To begin, here are the released FISA memos for you to review & fact check if you wish.
The weekend release of a highly-redacted version of the FBI’s application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to wiretap onetime Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page has renewed the argument over the Nunes memo — the brief report produced by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes detailing problems in the application.
From the time of the memo’s release in February, Democrats and some in the press have denounced it as a collection of lies and mischaracterizations.
On Saturday night, the denouncing started again. “The only thing the newly released FISA documents show is that Republicans have been lying for months,” the Marxist group, Center for American Progress said in a completely predictable response.
Now, however, we have both the memo and the FISA application, if in a blacked-out state.
This allowed the experts at The Washington Examiner to perform the comparison of Nunes’ statements and the actual FISA memos.
What the comparison reveals is that the Nunes memo was overwhelmingly accurate.
Democrats of course do not believe Nunes should have spoken his mind at all, they quibble over pointless details in an attempt to belittle the facts at hand, or perhaps their interpretation of facts being clouded by their feelings has impaired their judgment.
Whatever the case may be with the Democrats, Nunes’ memo was indeed accurate. Painfully so for Democrats.
The memo comprised a short introduction followed by 13 substantive paragraphs.
Let’s look at each one below.
The first paragraph:
On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a US citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.
That is accurate.
The second paragraph:
The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. 1805 (d)(1)) a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the FISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.
That is accurate.
The third paragraph:
Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the FISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard, particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.
That is accurate, but a reading of the last sentence, of course, depends on one’s definition of “material and relevant.” There is no doubt, however, that Nunes made a case that the information left out of the application, like the specific source of funding for the Steele dossier, was “material and relevant” to the Page case.
The fourth paragraph:
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. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
That is accurate.
When the Nunes memo was released, there was controversy over its assertion that the dossier formed an “essential” part of the Page FISA application. But Senate Judiciary Committee staff, who reviewed the FISA application separately from the House, concluded that the dossier allegations made up the “bulk” of the application. Even a Washington Post article Sunday purporting to debunk the Nunes memo in light of the FISA application conceded that the dossier played “a prominent role” in the FISA application. Finally, the Nunes memo’s assertion, noted below, that former FBI number-two Andrew McCabe agreed that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information,” was not challenged by Democrats when the Nunes memo was made public.
The fifth paragraph:
a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.
That is accurate.
Readers will search the FISA application in vain for any specific mention of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign funding of the dossier. For the most part, names were not used in the application, but Donald Trump was referred to as “Candidate #1,” Hillary Clinton was referred to as “Candidate #2,” and the Republican Party was referred to as “Political Party #1.”
Thus, the FISA application could easily have explained that the dossier research was paid for by “Candidate #2” and “Political Party #2,” meaning the Democrats. And yet the FBI chose to describe the situation this way, in a footnote: “Source #1…was approached by 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 ties to Russia…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.”
Democrats argue that the FISA Court judges should have been able to figure out, from that obscure description, that the DNC and Clinton campaign paid for the dossier. That seems a pretty weak argument, but in any case, the Nunes memo’s statement that the FISA application did not disclose or reference the role of the DNC and the Clinton campaign is undeniably true.
The sixth paragraph:
b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.
That is accurate.
The seventh paragraph:
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. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News — and several other outlets — in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington DC in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.
Most of that is accurate. But when the Nunes memo was released, Democrats argued that the FISA application did not use the Yahoo article to corroborate the dossier, but rather — as it used other news accounts of varying reliability — to describe part of the Carter Page story. As it turned out, the application used part of the Yahoo piece in a way that suggested it was corroborating the dossier, but it also used part of it as a news account.
So call the Nunes memo’s corroboration claim only partly accurate.
The eighth paragraph:
a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September — before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October — but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.
That is accurate.
The ninth paragraph:
b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality — and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.
That is accurate. In the initial FISA application, the FBI argued that Steele had not leaked to the media. In later applications, the bureau admitted Steele had leaked but maintained that he was still credible because he only leaked after providing the dossier allegations.
The tenth paragraph:
3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files — but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.
That is accurate.
The eleventh paragraph:
a) During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on 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.
That is accurate, although one could argue whether the information here was really required for the FISA application; also, the “inexplicably concealed” reference is the opinion of the House committee.
The twelfth paragraph:
4) According to the head of the counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was — according to his June 2017 testimony — “salacious and unverified.” While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.
That is accurate.
The thirteenth, and final, paragraph:
5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.
That is accurate.
Parts of the Nunes memo, like references to the Strzok-Page texts or Bruce Ohr’s testimony, contain information that was not in the application. But that does not make it any less accurate. The bottom line is that, whatever the criticism it has received, the Nunes memo was almost entirely accurate. The release of the FISA application supports that view.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
July 23rd, 2018