Posts Tagged ‘Steele dossier’

Trump blames ‘fake news media’ for not covering meetings between dossier author and Bruce Ohr

August 12, 2018

President Trump blamed the “fake news media” for not covering meetings between Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr and Trump dossier author Christopher Steele in a tweet Saturday.

Steele, a former British intelligence officer, put together the controversial dossier for Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that employed Ohr’s wife, Nellie. It was revealed last year that over the summer of 2016, the firm was retained by lawyer Mark Elias, who represented the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Additionally, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released a memo earlier this year that claimed Bruce Ohr met Steele in 2016 and gave the Justice Department information about Steele’s political persuasions.

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Bruce Ohr

“The big story that the Fake News Media refuses to report is lowlife Christopher Steele’s many meetings with Deputy A.G. Bruce Ohr and his beautiful wife, Nelly. It was Fusion GPS that hired Steele to write the phony & discredited Dossier, paid for by Crooked Hillary & the DNC….,” Trump tweeted Saturday afternoon.

“….Do you believe Nelly worked for Fusion and her husband STILL WORKS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF ‘JUSTICE.’ I have never seen anything so Rigged in my life. Our A.G. is scared stiff and Missing in Action. It is all starting to be revealed – not pretty. IG Report soon? Witch Hunt!” he said in a separate tweet.

It was recently reported that Bruce Ohr remained in contact with Steele after the FBI severed ties with the former spy. According to emails originally obtained by The Hill, Bruce Ohr was still receiving information from Steele after the 2016 election.

Additionally, the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York reported earlier this week that Bruce Ohr also remained in touch with Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS, after President Trump was elected.

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Republican investigators in Congress have raised concerns about the use of the dossier, which contains unverified claims tying Trump to Russia, by FBI officials to obtain the authority to spy on onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Fox News reported in December that Bruce Ohr was demoted from his post as associate deputy attorney general after it came to light he met with Steele and Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson. Bruce Ohr is now the Organized Crime Task Force director at the Justice Department, according to Judicial Watch.

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House Committee to Interview Bruce Ohr and Wife, Nellie Ohr, About Steele Dossier

August 11, 2018

The House Judiciary Committee is looking to interview—and will subpoena if necessary—Justice Department (DOJ) official Bruce Ohr and his wife, Nellie Ohr, along with several current and former FBI and DOJ officials.

“We plan to interview the people noted in the coming weeks and we will issue subpoenas to compel their attendance if necessary,” a committee aide wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

The DOJ confirmed that the committee reached out to them in regard to the interviews.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte could issue orders as early as the coming week, according to the Hill. Goodlatte’s committee is part of a joint investigation with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee into decisions made by the FBI and the DOJ during the 2016 election.

Bruce Ohr on March 18, 2014. (Italy in US via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0])

The committee’s interview requests come on the heels of revelations that Bruce Ohr maintained contact with former British spy Christopher Steele for more than a year after the FBI terminated ties with Steele for leaking to the media. Ohr then became Steele’s back-door conduit for feeding information to the FBI.

Ohr also attempted to reinstate Steele with the bureau and link him into special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The pair remained in contact until mid-November 2017.

The revelations are problematic because Ohr has no official role in the Russia investigation and Steele had been prohibited from collecting intelligence on behalf of the FBI. The problem is compounded by the fact that Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for the same opposition research firm as Steele, Fusion GPS.

Steele authored the opposition research dossier on then-candidate Donald Trump that was used to secure a warrant to spy on former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. Many of the dossier’s claims have been debunked while the rest remain unverified.

It was the Hillary Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee that ultimately paid for Steele’s work. FBI and DOJ officials who used the dossier to apply for a secret court surveillance warrant on Page failed to mention that fact to the judge.

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Peter Strzok

Ohr met with FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page shortly after meeting Steele in late November 2016. Strzok, Page, and Steele were found to be strongly biased against Trump. Congressional investigators have reviewed text messages that show Steele and Strzok were willing to take action to stop Trump from becoming president. The messages show Strzok musing about impeaching Trump days after joining special counsel Mueller’s team.

The committee is also looking to interview current and former FBI and DOJ officials James Baker, Sally Moyer, Jonathan Moffa, and George Toscas.

In January, Goodlatte reached a deal with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to interview a number of DOJ and FBI officials, including Ohr, Baker, Moyer, Strzok, Page, FBI assistant directors Gregory Brower and Bill Priestap, and FBI special agent James Rybicki. Since then, only Page, Priestap, and Strzok are publicly known to have testified.

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes referred several of the above officials to Goodlatte in a letter in late June.

Baker, Brower, Page, and Rybicky have resigned from the FBI.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/house-committee-to-interview-bruce-ohr-and-wife-nellie-ohr-about-steele-dossier_2620891.html

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Dianne Feinstein was an easy mark for China’s spy

August 9, 2018

It’s clear Feinstein has an alarming blind spot when it comes to China and national security.

As vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been investigating allegations of President Trump’s “collusion” with Russia.

But now we learn Feinstein may be the one compromised by a foreign power.

Turns out that Communist China had a spy in her office. A 20-year employee of Feinstein’s, the agent had been reporting back to China’s Ministry of State Security for well over a decade before he was caught in 2013, according to the FBI.

By Paul Sperry
Opinion

A Chinese-American who doubled as both an office staffer and Feinstein’s personal driver, the agent reportedly was handled by officials based out of the People’s Republic of China’s consulate in San Francisco, which Feinstein helped set up when she was mayor of that city. He even attended consulate functions for the senator.

Feinstein says she took the staffer off her payroll “immediately” after the FBI informed her five years ago that her office had been infiltrated by Chinese intelligence, and agents had identified the mole in a briefing. In a statement, the Democratic senator insisted he had “no access to sensitive information” and that he was never charged with espionage.

In June 1996 — after the staffer had begun working for Feinstein — the FBI detected that the Chinese government was attempting to seek favor with the senator, who at the time sat on the East Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees US-China relations. Investigators warned her in a classified briefing that Beijing might try to influence her through illegal campaign contributions laundered through front corporations and other cutouts.

The warning proved prescient.

One Chinese bagman, Nanping-born John Huang, showed up at Feinstein’s San Francisco home for a fundraising dinner with a Beijing official tied to the People’s Bank of China and the Communist Party Committee. As a foreign national, the official wasn’t legally qualified to make the $50,000-a-plate donation to dine at the banquet.

After a Justice Department task force investigated widespread illegal fundraising during the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign, Feinstein returned more than $12,000 in contributions from donors associated with Huang, who was later convicted of campaign-finance fraud along with other Beijing bagmen. The DNC and the Clinton campaign had to return millions in ill-gotten cash.

Still, Beijing got its favored trade status extended — thanks in part to Feinstein. In speeches on the Senate floor and newspaper op-eds, she shamelessly spun China’s human-rights violations, as when in 1997 she compared Beijing’s 1989 massacre of hundreds of young demonstrators to the 1970 Kent State shootings, calling for the presidents of China and America to appoint a human-rights commission “charting the evolution of human rights in both countries over the last 20 to 30 years,” that “would point out the successes and failures — both Tiananmen Square and Kent State — and make recommendations for goals for the future.”

Feinstein also led efforts to bring China into the World Trade Organization in 1999, which gave Beijing permanent normal trade relations status and removed the annual congressional review of its human-rights and weapons-proliferation records.

Feinstein, still among the Senate’s most influential China doves, travels to China each year. Joining her on those trips is her mega-millionaire investor husband, Richard C. Blum, who has seemingly benefited greatly from the relationship.

Starting in 1996, as China was aggressively currying favor with his wife, Blum was able to take large stakes in Chinese state-run steel and food companies, and has brokered over $100 million in deals in China since then — with the help of partners who sit on the boards of Chinese military front companies like COSCO and CITIC.

China investments have helped make Feinstein, who lives in a $17 million mansion in San Francisco and keeps a $5 million vacation home in Hawaii, one of the richest members in Congress.

Feinstein has insinuated that Trump is compromised by a foreign power. But it’s clear Feinstein has an alarming blind spot when it comes to China and national security.

Paul Sperry is a former Hoover Institution media fellow.

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Why didn’t the FBI warn Donald Trump about carter Page and the investigation into his campaign?
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Dianne Feinstein, the Chinese Spy, Donald Trump and the FBI

August 7, 2018

The point Trump should have made about Sen. Feinstein and the FBI.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif asks questions during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif asks questions during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., May 16.PHOTO: JOSE LUIS MAGANA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Donald Trump couldn’t resist commenting on the news that Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein was the target of Chinese spying, but he missed the main point.

“I like Dianne Feinstein, I have to tell you, but I don’t like the fact she had a Chinese spy driving her, and she didn’t know it,” Mr. Trump averred at a Saturday rally in Ohio, adding: “Then she says to me: ‘Well, what did you know about this and that [Russia collusion]?’ I mean, give me a break, c’mon folks.”

But the issue here isn’t what Mrs. Feinstein says about Mr. Trump; it’s what the FBI told Mrs. Feinstein but didn’t tell Mr. Trump.

Foreign countries are always trying to steal U.S. secrets, and they sometimes succeed. In this case Mrs. Feinstein tweeted over the weekend that the FBI approached her five years ago with concerns about an “administrative” staffer in her San Francisco office with “no access to sensitive information.” She said she “learned the facts and made sure the employee left my office immediately.”

This is what the FBI should do, and the question Mr. Trump should ask is why the bureau didn’t treat him as a potential President with the same customary courtesy. The FBI claims it had concerns beginning in spring 2016 that low-level Trump campaign staffers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were colluding with Russians. Yet rather than give the Trump campaign the usual defensive briefing, the FBI launched an unprecedented counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign, running informants against it and obtaining surveillance warrants. The country is still enduring the polarizing fallout from that decision through special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

This disparate treatment is evidence that the FBI abused its authority in 2016, whether or not it acted with political bias. The bureau routinely warns politicians, campaigns and others about espionage threats. In Mrs. Feinstein’s case, the bureau had located an actual spy—and then went directly and discreetly to the Senator.

In Mr. Trump’s case, the FBI by its own admission was operating on nothing more than suspicions (many from the Clinton campaign-financed Steele dossier), and to this day the bureau has never presented definitive evidence of the campaign’s collusion with Russia. Yet it launched a full investigation that it didn’t disclose to Congress.

Mrs. Feinstein is also doing nobody a favor by downplaying this breach. She claims the driver never had access to “sensitive” information, but the infiltration of the staff of a Senator who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee is no small matter. Who knows what the spying staffer was able to hear and report to China over the years?

The Russia probe has become such a partisan Beltway fixation that it obscures larger issues of governance that will outlast Donald Trump and Dianne Feinstein.

Appeared in the August 7, 2018, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-and-the-di-spy-1533598269

Christopher Steele fed bogus Trump-Russia allegations to FBI on at least twelve difference occasions

August 5, 2018

Congressional investigators know that Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the Trump dossier on behalf of the Clinton campaign, kept supplying allegations to the FBI after the 2016 election — and even after he was terminated as a source by the bureau for giving confidential information to the media.

Because he had broken his agreement with the FBI, bureau procedure did not allow agents to keep using Steele as a source. But they did so anyway — by devising a system in which Steele spoke regularly with Bruce Ohr, a top Obama Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, which hired Steele to search for dirt on Donald Trump in Russia. Ohr then passed on Steele’s information to the FBI.

In a highly unusual arrangement, Ohr, who was the fourth-highest ranking official in the Justice Department, acted as an intermediary for a terminated source for the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe. His task was to deliver to the FBI what Steele told him, which effectively meant the bureau kept Steele as a source.

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Peter Strzok

Agents made a record of each time Ohr gave the bureau information from Steele. Those records are in the form of so-called 302 reports, in which the FBI agents write up notes of interviews during an investigation.

There are a dozen 302 reports on FBI post-election interviews of Ohr. The first was Nov. 22, 2016. After that, the FBI interviewed Ohr on Dec. 5; Dec. 12; Dec. 20; Jan. 23, 2017; Jan. 25; Jan. 27; Feb. 6; Feb. 14; May 8; May 12; and May 15. The dates, previously unreported publicly, were included in a July letter from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, to the FBI and Justice Department.

Congressional investigators have read the Ohr-Steele 302s. But the FBI has kept them under tight control, insisting they remain classified and limiting access to a few lawmakers and staff. Congress is not allowed to physically possess copies of any of the documents.

Now, Grassley says there is “no continuing justification for the FBI to keep the documents secret.” Grassley, who exercises oversight authority over the FBI, is formally challenging the bureau’s decision to keep the Ohr-Steele 302s under wraps. Grassley’s insistence has been met, unsurprisingly, with no cooperation from the FBI.

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James Comey

One small bit of the Ohr 302s has already been made public. The House Intelligence Committee, in its memo focusing on the FBI’s application to the secret FISA court to win a warrant to wiretap onetime Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, included a 16-word passage from an Ohr 302 in which Ohr described Christopher Steele’s motivation to stop candidate Trump. (Even though Ohr’s interviews with the FBI took place after the election, he apparently described things Steele told him during their contacts in the months before the election, as well as new information.) Here is the relevant portion of the House memo:

Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files — but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

After the release of the House memo, Sen. Grassley, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wrote to the FBI noting the existence of “numerous FD-302s demonstrating that Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr continued to pass along allegations from Mr. Steele to the FBI after the FBI suspended its formal relationship with Mr. Steele for unauthorized contact with the media, and demonstrating that Mr. Ohr otherwise funneled allegations from Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele to the FBI.”

Grassley also noted other documents of interest: In addition to the 302s, written by the FBI agents who interviewed Ohr, Ohr himself also made notes of his talks with Steele. Those notes, which were never classified, have apparently been given to Congress; in his letter, Grassley referred to “63 pages of unclassified emails and notes documenting Mr. Ohr’s interactions with Mr. Steele.”

Grassley’s argument for declassification of the Ohr-Steele 302s is that the existence of the documents is widely known. Also, some of the material in them has been included in congressional documents and reported in the press. And Ohr’s own notes of the meetings, in the possession of Congress, are not classified. So now, there is no reason for the 302s to remain classified and for the FBI to withhold copies from Congress. The ultimate goal, given Grassley’s statement that there is no reason for the FBI to “keep the documents secret,” is for the public to see them.

What would all of that show? It’s likely that the 302s and notes, if released, would show that the FBI was both still trying to get new information out of Steele after the election and that it was also trying to verify the information Steele had already provided in the dossier installments he handed over in preceding months. Remember, the FBI had already presented some of the dossier’s allegations as evidence to the FISA court. After going out on a limb like that, the bureau wanted to know if the allegations were true or not.

In a larger sense, the Ohr-Steele 302s could shed some light on how an effort — it certainly included Steele, but also others — to keep Trump from being elected morphed into an effort to keep Trump from being inaugurated and then morphed into an effort to remove Trump from office. A version of that effort is still going on, of course, even as some in Congress try to find out how it started.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/12-times-christopher-steele-fed-trump-russia-allegations-to-fbi-after-the-election

What Are the FBI and CIA Hiding?

August 1, 2018

The agency might have led the bureau down a rabbit hole in the 2016 Trump counterintelligence probe.

George Papadopoulos in London.
George Papadopoulos in London. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
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Did the Central Intelligence Agency lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation down a rabbit hole in the counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign?

Although the FBI’s case officially began July 31, 2016, there had been investigative activity before that date. John Brennan’s CIA might have directed activity in Britain, which could be a problem because of longstanding agreements that the U.S. will not conduct intelligence operations there. It would explain why the FBI continues to stonewall Congress as to the inquiry’s origin.

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John Brennan. Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, The Associated Press.

Further, what we know about the case’s origin does not meet the threshold required by the attorney general guidelines for opening a counterintelligence case. That standard requires “predicate information,” or “articulable facts.”

From what has been made public, all that passes for predicate information in this matter originated in Britain. Stefan Halper, an American who ran the Centre of International Studies at Cambridge, had been a CIA source in the past. Recent press reports describe him as an FBI informant. Joseph Mifsud, another U.K.-based academic with ties to Western intelligence, met with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos on April 26, 2016. Mr. Mifsud reportedly mentioned “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Then, on May 10, Mr. Papadopoulos met with Australian Ambassador Alexander Downer in London, to whom he relayed the claim about “dirt” on Mrs. Clinton.

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Peter Strzok

Peter Strzok, the FBI’s deputy assistant director, went to London Aug. 2, 2016, two days after the case was opened, ostensibly to interview Mr. Downer about his conversation with Mr. Papadopoulos. But what about the earlier investigative activity? The FBI would not usually maintain an informant in England. It is far likelier that in the spring of 2016 Mr. Halper was providing information to British intelligence or directly to the CIA, where Mr. Brennan was already pushing the collusion narrative.

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James Clapper

James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, has acknowledged that “intelligence agencies” were looking into the collusion allegations in spring 2016. The Guardian, a British newspaper, reported that British intelligence had been suspicious about contacts between associates of Mr. Trump’s campaign and possible Russian agents. That prompted Robert Hannigan, then head of Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, to pass information to Mr. Brennan. With only these suspicions, Mr. Brennan pressured the FBI into launching its counterintelligence probe.

The FBI lacked any real predicate. But in the post-9/11 world, a referral from the CIA would cause some in the FBI to believe they had to act—particularly as the agency’s information originated with America’s closest ally. Shortly after the case opened that summer, Mr. Brennan gave a briefing to then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, telling him that the CIA had referred the matter to the FBI—an obvious effort to pressure the bureau to get moving on the collusion case.

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Harry Reid

As the FBI’s investigation progressed, it would use a surveillance warrant against Carter Page, a former member of Mr. Trump’s campaign, who had been in contact with Mr. Halper. A dossier prepared for the Clinton campaign by Christopher Steele, formerly of Britain’s MI6, was used to obtain the warrant.

The existence of the investigation was withheld from the congressional “gang of eight” because of its “sensitivity,” former FBI Director James Comey later said. The FBI continues to withhold the full details of the origin story from Congress. Their rationale is the “protection of sources,” as the origin lies with our best international partner.

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Although Mr. Brennan has exposed himself as a biased actor, the CIA has escaped criticism for using only thinly sourced information from British intelligence to snooker the FBI. Most damaging is the possibility that the CIA violated agreements with Britain by spying there rather than asking MI5 or MI6 to do so. And that may be what is really being withheld from Congress.

Mr. Baker is a retired FBI special agent and legal attaché.

Appeared in the August 1, 2018, print edition.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-are-the-fbi-and-cia-hiding-1533078662

FBI Used (Illegal) Government Surveillance for Political Gain — Lied to FISA Court — And you thought this only happened in places like Russia, China

July 30, 2018

Did the FBI Lie on the Carter Page FISA Application — Seems More Certain That The FBI Has Some Corruption — Transparency Will Tell Us More

FBI at least abused the FISA process to spy on an American illegally. The FISA approval was probably void because it was based upon documents funded by Democrats — and not facts.

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes claimed Sunday that the American public will be “shocked” when it sees the remaining blacked out portions of the FBI’s applications for spy warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“We are quite confident that once the American people see these 20 pages, at least for those that will get real reporting on this issue, they will be shocked by what’s in that FISA application,” Nunes said in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo.

 

YOU BE THE JUDGE
Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a Department of Justice press conference, March 2016.

By Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

 

Nunes’ comments raise expectations about what information remains hidden behind 20-plus pages of the FBI’s fourth and final application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Page.

The Department of Justice released portions of the four FISA applications on July 20 in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. A majority of the information remains redacted because it is classified.

Nunes and his fellow Republicans on the Intelligence Committee asked President Donald Trump in a June 14 letter to declassify 21 pages from the final FISA application, which was signed by deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

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Rod Rosenstein

The unredacted portions of the applications confirmed much of what has already been made public through two memos released earlier this year by Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence panel.

The applications show that the FBI relied heavily on the unverified Steele dossier to make the case that Page was acting as a foreign agent of Russia during the presidential campaign. Page has vehemently denied the allegations.

The release of the FISA applications reignited debate over whether the FBI abused the FISA process by relying on the dossier to obtain the warrants.

Democrats argued that the applications showed that the FBI provided enough evidence to show FISA Court judges that there was probable cause to believe that Page was acting as a covert agent of Russia. They also asserted that the information hidden behind the remaining redactions likely provided other damning evidence against Page, including evidence that would bolster the Democrat-funded dossier. (RELATED: These 21 Pages From Carter Page FISA Should Be Made Public, House Republicans Say)

But Nunes, a Trump ally, is suggesting that is not the case.

“What’s left that’s redacted, the American people really do need to know what’s underneath there.”

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Peter Strzok: “There was no bias.”

He also insisted on Sunday that “the Left and the media” do not want additional portions of the FISAs to be made public.

“They don’t want that unredacted. They don’t want transparency for the American people,” he said.

Nunes said that he believes that the president’s lawyers are reviewing the June 14 letter to see if the 20 pages can be made public.

http://dailycaller.com/2018/07/29/maria-bartiromo-devin-nunes-interview/

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Devin Nunes: American Public Should See All FISA Background Documents Relative to Russia Probe

July 29, 2018

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Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) said today he was completely exonerated by the release of the FBI/DOJ FISA court application.

The much redacted document, he said, clearly shows that the FBI based their request for FISA surveillance authorization in the case of Carter Page largely upon the Steele dossier — widely discredited as invalid and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Nunes said he still believes President Trump should order the declassification and release of all documents relative to the Carter Page FISA case, including the redacted part of the documents already released.

He said the American people deserve to see the documents “in the spirit of transparency.”

Nunes appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures” on Fox News Channel with Maria Bartiromo.

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Devin Nunes, Washington’s Public Enemy No. 1

July 28, 2018

What did the FBI do in the 2016 campaign? The head of the House inquiry on what he has found—and questions still unanswered.

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© Getty Images

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Tulare, Calif.

It’s 105 degrees as I stand with Rep. Devin Nunes on his family’s dairy farm. Mr. Nunes has been feeling even more heat in Washington, where as chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence he has labored to unearth the truth about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s activities during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. Thanks in large part to his work, we now know that the FBI used informants against Donald Trump’s campaign, that it obtained surveillance warrants based on opposition research conducted for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and that after the election Obama administration officials “unmasked” and monitored the incoming team.

Mr. Nunes’s efforts have provoked extraordinary partisan and institutional fury in Washington—across the aisle, in the FBI and other law-enforcement and intelligence agencies, in the media. “On any given day there are dozens of attacks, each one wilder in its claims,” he says. Why does he keep at it? “First of all, because it’s my job. This is a basic congressional investigation, and we follow the facts,” he says. The “bigger picture,” he adds, is that in “a lot of the bad and problematic countries” that Intelligence Committee members investigate, “this is what they do there. There is a political party that controls the intelligence agencies, controls the media, all to ensure that party stays in power. If we get to that here, we no longer have a functioning republic. We can’t let that happen.”

Mr. Nunes, 44, was elected to Congress in 2002 from Central California. He joined the Intelligence Committee in 2011 and delved into the statutes, standards and norms that underpin U.S. spying. That taught him to look for “red flags,” information or events that don’t feel right and indicate a deeper problem. He noticed some soon after the 2016 election.

The first: Immediately after joining the Trump transition team, Mr. Nunes faced an onslaught of left-wing claims that he might be in cahoots with Vladimir Putin. It started on social media, though within months outlets such as MSNBC were openly asking if he was a “Russian agent.” “I’ve been a Russia hawk going way back,” he says. “I was the one who only six months earlier had called the Obama administration’s failure to understand Putin’s plans and intentions the largest intelligence failure since 9/11. So these attacks, surreal—big red flag.”

Mr. Nunes would later come to believe the accusations marked the beginning of a deliberate campaign by Obama officials and the intelligence community to discredit him and sideline him from any oversight effort. “This was November. We, Republicans, still didn’t know about the FBI’s Trump investigation. But they did,” he says. “There was concern I’d figure it out, so they had to get rid of me.”

A second red flag: the sudden rush by a small group of Obama officials to produce a new intelligence assessment two weeks before President Trump’s inauguration, claiming the Russians had acted in 2016 specifically to elect Mr. Trump. “Nobody disagrees the Russians were trying to muddy up Hillary Clinton. Because everyone on the planet believed—including the Russians—she was going to win,” Mr. Nunes says. So it “made no sense” that the Obama administration was “working so hard to make the flip argument—to say ‘Oh, no, no: This was all about electing Trump.’ ” The effort began to make more sense once that rushed intelligence assessment grew into a central premise behind the theory that Mr. Trump’s campaign had colluded with the Russians.

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January 2017 also brought then-FBI Director James Comey’s acknowledgment to Congress—the public found out later—that the bureau had been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign since the previous summer, and that Mr. Comey had actively concealed the probe from Congress. Months earlier, when Mr. Nunes had seen media stories alluding to a Trump investigation, he’d dismissed them. “We’re supposed to get briefed,” he says. “Plus, I was thinking: ‘Comey, FBI, they’re good people and would never do this in an election. Nah.’ ”

When the facts came out, Mr. Nunes was stunned by the form the investigation took. For years he had been central in updating the laws governing surveillance, metadata collection and so forth. “I would never have conceived of FBI using our counterintelligence capabilities to target a political campaign. If it had crossed any of our minds, I can guarantee we’d have specifically written, ‘Don’t do that,’ ” when crafting legislation, he says. “Counterintelligence is looking at people trying to steal our nation’s secrets or working with terrorists. This if anything would be a criminal matter.”

Then there was the Christopher Steele dossier, prepared for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign by the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS. Top congressional Republicans got a January 2017 briefing about the document, which Mr. Comey later described as “salacious and unverified.” Mr. Nunes remembers Mr. Comey making one other claim. “He said Republicans paid for it. Not true.” Mr. Nunes recalls. “If they had informed us Hillary Clinton and Democrats paid for that dossier, I can guarantee you that Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would have laughed and walked out of that meeting.” The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by hedge-fund manager Paul Singer, had earlier hired Fusion GPS to do research on Mr. Trump, but the Beacon’s editors have said that assignment did not overlap with the dossier.

All these red flags were more than enough to justify a congressional investigation, yet Mr. Nunes says his sleuthing triggered a new effort to prevent one. He had been troubled in January 2017 when newspapers published leaked conversations between Mike Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser, and the Russian ambassador. The leak, Mr. Nunes says, involved “very technical collection, nearly the exact readouts.” It violated strict statutory rules against “unmasking”—revealing the identities of Americans who are picked up talking to foreigners who are under U.S. intelligence surveillance.

Around the time of the Flynn leak, Mr. Nunes received tips that far more unmasking had taken place. His sources gave him specific document numbers to prove it. Viewing them required Mr. Nunes to travel in March to a secure reading room on White House grounds, a visit his critics would then spin into a false claim that he was secretly working with Mr. Trump’s inner circle. They also asserted that his unmasking revelations amounted to an unlawful disclosure of classified information.

That prompted a House Ethics Committee investigation. In April 2017, Mr. Nunes stepped aside temporarily from the Russia-collusion piece of his inquiry, conveniently for those who wished to forestall its progress. Not until December did the Ethics Committee clear Mr. Nunes. “We found out later,” he says, “that four of the five Democrats on that committee had called for me to be removed before this even got rolling.”

Meantime, the Intelligence Committee continued the Russia-collusion probe without Mr. Nunes. In October 2017 news finally became public that the Steele dossier had been paid for by the Clinton campaign. This raised the question of how much the FBI had relied on opposition research for its warrant applications, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to spy on onetime Trump campaign aide Carter Page. Throughout the fall, the Justice Department refused to comply with Intel Committee subpoenas for key dossier and FISA documents.

By the end of the year, Mr. Nunes was facing off with the Justice Department, which was given a Jan. 3, 2018, deadline to comply with Congress’s demands for information. The New York Times quoted unnamed government officials who claimed the Russia investigation had hinged not on the dossier but on a conversation with another low-level Trump aide, George Papadopoulos. The next day, the Washington Post ran a story asserting—falsely, Mr. Nunes insists—that even his Republican colleagues had lost confidence in him. “So, a leak about how the dossier doesn’t matter after all, and another saying I’m out there alone,” he says. “And right then DOJ and FBI suddenly demand a private meeting with the speaker, where they try to convince him to make me stand down. All this is not a coincidence.”

But Mr. Ryan backed Mr. Nunes, and the Justice Department produced the documents. The result was the Nunes memo, released to the public in February, which reported that the Steele dossier had in fact “formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application”—and that the FBI had failed to inform the FISA court of the document’s partisan provenance. “We kept the memo to four pages,” Mr. Nunes says. “We wanted it clean. And we thought: That’s it, it’s over. The American public now knows that they were using dirt to investigate a political campaign, a U.S. citizen, and everyone will acknowledge the scandal.” That isn’t what happened. Instead, “Democrats put out their own memo, the media attacked us more, and the FBI and DOJ continue to obfuscate.”

It got worse. This spring Mr. Nunes obtained information showing the FBI had used informants to gather intelligence on the Trump camp. The Justice Department is still playing hide-and-seek with documents. “We still don’t know how many informants were run before July 31, 2016”—the official open of the counterintelligence investigation—“and how much they were paid. That’s the big outstanding question,” he says. Mr. Nunes adds that the department and the FBI haven’t done anything about the unmaskings or taken action against the Flynn leakers—because, in his view, “they are too busy working with Democrats to cover all this up.”

He and his committee colleagues in June sent a letter asking Mr. Trump to declassify at least 20 pages of the FISA application. Mr. Nunes says they are critical: “If people think using the Clinton dirt to get a FISA is bad, what else that’s in that application is even worse.”

Mr. Nunes has harsh words for his adversaries. How, he asks, can his committee’s Democrats, who spent years “worrying about privacy and civil liberties,” be so blasé about unmaskings, surveillance of U.S. citizens, and intelligence leaks? On the FBI: “I’m not the one that used an unverified dossier to get a FISA warrant,” Mr. Nunes says. “I’m not the one who obstructed a congressional investigation. I’m not the one who lied and said Republicans paid for the dossier. I’m just one of a few people in a position to get to the bottom of it.” And on the press: “Today’s media is corrupt. It’s chosen a side. But it’s also making itself irrelevant. The sooner Republicans understand that, the better.”

His big worry is that Republicans are running out of time before the midterm elections, yet there are dozens of witnesses still to interview. “But this was always the DO/FBI plan,” he says. “They are slow-rolling, because they are wishing and betting the Republicans lose the House.”

Still, he believes the probe has yielded enough information to chart a path for reform: “We need more restrictions on what you can use FISAs for, and more restrictions on unmaskings. And we need real penalties for those who violate the rules.” He says his investigation has also illuminated “the flaws in the powers of oversight, which Congress need to reinstate for itself.”

Mostly, Mr. Nunes feels it has been important to tell the story. “There are going to be two histories written here. The fiction version will come from an entire party, and former and even current intelligence heads, and the media, who will continue trying to cover up what they did,” he says. “It’s our job, unfortunately, to write the nonfiction.”

Ms. Strassel writes the Journal’s Potomac Watch column.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/devin-nunes-washingtons-public-enemy-no-1-1532729666

FISA warrant application supports Nunes memo

July 24, 2018

The weekend release of a highly-redacted version of the FBI’s application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to wiretap onetime Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page has renewed the argument over the Nunes memo — the brief report produced by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes detailing problems in the application. From the time of the memo’s release in February, Democrats and some in the press have denounced it as a collection of lies and mischaracterizations. On Saturday night, the denouncing started again. “The only thing the newly released FISA documents show is that Republicans have been lying for months,” the lefty think tank Center for American Progress said in a typical response.

Image result for James Comey, photos

Now, however, we have both the memo and the FISA application, if in a blacked-out state. We can compare the two. And doing so shows the Nunes memo was overwhelmingly accurate. Perhaps some Democrats do not believe it should have been written, or they dispute what it included and left out, or they do not agree with its conclusions, but it was in fact accurate.

The memo comprised a short introduction followed by 13 substantive paragraphs. Here is a look at each one.

Commentary By Byron York

[Read: Devin Nunes: ‘Time to eliminate redactions’]

The first paragraph:

On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a US citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

That is accurate. The second paragraph:

The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. 1805 (d)(1)) a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the FISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.

That is accurate. The third paragraph:

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the FISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard, particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

That is accurate, but a reading of the last sentence, of course, depends on one’s definition of “material and relevant.” There is no doubt, however, that Nunes made a case that the information left out of the application, like the specific source of funding for the Steele dossier, was “material and relevant” to the Page case.

The fourth paragraph:

1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

That is accurate. When the Nunes memo was released, there was controversy over its assertion that the dossier formed an “essential” part of the Page FISA application. But Senate Judiciary Committee staff, who reviewed the FISA application separately from the House, concluded that the dossier allegations made up the “bulk” of the application. Even a Washington Post article Sunday purporting to debunk the Nunes memo in light of the FISA application conceded that the dossier played “a prominent role” in the FISA application. Finally, the Nunes memo’s assertion, noted below, that former FBI number-two Andrew McCabe agreed that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information,” was not challenged by Democrats when the Nunes memo was made public.

The fifth paragraph:

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

That is accurate. Readers will search the FISA application in vain for any specific mention of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign funding of the dossier. For the most part, names were not used in the application, but Donald Trump was referred to as “Candidate #1,” Hillary Clinton was referred to as “Candidate #2,” and the Republican Party was referred to as “Political Party #1.” Thus, the FISA application could easily have explained that the dossier research was paid for by “Candidate #2” and “Political Party #2,” meaning the Democrats. And yet the FBI chose to describe the situation this way, in a footnote: “Source #1…was approached by an identified U.S. person, who indicated to Source #1 that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia…The identified U.S. person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.”

Democrats argue that the FISA Court judges should have been able to figure out, from that obscure description, that the DNC and Clinton campaign paid for the dossier. That seems a pretty weak argument, but in any case, the Nunes memo’s statement that the FISA application did not disclose or reference the role of the DNC and the Clinton campaign is undeniably true.

The sixth paragraph:

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

That is accurate. The seventh paragraph:

2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News — and several other outlets — in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington DC in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.

Most of that is accurate. But when the Nunes memo was released, Democrats argued that the FISA application did not use the Yahoo article to corroborate the dossier, but rather — as it used other news accounts of varying reliability — to describe part of the Carter Page story. As it turned out, the application used part of the Yahoo piece in a way that suggested it was corroborating the dossier, but it also used part of it as a news account. So call the Nunes memo’s corroboration claim only partly accurate.

The eighth paragraph:

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September — before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October — but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

That is accurate. The ninth paragraph:

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality — and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

That is accurate. In the initial FISA application, the FBI argued that Steele had not leaked to the media. In later applications, the bureau admitted Steele had leaked but maintained that he was still credible because he only leaked after providing the dossier allegations.

The tenth paragraph:

3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files — but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

That is accurate. The eleventh paragraph:

a) During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.

That is accurate, although one could argue whether the information here was really required for the FISA application; also, the “inexplicably concealed” reference is the opinion of the House committee.

The twelfth paragraph:

4) According to the head of the counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was — according to his June 2017 testimony — “salacious and unverified.” While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

That is accurate. The thirteenth, and final, paragraph:

5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.

Parts of the Nunes memo, like references to the Strzok-Page texts or Bruce Ohr’s testimony, contain information that was not in the application. But that does not make it any less accurate. The bottom line is that, whatever the criticism it has received, the Nunes memo was almost entirely accurate. The release of the FISA application supports that view.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/fisa-warrant-application-supports-nunes-memo

Related:

(The Wall Street Journal)