After more than eight months of waiting - a period that saw the official closure of the committee's probe into Russian electoral interference - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has finally managed to pry the (mostly unredacted) electronic communication, shared with the FBI by one of America's "intelligence partners", from the grip of the DOJ.
Nunes subpoeanad the DOJ for all documents used to justify the initial FISA warrant against Trump advisor Carter Page and other threads of the initial Russia collusion probe, which was supposedly launched during the summer of 2016 shortly after Trump secured the GOP nomination. That probe has since morphed into the investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to the Hill.
While it's widely known that the Steele dossier was one of these documents, the FBI has long contended that there was another factor - evidence that George Papadopoulos boasted about knowing of a Russian plot to release stolen Hillary campaign emails before it was carried out. Papadopoulos was later indicted and is now cooperating with the Mueller.
The document in question is a two-page "electronic communication" that was supplied to the FISA court. But here's the catch: The Hill provides no details about the document or what it represents.
Nunes and members of his committee were supplied with a heavily redacted version of the document last year, but Nunes complained that it was virtually indecipherable. The only redactions in the draft distributed to members of the committee were "narrowly tailored" to "protect national security interests" so as not to "undermine the trust" between the US and this foreign nation.
According to a Justice Department official, the remaining redactions in the document are "narrowly tailored to protect the name of a foreign country and the name of a foreign agent." Specifics have been replaced with identifiers like "foreign official" and "foreign government," the official said.
"These words must remain redacted after determining that revealing the words could harm the national security of the American people by undermining the trust we have with this foreign nation," the official continued, adding that they appear "only a limited number of times, and do no obstruct the underlying meaning of the document."
A handful of conservatives are investigating what they say is evidence that the department's decision-making during the 2016 election was riddled with bias—allegations that Democrats see as a transparent effort to muddy the waters around Mueller, or provide a pretext to shut him down.
This, ladies and gentlemen, can't be attributed to anything other than lazy reporting. Because anybody who has been paying close attention to the information slowly being made public through leaks and previously through the Intel committee would know that the country in question is obviously Australia, and the person in question is Australia's ambassador to the UK, Alexander Downer. As the New York Times reported several months ago:
WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role.
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.
With its investigation over, it's unclear what Nunes intends to do with this information. And whatever it says, we look forward to the contents of this highly sensitive memo - a memo so sensitive that leaving it unredacted could have threatened a key diplomatic relationship - being slowly parceled out to the press.