Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new task force aimed at the opioid epidemic today. During a Q & A after the press conference, Sessions was asked about the Nunes’ memo and whether or not anyone would be investigating the claims of possible FISA abuse of process made in the memo. From Politico:
“We believe the Department of Justice must adhere to the high standards in the FISA court and, yes, it will be investigated. And I think that’s just the appropriate thing,” Sessions said, referring to the secret court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “The inspector general will take that as one of the matters they’ll deal with,” he added.
The GOP memo charged that federal officials did not fully disclose important facts in an October 2016 FISA warrant application to monitor the communications of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, including that Democrats had funded a private intelligence dossier which was part of the basis for the request…
A spokeswoman for Sessions said his comments were accurate, but referred further questions to aides in the office of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. An IG spokesman said: “We’ve received the referral and decline to comment further.”
CNN notes that AG Sessions said at the time the Nunes memo was released that abuse of process would be investigated but today is the first time he indicated the IG would handle that investigation.
The Nunes’ memo claims the application to the FISA court failed to identify the source of some of the claims in the application. Democrats have responded by pointing out that a footnote in the report does, in a somewhat roundabout way, indicate the source of the information might be political.
The Democratic rebuttal memo, released a couple days ago offers more information on this footnote. National Review’s Andrew McCarthy argues what it reveals helps the GOP more than it does the Democrats:
How’s this for transparency? The FISA warrant application says that Steele, referred to as “Source #1,” was “approached by” Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, referred to as “an identified U.S. person,” who
indicated to Source #1 that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. Person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s [i.e., Trump’s] ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. Person and Source #1 have a longstanding business relationship.) The identified U.S. Person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. Person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign. [Emphasis in Schiff memo, p. 5]
The first thing to notice here is the epistemological contortions by which the DOJ rationalized concealing that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for Steele’s reporting. They ooze consciousness of guilt. If you have to go through these kinds of mental gymnastics to avoid disclosing something, it’s because you know that being “transparent” demands disclosing it.
McCarthy points out a few problems with this footnote, starting with the claim that identifying Hillary’s campaign as the ultimate source of this information would have been tantamount to unmasking her identity:
Note that Simpson is referred to as “an identified U.S. person”; Perkins-Coie is referred to as “a U.S.-based law firm.” The dispute here is not about the failure to use the words “Hillary Clinton.” They could have referred to “Candidate #2.”To state that “Candidate #2” had commissioned Steele’s research would have been just as easy and every bit as appropriate as the DOJ’s reference to a “Candidate #1,” who might have “ties to Russia.”
It seems much simpler than what the FBI told the FISA court. Why didn’t the FBI just tell the judge one political party was funding this negative information on the other? Even more striking is the part in bold above (which is emphasized in the original).
Schiff comically highlights this DOJ assertion as if it were his home run, when it is in fact damning: “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.” This is the vague reference that Democrats and Trump critics laughably say was adequate disclosure of the dossier’s political motivation. But why would the FBI “speculate” that a political motive was “likely” involved when, in reality, the FBI well knew that a very specific political motive was precisely involved?
There was no reason for supposition here. If the FBI had transparently disclosed that the dossier was a product of the Clinton campaign — oh, sorry, didn’t mean to unmask; if the FBI had transparently disclosed that the dossier was a product of “Candidate #2’s” campaign — then the court would have been informed about the apodictic certainty that the people behind the dossier were trying to discredit the campaign of Candidate #2’s opponent. It is disingenuous to tell a judge that something is “likely” when, in fact, it is beyond any doubt.
Knowing that the FBI knew who was paying for this information, this footnote doesn’t seem particularly forthcoming. Why didn’t the FBI just tell the court what it knew about who was funding the dossier? We’ll have to wait for the Inspector General’s report to find out.