“The FBI knew full well that the DNC and the Clinton campaign had paid Steele to produce the dossier, but they did not reveal that to the FISC.”
Why is the corporate press calling the Nunes FISA memo nothing or just another big nothing-burger? Seems more like a Whopper or a Big Mac with fries. There’s rancid grease all over these revelations. In the memo’s more formal language, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Majority agrees with me:
“Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.”
The memo, as published on CNN, was so dense and hard-to-parse that I had to take some notes to break it down before my eyes crossed:
1. The DNC and Clinton campaign paid former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele $160,000 to come up with the discredited sleaze and silliness in the "Steele dossier" to defame Trump over his alleged ties to Russia. (Yes, we all knew that long before the HPSCI finally “released the memo,” but that’s where the story starts.)
2. Steele then met with Michael Isikoff, "chief investigative correspondent" for Yahoo News, to give him the scoop. Isikoff then reported extensively on the claims in the dossier, without revealing Steele as his source, on September 23, 2016: “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser [Carter Page] and Kremlin.”
3. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI included both the Steele dossier and the Yahoo News report in their application to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for a warrant to spy on Carter Page. They knew full well that the DNC and the Clinton campaign had paid Steele to produce it, but they did not reveal that to the FISC.
“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.”
Here’s one of the less bureaucratically dense passages from the memo:
“According to the head of the FBI's 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.”
4. The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three renewals from the FISC. The law requires new applications to the FISC for renewal every 90 days.
5. The law requires that FISA applications be signed by the FBI Director or Deputy Director. FBI Director James Comey signed three, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one.
6. The law requires that a top DOJ official sign off after the FBI. Either the DOJ Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division will do. Acting Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division Dana Boente, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more of the FISA applications.”
7. The FBI terminated Steele as a source after he revealed himself as such to a Mother Jones reporter on October 30, but before and after that, Steele “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.”
In September 2016—according to subsequent FBI investigations—Steele told Ohr that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.’”
8. During the same time, Fusion GPS, which the DNC and the Clinton campaign was paying to work up the dirt on Trump, employed Ohr’s wife to help. Ohr provided the FBI with all of his wife's “opposition research” but neglected to tell them she’d worked on it or that he’d worked closely with Steele.
9. The FISA application to spy on Carter Page also mentioned information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, although there’s no evidence that he and Carter Page collaborated or conspired on anything.
10. An FBI agent, Pete Strzok, was assigned to investigate Papadopoulos. In a text to his lover, FBI attorney Lisa Page, he wrote: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office—that there’s no way he [Trump] gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event that you die before you’re 40.” When this came out, Strzok was reassigned to FBI Human Resources.
“Aren’t Hillary Clinton, the DNC, the DOJ, and the FBI the ones who undermined our institutions?”
Those last few points, regarding Papadopoulos and Strzok, seem relatively trivial, but FBI-DOJ collaboration—aka “collusion”—with the DNC and the Clinton campaign to spread lies smearing the president and Russia, the world’s other great nuclear power? This is supposed to be OK because Trump is the president and Russia is NATO’s reason for living? This reminds me of former Attorney General John Mitchell telling the Senate Watergate committee that his $250,000 payment to the Watergate burglars was justified because the Democratic Party’s candidate–George McGovern—was so dangerous.
Several days ago, I listened to a guest on the KPFA Sunday Show accuse Trump of “undermining our institutions” one at a time, now including the FBI. Trump’s a pussy grabbing, wall building, climate-change denying, health care abolishing, tax dodging, shit spewing demagogue, but aren’t Hillary Clinton, the DNC, the DOJ, and the FBI the ones who undermined our institutions?
Nevertheless, the neoliberal, Democratic Party-aligned press fell right in line. The New York Times reported: “The Memo Doesn’t Vindicate Trump. It’s More Proof of Obstruction.” Salon.com: “'Worse than a nothing burger': The Nunes memo lands with a thud.” Esquire: “Nothingburger' Doesn't Do This Memo Justice.” Vox: “The Nunes memo is a dud.” Washington Monthly: Devin Nunes and the Nothing Burger Memo. MSNBC: Nance: Trump’s FBI and DOJ attacks “from the dictator’s playbook.”
As MSNBC star Rachel Maddow says, “For more, watch this space.”
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at @AnnGarrison or [email protected] .