On one of the Fox talking-head programs Thursday night, it was reported – I don’t remember by whom (it was a beat reporter, not a pundit) – that the House Intelligence Committee memo released today represents about 15% of what there is to be aware that the House has uncovered.
Some significant portion of the facts asserted in the memo was already leaked before the memo came out. Its impact has thus, to some extent, been defused.
But the important things in the memo had not previously been disclosed. And they were the answers to the real questions.
The real questions are:
1. Did the FBI, in seeking a FISA warrant on Carter Page, rely on the opposition research dossier compiled by Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS as a paid service for the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign?
2. Did the FBI independently corroborate the essential information in that dossier before using it as the basis for a FISA warrant? (I.e., the information essential to justifying the warrant.)
3. Did the FBI, in applying for a warrant on Carter Page, inform the FISA Court (the FISC) that the dossier was the product of opposition research done for payment from the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign?
Now we know the answers to those questions. The short answers, in order, are yes, no, and no.
These are also relatively simple yes/no questions. Nothing the House Democrats put in a competing memo is likely to alter our understanding of what the answers are.
Why do I say we both know enough, and yet need to know more? Because the “enough” we know lies in the answers to those three questions. If the answers are what they are in the memo – yes, no, and no – that means the warrant was a corrupt instrument, and the entire operation was pursued illegally.
The crux of the matter is that the FBI (and the DOJ, which had to sign off on the FISA application) didn’t tell the court that the dossier was political opposition research.
Nothing else matters. It was oppo research, and the judge wasn’t told that.
Regardless of anything else that is ever found out, the warrant itself is fatally tainted. It was obtained on false pretenses: in this case, a sin of omission. The judge wasn’t given information that he or she needed to have, to render a valid judgment.
Beyond that, we need to know more, because this was apparently a big, ongoing enterprise of dubious practices. Why wasn’t the judge informed that the dossier was oppo research?
Three extensions of the FISA warrant were applied for, and the court was never told in any of them that the dossier was oppo research. Why?
Beyond that narrow point: three 90-day extensions were applied for, which would have had the FISA warrant running through October 2017 – nearly a year after the November 2016 election. Why?
The allegations in the dossier remained the basis for justifying the FISA warrant through its entire 360-day life – even though Christopher Steele was terminated for cause as an FBI source sometime after 30 October 2016. The memo summarizes it thus:
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.
As the memo notes, Steele had actually had prior contact with the media (i.e., Yahoo News in September 2016), and had lied to the FBI about whether he had such media contacts.
Yet the dossier he was the official source of was an essential basis for the three FISA extensions applied for, after the FBI knew Steele had lied about his media contacts, and had itself terminated him as a source.
There are numerous questions that arise around the appearance of an ongoing enterprise, boosted by the House’s confirmation of other information we’ve had for weeks now, such as Bruce Ohr’s central role in the contacts with Steele, Ohr’s wife’s employment with Fusion GPS to assist in oppo research on Trump, and the conflicts of interest of Peter Strzok.
One of the most obvious general questions is how, if this was not a DOJ-wide operation to subvert the FISA process, the people forwarding an improperly compiled FISA application – four times over the course of a year, on the highest-profile case it’s possible to have – were not being supervised better.
There can be no plausible, exculpatory explanation for that. Don’t get distracted by all the commentary we’re going to hear about the “salacious and unverified” nature of the dossier – words James Comey used to describe it, and words that are accurate, to be sure. But they’re not the real point.
Nor is it the real point that the Democrats’ memo hasn’t been released yet. The House Democrats are still reviewing it (the Republicans have never “blocked” it, and have no intention to), and it will come out in due time, if the Democrats want it to. It can’t credibly tell us that the FISA applications from the FBI did inform the FISC that the dossier was oppo research. That yes/no question is one the Republicans can’t get away with lying about, and — knowing that — wouldn’t even try to.
The real point is that the FBI didn’t tell the FISA court the dossier was paid oppo research. And it didn’t tell the FISA court that four times. That’s our starting point. Now we know enough. And now we need to know more.