Elections

It’s Time to Question Michael Atkinson on FISA Abuses

Now that the Justice Department and the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court have confirmed at least two of the warrants for Carter Page were unlawfully obtained, it is time to ask Atkinson—in the open, for all to hear—what role he had in helping to orchestrate the illicit spying on the Trump campaign.

In a fair world—one with responsible media organizations that didn’t act as propagandists for the Democratic Party—the news that a secret government court admitted it authorized unlawful warrants to spy on an innocent American based on his political activity would be front-page news.

The January 7 order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court revealing that at least two of the four warrants against Trump campaign associate Carter Page were “not valid”—meaning they were illegally obtained—would be on a nonstop loop at CNN and would dominate the news and opinion pages of the Washington Post.

But alas, the average CNN viewer or Post reader will be hard-pressed to find coverage of such a shocking disclosure; after all, how could either outlet report that bombshell when two signers of the garbage applications—former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe—now work as paid contributors to those same news organizations?

Just as the Russia collusion hoax was designed to obfuscate the real scandal—that Barack Obama’s Justice Department targeted Donald Trump before and after the 2016 presidential election—Ukrainegate, so to speak, is now intended to do the work the Mueller investigation failed to do.

It’s not a coincidence, after all, that the allegedly impeachable July 25 phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine occurred one day after Robert Mueller’s disastrous testimony on Capitol Hill. Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and his fellow coup plotters wasted no time in concocting the follow-up to the failed collusion ruse in an attempt to take down President Trump.

That’s why it’s necessary for Trump’s legal team to use this opportunity to remind Americans repeatedly how the former president, not the current one, abused his power in order to interfere in an election; and when that plot failed, the former president, not the current one, continued to abuse his power to sabotage the administration of a political foe he loathes to this day.

In his remarks from the Senate floor on Saturday, attorney Jay Sekulow read aloud portions of the newly declassified order as well as the FISA court’s “scathing” response to the December 2019 report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, which detailed how Barack Obama’s FBI under the leadership of James Comey systematically misled the secret court.

“This order responds to reports that personnel of the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided false information to the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, and withheld material information from NSD which was detrimental to the FBI’s case, in connection with four applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Sekulow said. “When FBI personnel mislead NSD in the ways described above, they equally mislead the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

Sekulow would be wise to keep this up and for reasons aside from the need to reiterate the corruption and criminality of the Obama Justice Department: The top lawyer at the National Security Division when all four FISA warrants on Page were processed was Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community’s inspector general who pushed the “whistleblower” complaint at the heart of the current impeachment effort.

As I’ve previously reported, Atkinson is the one figure tied to the Russian collusion hoax, the FISA abuse scandal and and so-called Ukrainegate. Although Atkinson testified behind closed doors last year during the House’s impeachment inquiry, Schiff won’t release the inspector general’s transcript to the public.

Atkinson’s conduct has been criticized by Republicans in the House and Senate; following Atkinson’s closed door Senate testimony last October, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent him a letter demanding responses to questions that the Senate-confirmed bureaucrat had refused to answer. (Despite repeated requests over the past several weeks, Cotton’s office refuses to tell me whether Atkinson replied to his letter.)

In July 2016, the same month the FBI officially opened its counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign, Atkinson—a government lawyer with no background in intelligence—was brought on as the senior counsel for the National Security Division. His longtime colleague at the U.S. Attorney’s office in D.C., Mary McCord, was head of that agency which, in addition to other responsibilities, oversees the government’s pleadings before the FISC to target suspected foreign agents.

Atkinson held that job until he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in May 2018 as the new intelligence community’s watchdog.

That means he was the chief attorney for the agency that handled all four FISA applications on Carter Page. The Justice Department informed the FISC that two are invalid due to “insufficient predication to establish probable cause to believe that [Carter] Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power.” The remaining applications, presented to the secret court in October 2016 and January 2017, are also under review by the Justice Department and could face the same judgment.

The court attempts to portray the National Security Division as a victim of FBI malfeasance and deception, but that’s hard to believe. It’s more likely, given the official record and McCord’s subsequent activism against Trump (she left the NSD in April 2017 and now serves as an advisor for the Democrats’ impeachment legal team) that top FBI and NSD officials, including possibly Atkinson, were in cahoots to defraud the spy court.

According to her testimony cited in the Horowitz report, McCord spoke almost daily with Andrew McCabe. Those conversations included discussions about the first FISA application on Page. McCord was aware of Christopher Steele’s relationship with Fusion GPS, the political chop shop that produced Steele’s bogus dossier on behalf of the Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

McCord told Horowitz that she asked McCabe about Steele’s funding arrangement with Fusion and advised that the application needed to reflect that contract. It didn’t, which was one of the key criticisms in the Horowitz report.

Even if you give NSD the benefit of the doubt up to that point, after BuzzFeed published the full dossier in January 2017, McCord would have known for certain that the material she relied upon to convince the FISA court to approve surveillance on Carter Page was flimsy and politically motivated. But the NSD greenlighted three subsequent renewals based on the dossier and Steele’s “credibility.”

Further, McCord, an Obama appointee, managed the early months of the probe into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians to interfere in the election. After former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein took over that probe in the spring of 2017, according to McCord, she and Comey briefed Rosenstein on the collusion investigation. This certainly would have involved an update on the dossier-based FISA warrants, which Rosenstein himself signed a few months later.

It is impossible to believe that Atkinson, as McCord’s longtime colleague and closest legal aide, was unaware that campaign opposition research sourced by a foreign operative (Steele) and peddled by a well-known Beltway spin operation represented all the evidence the NSD presented to the FISA court four times. Either he is incompetent, willfully ignorant, or he acted as an accomplice in the entire collusion hoax.

Now that the Justice Department and FISC have confirmed at least two of the warrants were unlawfully obtained, it is time to ask Atkinson—in the open, for all to hear—what role he had in helping to orchestrate the illicit spying on the Trump campaign via Carter Page. Then the Senate and the public can judge for themselves whether Atkinson’s handling of the “whistleblower” complaint was legitimate or if it was simply a continuation of what his agency began in the summer of 2016. Atkinson’s public testimony is as important, perhaps more so, than that of either Hunter or Joe Biden. He should be at the top of the Republicans’ witness list.