A string of emails quietly requested by House Republicans for declassification by President Trump may be the smoking gun that the FBI and DOJ committed egregious abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to The Hill's John Solomon.
The email exchanges - kept from Congressional investigators for over two years, "included then-FBI Director James Comey, key FBI investigators in the Russia probe and lawyers in the DOJ’s national security division," according to the report - and took place in early to mid-October of 2016, prior to the FBI successfully securing a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The email exchanges show the FBI was aware — before it secured the now-infamous warrant — that there were intelligence community concerns about the reliability of the main evidence used to support it: the Christopher Steele dossier.
The exchanges also indicate FBI officials were aware that Steele, the former MI6 British intelligence operative then working as a confidential human source for the bureau, had contacts with news media reporters before the FISA warrant was secured. -The Hill
Two weeks after the FBI secured the FISA warrant using the Steele Dossier, Steele was fired by the FBI on November 1, 2016 for inappropriate communications with the news media.
Also withheld from both Congress and the general public until months later is the fact that Steele had been paid by Fusion GPS - an opposition research firm hired by Hillary Clinton and the DNC to dig up dirt on Donald Trump. Moreover, Steele absolutely hated Donald Trump.
And as Solomon notes; "If the FBI knew of his media contacts and the concerns about the reliability of his dossier before seeking the warrant, it would constitute a serious breach of FISA regulations and the trust that the FISA court places in the FBI."
That’s because the FBI has an obligation to certify to the court before it approves FISA warrants that its evidence is verified, and to alert the judges to any flaws in its evidence or information that suggest the target might be innocent. -The Hill
The FBI, however, went to extreme lengths to convince the FISA judge that Steele ("Source #1"), was reliable when they could not verify the unsubstantiated claims in his dossier - while also having to explain why they still trusted his information after having terminated Steele's contract over inappropriate disclosures he made to the media.
"Not withstanding Source1's reason for conducting the research into Candidate1's ties to Russia, based on Source1's previous reporting history with the FBI, whereby Source1 provided reliable information to the FBI, the FBI believes Source 1s reporting herein to be credible"
On top of that, Bill Priestap told Congress that corroboration of the dossier was in its "infancy" when FISAs were being granted. An FBI unit found dossier was only "minimally" corroborated.— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) July 22, 2018
Of course, none of this mattered to the FBI - which painted Carter Page in the most criminal light possible, as intended, in order to convince the FISA judge to grant the warrant. In order to reinforce their argument, the FBI presented various claims from the dossier as facts, such as "The FBI learned that Page met with at least two Russian officials" - when in fact that was simply another unverified claim from the dossier.
It flat out accuses Page of being a Russian spy who was recruited by the Kremlin, which sought to "undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in violation of U.S. criminal law," the application reads.
ALERT: The declassified FBI warrant application attests to secret FISA court that "THE FBI LEARNED that Page met with at least two Russian officials during the trip,"as if FBI learned this independently,when in fact it's clear it relied on Clinton-paid dossier for the information— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) July 22, 2018
FBI represented to a federal judge that investigators knew for certain that Carter Page met w/ Igor Sechin and Diveykin. Except, the FISA app acknowledges this intel came from Steele dossier. And FBI has acknowledged dossier was not verifieid. https://t.co/7ZstgwlVOh pic.twitter.com/NDYvBIhXB0— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) July 21, 2018
Another approach used to beef up the FISA application's curb appeal was circular evidence, via the inclusion of a letter from Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV) to former FBI Director James Comey, citing information Reid got from John Brennan, which was in turn from the Clinton-funded dossier.
BREAKING: FBI's FISA warrant actually cites as "evidence" to spy on Carter Page/Trump campaign "Senate Minority Leader" Harry Reid's 2016 letter to Comey citing information he got from John Brennan who got it from the Clinton dossier -- talk about circular evidence!— Paul Sperry (@paulsperry_) July 22, 2018
Meanwhile - current and former members of the US intelligence community continue to hinge their theories of Trump-Russia collusion on the Steele Dossier, despite Comey admitting that it was "salacious" and "unverified" during sworn testimony.
Most intelligence officials, such as former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, have embraced the concerns laid out in the Steele dossier of possible — but still unproven — collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Yet, 10 months after the probe started and a month after Robert Mueller was named special counsel in the Russia probe, Comey cast doubt on the the Steele dossier, calling it “unverified” and “salacious” in sworn testimony before Congress.
Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page further corroborated Comey’s concerns in recent testimony before House lawmakers, revealing that the FBI had not corroborated the collusion charges by May 2017, despite nine months of exhaustive counterintelligence investigation. -The Hill
Congressional investigators now want to question Comey about the October email string and whether it contributed to his assessment. According to Solomon, the newly requested email chain "provides the most direct evidence that the bureau, and possibly the DOJ, had reasons to doubt the Steele dossier before the FISA warrant was secured."
"If these documents are released, the American public will have clear and convincing evidence to see the FISA warrant that escalated the Russia probe just before Election Day was flawed and the judges [were] misled," one source told Solomon.
What's more, House GOP investigators now have a growing pile of evidence that some of the information inserted into a fourth and final application for the FISA - signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, was suspect - as evidence by hints by House Intelligence Committee member Devin Nunes (R-CA) on Fox News's Sean Hannity TV show November 20. Nunes said that the declassification of the requested documents will "give finality to everyone who wants to know what their government did to a political campaign."
As Solomon bluntly puts it:
The bureau, under a Democratic-controlled Justice Department, sought a warrant to spy on the duly nominated GOP candidate for president in the final weeks of the 2016 election, based on evidence that was generated under a contract paid by his political opponent.
That evidence, the Steele dossier, was not fully vetted by the bureau and was deemed unverified months after the warrant was issued.
At least one news article was used in the FISA warrant to bolster the dossier as independent corroboration when, it fact, it was traced to a news organization that had been in contact with Steele, creating a high likelihood it was circular intelligence reporting.
And the entire warrant, the FBI’s own document shows, was being rushed to approval by two agents who hated Trump and stated in their own texts that they wanted to “stop” the Republican from becoming president.
No wonder Comey wanted a public testimony - where he wouldn't have to discuss any of this.