Former senior Obama administration and Democratic officials have launched an intense and planned media campaign against House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and the release of a four-page memo outlining abuse by some senior members of the FBI and Department of Justice during the 2016 presidential election.
Leading the charge is Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is defending the Department of Justice and FBI, which spent months stonewalling the committee’s request for the documents to conduct its oversight duties.
However, the partisan attacks have not stopped the Republicans from moving forward with the search for information they say is necessary for oversight and accountability to the American people. The Nunes memo contends that the salacious and unverified dossier, which was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton campaign, was used to obtain a FISA warrant on a former campaign advisor to President Trump.
Republicans contend that fearmongering by Democrats and former Obama administration officials prior to the memo’s release was their attempt to shut down the committee’s investigation into what really occurred during the 2016 election.
Nunes, R-CA, responded to the attacks by Democrats and others by saying, “It’s actually quite enjoyable. You know you’re over the target when you’re being attacked.”
And they did mount attacks. In angry droves, the memo’s opponents warned that its release could lead to a “constitutional crisis.” It did not.
They accused Nunes of waging a war against the FBI in an effort to discredit Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel investigation. But Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, explained that the memo is focused on the FISA process only and not the Mueller investigation which, is an all-together different process.
Democrats say they want to release their own memo, a 10- page memo to dispute the four-page memo and are insistent that they will reveal disputable facts. They accuse the Republicans of not allowing them to do so. However, the process has already started for the minority memo to go through the same vetting that elongated the release of the Republican memo. That will take a little time but they will have their day, they are not being blocked.
Democrats argue that the Nunes memo is filled with incomplete truths and that their memo will show that former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s closed-door testimony did not stipulate that the dossier was essential in obtaining the warrant to spy on members of the Trump team. But many Republicans say it was extremely clear to both them what McCabe was being asked and what he answered.
A former U.S. intelligence official and whistleblower, who spoke to this reporter said “first, it’s fear tactics ‘our national security is at risk’ they say. When that no longer works they attempt to discredit the memo and Nunes, instead of doing their due-diligence and ensuring that the IC (Intelligence Community) assets are not weaponized during an election.”
The GOP memo outlines the findings of the committee and states it is concerned “with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.”
Let’s take a look at the Democrat and senior Obama administration arguments.
Schiff, ranking minority member of the committee, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week, “the chairman never bothered to go read these underlying materials. After months and months of making this argument that the FBI and DOJ are involved in some sort of conspiracy, he didn’t even bother to read the materials himself.”
According to congressional sources familiar with the process, Nunes could not read the documents and applications associated with the memo. Under the DOJ agreement to review the FISA documents, the House Intelligence Committee was only allowed to select one lawmaker from the majority and minority, along with a select staff, to review the FISA application. The FISA application was on Carter Page, who worked for a short period of time as a volunteer for President Trump’s then campaign.
The committee selected Gowdy to view the documents associated with the FISA application based on his legal background and understanding of FISA warrants.
In a January 24 letter, from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd demanding that the committee not make the memo public as they had not reviewed it, Boyd states “the terms of access stipulated that the review of the documents would be limited to the Chairman or his designee, the Ranking member or his designee, and two staff members each (Mr. Gowdy reviewed the documents for the majority. Mr. Schiff reviewed the documents for the minority.)”
Therefore, Schiff was the only member, other than Gowdy, to review all the documents. The question then is, why if he knew this did he slam Nunes publicly for not reviewing the documents?
Schiff could not be reached for immediate comment.
Over the weekend former CIA Director John Brennan, called out Nunes on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” calling him “partisan” and “reckless.”
“We don’t have access to the underlying information of the Nunes memo, which clearly indicates that he was being exceptionally partisan in this,” Brennan said.
Perhaps Brennan should be worried. It was Brennan who faced extreme scrutiny under questioning by the House Intelligence Committee for his apparent partisan role in unmasking American names during his tenure, even though the CIA’s own charter prohibits it from spying on U.S. citizens.
In March 2017, under questioning from Gowdy, Brennan admitted under oath he requested the unmasking of U.S. Citizen’s names. He also stated that he did not unmask anyone on his last day at work, January 20.
And when he was asked if any ambassadors requested names to be unmasked Brennan said that may have “rang a vague bell,” but that he “could not answer with any confidence.” Gowdy was referencing what was later revealed to be the nearly 300 unmasking requests made by former Obama U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power. Power later told Gowdy she did not make all those requests attributed to her name.
“[There is] a right of all Americans to privacy, and that sometimes information is collected about U.S. persons who may or may not be involved in any matter of criminal activity. And therefore, respecting that privacy of U.S. citizens, the intelligence community goes to great lengths to cover the identity of U.S. persons if they may be uncovered, but happen to be included in U.S. intelligence collection,” Brennan said.
But this reporter discovered last year through once secret government documents, that there was growing evidence the CIA under Brennan become one of the largest consumers of unmasked intelligence about Americans.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder also sent out a panic tweet prior to the Nunes FISA memo being made public. Holder tweeted, “People must understand what is at stake by release of the bogus, contrived Nunes memo. It uses normally protected material and puts at risk our intell capabilities in order to derail a legitimate criminal investigation. This is unheard of- it is dangerous and it is irresponsible.”
It was a talking point that almost all Democrats, former Obama administration officials, the FBI and DOJ used prior to the memo’s release.
But the memo, neither revealed sources or methods, nor put the national securityof the FISA process at risk.
It was Holder, however, who was the first sitting Cabinet member held in contempt of Congress in 2012 for obstructing congressional oversight and failing to provide key information pertaining to Operation Fast and Furious. The operation was a failed gun-running sting that flooded Mexico with weapons by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a division of the Justice Department led by Holder.
Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by President Trump and who leaked his classified memos to a friend to be distributed to the press, also tweeted, “dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what?”
Despite Comey’s outrage over the Nunes memo, it is Comey who still has to answer very serious questions about his own testimony. In September 2016 he told the House Judiciary Committee that he had not made a decision about whether to charge or not charge Clinton before her July 2 interview with the FBI.
“If colleagues of ours believe I am lying about when I made this decision, please urge them to contact me privately so we can have a conversation about this. All I can do is tell you again, the decision was made after that because I didn’t know what was going to happen in that interview,” Comey said.
But now we know otherwise.
And what’s most surprising, is that it is these former Obama administration officials and ranking Democrats that have been the loudest voices fighting against oversight and transparency for the American people.