After hinting for months that the FBI was not forthcoming with federal surveillance court judges when they made their case to spy on the Trump campaign, Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe (R) said on Sunday that the agency is holding evidence which "directly refutes" its premise for launching the probe, reports the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross.
Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe provided Sunday the clearest picture to date of what the FBI allegedly withheld from the surveillance court.
Ratcliffe suggested that the FBI failed to include evidence regarding former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, in an interview with Fox News.
Ratcliffe noted that the FBI opened its investigation on July 31, 2016, after receiving information from the Australian government about a conversation that Papadopoulos had on May 10, 2016, with Alexander Downer, the top Australian diplomat to the U.K. -Daily Caller
While Australia's Alexander Downer claimed that Papadopoulos revealed Russia had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, Ratcliffe - who sits on the House Judiciary Committee - suggested on Sunday that the FBI and DOJ possess information which directly contradicts that account.
"Hypothetically, if the Department of Justice and the FBI have another piece of evidence that directly refutes that, that directly contradicts that, what you would expect is for the Department of Justice to present both sides of the coin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to evaluate the weight and sufficiency of that evidence," Ratcliffe said, adding: "Instead, what happened here was Department of Justice and FBI officials in the Obama administration in October of 2016 only presented to the court the evidence that made the government’s case to get a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate."
The FBI referred to Papadopoulos in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant application - however what has been released to the public is so heavily redacted that it's unclear why he is mentioned.
As The Hill's John Solomon notes, based on Congressional testimony by former FBI General Counsel James Baker - the DOJ / FBI redactions aren't hiding national security issues - only embarrassment.
Other GOP lawmakers have suggested that evidence exists which would exonerate Papadopoulos - who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Maltese professor (and self-professed member of the Clinton Foundation), Joseph Mifsud.
Ratcliffe suggested that declassifying DOJ / FBI documents related to the matter "would corroborate" his claims about Papadopoulos.
Republicans have pressed President Trump to declassify the documents, which include 21 pages from a June 2016 FISA application against Page. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has said that the FBI failed to provide “exculpatory evidence” in the FISA applications. He has also said that Americans will be “shocked” by the information behind the FISA redactions. -Daily Caller
President Trump issued an order to declassify the documents on September 17, but then walked it back - announcing that the DOJ would be allowed to review the documents first after two foreign allies asked him to keep them classified.
"My opinion is that declassifying them would not expose any national security information, would not expose any sources and methods," said Ratcliffe. "It would expose certain folks at the Obama Justice Department and FBI and their actions taken to conceal material faces from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."