Days after America Learns to Hate FISA, Lev Parnas’ Co-Conspirator Focuses the Issue

During the first status hearing for Lev Parnas and his co-conspirators, the government stated clearly that no Title III wiretaps had been used in the case. I recognized at the time that didn’t necessarily mean they weren’t wiretapped. As people engaged in transnational political influence peddling, they were prime candidates to have been collected under FISA, either targeted at them or (under 702) their co-conspirators overseas.

I’m not the only one who noticed that. The lawyers for Andrey Kukushkin — who was indicted on the Nevada marijuana part of the grift, one that explicitly described funding from an unidentified Russian — have asked Judge Paul Oetken to make the government tell them whether their client or any of his co-conspirators (including unindicted co-conspirators) were the subject of any of various forms of surveillance, including 12333 and FISA. The government responded with the kind of non-denial that suggests it is quite likely one or some of these grifters (or their Russian unindicted co-conspirator) were collected under those authorities.

As we have previously told you, the Government did not obtain or use Title III intercepts in the course of this investigation. Additionally, the Government does not intend to use any information that was obtained or derived from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the other forms of surveillance identified in your letter.

Remember: The government doesn’t have to tell defendants who were targeted under FISA that they were so long as the government doesn’t rely on any evidence obtained under FISA in their prosecution. But Kukushkin seems to have a pretty clear suspicion that the government knows what he has said in his communications.

The government has said (including in a motion asking the court to revoke Parnas’ bail last night) that there are likely going to be follow-on charges. And Foreign Agent charges are the kind of thing you might expect given the way the grifters were funneling foreign money into politics. Which would mean they’re precisely the kind of people that FISA was envisioned for.

That said, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were in close contact with the President’s lawyer, and Parnas also spoke at key times to Devin Nunes (who consistently only cares about surveillance implicating him), John Solomon, and other people squealing when Adam Schiff revealed just their metadata.

So if FISA were used, a bunch of people who’ve just learned to hate FISA may have been incidentally collected in conversations with indicted fraudsters.

The thing is, Bill Barr has repeatedly said that he was briefed on this case and fully approved of it. Which means Barr may soon be in the position of defending a controversial FISA, one possibly approved under him or another Trump Attorney General.

37 replies
  1. Katherine M Williams says:

    Back in 2007 when Senator Obama voted for FISA- remember that? How we called and emailed and wrote him to NOT vote for the too-easily abused FISA warrants that Bush2 administration had abused? And he went ahead and voted for FISA. That’s when I recognized Obama was a neo-liberal, not an actual liberal. And people went right on abusing the FISA warrants.

  2. Peterr says:

    Bill Barr has repeatedly said that he was briefed on this case and fully approved of it.

    See, for instance, this from the Wall Street Journal on October 10th, right after the arrests:

    Attorney General William Barr discussed the case on Thursday with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, where he was making a previously scheduled visit. A Justice Department official said Mr. Barr was supportive of their work on the case, on which he was first briefed shortly after being confirmed as attorney general in February. He was aware on Wednesday night that the pair would be charged and taken into custody last night, the official said.

    • Peterr says:

      I’m picturing the fun a Democratic nominee like Elizabeth Warren would have with that. “What’s the matter, Donald – are you afraid of debating a girl?”

      • Ollie says:

        oh thanks Peterr. I’d just read prior to this bit of news that he sold a lot of pristine Alaskan lands for $11 an acre to the gas and oil giants. Boy. I just don’t know why I keep getting surprised. I think the underlying issue for me is too far is not far enough. Why Hucklebee is going on fox (I read didn’t see) that trump should get 3 terms. lol. You made me chuckle so there’s that.

          • Hika says:

            With most things you can lease, if you break it, you buy it, or at least restore it to its original condition. Unfortunately, extractive industries leasing government land just doesn’t seem to work in the same way.

            • P J Evans says:

              AIUI, the law requires that the restore the land – but the companies doing the extracting seem to go broke just before that stage.

    • Leading Edge Boomer says:

      The Democratic nominee should debate Alec Baldwin, who could expose the Dotard while throwing softballs for the nominee to hit out of the park.

    • roberts robot double says:

      It appears that the drug cocktail that temporarily rouses him from his ever-deepening dementia is losing its efficacy, and his handlers know it. There’s no way he could make his way through an entire debate without demonstrating his being utterly deranged. (I’m not a Twitter person, but @TomJChicago is tracking his descent.)

      At this point, his most accurate moniker could be “Evil Reagan”, for he is being used by the evil people around him for their authoritarian purposes just as Reagan was, except that Trump is *way* more evil than Reagan was at his core.

      Note that this probably also explains Melania’s happier appearance over the past few months: she knows he’s halfway gone and is only getting worse by the day, which means she’s that much closer to being free of his evil ass (not that she’s much better, if any). Then again, she might also be banging a Secret Service Agent or three.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Exit polls suggest Tory landslide not seen since Margaret Thatcher. And she had to treble the number of children living in poverty to get it. Mind you, the press and polls have shown a remarkable Tory bias the entire campaign. They fear Corbyn more than Wall Street fears Elizabeth Warren.

    And per Carole Cadwalladr, the justice establishment refused to investigate obvious signs that Russia has been heavily involved in voter manipulation. Vlad doesn’t need the Berlin Wall or Khrushchev’s shoe. He needs money, computers, and the will to interfere, which he has in abundance.

    The Democrats should heed the signs and take nothing for granted. Norms and reasonable expectations mean nothing just now. Republican behavior during this impeachment process should have made that abundantly clear. Fight like your country depended on it. It does.

    • P J Evans says:

      If nothing else, Mitch’s most recent statements, that the Senate Rs are in complete agreement with Trmp’s lawyers, should scare people. The jury isn’t supposed to decide the verdict before the trial even starts.

      Acyn Torabi @Acyn 2 hours ago

      Mitch McConnell: Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with White House Counsel. There will be no difference between the President’s position and our position as to how to handle this

    • Arj says:

      Sad, sad day for the Old World – had thought at least it would be a closer contest. Whence this transatlantic vogue for lardy-arsed, yellow-coiffed, brazenly self-serving autocratic demagogues with no personal or social morality, whose obviously bogus personalities have been crafted in plain sight by years on the telly; and how are so many falling for it? The press bias in the UK has been relentless, admittedly, though the Grauniad valiantly offered readers advice on tactical voting till the bitter end.

      Seriously depressed today – apologies for hijacking the thread.

      • Cathy says:

        No need to apologize. Wishing you fuzzy socks in front of a toasty fire.

        Weary as the voters are, suspect the PM’s travails are only beginning.

        Look at us – we may very well consider impeachment a victory if only Senate Leader McConnell’s minions manage to curb Trump’s appetite for putting his perceived enemies live on the spot in Senate hearings. What a low bar. And we can only suspect how low Barr is, at that.

        Sustaining thoughts going out to the Israeli voters as well.

        • Arj says:

          Right so. Democracies, if we can keep them – or get ‘em up & running in the first place. Fuzzy, unpuppeted socks to you as well (resisting the proffered emoji right here [-] on my screen…).

          You must consider impeachment a victory if only it records the honourable mark of protest against this president’s name; and that much is guaranteed. Quite a number of other names too. Baa-baa Barr will be prominent among that flock.

    • orionATL says:

      i have followed this contest between tories and labor for months in part because it appears a double of the u.s. political situation. i am astonished at the size of the tory victory. given apparent public support for a second referendum, something does not add up.

      more importantly though, i am deeply puzzled by why jeremy cornyn did not make two points repeatedly from early on in his public speeches:

      1) that the economic doldrums the lower 1/2 to 2/3 of the British population have experienced for several decades can be directly attributed to margaret thatcher and tory economic policy forward from thatcher.

      2. that the russians worked on the british population from the original brexit conflict forward.

      that russian manipulation was consequential in yesterday’s vote would be no surprise at all. nor would it be surprising to learn that putin co-opted british billionaires.

      • Rayne says:

        Look at it less as a vote FOR Johnson and Brexit than a vote AGAINST Corbyn. Tories who might have wanted to vote Labour couldn’t get behind Corbyn. Labour people stayed home in Labour strongholds because they didn’t want to vote for Corbyn.

        And now Corbyn has stepped down, far too late. It’d be interesting to see what social media micro-messaging was used to keep Corbyn in place through the election while suppressing interest in him at the end.

        • Hika says:

          Corbyn clung to his fantasy of winning and taking Britain back to the 70’s. It has ended in disaster. If Corbyn had been a greater statesman and more attuned to the political realities of where his country stood, he would have surrendered his leadership months ago as part of a deal to form a coalition with other anti-Conservative parties and they could have brought on a no confidence motion to remove the Prime Ministership from Johnson and formed an anti-Conservative, anti-Brexit government. But Corbyn wanted his shot at the big time. He’s now had it, and so has the UK.

        • orionATL says:

          thanks. i think that’s right.

          corbyn was a weak leader for sure, vacillating between that part of his party that was for leaving the e.u. and that part against it. i did not know some labor voters had stayed home. i assume those were supporters of staying in the e.u. what a cock up, as the brits would say.

          what covert social media messaging was deployed would be invaluable to know. to bad facebook hides a lot of this from forensic review.

    • omphaloscepsis says:

      “the justice establishment refused to investigate obvious signs that Russia has been heavily involved in voter manipulation”

      They didn’t refuse to investigate, they refused to release the completed investigation report.

      The British counterpart of the SSCI is the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, which reported two months ago:

      “17 October 2019
      The Committee has today sent its Report, ‘Russia’, to the Prime Minister.

      In accordance with the Justice and Security Act 2013, the Prime Minister will now consider whether there is any information in the report which, if published, would be prejudicial to the continued discharge of the functions of the security and intelligence Agencies. The Committee expects to be in a position to publish the report imminently.”

      Subsequent pushes to release the report before the election met with stony silence.

      The Wikipedia summary :

      “On the 17th of October 2019, the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament delivered to the Government its ‘Russia report’ into allegations of Russian interference in British politics, including alleged Russian interference in the referendum. The government (led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson), which formally has authority to control the timing of its release to the public, has refused to do so before the 2019 United Kingdom general election in December.”

      Aaron Banks, featured prominently in the Wikipedia article, had sued Cadwalladr for libel, in courts that handle such cases differently from the US, to the detriment of investigative reporting.

    • Michael Schmitt says:

      I remember Khrushchev’s shoe, along with “We will bury you”, and hiding in my closet during the Cuban Missile Crisis thinking I would die in a day or two from a Soviet atomic bomb explosion.

      • Cathy says:

        Different threats for different times. Fifty years apart new moms in our family talked about their fears raising children in the shadow of the threat of sudden mass casualties. Those shadows have retreated for now in the US, but it seems as though we’re passing into a world influenced as much by authoritarian tactics as by liberal policies. An uncomfortable place to be.

      • P J Evans says:

        Duck-and-cover drills at school, and at least one movie on the “Commie Menace” where what I remember – nearly 60 years later – is that the baddies will outlast the good people, when they’re trying to change the rules.

    • BeingThere says:

      He refused to release the report on Russian interference and political money injection into Tory party activities. He must be eager to release it now re-elected?

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