I can’t find an analogy for the president firing off an explosive accusation based on Fox News conjecture when he’s uniquely positioned to find out the actual truth. This is like if he live-tweeted episodes of “Ancient Aliens” on the subject of UFOs when he has the entire Pentagon archives at his disposal. Turn off the TV and just ask a deputy to find out, for fark’s sake.
Unless he doesn’t want to know the truth, that is. What if the Pentagon files reveal no hard evidence of UFOs? (Unlikely!) What if the FBI didn’t use the Trump dossier to kickstart the investigation into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia?
If that’s the explanation here, that the president prefers speculation that makes him feel good to hard facts that might disappoint, hoo boy. That’s a bad trait in a leader, although it’d certainly make him a creature of his era.
This question has been asked before but I guess it’s time to ask it again: Why doesn’t he just order the original FISA warrant application to surveil his campaign declassified, wholly or partially in case there are details buried in there that might damage national security? Former federal prosecutor Andy McCarthy has been beating that drum for weeks:
We don’t need to imperil national security. There is no need to disclose the entirety of any application. There is no need to expose intelligence sources or methods of gathering information — they can be redacted. We don’t even need to see any actual application; a declassified summary of the relevant information will do. We just need to know if what administration supporters are saying is true: In seeking surveillance authority on the rationale that Trump associates were acting as agents of a foreign power, did the Justice Department and the FBI present the FISA court with the Steele dossier as if it were a product of U.S. intelligence reporting — rather than what it really was, a political opposition-research product commissioned by the Clinton campaign?…
Mind you, we are talking here about Donald Trump: the “when attacked, never apologize, always hit back twice as hard” brawler. He has never seemed like a guy who would suffer in silence if he had the power to reveal such treachery perpetrated against him. If what happened is as bad as it is being portrayed, why are the Justice Department and FBI, under Trump-appointed leadership, stonewalling Republican-led congressional committees? After Thursday’s hearing, why didn’t the president tell Director Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that, by close of business Friday, either the FISA application should be in the House Intelligence Committee’s hands or their resignations should be on his desk?
McCarthy wrote on December 9 that he doubted the dossier itself had been grounds for the original FISA warrant. Rather, he suspected, the document may have provided leads that the FBI chased down and verified, and those leads were the actual basis for the warrant. Since then, though, with the revelation of Peter Strzok’s infamous “insurance policy” text and how it fits in the timeline of what we know about the original FISA application, McCarthy’s come to believe that the dossier was the basis for the warrant. If that’s true, it’s some of the strongest evidence available to Trump that Russiagate — or at least Team Trump’s supposed role in it — really did begin with dubious Clinton-financed oppo research parlayed by the Trump-hating FBI into a national-security investigation. Firing Mueller would be a political hydrogen bomb dropped on the White House; firing Rod Rosenstein or summarily pardoning everyone charged by Mueller would be a political atomic bomb, at least. But exposing shoddy partisan detective work by the FBI to confirm Republicans’ suspicions that the probe is the fruit of a poisonous politicized tree would hurt Russiagate enthusiasts more than it would hurt Trump.
Granted, some would howl that he had “interfered” with the investigation by declassifying the FISA application but the truth about the dossier’s role in all of this would cast a pall over the FBI’s methods and over the legitimacy of Mueller’s investigation. At a minimum the Bureau would be forced to come clean about how much of the dossier has actually checked out as factual. Andrew McCabe was verrrrry cagey about that when he testified before the House Intel Committee behind closed doors a few days ago, per Byron York. If the dossier *wasn’t* the basis of the original FISA warrant, it should be a simple thing for the FBI to confirm that publicly provided the president has authorized them to do so. So why won’t Trump authorize them? If he means what he says in the tweet above, that this is all a frame-up orchestrated by Crooked Hillary and biased operatives like Strzok, it’s a no-brainer. If he doesn’t mean what he says, if he’s secretly afraid that the FISA application was based on harder evidence of collusion than the dossier, well, that would explain his reluctance to declassify. It’s very, very strange that the president has the answer to this momentous Russiagate mystery at his fingertips and he simply won’t produce it.
One other point. The FISA application last year was made when the FBI was still led by James Comey. Comey obviously would know what’s in it and whether the dossier played any role. Yet Comey testified before Congress in June that when he first briefed Trump about the document in early 2017, months after the FISA warrant had been obtained, he did so not because he believed the allegations in it but because he knew it was circulating on the Hill and didn’t want Trump to be blindsided by it if it leaked. An actual quote from Comey: “The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified.” If the dossier had been used under his supervision to obtain a FISA warrant, and Comey knew that that fact could be revealed by Trump at any time, it’s beyond bizarre that he would have described it as “salacious and unverified” on the record, in public. He’d be discrediting his own investigative methods in a case of extraordinary political sensitivity. If you’re looking for reasons to think the dossier wasn’t the grounds for the FISA warrant, that’s a fairly solid one.
Here’s the “Fox & Friends” segment that started the president rage-tweeting this morning.
President Trump quoted Fox & Friends this morning, claiming the dossier is "bogus."
Here's that clip, featuring former congressman Jason Chaffetz. pic.twitter.com/HVDhGCu62G
— Axios (@axios) December 26, 2017