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Mon Mar 27, 2017, 06:52 PM

Cautionary Notes on Select Committee for the Russia Matter: pros and cons (Lawfare)

Just discovered this website; someone else on DU linked to an article on it and I can't remember who, but it has some impressive articles on the whole Russia investigation issue by people with some impressive legal and national security credentials.

Article covers pros and cons of different types of investigations based on who is doing what with current investigations.

Cautionary Notes on a Select Committee for the Russia Matter
By Jack Goldsmith
Monday, March 27, 2017, 9:15 AM

I agree with Ben and Susan (see link in article) that an independent national commission to investigate the Russia matter is, at this time, unrealistic. But I’m unconvinced by their argument that a select congressional committee—a specially formed committee in one or both houses of Congress, with special staffing and resources—would be an improvement on the three committees now investigating the matter. I’m not completely unconvinced, but it is perhaps worth fleshing out counterarguments to their case for a select committee.

The best argument for a select committee is the inappropriate-bordering-on-bizarre behavior last week (and earlier) of HPSCI Chairman Devin Nunes. Nunes has long been in the bag for President Trump. His terrible judgment and his close connection with Trump and some of the actors under investigation has practically destroyed the credibility of the investigation that his committee, under his “leadership,” is conducting on the Russia matter. If the Republicans were smart they would remove Nunes from HPSCI leadership, and fast.

But there are also two other congressional investigations underway. The SSCI Committee, Ben and Susan acknowledge, once viewed “the question of Russian interference in the U.S. election and its ties to campaign figures to be a non-partisan issue related to safeguarding fundamental democracy.” They add that “the SSCI had many of the necessary elements for a successful investigation: Much of the subject matter is already within the committee’s ordinary oversight jurisdiction, and members and staff are cleared to receive highly-classified materials—which is critical for an investigation that involves sensitive ongoing operations.” Moreover, as a committee, the SSCI has until recently acted in a way that “seemed to indicate not only that a serious and thorough investigation was underway, but also that the Committee was prepared to be adversarial with respect to the Trump Administration.” All true, and all good.

The main knock against the SSCI investigation is that the Committee Chairman, Richard Burr, spoke to news organizations at the White House’s request to dispute reports of multiple contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives. That was a stupid thing to do, and was also a sin Nunes committed. Considered alone it does diminish the credibility of the SSCI investigation. But Burr’s overall conduct has been nothing like Nunes’ behavior, especially his press conference disclosing to the world (and prior to disclosing to his HPSCI colleagues) that he had received information--possibly from the Trump White House--indicating that the Trump transition team conversations had been incidentally collected and named in intelligence reports. In light of the many fruitful and independent actions that SCCI has taken to date, especially in light of the downsides to a select committee investigation (noted below), Burr has not destroyed the possibility and value of a useful, credible and independent SSCI investigation. (Further confirmation of this conclusion comes from SSCI’s prior “formal requests to more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals, asking them to preserve all materials related to a probe the panel is conducting on Russian interference in the 2016 election and related issues,” and from this morning’s news that SSCI is seeking “to question Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law … about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak,” including “a previously unreported sit-down with the head of Russia’s state-owned development bank.”)

Lots more. Worth reading.

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