WASHINGTON — Representative Jim Himes, the second-leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, voiced growing anger this week as President Donald Trump appeared ready to release a Republican-drafted memo alleging serious misconduct by the FBI and Justice Department in handling the Russian investigation.
“It is full of falsehoods. It is a shoddy and poorly written memo that will be very rapidly refuted by the facts and by the 10-page memo that the Democrats wrote when we saw it,” Himes said during an interview Thursday on CNN.
Democrats claim the memo, prepared by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and his staff, was written to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections. The FBI and the Justice Department both oppose releasing the memo. The FBI saying it has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
According to an NBC News report, sources familiar with the memo say it is based in part on an application for surveillance of Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. The memo suggests that the FBI obtained its original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, warrant to conduct surveillance on Page by citing a disputed dossier which was funded in part by Democrats.
The House Intelligence Committee, voting along party lines, agreed this week to release the Republican-drafted memo, triggering a White House review of whether or not the memo — based on classified material — can be made public. Republicans, who hold the majority, rejected requests from Democrats to allow a 10-page memo they drafted in response to be released.
Himes said the Democrats also wanted to have officials from the FBI and Justice invited to meet with the committee about the allegations — a standard practice when the committee suspects a problem within an agency. Republicans refused.
“It is not too hard to see what is actually happening here. This has nothing to do with oversight. This is the latest installment in the massive effort to discredit Mueller and his investigation of the Russian hack and whether there was any American involvement,” Himes said.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to remove Nunes (a fellow Californian) as chairman of the Intelligence Committee over his handling of the Russian investigation saying he has “abused his position” to launch a “highly unethical and dangerous cover-up for the White House.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer released his own statement urging Ryan to remove Nunes, saying the memo is meant to “sow conspiracy theories and attack the integrity of federal law enforcement as a means to protect President Trump,” according to NBC News.
Representative Joe Courtney, whose parents met while working for the FBI, also weighed in on the memo this week saying “the unfounded attacks being leveled against the dedicated law enforcement professional of the FBI are reprehensible and dangerous.”
“The fact the House Republicans and White House are preparing to release a purposefully misleading document based on classified information — despite the protests of Trump’s own handpicked Deputy Attorney General and FBI Director who have said they have “grave concerns” about compromising sources — is the height of irresponsibility,” he said in a press statement.
Representative John Larson said he has reviewed both memos and is concerned about “misleading claims” in the Republican memo and its pending release. He noted that Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd has warned that there would be damaging consequences should the memo be released.
“I urge the President to heed the calls of his intelligence community and not give credit to a memo that seeks to further a partisan agenda rather than get to the truth,” Larson said in a press statement.
Senator Blumenthal Seeks FTC Crackdown on Fake Social Media
Senator Richard Blumenthal wants the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on companies that sell fake social media accounts — deceiving clients and consumers alike.
Blumenthal, the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection and data security, is seeking an FTC investigation this week after the New York Times reported on the “deceptive and unfair marketing practices” of Devumi, a Florida company, that promises customers “100 Percent Active, English Followers” for their social media platforms. The Times, however, found that “virtually all of the followers and retweets the company provides are fake.”
Senator Jerry Moran, a Kansas Republican who chairs the subcommittee, joined Blumenthal in a letter to Maureen Ohlhausen, the acting chairman of FTC. They urged her to use the FTC’s authority to go after Devumi and similar companies whose deceptive and fraudulent practices “have the effect of distorting the online marketplace and creating a false sense of celebrity, credibility, or importance in people, companies, or institutions that may not deserve it.”
Individuals with Twitter accounts can turn to Twitteraudit.com to see how many of their followers are real or fake.
Here’s a breakdown on Connecticut’s delegation which show Blumenthal having 222,957 fake followers and 154,937 real followers two weeks ago. It’s the lowest percentage of real followers among the state delegation.
• 41 percent of followers of Senator Richard Blumenthal @SenBlumenthal are real, according to an audit two weeks ago.
• 77 percent of followers of Senator Chris Murphy @ChrisMurphyCT are real, according to an audit four months ago.
• 88 percent of followers of Representative John Larson @RepJohnLarson are real, according to an audit Thursday.
• 87 percent of followers of Representative Rosa DeLauro @rosadelauro are real, according to an audit Thursday.
• 89 percent of followers of Representative Jim Himes @jahimes are real, according to an audit a week ago.
• 82 percent of followers of Representative Joe Courtney @RepJoeCourtney are real, according to an audit Thursday.
• 55 percent of followers of Representative Elizabeth Esty @RepEsty are real, according to an audit Wednesday.
New Britain’s Paul Manafort Profiled by The Atlantic
The Atlantic is out with a lengthy profile of New Britain native Paul Manafort that is worth a read as it tells the tale of an “American hustler” who was a heavyweight lobbyist and political consultant during the 1980s who re-emerged in the national spotlight as chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign before being indicted in October in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Franklin Foer, who wrote the piece, follows the full arc of Manafort’s life — including information gleaned from texts that an activist group hacked the phone of Manafort’s daughter — a prolific texter. The texts, spanning nearly four years, were 6 million words.
NPR’s Fresh Air interviewed Foer about the article. Listen to the show here
ADVISORY COUNCIL ON INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS meeting, 10:30 a.m., LOB Room 1C
Mark Your Calendar
CONFRONTING RACISM AS JOURNALISTS is a panel discussion about what responsibility the news media has to confront racism hosted by UConn Journalism on Thursday, Feb. 8 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at UConn’s Wilbur Cross Building, Wilbur Cross North Reading Room, 233 Glenbrook Road, Storrs.
MEN FOR CHOICE cocktail party to benefit NARAL Pro-Choice Connecticut on Thursday, Feb. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the home of Attorney General George Jepsen and Diana Sousa. More information & to RSVP
BRIDGEPORT REGIONAL BUSINESS COUNCIL will host “Government 101” to help the business community better understand the workings and mechanics of government in Hartford on February 16 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn & Conference Center, 1070 Main St., Bridgeport. More information & to register
Happy birthdays to Larry Smith, Josh Stearns, and Liz Easter!
Sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Middletown Town Clerk Linda Bettencourt, who passed on Tuesday.