But that timeline weakens the Nunes case for bias rather than strengthening it. Between the original application and the Rosenstein renewal, the Page surveillance was renewed two other times, for a total of four approvals altogether (and public reports say that there were four separate judges who did the reviewing—suggesting that four independent reviews validated the FBI’s investigation). But these renewals mean that it is utterly implausible (if not borderline impossible) for the renewal that Rosenstein approved to be reliant on the Steele memorandum.
Here’s why: 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.