February 16, 2017
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While congressional Democrats and some Republicans are pushing for probes into President Trump’s ties to Russia, Trump has focused largely on going after those who have leaked information to the press. On Monday, Trump’s national security adviser was forced to resign after The Washington Post reported on leaks of classified intelligence revealing that Flynn had engaged in talks with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the transition period, while Barack Obama was still president. In a tweet this morning, Trump wrote, "The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!" On Wednesday, he wrote, "Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia." We speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to look at the growing scandal over the Trump administration’s alleged dealings with Russia before and after the November election. There have been a number of developments in the past 24 hours. The Wall Street Journal is reporting U.S. intelligence officials are withholding sensitive intelligence from President Trump because they’re concerned it could be leaked or compromised. The New York Times is reporting Trump is considering ordering a review of the nation’s intelligence agencies led by Stephen Feinberg, a billionaire private equity executive who is close to Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner.
Meanwhile, Trump has publicly defended Michael Flynn, who resigned Monday as national security adviser after admitting he gave Vice President Mike Pence and others incomplete information about his calls with the Russian ambassador in December. Trump spoke about Flynn during his press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Michael Flynn, General Flynn, is a wonderful man. I think he’s been treated very, very unfairly by the media—as I call it, the fake media, in many cases. And I think it’s really a sad thing that he was treated so badly. I think, in addition to that, from intelligence, papers are being leaked. Things are being leaked. It’s criminal action. Criminal act. And it’s been going on for a long time, before me. But now it’s really going on. And people are trying to cover up for a terrible loss that the Democrats had under Hillary Clinton. I think it’s very, very unfair what’s happened to General Flynn, the way he was treated and the documents and papers that were illegally—I stress that—illegally leaked. Very, very unfair.
AMY GOODMAN: Trump’s comments came just a day after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had lost faith in General Flynn.
PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: This was an act of trust. Whether or not he actually misled the vice president was the issue. And that was ultimately what led to the president asking for and accepting the resignation of General Flynn. That’s it, pure and simple. It was a matter of trust.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: While congressional Democrats and some Republicans are pushing for probes into Trump’s ties to Russia, Trump has focused largely on going after those who have leaked information to the press. In a tweet this morning, Trump wrote, quote, "The spotlight has finally been put on the low-life leakers! They will be caught!" On Wednesday, Trump indirectly accused the NSA and FBI of being behind the leaks. He wrote":https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/831840306161123328, quote, "Information is being illegally given to the failing @nytimes & @washingtonpost by the intelligence community (NSA and FBI?).Just like Russia."
AMY GOODMAN: Some supporters of Trump, including Breitbart News, have accused the intelligence agencies of attempting to wage a "deep state coup" against the president. Meanwhile, some critics of Trump are openly embracing such activity. Bill Kristol, the prominent Republican analyst who founded The Weekly Standard, wrote on Twitter, "Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state," unquote.
To help make sense of what’s happening, we’re joined by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept. His most recent piece is headlined "The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious—and Wholly Justified—Felonies."
Glenn, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain what you mean.
GLENN GREENWALD: There’s no question that whoever leaked the contents of General Flynn’s telephone calls with the Russian ambassador and other Russian diplomats committed what the law regards as extremely serious crimes. As we all know from the last eight years under President Obama, they—the U.S. government treats it as a criminal act, a felony, to leak information that is deemed classified. In the scheme of what is regarded as criminal in terms of leaks, the most serious or one of the most serious bits of information that can be leaked is what’s called signals intelligence, or information gathered by the NSA or the CIA or other intelligence agencies in terms of eavesdropping on foreign governments. And that’s exactly what got leaked, was information that the NSA and the CIA say that they gathered as a result of targeting Russian officials with eavesdropping. And along the course of that eavesdropping, they happened hear General Flynn’s conversations with those Russian officials. That’s what they claim. It’s possible they actually targeted General Flynn. We don’t know. That’s the claim. And if that is true, what they’re claiming, it means that the leaking of this information is considered a very serious felony. In fact, the law says that it’s not just whoever leaks signals intelligence is guilty of a felony, but anyone who publishes it, too. So, theoretically, it makes the journalists at The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News, all of whom have leaked signals intelligence, guilty of felonies. My view is that the First Amendment’s freedom of the press clause would bar any such prosecutions, but at least under the statute it is a crime.
So then the question becomes: Well, if it’s criminal, is it justified? And my view is the same view that I had for the eight years under President Obama and for the years before that under President Bush, which is that people inside the government who leak classified information that the public has a right to know, even if they’re breaking the law, are acting commendably and justifiably and heroically, and that those people ought to be celebrated and treated as people defending democracy and transparency, and not be treated as criminals. Unfortunately, over the last eight years, Democrats have had a completely different view of people who leak classified information. And the tweet that you just read from President Trump, saying whoever leaked this information are low-life leakers who deserve to be punished, that sounds very, very, very similar to everything I’ve heard from most Democrats over the last eight years as they called for the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning and Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden and the long list of other whistleblowers and leakers that President Obama so aggressively and vindictively prosecuted. But, for me, my view has not changed, which is, when an official as senior as General Flynn lies to the public, which is what he did—he denied publicly that he discussed the issue of sanctions with the Russian ambassador in his December phone call—information that shows that he lied is information that the public has the right to know. And even though I think there are very grave dangers and grave concerns, that I hope we’ll discuss, in terms of what the deep state is doing in trying to destroy the Trump administration, that was duly elected, in this particular case, whoever leaked this information helped the public to understand and to learn exactly how General Flynn lied, and therefore, despite being illegal, highly illegal, I actually think it’s also wholly justified, as I wrote in that piece.
[GREENWALD MISTAKENLY CONFLATING WHISTLEBLOWERS WITH DEEP STATE ACTORS -- NOT THE SAME. INFO VS. PROPAGANDA & MIND CONTROL]
GLENN GREENWALD: The deep state, although there’s no precise or scientific definition, generally refers to the agencies in Washington that are permanent power factions. They stay and exercise power even as presidents who are elected come and go. They typically exercise their power in secret, in the dark, and so they’re barely subject to democratic accountability, if they’re subject to it at all. It’s agencies like the CIA, the NSA and the other intelligence agencies, that are essentially designed to disseminate disinformation and deceit and propaganda, and have a long history of doing not only that, but also have a long history of the world’s worst war crimes, atrocities and death squads. This is who not just people like Bill Kristol, but lots of Democrats are placing their faith in, are trying to empower, are cheering for as they exert power separate and apart from—in fact, in opposition to—the political officials to whom they’re supposed to be subordinate.
And you go—this is not just about Russia. You go all the way back to the campaign, and what you saw was that leading members of the intelligence community, including Mike Morell, who was the acting CIA chief under President Obama, and Michael Hayden, who ran both the CIA and the NSA under George W. Bush, were very outspoken supporters of Hillary Clinton. In fact, Michael Morell went to The New York Times, and Michael Hayden went to The Washington Post, during the campaign to praise Hillary Clinton and to say that Donald Trump had become a recruit of Russia. The CIA and the intelligence community were vehemently in support of Clinton and vehemently opposed to Trump, from the beginning. And the reason was, was because they liked Hillary Clinton’s policies better than they liked Donald Trump’s. One of the main priorities of the CIA for the last five years has been a proxy war in Syria, designed to achieve regime change with the Assad regime. Hillary Clinton was not only for that, she was critical of Obama for not allowing it to go further, and wanted to impose a no-fly zone in Syria and confront the Russians. Donald Trump took exactly the opposite view. He said we shouldn’t care who rules Syria; we should allow the Russians, and even help the Russians, kill ISIS and al-Qaeda and other people in Syria. So, Trump’s agenda that he ran on was completely antithetical to what the CIA wanted. Clinton’s was exactly what the CIA wanted, and so they were behind her. And so, they’ve been trying to undermine Trump for many months throughout the election. And now that he won, they are not just undermining him with leaks, but actively subverting him. There’s claims that they’re withholding information from him, on the grounds that they don’t think he should have it and can be trusted with it. They are empowering themselves to enact policy.
Now, I happen to think that the Trump presidency is extremely dangerous. You just listed off in your news—in your newscast that led the show, many reasons. They want to dismantle the environment. They want to eliminate the safety net. They want to empower billionaires. They want to enact bigoted policies against Muslims and immigrants and so many others. And it is important to resist them. And there are lots of really great ways to resist them, such as getting courts to restrain them, citizen activism and, most important of all, having the Democratic Party engage in self-critique to ask itself how it can be a more effective political force in the United States after it has collapsed on all levels. That isn’t what this resistance is now doing. What they’re doing instead is trying to take maybe the only faction worse than Donald Trump, which is the deep state, the CIA, with its histories of atrocities, and say they ought to almost engage in like a soft coup, where they take the elected president and prevent him from enacting his policies. And I think it is extremely dangerous to do that. Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it.
-- Greenwald: Empowering the "Deep State" to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracyby DemocracyNow!