WSJ Columnist: FBI/DOJ Are Trying To Drop A Depth Charge On Trump, House GOP In FISA Memo Fight

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 4:55 PM

While we all sink our teeth into immigration, the fallout from the Democrats’ failed government shutdown, and this New York Times story that Trump wanted to fire Mueller last June—he didn’t, by the way—you’re missing the fight between House Republicans, the FBI, and the Department of Justice over this FISA memo. The four-page document details alleged abuses that are said to be akin to the activities of the KGB. Some lawmakers said it could lead to deep changes within the DOJ. Democrats have pushed back saying it’s a political stunt, aimed at undermining the credibility of the FBI. There’s speculation that the Obama administration used the unverified Trump dossier as the basis to secure FISA warrants to spy on members of the Trump campaign and transition team. The dossier was funded by the Hillary campaign. They hired Fusion GPS, a research firm, who in turn contracted an ex-MI6 operative to get information on Donald Trump. In all, it’s a lucrative opposition research file, most of which cannot be corroborated. The DOJ has been adamant that they review the memo before it’s release to prevent a reckless disclosure of information. The House GOP response has pretty much been to tell the DOJ/FBI to shove it. They’re not allowing them to read the memo. As of right now, this memo could be released next week (via Fox News):

Republicans appear to be proceeding with the release of a much-hyped memo that purportedly reveals government surveillance abuse -- despite Justice Department officials describing such a move as “extraordinarily reckless.”

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote Wednesday to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., urging him not to release the memo.

“We believe it would be extraordinarily reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the Department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum and to advise the HPSCI of the risk of harm to national security and to ongoing investigations that could come from public release,” he said.

Boyd continued, “Though we are currently unaware of any wrongdoing relating to the FISA process, we agree that any abuse of that system cannot be tolerated.”

But Republicans on the committee may be sticking to the plan. A source who supports the memo’s release told Fox News that the letter will not change Republicans’ resolve to release the memo as early as next week. That source said the committee voted to make the memo available to all House members and described the DOJ complaint as political.

“It’s really stupid they would try to block us from releasing the memo," a senior congressional intelligence source told Fox News Wednesday evening. "It only makes it worse for them. And it is more evidence that DOJ is trying to obstruct our investigation.”

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.,  said on "The Ingraham Angle" that Nunes fully intends to go ahead with releasing the memo, and the DOJ objections were a sign the agency wanted to launch a pre-emptive attack and leak it to allies in the media.

The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel wrote in her op-ed yesterday that it appears the FBI/DOJ have engaged in a sustained campaign to drop a depth charge on the House GOP and pressure Donald Trump into blocking the memo’s release. It’s a game of sabotage [emphasis mine]:

Mr. Boyd gets in his cheap shots, for instance slamming Mr. Nunes for moving to release a memo based on documents that Mr. Nunes hasn’t even “seen.” He apparently thinks Rep. Trey Gowdy —the experienced former federal prosecutor Mr. Nunes asked to conduct the review of those docs—isn’t qualified to judge questions of national security. He hyperventilates that it would be “reckless” for the committee to make its memo public without first letting the Justice Department review it and “advise [the committee] of the risk of harm to national security.” Put another way, it is Mr. Boyd’s position that the Justice Department gets to provide oversight of Congress. The Constitution has it the other way around.

The bigger, swampier game here is to rally media pressure, and to mau-mau Mr. Nunes into giving the department a veto over the memo’s release. Ask Sen. Chuck Grassley how that goes. Mr. Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, recently sent a referral to the department for a criminal probe into dossier author Christopher Steele. He then in good faith asked the department its views on an unclassified portion of that referral that he wants to make public. The department invented a classified reason to block public release, and has refused to budge for weeks.

The Boyd letter is also a first step toward a bigger prize: President Trump. Under House rules, a majority of the Intelligence Committee can vote to declassify the memo. Mr. Trump then has up to five days to object to its release. If he doesn’t object, the memo goes public. If he does, a majority of the House would have to vote to override him.

The shrieks of reckless harm and national security are designed to pressure Mr. Trump to object. And wait for it: In coming days the Justice Department’s protectors will gin up a separate, desperate claim that Mr. Trump will somehow be “interfering” in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe unless he objects to the release. According to this view, it is Mr. Trump’s obligation not just to sit by while the media and the Mueller team concoct their narrative, but to block any evidence that might undercut it.

Sharyl Attkisson touched on the irony in her op-ed for The Hill, where she noted that the FBI has stonewalled Congress concerning documents relating to the Trump dossier and what appears to be election meddling and bias with some of their top officials, like FBI Agent Peter Strzok. Mr. Strzok was a top counterintelligence official at the bureau, who signed off on the counterintelligence investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians during the 2016 election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is now heading that probe. Moreover, the FBI knows the classified documents that are being referred to in this memo. They have the information on their alleged wrongdoing and are trying to keep the dam from breaking on whatever is contained in these documents:

The FBI’s complaint carries a note of irony considering the agency has notoriously stonewalled Congress. Even when finally agreeing to provide requested documents, the Department of Justice uses the documents’ classified nature to severely restrict who can see them — even among members of Congress who possess the appropriate security clearance. Members who wish to view the documents must report to special locations during prescribed hours in the presence of Department of Justice minders who supervise them as they’re permitted to take handwritten notes only (you know, like the 1960s).

What most people don’t know is that the FBI and Department of Justice already know exactly what Congressional investigators have flagged in the documents they’ve reviewed, because three weeks ago the Senate Judiciary Committee sent its own summary memo to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The committee also referred to the Department of Justice a recommendation for possible charges against the author of the political opposition research file, the so-called Trump dossier: Christopher Steele.

The head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Chuck Grassley (Iowa), co-authored the memo with fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.). Grassley says it’s important for the public to see the unclassified portions of the memo. But unlike the House, which can release the memo on its own (and is taking steps to do so), Senate rules require permission from the Department of Justice — the possibly offending agency — to approve or declassify the memo. And that’s reached a snag.

According to Grassley, the FBI is blocking the release of the unclassified sections of the Senate memo by falsely claiming that they contain classified information.

“It sure looks like a bureaucratic game of hide the ball, rather than a genuine concern about national security,” said Grassley in a speech on the Senate floor yesterday.

Grassley also pointed out that agencies accused of possible improprieties are the ones controlling the information. It’s the FBI who may have misused the unverified “dossier” opposition research, allegedly presenting it to a secret court as if it were verified intelligence.

As long as the FBI keeps this information from Congress, the more intense the speculation becomes, and so far, as Strassel noted, it looks like the bureau is abusing their secrecy powers to avoid further embarrassment. 

Like two FBI officials—Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page—who were having an extramarital affair with one another, texting each other 50,000 times, trashing Trump, praising Hilary, and having that be a reason why a top counterintelligence agent had to be reassigned to human resources. Oh, and of course the immense impropriety and potential damage to the credibility regarding this Russia investigation. More texts show that these two were worried about going too hard on the Hillary Clinton email probe, another investigation Strzok was involved in during the 2016 election. 

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