Fusion GPS

The Justice Department’s inspector general has been scrutinizing the FBI’s use of information from the Steele dossier to conduct surveillance on President Donald Trump and his associates from his 2016 presidential campaign and will release his report as soon as next month, Politico reports.

IG Michael Horowitz has been examining the FBI for close to a year and is investigating whether the agency possibly abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in October 2016 when it pulled a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page based in part on information from Christopher Steele, a British ex-spy who claimed he was told by sources that Page and other Trump associates were working with Russians to help Trump win the election and boost Trump’s businesses.

The IG is reportedly focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the FBI, and the report “is going to try and deeply undermine Steele,” according to a source who spoke with Politico.

FISA allows U.S. agencies to secretly intercept a target’s communications with court approval.

Horowitz is also looking into whether FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who exchanged anti-Trump text messages while working on the Russia investigation, were guided by politics in their official actions.

Trump has long slammed the dossier as “phony” and a “con job.”

The dossier was published by BuzzFeed in January 2017, after the election.

Steele was being paid for his research by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm that was funded in part by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

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Footwear aplenty will fall as more details from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report are disclosed. The reckoning will come in several baskets and will fall on Democrats and Republicans alike, with major ramifications for 2020.

Basket No. 1: More information about the Mueller Report and the basis for its conclusions.

The public wants that information and deserves it. Democrats will cry “coverup” if they don’t get everything. While Republicans emphasize “no collusion,” Democrats will concentrate their attention on Mueller’s indecision regarding President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice. Democrats will press Attorney General William Barr about the special counsel’s ambiguous conclusion—and Barr’s own definitive one–about the obstruction issue. Other Trump critics, who heretofore have described Bob Mueller as a modern-day Eliot Ness, will start crying, “Whitewash!”

There are four potential obstacles to releasing the entire report and underlying evidence. Some of it may be classified, some protected by grand jury secrecy, and some may reflect badly on people Mueller declined to charge. The president could also claim executive privilege, but probably won’t because doing so is perilous politically.

Perilous, too, is the Democrats’ insistent demand for transparency. The investigation was thorough – and lasted more than the first half of Trump’s four-year term. More evidence might only reinforce Trump’s claim he’s entirely innocent. He’ll pound that home.

Basket No. 2: Will House Democrats push ahead with other investigations of Trump?

The short answer is: Yes. The big decision is how long they will keep it up. The liberal donor base loves it, but most voters do not. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows that and wants to protect her majority, which depends on swing districts. But she can’t control the party’s vocal left wing or its independent committee chairs, particularly Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff.

Basket No. 3: Expect serious backlash as voters ask, “Who led us down this rabbit hole?”

Average voters—not on the extremes in either party—are bound to ask that question. The Democrats and their media allies have made “Russia Collusion” their top story line for two years. If they persist on that course instead of focusing on health care, income inequality, and foreign enemies, they look like Inspector Javert, or, worse, Inspector Clouseau.

The mainstream media are already badly damaged. They followed the same path and, in the process, obliterated the once-sacred line between reporting and opinion.

Basket No. 4: Did the FBI, Department of Justice, and intelligence agencies commit their own wrongdoing?

This final basket overflows with shoes that could drop. The cascade may well begin with three upcoming reports from DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz likely to result in grand jury investigations. So will the documents that Trump could declassify and release. (He’s been waiting for the Mueller investigation to end.) To restore faith in the rule of law, prosecutions cannot be seen as political retaliation. Accountability for law enforcement and intelligence agencies should be pursued by apolitical career prosecutors and made as transparent as possible.

The slap-dash investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email shenanigans must be thoroughly reviewed. Her aides received unprecedented immunity without giving evidence; their computers and cellphones were destroyed; and the principal herself was cleared before an interview with her was conducted. Who really made the decision not to prosecute? James Comey says he did. But FBI lawyer Lisa Page testified under oath that the order came from the Department of Justice. This discrepancy must be resolved, along with the obvious questions raised by the original decision.  How high up did it go? Did it reach the Obama White House?

Who unmasked the countless U.S. citizens whose names came up during foreign surveillance operations? Who illegally leaked them? Expect to learn about FBI and intelligence agencies’ efforts to penetrate the Trump campaign. Who was behind it? On what evidence did they base it?

We also need to know a lot more about the warrant to spy on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. He is a U.S. citizen, entitled to those protections, and had cooperated freely with our intelligence community. But the FBI decided on secret surveillance. It came up empty.

Was the surveillance warrant against Page obtained on false pretenses? This would be the case if the foreign intelligence court (FISA) was given inaccurate, incomplete, and unverified information. That is almost certainly what happened, and the evidence needs to be fleshed out. How important was the “Russian dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele at the direction of Glenn Simpson and Fusion GPS? Why wasn’t its funding by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee disclosed to the courts? Why didn’t the warrant-seekers disclose Steele’s bias, which was known to the FBI? Why did top law-enforcement officials certify the dossier as verified when it was not? To compound this mess, why wasn’t the court given exculpatory evidence, as required?

While the court was being told one thing, Donald Trump was being told another. Comey specifically told Trump the dossier was not verified. That’s not in dispute. Nor is the leak that immediately followed the briefing. Until then, media outlets had declined to mention the dossier because it looked so unreliable. A presidential briefing made it newsworthy. The story was bound to damage Trump, which was apparently the reason for the briefing. This matters not only because the leak was illegal but because it appears to have been part of a coordinated effort by law-enforcement agencies to undermine a presidential candidate and duly-elected president. We need to know what happened—all of it—and then hold people accountable. If laws need to be changed to prevent its repetition, pass them.

After all this time, the FBI still refuses to say what started the Trump investigations. It won’t say if agents tried to entrap people associated with the campaign. It won’t say why it did not warn Trump that Russians might be trying to penetrate his campaign. Contrast that with the kid-glove treatment of Dianne Feinstein, ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, when her driver was found to be a Chinese spy. She was privately informed and the staffer quietly removed.

Those are major, unanswered questions. They are central to the rule of law, and there are far too many of them. The answers are likely to pose serious problems for top officials in President Obama’s DoJ, FBI, and intelligence agencies.

A boatload of shoes is about to drop.

Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he is founding director of PIPES, the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security. He can be reached at [email protected].

Source: Real Clear Politics

A leading Senate Republican said on Monday he would ask Attorney General William Barr to appoint a special counsel to probe whether U.S. law enforcement officials made missteps in their investigation into possible collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia.

A day after the attorney general said the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller found Trump's campaign did not conspire with Russia, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said: "We will begin to unpack the other side of the story."

He said it was time to look at the origins of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant for former Trump adviser Carter Page, which was based in part on information in a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who co-founded a private intelligence firm.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Graham's request.

Graham said he would look into those matters as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, using subpoena power if necessary, whether or not a special counsel is appointed.

Republican lawmakers have contended the FBI made serious missteps when it sought the warrant to monitor Page in October 2016 shortly after he left the Trump campaign.

Page, a foreign policy adviser during Trump's campaign, drew scrutiny from the FBI, which said in legal filings in 2016 that it believed he had been "collaborating and conspiring" with the Kremlin. Page met with several Russian government officials during a trip to Moscow in July 2016. He was not charged.

Steele was initially contracted by Fusion GPS, a Washington-based political research firm, to investigate Trump on behalf of unidentified Republicans who wanted to stop Trump's bid for the party's nomination. Fusion was then hired by lawyers connected to 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary's Clinton's campaign.

Graham told reporters he planned to ask Barr when they talk on Monday to appoint a special counsel to investigate the FISA matter, which is already being probed by the Justice Department's internal watchdog, Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

Graham said later that Barr agreed to appear before the Judiciary Committee after he vets Mueller's report, according to media reports.

On Sunday, Barr said Mueller's team had not found evidence of criminal conspiracy between Trump's campaign and Russia in the 2016 election and had left unresolved the issue of whether Trump obstructed justice.

It is not the first time Republicans have called for a special counsel to look into the matters. Last year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions tapped U.S. Attorney John Huber to review a range of Republican grievances, including concerns about the FISA warrant. That review is pending.

Source: NewsMax Politics

Long a critic of Democratic investigations and special counsel Robert Mueller, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., does not care about the impending report, "just burn it up," he said.

"I don't really care what the Mueller report says, because the Mueller special counsel should have never been appointed," Nunes told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" on Sunday. "And I say that and we can take any part of this investigation and we can show you how fraudulent it is."

Nunes, the former chairman of the House Intelligencer Committee when Republicans were in leadership, rejected the search for 2016 election meddling collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump's campaign as "all a lie and a myth."

"You know, we can just burn it up," he said. "I mean, it is a partisan document, so there is going to be a lot of calls for that."

Nunes also ripped Democrats for obstruction in the House investigations into the political witch hunt of the Republican president on the basis of Democratic partisanship in Obama Justice Department.

"What we really need to see is what was the FBI's involvement with Fusion GPS," Nunes said. "I don't want to gloss over this for the viewers but Fusion GPS was essentially the Hillary Clinton campaign. They were hired by the Clinton campaign, so we need to see all of that and need the FISA fully disclosed.

"We need everyone that Mueller talked to, including his interactions with Jerome Corsi who you just had on the show."

Nunes' point with Corsi was investigators were leveraging a member of the media who was supportive of the president, and had no actual campaign ties. Regardless of whether he had spoken with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, it was not a crime.

Stifling the opposing political party supporters is not rooting out collusion, but violating free speech, Nunes said.

Source: NewsMax Politics


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