Nunes Memo: Partisan Whitewash

by Dave Mindeman

The Nunes memo (a term that will be infamous) was released under objections of the law enforcement community. Just a brief skim of this memo has all sorts of problems. Here is what I see:

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.

Now wait a minute. This dossier did not originate with the DNC. Everybody already knows it began as opposition research from a Republican group (The Washington Free Beacon). The DNC took over the financing later. And let’s be clear – Steele was a long time source for many entities (an information mercenary if you will); and the FBI dealings with him in the past had led them to give his investigations an air of credibility that the FBI seldom hands out.

Nunes keeps repeating this DNC claim over and over again – all the while realizing that it is only partially true. In addition, before the DNC actually saw the completed dossier, Christopher Steele thought the information to be such a threat that he gave it directly to the FBI earlier.

Another quote:

The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named US. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a US. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOI 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.

Nunes lists the Clinton campaign as if they were integral in how this dossier was brought forth. Here are some pertinent facts:

Officials from the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. have said they were unaware that Perkins Coie facilitated the research on their behalf, even though the law firm was using their money to pay for it. Even Mrs. Clinton found about Mr. Steele’s research only after BuzzFeed published the dossier, according to two associates who discussed the matter with her. They said that she was disappointed that the research — as well as the fact that the F.B.I. was looking into connections between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia — was not made public before Election Day.

Clinton, personally, was unaware of all this until the Buzzfeed article. And it looks like she was unaware, even then, that the DNC lawfirm was involved in financing it. One has to think that if she had full access to that kind of information, she would have found a way to make it public.

But let’s go to the FISA request itself….

On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a ISA probable cause order(up; 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.

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. a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the ISC 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 the DOJ.

Those are all proper procedures…and all done by the letter of the law. The kicker that is left out is that Carter Page was not surveiled out of the blue because of dossier insinuations. Carter was investigated by the FBI as far back as 2013 for Russian contacts and that previous investigation was part of the request to the FISA court.

Unfortunately, Nunes chose to leave that very important detail out of the memo – which lends credence to the Democratic claim that Nunes cherrypicked information.

It is no wonder that the FBI has voiced serious objections.

This is a partisan whitewash.

(Note: The Trump campaign distanced themselves from Page intimating that he was just a low level occasional volunteer – even after Trump names him in a news interview as one of his main foreign policy advisers.)

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