WASHINGTON, March 20, 2017 — The latest version of the Army-McCarthy hearings began in the House Intelligence committee today with two essential takeaways: Roger Stone and Paul Manafort are under FBI investigation for their contact with intermediaries of the Russian Government; and 9 senior former and current members of the intelligence community with ties to the Obama administration committed felonies by releasing classified information regarding General Flynn’s conversations with the Russian ambassador.
Of the two, the more serious crime is the leak of classified information. The universe of people with access to the Flynn transcripts was small, and Congressman Trey Gowdy laid out the specific Obama officials on whom suspicion must fall. The list includes National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, as well as Acting Attorney General Sally Yates. All appear to be clear targets of investigation for the felonious distribution of classified information.
Nine current and former senior officials of the intelligence community indisputably served as anonymous sources for both the Washington Post and the New York Times and are referenced as such.
This is a prima facie admission of criminal conduct by senior members of the Obama Administration.
FBI Director Comey would not comment as to whether he had briefed President Obama on the contents of the Flynn transcripts, but he was unambiguous that the leaks of the Flynn transcripts were federal crimes, though he would not confirm that an investigation was underway.
The partisan divide in the hearing room was clear. Democrats zeroed in on Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, while Republicans focused on the nine senior intelligence officials who leaked the national security transcripts of the Flynn conversations with the Russian Ambassador to the media.
Chairman Nunez asked Comey about Clinton campaign ties to the Russian Government, referencing the millions of dollars received by Bill Clinton from Russian entities for speeches, the tens of millions of dollars received by the Clinton Foundation from entities involved in a Russian advanced tech center, and the hundreds of millions of dollars received by the Clinton Foundation by entities tied to the Uranium One deal.
In all cases, Director Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers declined to discuss specific investigations of any one case. They would only reference media reports but specifically made clear that leaking national security information was a serious felony.
The FBI director confirmed that the intelligence community felt that the Russians attempted to interfere with the electoral process, but conceded that the Russians did not expect Trump to win. It was unclear how the Russian motive to help Trump win squared with their expectation that Clinton would win.
What is clear is that the partisan divide is as stark as it ever was, with neither side willing to concede the allegations of the other. Equally clear is that Stone and Manafort are facing a serious investigation of their contacts with Russian Government officials and that the nine unnamed sources in the Washington Post and the New York Times committed serious felonies by leaking the information on General Flynn.
Both Rogers and Comey reemphasized that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian activities and that the Russians had no impact on the actual election.