The Memo Doesn’t Make Its Case 

The truth requires greater transparency

.. That experience teaches me that the memo simply doesn’t make its case. Indeed, it gets less persuasive — and the material omissions more glaring — with each successive read. It might disclose the existence of troubling FBI misconduct, but the fair-minded reader has no way of knowing whether it does.

.. A good summary always supports assertions with evidence. A good summary provides context. A good summary even includes relevant information that contradicts its thesis so that the reader can evaluate the best counter-arguments. 

.. legal arguments typically depend on lawyers taking thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of pages of depositions and documents, crafting a concise narrative, and communicating that narrative to a judge — with citations referring to the relevant evidence and quotations of it as well.

.. If there is no citation or quotation, a judge will typically ask the lawyer, “Counselor, what record evidence supports that assertion?”

.. One of the first and most vital assertions in the entire memo is the claim that “the ‘dossier’ compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.” This statement is initially offered without proof. One has to read down to the next page to see any reference to evidence:

Furthermore, Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

.. When I read this, I had two immediate thoughts. First, what did he actually say? And second, why the subtle change in language from the argument that the “dossier” was an “essential part” of the FISA application to the statement that the warrant wouldn’t have been sought without the dossier “information”? The “dossier” and the “information” are not the same thing.

.. An effective memo would do more to end the debate. How? By quoting the relevant portions of McCabe’s testimony.

Better yet, it could quote the testimony and attach an appropriately redacted copy of the testimony as an appendix.

.. Even the characterization that the dossier was “essential” is a judgment call based on evidence unavailable to the public. Even worse, it was a judgment call based in part on evidence unavailable even to the rest of the committee.

.. memo should have plainly stated the agreement between the DOJ and the committee, along with the reasons for this agreement.

.. good summaries don’t just support conclusions with evidence, they provide vital and necessary context. On this point, the memo fails utterly.

.. it fails to answer the following questions:

  1. How did the FISA application actually describe Steele?

    .. Democrats are arguing that the political nature of his work was appropriately disclosed.  Don’t we need the actual words used to properly evaluate whether the FBI materially misled the court?

  2. In addition to the information from the Steele dossier, what other information did the FISA application include?
  3. To what extent did the multiple renewal applications depend on the information in the dossier? The memo notes that a FISA order must be renewed every 90 days, and each renewal must be supported by an “independent” probable-cause finding. A Trump appointee, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, signed at least one of these FISA applications. He apparently believed that the request was supported by probable cause. Why?
  4.  What is the “information” regarding Papadopoulos that triggered the opening of the investigation in July 2016 — a full three months before the Page FISA application? The memo provides information obviously designed to impair the credibility of that investigation — by referring to FBI agent Peter Strzok’s well-known political leanings — but it provides no information about any facts supporting the opening of the probe, leaving the reader with the impression that it was opened solely because Strzok dislikes Trump.

I also wrote above that a good summary “even includes relevant information that contradicts its thesis.” The memo omits any such information, but a Democratic rebuttal exists.

.. But even if the public reviews the Democratic rebuttal, the process is still flawed. The proper way to resolve explosive claims of political bias at the highest levels of government isn’t by dribbling out short memoranda but by issuing comprehensively researched and comprehensively supported majority and minority committee reports.

..it’s not by itself scandalous to review political opposition research — a politically motivated person is no more suspect than the terrorists and criminals who routinely provide information used to support even the most intrusive warrants.

.. When I was in Iraq, we were constantly aware that our sources had their own axes to grind. They didn’t want to defeat their opponents in an election. They wanted them to die in a hail of gunfire.

.. Biased sources are an inherent part of intelligence-gathering.

 

In Conversation: Terry Gross

The Fresh Air host on the art of the Q&A, the guest that most surprised her, and how she salvages a tanking interview.

You’ve been interviewing people for more than 40 years. What do you think that’s taught you about yourself?
That’s hard. I’m not exactly sure I can enumerate what I’ve learned. It’s like you’re slowly being changed every day by doing this job. I have learned, though, that everybody is insecure and everybody is troubled. Even incredibly talented people have deep insecurities. Maybe this is perverse, but I find that idea comforting. It helps me cope with my own stuff.

.. I’m probably just revealing my own neuroses here, but it sure seems that when people are presented with two pieces of information — one negative and one positive — the negative one almost always gets a lot more attention.  
That’s exactly my problem.

So if somebody said to you, “Fresh Air is my favorite thing to listen to,” and then said, “Well, yesterday’s show wasn’t the best.”
Stop right there. I would totally dismiss the “favorite thing to listen to” part. I’d think that was just their way of cushioning the blow that yesterday’s show was terrible. They’d just come up with a false opening to be nice about how bad yesterday’s show was.

..  Do you have to be weird to be the kind of interviewer you are?
You don’t have to be weird. I think what you have to do is really believe, as I do, that the interview serves a function.

.. What’s the function?

.. John Updike on this. In his memoir, Self-Consciousness, which I really love, he said he wanted to use his life as “a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.” That’s kind of how I see interviews. When you’re talking to an artist, you can get insight into the sensibility that created his or her art and into the life that shaped that sensibility. I love making those connections. I think we all feel very alone. I don’t mean that we don’t have friends or lovers but that deep at our core we all have loneliness.

.. And want connection. 
Yeah, we want connection and sometimes when you’re talking to an interviewer who you trust, you can speak in a way that’s different than the way you talk to friends. You can reveal more. Not always, but sometimes.

.. But if I am aware of allegations, I can’t not ask about them. And in that circumstance, the guest is unlikely to tell me the truth and we’re all likely to be very uncomfortable and feel as if something is going unsaid. So rather than create that situation, I’d prefer to just not do the interview.

.. Along those lines, did you have any qualms about interviewing Woody Allen? 
That interview was before the allegations that he’d abused his daughter. But I did ask him about Soon-Yi. .. I didn’t want to just say, “So, you married your daughter?” I kind of asked around it. I knew that he doesn’t talk about it or at least he didn’t at the time, so I just did this question about if he thinks it’s fair to judge somebody’s work based on their life. Needless to say, he didn’t think it was.

.. People think when you interview that you talk a lot. Actually, I listen a lot. I talk very little. Listening sounds like it should be easy, but it’s not, because while I’m listening, I’m also thinking ahead. I’m thinking, Is this an interesting answer? If I was editing this answer what would I be editing out and what would I be keeping in? Because if I’m going to ask a follow-up question, I need to know if the listeners have heard what I’m following up on. So I’m thinking all that, and I’m also thinking, Is this interesting enough to follow up? If so, what is the follow-up? Or is this something I should just say, “Time to move onto another subject.” I’m also thinking, What’s that word on the tip of my tongue? And then I’m thinking, Oh, my producer laughed. That’s good. Or, My producer looks bored, that’s not good.

.. I started doing interviews because I had initially wanted to be a writer and by the time I was in college, I gave up on that. Then there was this kind of creative void that I had no idea how to fill.

.. But as somebody who’s shy, radio gave me an opportunity to engage with people in a forthright way without it being about me. Once I had a microphone, “Why would you talk to me?” became “Now I have a reason to talk to you and you have a reason to talk to me. So let’s talk.”

.. maybe people who knew me could trust me to keep a confidence. And I do think people thought of me as somebody who played fair. The other thing that prepared me to be an interviewer was being an English major.  When you’re reading fiction, you’re becoming the narrator of the story.

.. It’s an act of empathy. 
Yeah, you’re imagining living that person’s life and that’s part of what you do when you interview somebody. Part of the preparation is thinking, What’s it like to be this person? And then when you’re talking to the person it’s like, Wow, that person lived through that? Let me make some calculations about what that could be like, and ask them questions based off of how I’d feel if that happened to me.

.. I think what changed their minds about my job — and made them realize it was an actual thing — was when I was still in Buffalo at WBFOIn the early ’70s, after a mercifully short stint as a public school teacher in Buffalo, Gross was able to land a job at the city’s WBFO station, where she produced programs on public and women’s affairs, as well as the arts. Chief among them was a three-hour daily magazine program, This Is Radio, and the feminist-focused Womanpower.. [NPR’s] All Things Considered ..  was a new show back then, and it went on the road to develop stories that had a local angle — I did one of those stories when it came to Buffalo. Having a story that aired on a national show and that my parents could hear — that made them think, Oh, her work exists! 

.. Once they realized I hosted a show and earned a genuine salary, they were thrilled but in terms of answering your question — I committed, you know? I wanted it so badly that I just devoted myself to it.

.. And you were determined to hold on to it. 
You could criticize me, you could insult me, you could mock me — it was all right, just let me keep doing the job. Because I was an English major, I loved to read and dissect what was being said and why it was being said and think about the language being used. Interviewing fit so many of my needs.

.. when you interviewed Quentin Tarantino around the time of Django Unchained.
I really wanted to know his position on cinematic violence! When that movie came out, the Sandy Hook shooting had just happened, and Django Unchained was this incredibly violent movie — Quentin Tarantino’s stylized kind of violence .. It’s kind of glorying in the violence. And I wanted to know if that violence read differently after all those children were killed by a gun. [Tarantino] interpreted that, I think, as meaning, “It’s your fault, Quentin Tarantino.” Which I didn’t mean at all. It disappointed me that he got testy about it and took it as moral judgment of his movie, as opposed to an opportunity to reflect on an issue that was staring us in the face.

.. People are always projecting things. They’re hearing things that weren’t said or projecting meaning that was not intended and, perhaps, not even implied. I’ve gotten both insults and compliments for interviews I’ve never done. What can you do? There’s no way of controlling what people think. I do have a bullshit detector and it’s something I’ll use, but I do think I try and be empathetic to everyone I interview regardless of their politics.

.. Can empathy be learned?
I’m not so sure. I think you can learn to be a better listener and to focus better, but some people are just naturally not attuned to others. Even if they’re listening, they’re not picking up on the emotional meanings. I don’t know that you can teach emotional understanding.

.. I wish I could’ve asked my parents more about how they felt about dying. It’s the kind of question I ask guests, but my parents would wave me away if I tried to talk about that subject with them. I think they were trying to spare me, but also that maybe they didn’t have the language to talk about death. I don’t know. They were children of Eastern European immigrants who grew up without the language of psychology and philosophy. My father, I’m not sure he ever read a novel. There’s a certain kind of introspective language he might not have had access to.

.. How do you feel about dying?
I’m not afraid of it. What I’m afraid of is pain. I’m really afraid of suffering. I’m afraid of being trapped in a hospital incapacitated.

.. But the prospect of not existing isn’t scary to you.
No, it’s not. I also don’t believe in a literal heaven and hell. I don’t think that there’s going be an accounting and I’m going to be sent to a place where I’m burning in flames.

.. Unless it hurts. 
Then I’d be very afraid.

.. one of the things I’ve learned how to do on the air is make people stop talking. Some people can go on for seven minutes without a breath. At some point, you have to interrupt them and explain, “This is radio. We need to take breaks. We have to have, say, two-minute answers, or else we’re only going to be able to ask about three questions.”

.. Are there any similar ways in which your job bleeds into your daily interactions? 
Well, it’s made talking to people easier. I used to be really shy and now I feel like I can talk to anybody. I know I can ask questions that will help me find common ground. I can navigate to the place where me and another person can have a real conversation.

.. Sometimes I feel like people want the experience of being interviewed. But off the air, I like to be not the interviewer. I want to engage with the person I’m talking to on an equal level.

.. What I like is to have a genuine back-and-forth: Here’s how you feel, here’s how I feel. Here’s my reaction to you, here’s your reaction to me. That’s as opposed to just “tell me more about you.” In an interview, I like to hang back. It’s not about me. If I made the interviews about me, we’d be talking about the book I read that day, because that’s how I spend all my time — preparing for the show.

.. So I had to buy a car — this was the ’70s and or maybe the early ’80s — and I wanted to hear the car’s radio and make sure the speakers were good. So I was trying out a car and I tuned into WHYY, where Fresh Air was then a local show that I hosted, and the guy who’s selling me the car says, “Oh, I know that station. You know that lady in the afternoon? That really annoying lady?” And I said, “Oh, uh, that’s me.” And he smacked his head and went, “I’m never gonna be able to sell you the car now.”

.. I used to think of myself as nondescript. Outside of being short, I’m not the kind of person who is visually memorable. I don’t mean to disparage myself, but some people are striking because they’re so beautiful or they’re so tall and I’m short — it’s easy to not notice me. To be noticed when you don’t think of yourself as being noticeable is a little spooky.

.. You’ve said before, in various places, that all the prep time your job requires means you’re not the best at cultivating friendships. But I wonder if talking with people every day for Fresh Air satisfies some of the needs you might otherwise have for emotional connection. 

.. Have you learned any reliable tricks over the years for how to salvage an interview that’s tanking? 
Sometimes if somebody’s like a little too low-key, I find myself maybe talking faster to compensate, Like, Match me up here! Match me louder and faster!

.. Does that actually work?
[Laughs] No, I don’t think so. What I’m really trying to do is find the person’s comfort zone. Some people are great on craft — the process of writing, the process of making the film. Some people are great on anecdote. Some people are great on biography, their personal story. So I’ll just keep looking for that spot.

..  I can’t argue that every interview I do is interesting. Sometimes we don’t run interviews because they’re boring or confusing. You don’t want to hurt the interviewee’s feelings but your first responsibility is to offer something interesting to your audience.

.. my job has had a bad effect on me physically. I’m either reading, screening something, listening to something, or talking to someone. It’s a sedentary life. I’m proof that you can hurt yourself by sitting and reading. I have back issues. Sitting’s also probably not good for your heart. I don’t have heart problems but when people talk about, like, aerobic exercise, I just stare at them blankly: “I’m sorry, what?”

.. I don’t have children. I can’t say that was a sacrifice. I didn’t feel called to have children. I know I’ve missed out on something special but I couldn’t possibly have done my job and be a parent. The show is premised on me preparing at night for the next day’s interview. Doing that with children would’ve made me a terrible mother. When I was growing up it was unheard of to not have children and if you didn’t have children, it meant that there was something physically wrong with you. The women in my neighborhood were full-time mothers and that’s not the life I wanted. So I went completely in the opposite direction and I’m not sorry. I made a choice about what I wanted and I’m glad I did.

Making sense of Russia, uranium and Hillary Clinton

“Multiple current and former government officials told the Hill they did not know whether the FBI or [Justice Department] ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered,”

.. This is a key point. In response to the Hill’s report, the Senate Judiciary Committee has asked the agencies that signed off on the deal to disclose what, if anything, they knew about the FBI’s investigation. If it were to turn out that Clinton and others were aware of the FBI’s findings — and ignored them — that could be difficult to explain.

.. The FBI investigation was still four years from completion at the time that the uranium deal was approved.

.. Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, told the Hill he did not recall ever being briefed about Mikerin’s case by the counterintelligence side of the bureau, despite the criminal charges that were being lodged.

“I had no idea this case was being conducted,” a surprised Hosko said in an interview.

Likewise, major congressional figures were also kept in the dark.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee during the time the FBI probe was being conducted, told the Hill that he had never been told anything about the Russian nuclear corruption case, even though many fellow lawmakers had serious concerns about the Obama administration’s approval of the Uranium One deal.

.. If people like Hosko and Rogers did not know about the FBI’s investigation, then Clinton probably didn’t, either.

.. The New York Times reported in 2015 that “as the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation.”It is virtually impossible to view these donations as anything other than an attempt to curry favor with Clinton. Donations alone do not, however, prove that Clinton was actually influenced by money to vote in favor of the Uranium One sale — or to overlook the FBI investigation. Again, there is no evidence that she even knew about the investigation.

.. Similarly, it is virtually impossible to view foreign dignitaries’ habit of lodging at Trump’s Washington hotel as anything other than an attempt to curry favor with the president. Reservations and room service alone do not, however, prove that Trump’s foreign policy is actually influenced by money.

Harvey Weinstein Speaks: My Apology Is Sincere, But I’m Still Suing NY Times

“They didn’t give me enough time to respond,” embattled mogul tells TheWrap

Weinstein and one of his lawyers, Lisa Bloom, both told TheWrap that they received the detail of allegations of sexual misconduct two days ago, and were told they had until 1 p.m. today to respond.

“We said, ‘What is it, tell us the allegations, we will respond. Harvey is going to be admitting some stuff,’” said Bloom, who was with Weinstein in his New York office.

 .. “Two days ago, after begging, they gave us a couple dozen allegations that spanned 30 years and a dozen countries. They said we have until 1 pm today. We said ‘Why?’ They never said.”
.. “We have made a decision we are not going after any women or accusers,” Bloom said. “But we have witnesses who said that some of this didn’t happen.”
.. Many who read Weinstein’s mea culpa, which included an unusual declaration that he would devote his energy to go after the National Rifle Association, as mitigated by the fact that his attorneys announced plans to sue the paper.

Trump’s Wiretap Allegation Was a Self-Inflicted Wound

From the words, “just found out,” one would think that the evidence for such an extraordinary accusation was forthcoming. After all, Trump is now the president. At any moment he can call the FBI Director, the NSA director, or anyone else into his office and ask, “What is the meaning of this?” He can declassify anything he likes — logs, records, transcripts — particularly if it exposes criminal behavior by government officials. When he made his shocking charge, he was in the best possible position to back it up.

.. By Friday afternoon, Trump was acting as if the White House could repeat others’ accusations against allied intelligence agencies without consequence:

We said nothing — all we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make any opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox and so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox, okay?

.. Maybe during his decades as a star of the New York tabloids, Trump came to believe that he could get out of trouble by making outrageous counter-accusations against his tormentors. Maybe in that realm, his belief was well founded. But the rules are different when you’re president. The commander in chief cannot publicly accuse anyone, much less his predecessor, of criminal wrongdoing and expect that the accusation won’t be investigated. The White House press secretary cannot suggest that an allied intelligence agency spied on American citizens for political reasons and expect that the rest of the world won’t sit up, take notice, and demand proof.

.. With every such unsubstantiated accusation, the administration loses a bit of credibility that it will need when it makes an accurate charge. Unless it wants to spend the next four years perceived as the boy who cried wolf, the White House should show more regard for the truth going forward.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445929/donald-trump-obama-wiretap-allegation-self-inflicted-political-wound

Trump Offers No Apology for Claim on British Spying

Mr. Trump made clear that he felt the White House had nothing to retract or apologize for. He said his spokesman was simply repeating an assertion made by a Fox News commentator.

.. “We said nothing,” Mr. Trump told a German reporter who asked about the matter at a joint White House news conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it.” He added: “You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox.”

.. Shortly afterward, Fox backed off the claim made by its commentator, Andrew Napolitano. “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” the anchor Shepard Smith said on air. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

.. “Frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling truth, I think President Obama is owed an apology,” Mr. Cole told reporters. “If he didn’t do it, we shouldn’t be reckless in accusations that he did.”

.. “The cost of falsely blaming our closest ally for something this consequential cannot be overstated,” Susan E. Rice, who was Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, wrote on Twitter. “And from the PODIUM.”

.. Mr. Spicer tried to turn the tables on those statements during his briefing on Thursday by reading from a sheaf of news accounts that he suggested backed up the president. Most of the news accounts, however, did not verify the president’s assertion

.. But it has never reported that Mr. Obama authorized the surveillance, nor that Mr. Trump himself was monitored.

.. Mr. Spicer read from comments made by Mr. Napolitano on Fox this week. “Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command,” Mr. Spicer read. “He didn’t use the N.S.A., he didn’t use the C.I.A., he didn’t use the F.B.I., and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ.”

.. GCHQ was the first agency to warn the United States government, including the National Security Agency, that Russia was hacking Democratic Party emails during the presidential campaign.

What If Trump Took His Wiretap Story Seriously?

Nothing Trump’s own administration has said or done so far indicates that it takes his accusations seriously. And that starts at the top with the president himself. Trump explicitly accused his predecessor of misconduct on the level of “Watergate,” and then moved on to tweeting about his feud with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

.. Trump press aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders went on ABC to say that her boss may have been onto something — which means she can’t vouch for the accuracy of his assertion.

.. Sean Spicer, his press secretary, has taken a similar tack: Trump’s claim has become a troubling report, on his telling. He then said that since oversight is continuing, the White House would have no further comment on the matter, a stance that was hard to square with Trump’s decision to give it maximum publicity. Spicer didn’t let an hour pass without commenting on it again.

In any other administration, this would be bizarre behavior. For this one, it’s par for the course.

.. The possibility that Trump has some legitimate grievance about the behavior of the Obama administration can’t be ruled out. But there’s no reason to take that possibility more seriously than Trump himself seems to be taking it.