In a highly enlightening podcast with The Washington Examiner’s Byron York Wednesday, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) took aim at FBI Director Christopher Wray, saying he has some explaining to do after smearing House Republicans over their FISA Abuse memo in early 2018.
The California Republican told York that he faced a lot of hurdles in early 2018 when he was trying to get the truth out about the FBI’s abuse of its surveillance power and that Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “said some pretty hard, nasty things” about him.
Since then, of course, the Inspector General’s report on the FBI and DOJ’s Russia collusion investigations has not only corroborated the Nunes memo, it described further abuses, including the altering of a document to hide exculpatory information about former Trump adviser Carter Page.
Nunes said that the issue needs to be revisited because their lies did serious damage to the GOP and possibly led to their loss of the House in November of 2018.
In January of 2018, the FBI issued an “extraordinary public statement” condemning Republicans for trying to release their classified memo alleging surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice. According to the Hill’s reporting at the time, the statement “placed the bureau at odds” not only with Nunes—then the House Intelligence Committee Chairman—but also with President Trump himself, who was pushing for the document to be released.
The broadside from the FBI — an agency that rarely makes public statements — was almost certainly approved by Trump’s own FBI director, Christopher Wray, escalating an increasingly bitter feud between the nation’s top law enforcement agency and the Republican Party.
“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the FBI statement said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Senior Justice Department officials, including Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, have lobbied both the committee and the White House against the release of the document.
Nunes at the time pushed back hard at the FBI’s statement, calling the bureau’s objections “spurious.”
“The FBI is intimately familiar with ‘material omissions’ with respect to their presentations to both Congress and the courts,” he said. “Regardless, it’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counterintelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
Unfortunately, it took until the Inspector General’s report came out in December of 2019, for Nunes’ work on the House Intelligence Committee to be vindicated. In the meantime, Democrats weaponized the Intelligence Community’s opposition to the Nunes memo against Republicans for the rest of the 2018 midterm election year.
Nunes said that Wray in particular needs to explain why he sent that letter, saying it was “very harmful to me as someone who has to go before the voters.”
“If Wray had not weighed in, if Democrats had told the truth, if the media would have told the truth, it’s very possible that we would have not lost the House of Representatives,” he told York. “Major consequences here. They poisoned the minds of millions of Americans.”
Nunes said that the smears were part of a scheme to cast Republicans as “Putin’s puppets” and help Democrats in their fundraising efforts. “They raised millions and millions and millions of dollars” promising their constituents that they would hold Putin’s Puppets accountable, he said.
“And sure enough, they knocked out a lot of our incumbents,” Nunes added. “This was the politicization of intelligence that started in 2016 to dirty up the Trump campaign but it culminated in 2018 with really the smearing of the Republican party led by the top intelligence officials.”
The congressman, who this week started advocating for the FISA court to be shut down, said that leaders in the intelligence community, Democrats, and their media enablers “have made America a lot less safe because until there are major reforms, there’s no way Republicans are going to support FISA warrants against American citizens.”