Tea Party Patriots Action Weekly Report from Washington 04/06/20
The House and Senate are both in recess for the next several weeks. The House is not expected to meet again until at least April 20. The Senate has said it will come back on April 20.
FISA FOLLOW UP:
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz – the man who found no fewer than 17 glaring errors or omissions in the four FISA warrant applications for the FBI to surveil former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page – last Tuesday released his audit of the FBI’s use of secret surveillance warrants. He found widespread problems with the FBI’s procedures in the 29 applications for surveillance on U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents that he and his team looked into.
We thought it was bad enough when he said he found 17 errors or omissions in the four applications for the Carter Page warrants. That averaged out to 4.25 errors per application. But in each of the 29 applications for other surveillance warrants he and his team investigated, he said he found an average of 20 errors. “While our review of these issues and follow-up with case agents is still ongoing – and we have not made materiality judgments for these or other errors or concerns we identified – at this time,” Horowitz wrote, “we have identified an average of about 20 issues per application reviewed, with a high of approximately 65 issues in one application and less than 5 issues in another application.”
The standard in place at the FBI is something they call the “Woods Procedure,” which simply means that the Department of Justice is required to verify the accuracy and then provide evidentiary support for all the facts declared in any application for a FISA warrant.
Horowitz concluded his audit by recommending that the FBI “systematically and regularly examine the results of past and future accuracy reviews to identify patterns or trends in identified errors” relating to the Woods Procedure, as well as checking to ensure “that Woods Files exist for every FISA application submitted to the FISC in all pending investigations.”
Horowitz doesn’t have the power to do anything about what he found. He made a few paperwork recommendations, and the FBI responded through an Associate Deputy Director – I’m not making that up – that “the FBI fully accepts the two recommendations,” and the issues “will be addressed” by the corrective measures already issued by FBI Director Chris Wray.
But just because the DOJ IG cannot really do anything of substance doesn’t mean his work is irrelevant; he did draw attention to a system-wide problem at just the right time, because as of right now, three surveillance powers the Intelligence Community relies on have expired, and that gives reformers just a bit of leverage they might not have had otherwise. And that leads us right into our next subject.
SURVEILLANCE FOLLOW UP:
As you may recall, in last week’s episode, I mentioned that the Senate had chosen not to agree to the reauthorization of certain surveillance authorities that were set to expire at the Ides of March. The reauthorization had passed the House and been sent to the Senate, but the Senate had chosen instead to pass a 77-day extension of the expiring authorities.
Since that was not what the House had done, that meant that the House would have to pass an identical 77-day extension of the expiring surveillance authorities and send it to the president for his signature. So senators fully expected that when the House returned at the end of last week to pass the phase three coronavirus response package, the House would also pass a 77-day extension of the expiring surveillance authorities.
But the House chose not to. And that means that those expiring surveillance authorities have expired, and cannot be put back in place at least until the House comes back into session and passes something in one form or another. And that has a lot of senators very, very unhappy with the House.
Be that as it may, Sen. Rand Paul is looking forward to the debate we now expect to happen sometime in May. He has an amendment ready that would simply prohibit the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court from issuing a surveillance warrant against an American citizen.
President Trump began the week last Sunday by announcing that he would extend the social distancing guidelines another two weeks, keeping them in place until the end of April. So much for opening churches for Easter.
On the legislative front, the battle has already begun over what will be in the fourth coronavirus response bill. Speaker Pelosi spent much of last week talking about it. She wants a big, beautiful, bold infrastructure program that takes trillions of dollars from one less-favored group of people and then spreads it to another more-favored group of people. She wants to spend about $2 trillion on this, and, yes, that’s another $2 trillion we do not currently have.
Troublingly, President Trump also seems to think this is a good idea. He tweeted on Tuesday, “With interest rates for the United States being at ZERO, this is the time to do our decades long awaited Infrastructure Bill. It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country! Phase 4.”
The good news on this front is that Republicans control the Senate, and Senate Republicans are not keen on spending another $2 trillion we do not have. Senate Republicans, perhaps a bit surprisingly to someone as jaded as I, actually seem to want to see how the last three bills work in practice before committing their children and grandchildren to paying for another bloated spending bill. Consequently, Majority Leader McConnell has made clear that no such bill is going to be steamrolled through the Senate.
That does not necessarily mean that there won’t be a huge fight over it. Expect one. And expect us to weigh in on the side of NO massive infrastructure bill to be paid for with borrowed funds.
Late on Friday evening, President Trump informed the Senate and House Intelligence Committees of his decision to fire Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, to take effect 30 days from Friday. Said Trump in the letter, “As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as president, have the power of appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.”
Democrats and the media, predictably, went nuts, criticizing the president for what they saw as retaliation – because Atkinson played a key role in the Ukraine-related impeachment proceedings. He was the original recipient of the so-called “whistleblower’s” letter regarding the June 25 phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine.
Said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the firing was “retribution” “in the dead of night,” and it was “yet another blatant attempt by the president to gut the independence of the intelligence community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.”
On Thursday, the Democratic National Committee announced that its 2020 national convention, originally slated for Milwaukee from July 13-16, would be postponed until August 17-20 because of concerns over the coronavirus. This means the Democrats’ convention would come precisely one week before the GOP convention in Charlotte, which is scheduled for August 24-27.
Appearing Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week,” Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden suggested that that convention may end up being held virtually. “Well, we’re gonna have to do a convention,” he said. “We may have to do a virtual convention. I know I think we should be thinking about that right now. What we do between now and then is gonna dictate a lot of that as well.”
FISA FOLLOW UP:
SURVEILLANCE FOLLOW UP:
CORONAVIRUS SECOND THOUGHTS: