The Democrats have launched an all-out assault on the House Intelligence Committee’s memo–no surprise there. Some of their attacks quickly proved groundless, like the suggestion that releasing the memo would somehow imperil national security. Anyone who has read the memo knows that is silly. Roger Simon takes up this issue and asks, “Why Did the Democrats Lie So Baldly about the Memo?”
Byron York addresses the more plausible claims the Democrats have made about the memo, and finds them essentially without merit:
1) What did Andrew McCabe say?
The issue here is whether McCabe testified, as the memo says, that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court] without the Steele dossier information.” The Democrats say that characterization overstates the case, but they won’t say what McCabe actually testified to, which makes their objection suspect. My answer is simple: release the transcript, and let us see for ourselves.
2) Did the FBI tell the court about the Hillary Clinton campaign’s involvement in the Steele dossier?
The issue here is whether the FBI disclosed to the FISA court that its application was based mostly on opposition research financed by the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The Democrats say that while the application didn’t disclose that, it–as Byron puts it–“kinda, sorta gave the court the idea that a source was politically motivated.” But why didn’t the FBI level with the court about the dossier’s origins? Presumably because it knew the court would view with skepticism a warrant application based on unverified allegations paid for by an opposing political campaign. Once again, the solution is simple: release the FISA application, and let us see exactly what the FBI told the court.
3) Why didn’t the memo mention Carter Page’s history?
Here, Byron thinks the Democrats have a slightly better point, but I don’t buy it. The FBI wiretapped Page in 2013, but so what? The FBI wouldn’t have gotten far with a FISA application that said, “We spied on this guy a few years ago, let’s do it again.” Obviously the new “facts” about Page taken from the Steele dossier were the basis for the new warrant application.
York goes on to talk about the sources that the FBI relied on in the application:
After conversations with multiple sources, it appears the FISA surveillance application relied on five categories of information: 1) the dossier; 2) a Yahoo News article based mostly on the dossier; 3) the George Papadopoulos case; 4) Page’s history; and 5) a general survey of Russian bad deeds.
According to those sources, the dossier made up by far the largest part of the case for wiretapping Page. The Yahoo story was “cited extensively,” as well.
Am I the only one who thinks it bizarre that the FBI relied on a Yahoo News story as the basis for a supposedly secret intelligence investigation? Maybe I am naive, but I always thought the FBI and CIA had better sources of information than Yahoo News. Apparently not.
I think the House memo raises several questions, the answers to which could be highly uncomfortable for the Democrats. Hence their hysteria. First, the memo says that the FISA order was renewed three times, each apparently for 90 days. This means that the FBI continued to spy on Carter Page well after President Trump was inaugurated, until the fall of 2017. Why? Was there legitimate suspicion of something Page was doing, or was it part of the Democrats’ effort to bring down the president?
Second, we don’t know what was done with the information the FBI collected on Page and anyone he communicated with. We do know that Obama administration hacks like Susan Rice made an extraordinary number of “unmasking” requests during the relevant time period, which allowed them to access the communications of American citizens, including Page and anyone with whom he was in contact. Were these officials colluding with the FBI to try to obtain “dirt” on, first, the Trump campaign and, later, the president-elect? If not, what was the purpose of their hundreds of unmasking requests? Did some of the information obtained through the FBI’s ill-gotten FISA warrant find its way into the press during or after the presidential campaign, via the Obama administration? Or was the entire operation unsuccessful, i.e., the surveillance never turned up anything good enough to use?
This is, I think, the major shoe that has yet to drop.