Folks, the day has arrived. The FISA memo has been released. The four-page document alleging egregious abuses in government surveillance is now public with no redactions. Prior to its release, it was something of a Pickett’s Charge for the Department of Justice and the FBI. The told The House Intelligence Committee that releasing the memo would be reckless, possibly detrimental to national security. After stonewalling Congress on multiple document requests relating to the Trump dossier and Fusion GPS, they had the temerity to ask if they could review it. Congress refused, though FBI Director Christopher Wray reviewed it last Sunday, with two senior FBI officials saying there were no factual errors in the document.
On Monday, they House Intelligence Committee voted to release the memo on a party-line vote. On the same day, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray lobbied White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to block the memo, the president had five days to decide whether to block or release it. The president chose to release it. The war was over. Now, all the DOJ/FBI could do was hammer the White House and this course of action through statements, which were fanned out by the news media. The Democrats think the memo is a political stunt aimed to undermine the credibility of the FBI and the Russia investigation. The last salvo of desperation was when the Democrats slammed on Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, for editing the memo based on their recommendations. There were some grammatical tweaks and a two-word change. It was a comedy act: “please edit this portion of the memo” and then say “how dare you doctor it” hours after you made the request to keep CNN and other gullible outlets that the edits had some sort of pernicious intent. Wrong. So, now that the memo is released, The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel said these are things to zero in on, and the rest is just noise. Here are some of her points:
Rationale. Did the FBI have cause to open a full-blown counterintelligence probe into an active presidential campaign? That’s a breathtakingly consequential and unprecedented action and surely could not be justified without much more than an overheard drunken conversation or an unsourced dossier. What hard evidence did the FBI have?
• Tools and evidence. Government possesses few counterintelligence tools more powerful or frightening than the ability to spy on American citizens. If the FBI obtained permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Trump aide Carter Page based on information from the Christopher Steele dossier, that in itself is a monumental scandal. It means the FBI used a document commissioned by one presidential campaign as a justification to spy on another. Ignore any arguments that the dossier was not a “basis” for the warrant or only used “in part.” If the FBI had to use it in its application, it means it didn’t have enough other evidence to justify surveillance.
Look to see what else the FBI presented to the court as a justification for monitoring, and whether it was manufactured. Mr. Steele and his client, Fusion GPS, ginned up breathless news stories about the dossier’s unverified accusations in September 2016 in order to influence the election. The FBI sometimes presents news articles to the court, but primarily for corroboration of other facts. If the FBI used the conspiracy stories Mr. Steele was spinning as actual justification—evidence—to the court, that’s out of bounds.
• Omissions and misdirection. What else did the FBI tell the court? One would presume the bureau did its due diligence and knew Mr. Steele ultimately worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The FISA court puts considerable emphasis on the credibility of sources. Did the FBI inform the court of the Clinton connection? Or did it lean on the claim that the Fusion project was originally funded by Republicans? Such a claim might diminish the partisan stench. But it would also be a falsehood, since the dossier portion of the project was purely funded by Clinton allies. And if the FBI didn’t bother to ask who hired Mr. Steele or Fusion, that’s a scandal all its own.
Also, look to see whether the FBI informed the court that Mr. Steele was blabbing to the press. When he first approached the bureau in July, he hadn’t yet briefed the media. But by September he and Fusion were publicly spinning the dossier for their Democratic client, and the FBI would have known who was generating the stories. Did the FBI continue to attest something that clearly was no longer true?
And as predicted, we are also watching full on spin for why a FISA warrant isn't a big deal, the use of the dossier isn't a big deal, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. If it weren't so disingenuous, the predictability might be funny. #MemoDay— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) February 2, 2018
1) Having tried--and failed--to stop the memo on grounds of "national security," "omissions," and "versions," Ds/media are out with new reasons today. Now we are told 1) memo is a nothingburger that will backfire on WH, and 2) Trump would be unwise to mess with the FBI.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) February 2, 2018
The latter is particularly curious. IE, the FBI is not a rogue, unaccountable agency, but you better watch out or it might come after you.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) February 2, 2018
House Intel memo: FBI received warrant on Carter Page in October 2016. McCabe attested the dossier was needed to obtain warrant. FBI also used a news story ginned up by FusionSteele as further "evidence"--though came from same source.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) February 2, 2018
House intel memo: Bruce Ohr continued to work as conduit between Steele/Fusion and FBI, even after FBI terminated relationship with Steele (because he went public).— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) February 2, 2018
House Intel memo: Steele goes public in Mother Jones magazine not long after FBI gets warrant. FBI has to terminate relationship. But doesn't tell FISA court.— Kimberley Strassel (@KimStrassel) February 2, 2018
We now know that a warrant for Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page was obtained in October of 2016 based on shoddy evidence. Was the fight over this memo done to conceal the FBI’s own bad behavior? As the date drew nearer, the national security concerns seemed to have evaporated into the ether. Strassel also mentioned to not forget the Obama administration in this; they oversaw the DOJ when the FISA warrants were secured. DOJ personnel, like the now demoted associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, met with the author of the dossier and Fusion GPS cofounder Glenn Simpson. Steele is the former MI6 spy who compiled the dossier, Simpson’s firm contracted him to create this document upon being retained by the Hillary Clinton campaign. It was partisan opposition research. An unsubstantiated and largely uncorroborated piece of partisan opposition research from a presidential campaign was used to spy on the opposing side? That’s rather serious, no?