Federal officers or employees except for lawful purposes.”
This was brought out by Chairman Nunes himself, who questioned Director Comey on the subject during Comey’s March 20, 2017 testimony. The penalties for unauthorized disclosures of classified intelligence information include imprisonment up to ten years.
Executive Order 12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan, and 50 U.S. Code § 1813 form the basis for present rules, signed off at the end of the Obama administration by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, allowing the National Security Agency additional authority to share these raw intelligence products within their community. Click here for those new rules on the sharing by the National Security Agency of intelligence reports to 16 other agencies making up the intelligence community. Those reports may have contained the unmasking of the President, or some of his associates, picked up as part of incidental surveillance.
Nothing revealed to date even remotely rises to the level of any violations of the sharing within the intelligence community concerning the President or his associates. The only violations appears to have come from Chairman Nunes, if the disclosure of the fact of the multiple FISA warrants rises to a violation of law. There may also have been violations coming from the executive branch by Mr. Cohen-Watnik or Mr. Ellis, if they obtained and removed classified material without authorization, and if one or both of them, are in fact the sources who allowed chairman Names to view the material.
Chairman Nunes had no business discussing the matters within the purview of the House Intelligence Committee investigation with the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. The Speaker has no need to know the specifics of information not made known to the public at large. Worse would be the discussions that Chairman Nunes had with the President, presumably about the investigation that he is the subject of, the day after he viewed the classified materials now believed to have been provided to him by executive branch employees, Cohen-Watnic, k or Ellis.
Chairman Nunes has been a guest at the White House once or twice a week, to view intelligence products. He clearly was placed in the position as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee because of his loyalty, and his connections to the administration as a member of the transition team. It is sad that the White House now seems to be using him for political purposes, setting him up for a great fall along with past and present members of the administration’s team. The sources and methods for Chairman Nunes are White House orchestrated leaks and a growing obstruction of justice.