What the House Intelligence Committee Memo Says

The long-awaited House Intelligence Committee memo on “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation” has been released. Here it is:

And here are some salient points:

* The FISA warrants that are the subject of the memo all relate to Carter Page. The original warrant was sought on October 21, 2016, and the memo says that there were three renewals, which apparently occur every 90 days. This would appear to take the surveillance well past the presidential election, and beyond President Trump’s inauguration. The memo does not explain this aspect of the timing. The FISA applications were signed by some familiar names: James Comey signed three, and Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein all signed one or more.

* The fake “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele with the assistance of unknown Russians “formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.” In fact, McCabe testified before the committee that no FISA warrant would have been sought without the fake dossier. Steele was paid over $160,000 by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign to come up with derogatory information–true or false, apparently–on Donald Trump.

* DOJ and FBI failed to mention in their FISA application that it was based on opposition research paid for by the Clinton campaign and the DNC, even though this apparently was known to the FBI. The application apparently tried to mislead the FISA court by saying that Steele “was working for a named U.S. person”–the memo doesn’t tell us who that person was–but not disclosing Fusion GPS or Glenn Simpson, let alone Hillary Clinton and the DNC. This appears to be a deliberate deception of the court.

* In addition to Steele’s fake dossier, the FISA application cited an article about Carter Page that appeared on Yahoo News. The application “assessed” that this corroborating account did not originate with Christopher Steele. In fact, it did: Steele himself leaked the information to Yahoo News.

* The memo casually notes that “the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.” This is news to me. It has been reported that Steele sought funding from the FBI, but I believe prior reports have been to the effect that the Bureau refused. Was the FBI paying Steele, known to be working for the Hillary Clinton campaign?

* Steele was terminated as an FBI source for leaking to news outlets about his relationship with the Bureau. The memo says that Steele should have been terminated for the same reason in September, before the first FISA application, because of other news media contacts, “but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.”

* Bruce Ohr’s involvement is even worse than we thought. In September 2016, according to the FBI’s files, Steele told Ohr that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” The FBI hid this from the FISA court. Not only that, Ohr’s wife went to work for Fusion GPS and was part of the opposition research effort against candidate Trump. “Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.”

* At the time of the FBI’s initial application for a FISA warrant in October, its effort to corroborate Steele’s report was in its “infancy,” according to the Bureau. Subsequently, an FBI report characterized Steele’s dossier as “only minimally corroborated.” Nonetheless, in January 2017 James Comey purported to “brief” president-elect Trump on the contents of Steele’s fake report, at which time the report was leaked to the press.

* The memo ends with a brief reference to George Papadopoulos, who had a slight relationship to Trump’s campaign. FBI agent Peter Strzok opened a counterintelligence investigation into Papadopoulos in July 2016.

The Intelligence Committee memo obviously outlines a major scandal that indicts principal figures in the FBI, including James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein, unless the latter two officials were unaware of the fraud that was being perpetrated on the federal court. Whether some of those involved should go to prison would require a careful examination of relevant federal statutes.

The memo leaves much unsaid. The timing is unclear, at least to me. It sounds as though the FBI continued to renew its FISA warrant long after it had terminated its relationship with Steele and knew, or should have known, that his information was bogus. Why? Did the FBI tell the FISA court in these renewal applications that it had terminated its relationship with Steele, or that it had been unable to corroborate his claims? Presumably not.

Also, we don’t know what was done with the information that was collected about Carter Page–and, of course, about anyone with whom he communicated. This is where the enormous number of “unmasking” requests by Obama officials like Susan Rice come in. Did the Obama administration use the ill-gotten FISA warrants to spy, not only on Carter Page, but on others who had some relationship with Trump, or even Trump himself? Did the Obama administration pass information obtained from improper surveillance on to the Clinton campaign, or leak it to the press after the election?

The Intelligence Committee memo is a major step forward, but we have not yet gotten to the bottom of what happened in the heavily-politicized Department of Justice and FBI.

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