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The Ides of March are come… Beware the Ides of March

The Death of Julius Caesar by Vincenzo Camuccini
The Ides of March (Latin: Idus Martiae, Late Latin: Idus Martii) is a day on the Roman calendar that corresponds to March 15…became notorious as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC. The death of Caesar made the Ides of March a turning point in Roman history, as one of the events that marked the transition from the historical period known as the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire… “The Ides of March are come”,…”beware the Ides of March.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ides_of_March

From DailyKos:
Ides of March 2017: Director Comey gave Two Briefings on Capitol Hill
Mar 16, 2017 4:15pm CET, by Mopshell

The most widely reported briefing was that given to members of the Senate, which appears to have been the second of the two meetings. It took place in the basement of the Capitol Building, within a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), waggishly dubbed “the cone of silence”. 

The first briefing was provided to the two leaders of the House Committee on Intelligence, Rep Devin Nunes, chairman, and Rep Adam Schiff, Ranking Member. In the reporting of that meeting there was no mention of SCIF. 

FBI briefings are strictly invitation only. 

The invites themselves are delivered clandestinely — it is not unusual for staff to be completely unaware that their senator or rep has such a meeting until after it happens.

But the germane point here is that they are invitation only which makes it particularly interesting to look at who the invitees are. I think we can take it as read that anyone who is invited will be in attendance. These briefings are proving to be the most dramatic events happening in Congress this session so nobody invited would want to miss one for any reason. 

The Senate Briefing

You may be forgiven for thinking that only two senators were invited to the second of the day’s briefings but there were, in fact, four senators there: Chuck Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member of the same committee, Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader and ex-officio member of all senate committees, and Mark Warner, Ranking Member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

It was The Hill reporter Katie Bo Will who tweeted out the list of attendees:

Those four invitees are notable initially because only one is a Republican. But even more intriguing is who was not on the invitation list:

* Mitch McConnell who, as Majority Leader, is also an ex-officio member of all senate committees and

* Richard Burr who is the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Both their Democratic counterparts were invited but not them. This is also the second FBI briefing to which Schumer has been invited but not McConnell.

Mediaite had this to say about why they were there:
“The two top lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee met with Comey after Grassley threatened to hold up the vote on Deputy Attorney General nominee Rod Rosenstein unless the FBI gave his panel a briefing on their investigations into Russian meddling in the election, any potential ties between Russia and President Donald Trump, and Trump’s claims that he was wiretapped by his predecessor.”

Though this doesn’t explain why Schumer and Warner were also invited, it does give us some idea of the subject matter — or part thereof — covered by the briefing. What will be interesting next is how Grassley handles the Rosenstein’s nomination. The Hill reported:
Asked if he was prepared to move forward with Rosenstein’s nomination after Wednesday’s briefings, Grassley appeared to signal that the No. 2 DOJ nominee is still in limbo — at least temporarily.

“I won’t answer that until I’ve gone over all the answers I got,” he told reporters Wednesday.

As chairman of the committee, Grassley can effectively hold up the nomination by refusing to schedule a committee vote.”

Most pertinent of all, and most reported upon, is the reaction of Grassley and Feinstein when they met with reporters afterwards. Raw Story reported they “looked grim and rattled” while others described Feinstein as looking “stricken” and Grassley “as though he’d seen a ghost.”

What struck me most was that it was Feinstein who spoke to reporters, not Grassley. It appeared that Feinstein took the lead because Grassley was too upset to do so. He stared at the ground a good deal.
[link: http://youtu.be/7UMHYf8SzO8 ]
What is not shown on the video is the very last part of this interview. The Hill had this report:
When a reporter asked if they were “satisfied” with the answers they got, Grassley turned to Feinstein, asked if she was “ready to go” and the two headed toward the subway that connects the Capitol to the Senate office buildings.

“If you want to ask me some other time, but not in this environment right here,” Grassley told the swarm of reporters and TV cameras.

The House Briefing

Only the two leaders of the House Intelligence Committee attended this briefing. Their reactions afterwards were markedly different to that of the senators. 

Nunes appeared to be quite relaxed and certainly happy to talk about what was said in their briefing. Share Blue has a short video of his speaking with a CNN reporter. Included was this transcript and comment:

Hunt: “Do you have any reason to believe that the President himself or anyone working for him in the White House would be one of these names that may have been swept up in something that could then have ultimately been leaked, like what happened to Michael Flynn?”                                                            

Nunes: “Well, I think it’s very possible. But, like I said, we should know that by Friday.”                                                                

Hunt: “Do you think the President himself might be one of those people that was swept up in this?”                                        

Nunes: “It’s possible. I mean look…”

As you can see from the clip, the journalist appears taken aback by Nunes’ comment that Trump might be directly involved and asks the question again, in reply to which Nunes’ responds with the same answer.

Schiff, however, had quite a different response, as reported in another Share Blue article:
Additionally, Schiff took the unusual step of openly disagreeing with Nunes to assert it was not possible to say there were no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

He noted that a similar question was put to the FBI Director and, because of Comey’s answer, Schiff concluded:
“I cannot answer that question the same way. Not certainly with the same categorical nature of the response. So, I don’t share that summary conclusion, and that’s about all I can say on that subject.“

Although it would appear that both groups were seeking much the same information, from the two radically different responses it is evident that the content of those briefings were not the same. What may have made the difference is who Comey was addressing in each briefing. He trusted those in the Senate briefing with highly confidential information but the same cannot be said for the briefing given to Nunes and Schiff. 

If there was someone in that House briefing that Comey didn’t trust, it was Devin Nunes. The circumstantial evidence against Nunes is certainly piling up:

* He was on Trump’s transition team which was chockablock with Russiaphiles

* As chairman of the House Intel Committee, he initially refused to investigate Trump-Russia but focussed instead on White House and agency leakers

* As directed by the White House, he told media contacts (as provided for him by Sean Spicer) there was nothing to any of the Kremlingate stories

* His apparent agreement to investigate Trump-Russia after all came shortly after his total denial of the Kremlingate stories; he should have recused himself but refused to do so

* Having agreed to investigate Trump campaign ties to Russia, he has since spent his time avoiding such an investigation and diverted his committee down the garden path of non-existent wiretaps

* Comey has given two briefings to Nunes’ committee and both times the briefings were very general, whereas Comey’s briefings to Upper Chamber have resulted in tight-lipped and very worried senators.  

Thus far Nunes remains on my list of GOP congressmen who are likely to be involved to some extent in Kremlingate while Chuck Grassley is in the clear. 
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http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/3/16/1643906/-Wednesday-15-2017-Director-Comey-gave-Two-Briefings-on-Capitol-Hill (Emphasis our own. Embedded link-references at original. Bravo to the above blogger and all of the hard-working bloggers at Daily Kos who are working to investigate Trump-Russia).