Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Has Congress Ever Had A Spy For A Hostile Foreign Power In Its Midst Before?


Putin's favorite congressman, Dana Rohrabacher

This NY Times headline could have only been referring to 2 congressmen, both Californians-- and both of whom having made spectacles of themselves in relations to Putin-Gate: Dana Rohrabacjer from Orange County or Devin Nunes from the Central Valley. Both are in big trouble with voters in their districts. He’s a Member of Congress. The Kremlin Likes Him So Much It Gave Him a Code Name. The Times story, by Nick Fandos, was another nail in Dana Rohrabacher's political coffin. "For two decades," he began, "Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been of value to the Kremlin, so valuable in recent years that the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name.The following year, the California Republican became even more valuable, assuming the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. He sailed to re-election again and again, even as he developed ties to Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia. Then came President Trump."

Before Trump was elected House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, believing he was speaking to a group of Republicans who would never rat him out, was recorded saying that "There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump." When other Republicans asked if it was really true that Putin was actually funneling money into the Trump campaign, McCarthy, who later claimed he was joking, said "Swear to God." Paul Ryan was there and tried to get all the other Republicans in the room to promise not to tell anyone. "No leaks," he warned. This stays in the family." And, indeed, McCarthy's and Ryan's secret about Putin and his two patsies stayed secret for almost a year. But now almost everyone in Rohrabacher's swingy Orange County district-- Hillary beat Trump there last year 47.9% to 46.2%-- knows why Rohrabacher is always being referred to as "Putin's favorite congressman." This cycle Rohrabacher is being challenged for reelection by 2 Republicans-- Stelian Onufrei and Paul Martin and by at least 7 Democrats-- New Dems Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda, self-described "Reagan Democrat" Omar Siddiqui, millennial and out-of-the-box ideas man Michael Kotick, progressive Laura Oatman and some vanity candidates. Back to Fandos:
As revelations of Russia’s campaign to influence American politics consume Washington, Mr. Rohrabacher, 70, who had no known role in the Trump election campaign, has come under political and investigative scrutiny. The F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had last year with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.

At the same time, fellow Republicans-- questioning his judgment and intentions-- have moved to curtail his power as chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. And back home in Southern California, where Democrats and Republicans alike smell blood, the 15-term congressman is facing his toughest re-election contest in decades, with well-funded candidates from both parties lining up to unseat him.

“I feel like I’m in good shape politically,” he said breezily during an interview last week, a day before he voted against his party’s tax bill. “My constituents couldn’t care less about this. They are not concerned about Russia. They are concerned about the taxes on their home. They are concerned about illegal immigrants coming into their neighborhood and raping people.”

...[A]s investigators in Washington scrutinize the Russian interference campaign, Mr. Rohrabacher, like an extra in an spy thriller, just keeps showing up-- if not quite at the scene of the action, then just off camera.

In April 2016, he was in Moscow, accepting a copy of a “confidential” memo containing accusations against prominent Democratic donors that would, months later, reappear in Trump Tower when a Russian lawyer who had reported those allegations to the Russian government, Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, sat down with Donald Trump Jr. to deliver a similar document.

Last August he was in London on a quick diversion from an anniversary trip to the Iberian Peninsula to meet Mr. Assange at the fugitive’s sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy. American intelligence agencies believe Mr. Assange acted as a conduit for Russian operatives seeking to release a trove of hacked Democratic emails. Mr. Assange denies the accusation, and Mr. Rohrabacher hoped to broker a meeting with Mr. Trump to allow him to make his case.

Then earlier this year, this time on Capitol Hill, Mr. Rohrabacher dined with Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of the Russian central bank who has been linked both to Russia’s security services and organized crime. During Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign, Mr. Torshin tried to set up a “backdoor” meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin, according to an email that has been turned over to Senate investigators.

Mr. Rohrabacher asserted that none of the meetings were untoward or inappropriate, given his chairmanship. Ms. Veselnitskaya and her allies are fighting the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russian officials for human rights abuses, and they deserved a hearing, he said. Russia, he argued, could be a key ally to defeat Islamic terrorists in the Middle East, and under Mr. Putin, the Kremlin has undertaken key reforms back home. “I want to treat Russia as if it is a nation state that deserves to be judged as all other nation states are judged,” he said.

Mr. Rohrabacher said his efforts to connect Mr. Assange with the president have been stonewalled by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

NBC News reported this month that Mr. Mueller’s investigators are looking at a 2016 meeting between Mr. Rohrabacher and Mr. Flynn, whose lobbying for foreign powers has come under scrutiny by the special counsel.

Mr. Rohrabacher acknowledged meeting Mr. Flynn twice, once to discuss computer chip technology and once to discuss a plan advanced by Mr. Flynn late last year to build a series of nuclear power plants across the Middle East. He said he did not remember discussing Russia.

“All I remember about that meeting is that they were promoting some kind of an idea about having Gulf State countries invest in building nuclear power plants of some kind, I think,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.

Mr. Rohrabacher may shrug off such scrutiny, but on the Foreign Affairs Committee, fellow Republicans have had enough. The committee’s chairman, Representative Ed Royce of California, pushed out Mr. Rohrabacher’s top committee aide, Paul Behrends, in July amid stories about his ties to pro-Russian lobbyists.

Since then, the chairman has taken a more hands-on approach to managing Mr. Rohrabacher’s subcommittee, a Republican House aide said. The chairman has not imposed a blanket ban on Mr. Rohrabacher’s travel or power to convene hearings, nor has he stripped Mr. Rohrabacher of his subcommittee chairmanship.

But Mr. Royce’s aides are closely scrutinizing his requests.

Mr. Rohrabacher has given conflicting assessments of his own status on the committee, most recently saying that he faced few limitations. But in an interview with The New York Times in late October, he acknowledged actions to curtail his activities and said they represented Republican regrets about leaving the gavel to someone who would not “just go along and get along with whatever the State Department wants.”

“What happens with our committee is, if there is anything positive to say about Russia, it is trash-canned,” he said.
I wonder if he thinks coastal Orange County voters care about that. Michael Kotick has a friendly warning for Rohrabacher: "If it’s true that Dana feels like he’s 'in good shape politically,' I’d call that best evidence of how out of touch he is. He speaks for his constituents as though he’s spoken to his constituents, but in truth he actively avoids most of us. If he’d been listening back home, he’d know that we DO care about Russia and we aren’t scared of immigrants. I don’t know where he is getting his view of things, but I can tell you that if 10 people were lining up for my job while I was under active investigation, I would know I wasn’t in good shape."

Goal ThermometerLaura Oatman sent me a few messages about the NY Times article over the last day. Speaking of Rohrabacher, she wrote that "his involvement levels with Russia have been troubling for some time-- especially given his lack of attention to his constituents here." She's been spending her time talking with her neighbors in Orange County about issues that concern their daily lives more than about Putin-Gate and Rohrabacher's Russian intrigues. But she did mention that she'd "like to think of an amusing code name, but there’s nothing funny about collaboration with a nation that has interfered with our Democratic process... Regardless of whether you voted for or against him, it is a shame that he will be remembered for this.  We’re watching the Titanic just before midnight. The malfeasance that starts in D.C. has reached our shores, unfortunately. Dana has shown through his actions that he isn’t the right person to represent this amazing district... People who live in Huntington Beach, Aliso Viejo, Westminster and other CA-48 cities shouldn’t need to compete with the citizens of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Vladivostok for Congressman Rohrabacher’s attention."

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At 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you consider Israel a hostile foreign power, then yes.


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