House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., questions Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire,as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In November, I posted about the relationship between Ciaramella, a CIA analyst who was detailed to the National Security Counsel, and Misko. While at the NSC, Misko, 37, served as the director for the Gulf States. Prior to his position with the NSC, Misko “worked in the Obama administration as a member of the secretary of state’s policy planning staff for deputy chief of staff Jake Sullivan, who became Hillary Clinton’s senior foreign policy adviser during her 2016 presidential campaign.” That tells us everything we need to know about Misko.
We also know that one of their NSC colleagues, Abigail Grace, had joined Schiff’s staff in February 2019.
The Washington Examiner’s Kerry Picket interviewed a former co-worker in November, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. This individual, a former NSC official, described Ciaramella and Misko as “workplace friends who had similarly antagonistic attitudes toward the Trump administration and were frequently around one another.”
This official, who had held a more senior position than Ciaramella at the NSC, said “My understanding was that they were friendly with one another. They would walk around the halls. Get lunch together and stuff like that.” They were “very much cut from the same cloth.” He described their friendship as “bro-like.”
(Real Clear Investigations’ Paul Sperry, who was the first journalist to publish Ciaramella’s name in an October 30, 2019 report, reiterates that “although strong evidence points to Ciaramella as the government employee who lodged the whistleblower complaint, he has not been officially identified as such. As a result, he makes a distinction between public information released about the unnamed whistleblower/CIA analyst and specific information about Ciaramella.”)
Two former White House colleagues (source 1 and source 2) of the man alleged to be the whistleblower, Eric Ciaramella, and Sean Misko, who was hired as an aide to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA), told Sperry they had overheard them [Ciaramella and Misko] talking about how to remove President Trump from office. This conversation allegedly occurred about two weeks after Trump’s inauguration.
Source 1 said, “Just days after he [Trump] was sworn in, they [Ciaramella and Misko] were already talking about trying to get rid of him. They weren’t just bent on subverting his agenda. They were plotting to actually have him removed from office.”
Sources told Sperry that Misko had been the Schiff staff member whom Ciaramella had “reached out to” for “guidance” before submitting his complaint with the Intelligence Community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.
The coordination between the official believed to be the whistleblower and a key Democratic staffer, details of which are disclosed here for the first time, undercuts the narrative that impeachment developed spontaneously out of the “patriotism” of an “apolitical civil servant.”
Two former co-workers said they overheard Ciaramella and Misko, close friends and Democrats held over from the Obama administration, discussing how to “take out,” or remove, the new president from office within days of Trump’s inauguration. These co-workers said the president’s controversial Ukraine phone call in July 2019 provided the pretext they and their Democratic allies had been looking for.
As we all know, the whistleblower’s complaint alleges that President Trump tied $400 million in U.S. aid to an announcement from the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that his Proseutor General’s office would be investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings with Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma.
As we also know, Schiff will not allow anyone to utter the whistleblower’s name out of concern for his safety. The real reason for his concern may be that Schiff was in cahoots with the whistleblower. He hired Ciaramella’s work buddy, Misko, the same week the complaint was filed. (Misko was offered the job on July 26 and began working for Schiff in August.) Schiff denied several times that he or a member of his staff had any pre-contact with the whistleblower. When it was reported that Ciaramella had contacted his staff, Schiff was forced to explain it. Of course, the media readily accepted his answer.
One of the first interviews Schiff’s Intelligence Committee conducted was with the IC IG Michael Atkinson. Schiff refuses to release the transcript and has classified it as “secret preventing Republicans who attended the Atkinson briefing from quoting from it. Even impeachment investigators cannot view it outside a highly secured room, known as a “SCIF,” in the basement of the Capitol. Members must first get permission from Schiff, and they are forbidden from bringing phones into the SCIF or from taking notes from the document.”
This is one of the documents White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has tried to obtain.
Prior to January 2017, Ciaramella had served as a Ukraine advisor to then-Vice President Joe Biden. When Trump took office, Ciaramella was still detailed to the White House as a top Ukrainian analyst in the National Security Council (NSC).
Sperry’s sources recall attending an NSC meeting led by then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Misko and Ciaramella sat together.
Source 1 said, “They were popping off about how they were going to remove Trump from office. No joke.”
Sperry reports that “a military staffer detailed to the NSC [source 2], who was seated directly in front of Ciaramella and Misko during the meeting, confirmed hearing them talk about toppling Trump during their private conversation, which the source said lasted about one minute. The crowd was preparing to get up to leave the room at the time.”
The military staffer said, “After Flynn briefed [the staff] about what ‘America first’ foreign policy means, Ciaramella turned to Misko and commented, ‘We need to take him out,’ And Misko replied, ‘Yeah, we need to do everything we can to take out the president’…By ‘taking him out,’ they meant removing him from office by any means necessary. They were triggered by Trump’s and Flynn’s vision for the world. This was the first ‘all hands’ [staff meeting] where they got to see Trump’s national security team, and they were huffing and puffing throughout the briefing any time Flynn said something they didn’t like about ‘America First.’ ”
He had also heard Ciaramella tell Misko, “‘We can’t let him enact this foreign policy.’“
Source 2 said he reported what he’d overheard to his superiors. “It was so shocking that they were so blatant and outspoken about their opinion,” he recalled. “They weren’t shouting it, but they didn’t seem to feel the need to hide it.”
The co-workers, [sources 1 and 2] didn’t think much more about the incident.
Over the next few months, Sperry notes, both Ciaramella and Misko “were accused internally of leaking negative information about Trump to the media.”
“He was accused of working against Trump and leaking against Trump,” said a former NSC official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. And in mid-2017, Ciaramella left his position at the White House and returned to CIA headquarters in Langley, VA.
It was Trump’s July 25, 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky which “gave them the opening they were looking for.”
You won’t be surprised to hear that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who had listened to the call, was their “mutual ally.” According to former NSC co-workers and congressional sources, Vindman leaked information about the call to Ciaramella the next day.
Vindman had filled Ciaramella’s previous position at the NSC, but “the two officials continued to collaborate through interagency meetings.”
Vindman leaked what he’d heard to Ciaramella by phone that afternoon, the sources said. In their conversation, which lasted a few minutes, he described Trump’s call as “crazy,” and speculated he had “committed a criminal act.” Neither reviewed the transcript of the call before the White House released it months later.
NSC co-workers said that Vindman, like Ciaramella, openly expressed his disdain for Trump whose foreign policy was often at odds with the recommendations of “the interagency” — a network of agency working groups comprised of intelligence bureaucrats, experts and diplomats who regularly meet to craft and coordinate policy positions inside the federal government.
Vindman’s commanding officer, Army Lt. Col. Jim Hickman, complained that Vindman, then a major, “was apologetic of American culture, laughed about Americans not being educated or worldly and really talked up Obama and globalism to the point of [It being] uncomfortable.”
“Vindman was a partisan Democrat at least as far back as 2012,” Hickman, now retired, asserted. “Do not let the uniform fool you. He is a political activist in uniform.”
Another noteworthy event occurred on July 26, 2019. Sperry reports that “Schiff hired Misko to head up the investigation of Trump, congressional employment records show. Misko, in turn, secretly huddled with the whistleblower prior to filing his Aug. 12 complaint, according to multiple congressional sources, and shared what he told him with Schiff, who initially denied the contacts before press accounts revealed them. Schiff’s office has also denied helping the whistleblower prepare his complaint, while rejecting a Republican subpoena for documents relating to it. But Capitol Hill veterans and federal whistleblower experts are suspicious of that account.” This is new information.
Former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz (also served as chief of staff to former National Security Advisor John Bolton) says it’s obvious that Ciaramella had assistance writing the complaint.
Fleitz noted, “From my experience, such an extremely polished whistleblowing complaint is unheard of. He appears to have collaborated in drafting his complaint with partisan House Intelligence Committee members and staff.”
Interestingly, he said “the complaint appears to have been tailored to buttress an impeachment charge of soliciting the “interference” of a foreign government in the election. And the whistleblower’s unsupported allegation became the foundation for Democrats’ first article of impeachment against the president. It even adopts the language used by the CIA analyst in his complaint, which Fleitz said reads more like “a political document.”
Sperry goes into detail about the connections between the whistleblower, his lawyer, former Obama administration officials and where IC IG Michael Atkinson fits into all of this. It is a fascinating read, but it is extremely lengthy. It can be viewed here.