The Nunes memo
Publication of the now-famous Nunes memo (full text here) has produced the kind of reaction which, if people were previously inclined to be sceptical about either its reliability or importance, is likely to have made them believe it is both well-founded and of exceptional importance.
For the reaction by FBI folk, Democrats and the Trumpophobic media has been desperately twisted and incoherent to a quite jaw-dropping degree. These anti-Nunesians have maintained, with a straight face, that the memo reveals such sensitive secrets it has endangered American security and that it is of no consequence. They claim it is full of distortions or omissions but are unable to provide specific evidence.
Bottom line seems to me to be that the FBI and DoJ misled the FISA court by failing to provide it with information that seriously called into question the reliability of the evidence put to it to support the request for a surveillance warrant to spy on the Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. That would seem to be, to put it mildly, a serious abuse of legal process which totally undermined the protection afforded to the public against abuse of the FISA surveillance powers designed to guard against terrorist offences.
Several claims in the memo are utterly astounding. Most of the information provided to the FISA court to support the request for a surveillance warrant came from opposition research conducted on behalf of the Democratic party trying to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. That’s very bad. The FISA court wasn’t told any of this. That’s terrible. The information was only “minimally corroborated”. That’s shocking.
Worse still, the FISA court wasn’t told that the former MI6 spy who produced this information, Christopher Steele, had been fired by the FBI for leaking to the media. Even worse still, nor was it told that the purported corroborating evidence published by Yahoo News also came from Steele – so the FBI/DoJ was using Steele to corroborate Steele.
Yet more appalling still was this:
“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.
“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.”
We don’t know anything like the full picture on all this and so must be cautious. It may be that further information will emerge which will radically change the story that’s now unfolding. But as things stand, it looks very much as if, under the Obama administration, certain senior figures in the FBI and DoJ corrupted the administration of law enforcement and subverted the US constitution.
This is deeply shocking, and Congress must now continue to place more information in the public domain so that we can all finally assess just what took place here and just how deep this most fetid swamp has become.