With President Trump’s approval, the four-page FISA memo prepared by the House Intelligence Committee has been released to the public. Democrats fought the public release of the document, which has been described by GOP members of the House as “explosive,” “shocking,” “troubling,” and “alarming” and showing actions on the part of FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials as being similar to those of the Soviet KGB. Now the American people can judge it for themselves.
The crux of the memo is that the FBI and DOJ violated basic rules and abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process in the investigation of allegations of Trump/Russia collusion during the 2016 election.
The memo begins by explaining its purpose and revealing that the House Intelligence Committee has been conducting an “ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle.” It then states the committee’s findings which “1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.”
In all, the four-page memo lists five major points and several parts of each of those points. All of the material in the memo relates — either directly or indirectly — to the surveillance of Carter Page. Page is an oil industry consultant who was a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. He was targeted by the FBI and DOJ for surveillance by both the FBI and DOJ.
The memo — based on intelligence which is not publicly available, but is referenced in general terms in the memo — shows that the “FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC” and that in spite of legal obligations to “include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government” and the fact that the FBI and DOJ “had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts,” the government “omitted” certain “material and relevant information.”
So, the FBI and DOJ, in an effort to gain FISA court approval to conduct surveillance on a U.S. citizen, presented incomplete information to the court — abusing the FISA process.
But do those omissions rise to the level of being “explosive,” “shocking,” “troubling,” and “alarming” and showing actions on the part of FBI and DOJ officials as being similar to those of the Soviet KGB?
In a word, yes.
The first point listed in the committee’s findings is related to the now-discredited “dossier” alleging that Trump was both the victim of blackmail by Russian agents and the recipient of Russian assistance in his electoral contest with Hillary Clinton. The memo points out that the “dossier” was compiled by Christopher Steele, who was paid more than $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign “to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.” It further states, “Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.”
No connections between those involved in the creation (perhaps “manufacture” would be a better word) of the “dossier” and the DNC/Clinton campaign were revealed to the court as part of the application process. The reason for that is apparent: That information would have been counterproductive to the argument put forward by the FBI and DOJ. After all, since the case for surveillance was built on the “dossier,” it would be considerably weakened if the court had known that the document was bought and paid for by Trump’s enemies.
The second point of the committee’s findings is similar. Steele leaked information about the “dossier” to Yahoo News and other media outlets — and later admitted doing so. The FISA application claims he did not. Steele — who had worked for the FBI at the same time he was creating the “dossier” — was later terminated for leaking to media his relationship with the FBI. The FISA court was left in the dark about all of this.
The third point also deals with Steele and his “dossier.” Steele maintained a relationship with Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who told the FBI about Steele, saying he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” Though this “clear evidence of Steele’s bias” was “recorded and subsequently in the FBI files,” it was never made known as part of the FISA application process. Furthermore, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS (the company that contracted with Steele to produce the “dossier”) to work on opposition research and dig up dirt on Trump. That information was also kept from the FISA court. Instead the court was led to believe that Steele was a credible source and that his “dossier” was legitimate. The court’s reliance on the “dossier” in approving the surveillance — which is obvious — was because of purposeful and deliberate dishonesty on the part of FBI and DOJ officials.
The fourth point of the committee’s findings states that the “dossier” was “unverified” and the corroboration of its claims was in its “infancy” when it was used as part of the FISA application for surveillance on Page. Furthermore, then-FBI Director James Comey called it “salacious and unverified” in his June 2017 testimony. Nonetheless, it was a crucial piece of the FISA application process with then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe stating in testimony before the committee in December 2017 that the FISA warrant would not have been approved without citing the information in the “dossier.”
The fifth and final point is as damning as any of the rest. It states that the FISA application “also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos.” Even so, the “Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok.” It goes on to say that “Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated.” That point wraps up with, “The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an ‘insurance’ policy against President Trump’s election.”
It seems clear in retrospect that the investigation into “Trump/Russia collusion” that morphed into the Mueller probe is at least part of that “insurance policy.” It also seems clear that the leadership of the FBI and DOJ deliberately engaged in actions that were designed to defraud the FISA court into violating Page’s privacy.
If the Soviet KGB were operating with even the miserly protections still afforded to Americans under FISA, this seems like exactly the type of illegal, underhanded behavior one would expect as it sought to bring down a president who is a thorn in its flesh.
It will be interesting to see how those Democrats who bent over backward to prevent this memo being made public will now seek to justify both that obstruction and the continuance of the Mueller probe. Every American deserved access to this memo, and now that it is available, every American needs to read it and understand what it means about the Deep State and its tactics.