The Nunes memo was mostly right about the FBI's FISA application (and Comey was wrong) (Update)

In case you’ve forgotten, the Nunes memo was a major battle in the long history of the Russia collusion investigation. Released in early February of 2018, the Nunes memo (full text here) pointed out significant problems with the FBI’s FISA application. A few excerpts from the memo. See if these sound familiar:

  1. “The ‘dossier’ compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.”
  2. “The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News.”
  3. “Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr…”
  4. “After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated.”

Now compare those statements from the Nunes memo to these direct quotes from the IG report:

  1. “We determined that the Crossfire Hurricane team’s receipt of Steele’s election reporting on September 19, 2016 played a central and essential role in the FBI’s and Department’s decision to seek the FISA order.
  2. “drafts of the Carter Page FISA application stated, until October 14, 2016, that Steele was responsible for the leak that led to the September 23 Yahoo News article. One of the drafts specifically stated that Steele “was acting on his/her own volition and has since been admonished by the FBI.” In contrast, the final version of the first FISA application stated: ‘… The FBI does not believe that Source #1 directly provided this information to the Press.'”
  3. “On October 18, 2016, after speaking with Steele that morning, Ohr met with McCabe to share Steele’s and Simpson’s information with him. Thereafter, Ohr met with members of the Crossfire Hurricane team 13 times between November 21, 2016, and May 15, 2017, concerning his contacts with Steele and Simpson. All 13 meetings occurred after the FBI had closed Steele as a CHS and, except for the November 21 meeting, each meeting was initiated at Ohr’s request.”
  4. “the FBI’s interview with Steele’s Primary Subsource in January 2017, shortly after the FBI filed the Carter Page FISA Renewal Application No. 1 and months prior to Renewal Application No. 2, raised doubts about the reliability of Steele’s descriptions of information in his election reports.”

Earlier today Ed mentioned Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi’s takedown of the Steele dossier based on information contained in the IG report. One part of Taibbi’s piece deals with the vilification and subsequent validation of the Nunes memo.

There was gnashing of teeth when Nunes first released his memo in January, 2018. The press universally crapped on his letter, with a Washington Post piece calling it a “joke” and a “sham.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed Nunes for the release of a “bogus” document, while New York Senator Chuck Schumer said the memo was intended to “sow conspiracy theories and attack the integrity of federal law enforcement.” Many called for his removal as Committee chair.

The Horowitz report says all of that caterwauling was off-base. It also undercuts many of the assertions made in a ballyhooed response letter by Nunes counterpart Adam Schiff, who described the FBI’s “reasonable basis” for deeming Steele credible. The report is especially hostile to Schiff’s claim that the FBI “provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting.”

In fact, far from confirming the Steele material, the FBI over time seems mainly to have uncovered more and more reasons to run screaming from Steele…

What’s noteworthy about the Nunes memo in retrospect is that the real story of the FISA warrant is even worse than the memo claimed. As we now know, Carter Page was working as an “operational contact” for the CIA from 2008 to 2013. The FBI asked about this and the CIA confirmed it but an FBI agent deliberately altered an email so this was not reported to the FISA court. The FISA warrant application on Carter Page was so bad that even the ACLU now calls it, “alarming from a civil liberties perspective.”


Finally, it’s worth recalling that former FBI Director James Comey was one of the people who trashed the Nunes memo when it was released:

Yes, that’s it. Or as the IG put it, “That so many basic and fundamental errors were made by three separate, hand-picked teams on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI, and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process.”

Update: More of James Comey being wrong.

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Ed Morrissey 1:20 PM | July 17, 2024