House panel releases Democrats’ memo defending FBI surveillance of ex-Trump campaign aide
The Washington Post
By Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman
The House Intelligence Committee released on Saturday a redacted version of a Democrat-authored memo intended to rebut GOP allegations that federal law enforcement agencies used politically-biased information to conduct surveillance on one of the president’s former campaign aides.
In their now-public retort, Democrats charge that the GOP unfairly attempted to malign the FBI and the Justice Department for including information from the author of a now-famous dossier alleging President Trump had ties to Russian officials in an application to surveil Carter Page, one of Trump’s former campaign advisers.
GOP leaders had argued that Page was unfairly targeted because the information from the dossier’s author, former British spy Christopher Steele, was never presented to the surveillance court as having been paid for by Democrats.
But according to the Democrats’ memo, Page’s Russia ties had already captured the attention of federal law enforcement agencies. The FBI interviewed Page about his “Russian intelligence contacts” in March of 2016, the memo states — the same month he was named as a Trump campaign adviser, and months before Steele was hired to conduct research on Trump or first made contact with the FBI.
Inside the Manafort money machine: A decade of influence-peddling, lavish spending and alleged fraud
The Washington Post
By Marc Fisher
As Donald Trump crisscrossed the nation promising to drain the swamp, two of his top advisers were busy illegally building a colossal fortress of riches deep inside that swamp, according to federal prosecutors.
In a richly detailed expanded indictment filed Thursday, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III parted the curtain shielding how two longtime Washington influence merchants worked the system. The government contends that Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for five months before being fired, used people all around him, from his buddy Gates to banks, clients and the IRS, to build a life of conspicuous consumption.
Gates, who was Manafort’s deputy in their lobbying firm and on the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, cutting a deal with prosecutors to give them information that could help Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort, meanwhile, has maintained his innocence. His spokesman, Jason Maloni, said that Manafort is “confident that he will be acquitted and violations of his constitutional rights will be remedied.”
Russia’s Attack on U.S. Troops
The Wall Street Journal
By The Editorial Board
Image courtesy of Alexei Druzhinin/AP
The truth is starting to emerge about a recent Russian attack on U.S. forces in eastern Syria, and it deserves more public attention.
Here’s what we know. Several hundred men and materiel advanced on a U.S. Special Forces base near Deir al-Zour on the night of Feb. 7-8. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed soon afterward that the “battalion-sized unit formation” was “supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars.” U.S. forces responded in self-defense “with a combination of air and artillery strikes.”
Ms. White wouldn’t confirm how many attackers were killed or who was fighting, though the U.S. had “observed” the military buildup for a week.
Now we’re learning that Russian fighters were killed in the attack, and Lebanese Hezbollah was also involved. The Kremlin has tried to cover up the deaths, but that’s getting harder as the body bags come home and Russian social media spread the word. The Foreign Ministry finally admitted Tuesday that “several dozen” Russians were killed or wounded but claimed that “Russian service members did not take part in any capacity and Russian military equipment was not used.”
The unending campaign of Donald Trump
The Washington Post
By Philip Rucker
If there was any doubt that his presidency is an unending campaign, Donald Trump erased it Friday when he pulled two pieces of paper from his suit jacket and recited the lyrics of a song.
Addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference, the president read “The Snake,” a parable about a tenderhearted woman who takes in an ailing snake and gives it milk, honey and a silk blanket, only to be killed by the revived creature’s poisonous bite.
Trump explained the metaphor: “You have to think of this in terms of immigration.”
On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump frequently told the tale of the snake. The crowds at his rallies loved it. Other Americans were appalled and found it racist.
On Friday, Trump made “The Snake” the focal point of a 75-minute extravaganza of a presidential address that was evidently designed to enthrall his most loyal supporters — and further alienate the rest of the nation.
The campaign was back.
In fact, it had never ended.
Putin’s gamble is paying off big-time
The Washington Post
By Max Boot
Image courtesy of Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images
Even by President Trump’s elevated standards of incoherence, his position on Kremlingate is a marvel of illogic. After repeatedly claiming that stories about Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election were a “hoax,” he now slams President Barack Obama for not doing more to combat this nonexistent threat.
But as contradictory as Trump’s position may be, he has a point — sort of. Obama was far too weak in dealing with the Russian assault, which ranged from stealing Democratic emails to promoting pro-Trump propaganda online.
In hindsight, those reasons do not look like good ones: Obama was placing fear of confrontation with Russia over his duty to safeguard the electoral process. In part this was because he was overly complacent, imagining that Hillary Clinton would win no matter what. But in fairness to Obama, he was handicapped by the lack of Republican cooperation.