Trey Gowdy: The Memo has no impact on the wider Russiagate probe and Rod Rosenstein shouldn’t be fired
“There is a Russia investigation without the dossier,” he says when asked about his takeaway from the Memo process. That’s the polar opposite of the lesson Trump and MAGA Nation want people to draw from the document. And remember, the Memo is Gowdy’s baby arguably even more than it is Devin Nunes’s. Nunes commissioned it and Nunes’s name is on it because he’s the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee but it was Gowdy who reviewed the underlying intelligence and FISA material for Republicans on the Committee, not Nunes. He knows better than most how grave, or less than grave, the DOJ’s alleged abuses were. His verdict:
“I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of [the memo],” Gowdy said, “There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos’ meeting in Great Britain.”…
“It also doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice,” Gowdy told Brennan, “So there’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier.”
Note the reference to Papadopoulos. I’ve been wondering why the Memo mentioned him at the end since it amounted to a damaging admission against interest by Nunes and the GOP. The point of Memo fever on the right is that, contra Gowdy, there isn’t a Russiagate investigation without the dossier. Everything grows from the bad seed planted by Hillary Clinton and Christopher Steele. You can press that argument, sort of, if the first inkling of FBI interest in Russia collusion had been the material in the dossier about Carter Page. But it wasn’t, apparently. They were sniffing around Papadopoulos months before they went to the FISA Court for a warrant on Page. Why would the Memo note that given how it undercuts the president’s political case? Did Gowdy insist upon disclosure of that fact about Papadopoulos in the Memo?
Gowdy’s position is straightforward but destined to be “controversial” because it contradicts the narrative on both sides. He believes that the FBI should have been much more forthcoming with the FISA Court about the origins of the Steele dossier, whether they were legally required to be or not, but he also believes that we shouldn’t extrapolate any grand “deep state” conspiracy from the warrant process for Carter Page, flawed or not. That’s why he defended Mueller on Friday and ran through some of the lowlights of Team Trump’s behavior in this morning’s interview. There are legit obstruction questions; there’s the Papadopoulos angle; there’s Don Jr’s meeting with the Russian lawyer; there’s whatever the hell Mike Flynn is chattering to Mueller about. Even the original warrant against Page, however flawed, wouldn’t have justified surveillance of Page indefinitely. The reason the feds have succeeded in reauthorizing that warrant several times since can only be because the surveillance of Page is producing useful intelligence, notes Paul Rosenzweig:
When a FISA order is obtained to conduct surveillance on an American, the FBI must get a reauthorization from the FISA court every 90 days. In seeking renewal they cannot simply recycle the original application—they must demonstrate that the surveillance has been fruitful. In other words, they need to show the judge that the surveillance has developed foreign intelligence that reaffirms the original probable cause determination and shows that their suspicions had merit and the target is acting on behalf of a foreign power. If the FBI cannot show new evidence like this, the surveillance is likely to be terminated. In other words, the fact that the FISA order was renewed means that the original “poison” of the Steele memorandum did not taint the subsequent renewals—it means that there actually is a “there there”—at least in the eyes of the renewing judges.
Right. But at the same time, you can’t retroactively justify a warrant that was granted based on incomplete, improperly withheld information just because the ensuing investigation produces material evidence. By that logic, the cops could lie to a judge to get a warrant to search your home, kick in the door, then tout anything incriminating they find as proof that there was probable cause all along. The ends don’t justify the means. That’s what Gowdy is worried about with Page. Note his answer in the first clip below when asked whether the original warrant granted against Page would have been issued without the dossier. Nope, says Gowdy.
He’s asked there whether the warrant would have been “authorized” without the dossier. The Memo claims that the warrant wouldn’t have been “sought” without it. Big difference potentially, as the first implies that the dossier itself was crucial evidence of probable cause whereas the second could merely mean that it was a lead that got the FBI interested in Page and led to an independent investigation. Gowdy’s answer implies that the dossier was essential evidence without which no warrant would have issued, and further that the feds were shady in what they did and didn’t share with the FISA Court about it. But he also acknowledges that it wasn’t the only evidence used. How could it have been? In Carter Page, we’re talking about a guy who referred to himself years earlier as an “informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin” — in writing, for fark’s sake. A lingering question in all of this is why the feds needed the dossier in the first place to get them re-interested in Page again after they first started looking at him for his Russia contacts in 2013.
So yeah, Gowdy seems to think the process as it pertains to Page specifically might have been improper. The whole Russiagate investigation, though? No. In fact, watch when he’s asked about Rod Rosenstein:
Rosenstein’s the man who appointed Mueller and who’s responsible for supervising his investigation. He also signed one of the most recent applications to re-authorize surveillance of Page. If Gowdy thought the whole probe was tainted by the feds’ handling of the Page inquiry, he’d have plenty of reason to think Rosenstein should go. But he doesn’t, so he doesn’t.
One point in closing, via a Twitter pal who reminded me of it this morning. Trump’s narrative is that the “deep state” went all-in to try to stop him from becoming president and that Russiagate is now their attempt to undo the results, via a slow-motion “coup.” That argument has never made sense given that the single most momentous act taken by the feds during the campaign, the release of Comey’s letter about reopening Emailgate in October 2016, was a huge boon to Trump. He crowed about it on the stump for days afterward. He kept Comey on as FBI director at the start of his presidency even though he was an Obama appointee because, I think, he was grateful for, and encouraged by, Comey’s eleventh-hour letter as proof of the director’s “loyalty.” But what the FBI said publicly about Hillary is only one side of the coin. The other side is what they *didn’t* say publicly about Russiagate and their interest in Team Trump. Here’s what ran in the New York Times on October 31, 2016, eight days before the election. Headline: “Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.”
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the minority leader, responded angrily on Sunday with a letter accusing the F.B.I. of not being forthcoming about Mr. Trump’s alleged ties with Moscow.
“It has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisers, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Mr. Reid wrote. “The public has a right to know this information.”
F.B.I. officials declined to comment on Monday. Intelligence officials have said in interviews over the last six weeks that apparent connections between some of Mr. Trump’s aides and Moscow originally compelled them to open a broad investigation into possible links between the Russian government and the Republican presidential candidate. Still, they have said that Mr. Trump himself has not become a target. And no evidence has emerged that would link him or anyone else in his business or political circle directly to Russia’s election operations.
Invited by the country’s most highly regarded paper to sabotage Trump’s campaign at a fateful moment, the “deep state” villains whiffed. If they were out to get Trump, at a minimum they could have lied and claimed that he was a “person of interest” — any sort of bread crumb to suggest, however vaguely, that he was under suspicion for colluding with Putin. Given that Comey and his deputies were leery of how the Clinton letter might have affected the election, they could have used the Times story to try to “balance the scales” by casting a little doubt on the Republican nominee too, like a ref issuing a make-up call against one team for a dubious penalty that was called on the other. But they didn’t. The whole thrust of the Times story is that, yes, they looked into some rumors about Trump and his aides (i.e. the dossier) but there was no there there as far as they could tell. Why did the deep state pass on its chance to blow up the populist swamp-drainer when given a golden opportunity to do so?