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U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) launched the third salvo in the “Great Memo Wars” over the weekend, and after overshooting his target, it’s apparent that the Democrats either didn’t know what they were doing when they released their rebuttal memo on so-called “Russian collusion,” or they were again seeking to create confusion or misdirection.
Perhaps unwittingly, however, Democrats did confirm a couple of the main facts related to use of the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier’s role in securing FISA warrants for Carter Page and the broader Russian investigation.
In sum, the Democrats admitted that Department of Justice and FBI used a piece of partisan propaganda to secure a legal warrant to spy on U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. In addition, that the DOJ and FBI obtained this warrant via a falsified application filled with lies of omission about the deeply partisan nature of the dossier’s author and funders.
Democrats argue in the Schiff memo that the dossier compiled by ex-spy Christopher Steele played only a narrow role in securing the warrant. But this claim stands at odds with the Grassley-Graham memo which states: “Then on March 17, 2017, the Chairman and Ranking Member were provided two relevant FISA applications, which requested authority to conduct surveillance of Carter Page. Both relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims.”
Steele has admitted, under oath, that he received and included “unsolicited-and unverified-allegations” in his dossier. Yet the DOJ and FBI still used this dossier, filled with misinformation from unknown Russian sources and unverified allegations, and used it to secure a FISA warrant. It doesn’t matter if you believe the Democrats or Senators Grassley and Graham as to the extent the dossier was used: all parties agree it was used for the FISA warrant.
It’s noteworthy that despite current claims that the dossier was narrowly used, Democrats felt distinctly different about it a year ago. Schiff had it read into the Congressional Record, with CNN breathlessly reporting that there was in fact a dossier used to secure a warrant to spy on a Trump associate. These same Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media are now back-pedaling faster than an outfielder who underestimated a fly ball. They sold the American people on the unquestionable veracity of this earth-shattering dossier, but now they can’t downplay its importance enough.
While the Democrat memo is a sad attempt to distance the Democrats and the Left from the dossier, it’s notable that in its 10 pages, the memo is deafeningly silent on the issue of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s testimony in front of the House Intel Committee in December 2017. According to the Nunes memo, McCabe testified that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] without the Steele dossier information.” Democrats on the House Intel Committee have claimed in media appearances that Nunes’ claim is untrue, yet not one attempt existed in their memo to refute McCabe’s claim.
The dossier wasn’t just used once to renew applications for a FISA warrant. Instead, usage of the dossier occurred multiple times, potentially four times according to the Nunes’ memo. Consider the timeline of what took place: On October 21, 2016, the FBI applied for and received a FISA warrant to spy on Page using the dossier (how pivotal the dossier may have been in the request to the court doesn’t matter; it was used). Then fast forward to early January 2017, when James Comey testified under oath that he described the dossier to then-President-elect Trump as “salacious and unverified.” But remember that with FISA warrants there are 90-day renewals. Sometime later in January, Comey signed off on a renewal application that used, according to the Nunes memo and Grassley-Graham memo, that very same salacious and unverified dossier as part of its justification.
The Grassley-Graham memo states that the FISA applications, two of which they had in hand, relied heavily on the Steele dossier. This likely means that in the first 90 days of spying on Carter Page, there was little that was legally compelling gained from that surveillance and monitoring. There was not enough to buttress FBI and DOJ efforts for renewal of the warrant. Therefore, the dossier again became justification.
Lest we forget, in this entire process, securing a FISA warrant is supposed to be, as Andrew McCarthy of National Review has pointed out, a last, extreme measure. It does not appear that the FBI attempted to interview Carter Page at any juncture, despite having a previous relationship with him. Instead, according to the Nunes’ memo, the dossier was used in every FISA application by the DOJ and FBI; every 90 days, four times, meaning over the course of 360 days of spying on Carter Page, they were still having to use an unsubstantiated and unverified piece of partisan propaganda to justify their continued spying.
It’s important to note, Page was not necessarily the only victim here. With Page’s phones tapped and his online activities monitored, it’s quite likely that over a year’s time potentially hundreds of innocent Americans had their private conversations monitored and their privacy invaded. Anyone who contacted Page or contacted by Page ended up swept up in this investigation.
Now we got to where we’re at in this entire back and forth because someone lied to somebody along the way and likely for political purposes. Despite the claims of the Schiff memo that the Justice Department and FBI were “transparent” about where the dossier originated, the paragraph dealing with the subject reads: “An identified US Person, who indicated to Source #1 that a US-based law firm had hired the identified US person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. . . The identified US person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. . . The FBI speculates that the identified US person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.”
There’s a very simple term for the above words: lies of omission. Such as in never stating that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC were involved in the funding of the dossier by paying a law firm to commission it.
Yet the question does remain as to where the lying began. It is safe to speculate that it occurred when the FISA application had to be signed off on by the Justice Department and FBI lawyers at the very beginning. They would have seen the supporting documents and would have known the source of the dossier. It’s important to note that these lawyers are not junior level lawyers, but senior level, and ones who deal with the FISA courts on a weekly, if not daily basis. It is potentially at that juncture that the FISA application documents were in fact falsified through lies of omission.
The entire process of the FISA courts is based on the honesty and integrity of senior lawyers and management at the Justice Department and the FBI. If federal agents and prosecutors fooled the FISA judges by lying about the source of the underlying documents (i.e., the dossier), the trust between Justice, the FBI, and the FISC courts must now be shattered. If, God forbid, the FISC judges knew who funded the dossier and still approved the FISA warrants, then we are living in a police state where fake partisan dossiers can be used as justification for spying on American citizens.
None of the scenarios are good as to what took place with the Steele dossier and the FISA warrant process. What is becoming clear, however, is that people at the Justice Department and FBI need to be investigated, prosecuted, and the guilty parties must serve jail time. At minimum, the entire FISA regime needs to be re-examined and likely reformed. If there are no serious investigations, and no serious reform, then we are imperiling the rule of law, and allowing the unelected bureaucrats in federal law enforcement to further erode the republic.