Opinion | Morgan Liddick: GOP memo revealing of Democrats darker motives
Now we know why the Democrats and the FBI were terrified of the memorandum from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee outlining the process by which anti-Trump bureaucrats at the Department of Justice and the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to spy on a low-level member of an American presidential candidate’s — later, a president-elect’s — team. The memo traces actions by senior DOJ and FBI officials to use information they knew was questionable; to “enhance” the appeal of this information with KGB-style media tricks; to knowingly misrepresent rumor and innuendo to a federal judge to obtain a surveillance warrant not one, but four times; and to attempt to conceal all this from the American people and their elected representatives. To lend irony, not only was information crucial to obtaining the warrant unverified by the presenting authorities, it was produced largely by Russian sources and paid for by the President-elect’s opponent. “Collusion,” anyone?
It’s important to note that the memo is not about the institution of the FBI, staffed by thousands of bright, dedicated, patriotic public servants. It is instead about a small cabal of politicized high-level bureaucrats who thought themselves above the law. To the extent distrust of the FBI has been fomented it is due to their improprieties, not to a memo exposing them.
Neither is this about direct surveillance of Donald Trump, nor about Special Counsel Robert Mueller. It’s about surveillance of an American citizen who was briefly a volunteer for Trump’s election team. But if this memo comes anywhere near the truth, senior U.S. government officials misused a very powerful law enforcement tool to spy on Americans surrounding a president elect. That is not only illegal, it is shameful. It cannot be excused or explained away. It cannot be ameliorated. And their improprieties should freeze the heart of anyone who reads it.
The Nunes memo strongly suggests that these bureaucrats did what they did not for reasons of national security, nor to detect lawbreaking, but out of personal animus and political motives. As evidence, it offers statements made to and by principle parties such as Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Ohr, FBI agent Peter Strzok, FBI Attorney Lisa Page, Christopher Steele and others; a financial trail linking the Steele dossier to “Fusion GPS,” the firm that produced opposition research on Donald Trump for the Democratic National Committee; and employment records placing Ohr’s wife at Fusion GPS. No evidence to dispute any of this has been presented.
One salient point reads: “[FBI] Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe testified before the committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information,” meaning by “information” opposition research manufactured by a former British spy paid by the Democrat party through a cutout law firm. It was information former FBI director James Comey told President Trump was “salacious and mostly uncorroborated” — although six weeks earlier he had used it to renew the Carter Page FISA surveillance warrant. Evidently, “uncorroborated” is mutable in Comey world. Bill Priestap, FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, confirmed separately that corroboration of the “dossier” had barely begun when it was used in the first FISA warrant application.
The McCabe quote has been attacked as untrue by Democrats and some media outlets who cite unnamed “sources.” Other congressmen present at the December hearing say it is true, and the dispute is an attempt to muddy the water. This is a useless argument: there are transcripts and recordings, so we will soon know who is lying to the American people. Because someone is.
In judging the truth of the memo, one should keep in mind that the FBI, who complained about its release, offered no “material facts” in refutation and appeared angriest that specific officials were named. And while some politicians have called the entire document wrong, others have defended it. In the present climate, only one action will serve: release everything.
Release the original FISA application for surveillance of Carter Page, which was declined, and the subsequent successful application, that the people may see for themselves how important the Steele dossier was. Release all the underlying documents on which these applications, and subsequent renewals, were based. Redact only identifiable information about sources, nothing more. We are talking about secret warrants issued by a secret court for secret surveillance of American citizens; it’s long past time that those American citizens got a peek behind the curtain, that they may be reassured the process is honest and square, 24/7. And if it’s not, that those involved in rigging the game will be sent packing.
I suggest an all-expenses-paid vacation in Leavenworth, Kansas. A long one, “pour encourager les autres.”
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily.
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