The House Intelligence Committee Nunes memo. (pdf)
These abuses is something I’d expect from a Banana Republic.
WSJ’s Kimberley Strassel’s non-partisan guide on ignoring the spin, and what to look for.
Rationale. Did the FBI have cause to open a full-blown counterintelligence probe into an active presidential campaign? That’s a breathtakingly consequential and unprecedented action and surely could not be justified without much more than an overheard drunken conversation or an unsourced dossier. What hard evidence did the FBI have?
Tools and evidence. Government possesses few counterintelligence tools more powerful or frightening than the ability to spy on American citizens. If the FBI obtained permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Trump aide Carter Page based on information from the Christopher Steele dossier, that in itself is a monumental scandal. It means the FBI used a document commissioned by one presidential campaign as a justification to spy on another. Ignore any arguments that the dossier was not a “basis” for the warrant or only used “in part.” If the FBI had to use it in its application, it means it didn’t have enough other evidence to justify surveillance.
Look to see what else the FBI presented to the court as a justification for monitoring, and whether it was manufactured. Mr. Steele and his client, Fusion GPS, ginned up breathless news stories about the dossier’s unverified accusations in September 2016 in order to influence the election. The FBI sometimes presents news articles to the court, but primarily for corroboration of other facts. If the FBI used the conspiracy stories Mr. Steele was spinning as actual justification—evidence—to the court, that’s out of bounds.
Omissions and misdirection. What else did the FBI tell the court? One would presume the bureau did its due diligence and knew Mr. Steele ultimately worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The FISA court puts considerable emphasis on the credibility of sources. Did the FBI inform the court of the Clinton connection? Or did it lean on the claim that the Fusion project was originally funded by Republicans? Such a claim might diminish the partisan stench. But it would also be a falsehood, since the dossier portion of the project was purely funded by Clinton allies. And if the FBI didn’t bother to ask who hired Mr. Steele or Fusion, that’s a scandal all its own.
Also, look to see whether the FBI informed the court that Mr. Steele was blabbing to the press. When he first approached the bureau in July, he hadn’t yet briefed the media. But by September he and Fusion were publicly spinning the dossier for their Democratic client, and the FBI would have known who was generating the stories. Did the FBI continue to attest something that clearly was no longer true?
Duration of surveillance. The FBI may argue it had good cause to look into Mr. Page. But if months of wiretaps didn’t turn up anything (and surely we’d have heard if they did), the FBI also had a duty to cease such a liberty-busting intrusion. Ask how long this probe went on and whether it was justified, or if the FBI was simply giving itself an open-ended license to spy on a campaign.
Expect Trump critics to renew their effort to turn Mr. Page into a Manchurian aide, seizing on his every action or word while ignoring the small role he played in the campaign, not to mention his obvious oddness. This will be designed to make people forget that for all the focus on Mr. Page, he was and remains a private citizen, who apparently was subject to months of government monitoring based on what may prove nothing more than the gossip of a rival campaign.
Team Obama. Somewhat lost in this narrative is what role if any the broader Obama administration might have played with regard to the dossier. What actions were taken by former CIA Director John Brennan, or former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper ? Also don’t forget Bruce Ohr, the Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, and who himself met with Fusion cofounder Glenn Simpson. Or the Justice Department officials who approved court filings. If there was surveillance abuse, accountability shouldn’t stop with the FBI. WSJ
Attorney General Jeff Sessions: (an even response)
“Congress has made inquiries concerning an issue of great importance for the country and concerns have been raised about the Department’s performance,” he said after its release. “I have great confidence in the men and women of this Department. But no Department is perfect.”
“Accordingly, I will forward to appropriate DOJ components all information I receive from Congress regarding this,” he said. “I am determined that we will fully and fairly ascertain the truth.”
“We work for the American people and are accountable to them and those they have elected,” Sessions added. “We will meet that responsibility.”
“The memo isn’t treasonous. It reveals a treasonous effort by the Democrats to use our intelligence agencies to rig an election and overturn the will of the voters.”
Greenfield: The Memo Reveals the Coup against America