1. You've been hearing recently about various efforts to get rid of Ezra Cohen-Watnick. The question was why did the CIA, McMaster and assorted insiders want him gone so badly. We now know why. He was looking into their version of Watergate.
2. This comes from Eli Lake at Bloomberg. This is serious stuff. It can't be easily waved away or dismissed. It's not a random conspiracy theory. This is journalism from inside the media.
3. This goes right to the heart of the scandal.
White House lawyers last month discovered that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
The pattern of Rice's requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government's policy on "unmasking" the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like "U.S. Person One."
To recap, Obama used FISA requests to spy on Trump's people. The pretext was communicating with foreign agents. The Americans being overheard by this form of interception are supposed to have their identities concealed. Except that Rice was trying to unmask them.
You never go full Watergate. You just never do.
The National Security Council's senior director for intelligence, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was conducting the review, according to two U.S. officials who spoke with Bloomberg View on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly. In February Cohen-Watnick discovered Rice's multiple requests to unmask U.S. persons in intelligence reports that related to Trump transition activities. He brought this to the attention of the White House General Counsel's office, who reviewed more of Rice's requests and instructed him to end his own research into the unmasking policy.
The intelligence reports were summaries of monitored conversations -- primarily between foreign officials discussing the Trump transition, but also in some cases direct contact between members of the Trump team and monitored foreign officials. One U.S. official familiar with the reports said they contained valuable political information on the Trump transition such as whom the Trump team was meeting, the views of Trump associates on foreign policy matters and plans for the incoming administration.
Rice did not respond to an email seeking comment on Monday morning.
This is bad. It's really bad. The media will shortly dig into their pool of excuses, but they were gambling that Nunes had nothing and that Cohen-Watnick could be gotten rid of and replaced with the woman who helped draft the CIA's talking points. But Trump overruled McMaster.
And now we have pay dirt.
The ranking Democrat on the committee Nunes chairs, Representative Adam Schiff, viewed these reports on Friday. In comments to the press over the weekend he declined to discuss the contents of these reports, but also said it was highly unusual for the reports to be shown only to Nunes and not himself and other members of the committee.
It was widely noticed that Schiff suddenly seemed more subdued. We now know why. Offense is about to shift to defense.
Rice herself has not spoken directly on the issue of unmasking. Last month when she was asked on the "PBS NewsHour" about reports that Trump transition officials, including Trump himself, were swept up in incidental intelligence collection, Rice said: "I know nothing about this," adding, "I was surprised to see reports from Chairman Nunes on that account today."