The next bombshell report to drop from the Justice Department likely will earn none of the breathless fanfare and media coverage that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report received, but it could be far more incriminating.
In the next several weeks, Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to issue his summation of the potential abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by top officials in the Obama Administration and holdovers in the early Trump Administration who were overseeing the investigation of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
And the perpetrators of the so-called FISAgate scandal now are scrambling for cover as the bad news looms.
Horowitz announced last March that his office would examine the Justice Department’s conduct “in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person.” That U.S. person is Trump campaign associate Carter Page. In October 2016, just two weeks before the presidential election, the Justice Department submitted an application to the FISC seeking authorization to wiretap Page. The court filing accused Page, a Naval Academy graduate and unpaid campaign advisor, of being an agent of Russia.
The application cited the infamous Steele dossier—unsubstantiated political propaganda that had been funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee—as its primary source of evidence. But the specific political origin of the dossier intentionally was omitted in the court filing. (Robert Mueller similarly tap danced around the role of Fusion GPS, the political consulting firm that hired Christopher Steele to create the dossier. Mueller never mentioned the name “Fusion GPS” in the 448-page document, referring to it only vaguely as “the firm that produced the Steele reporting.”)
Former FBI Director James Comey and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates signed the original FISA application. It was renewed three times; subsequent signers included former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. If there’s one document that represents the malevolence, chicanery and arrogance of the original Trump-Russia collusion fraudsters, it’s the Page FISA application.
But—to borrow a favorite term of the collusion truthers—the “walls are closing in” on the FISA abusers.
Representative Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and James Jordan (R-Ohio) recently met with Horowitz and offered some ominous news for Comey and company: “We anticipate the IG’s report will come out . . . in the next four to six weeks and I think it’s highly likely that we’ll see criminal referrals coming from them,” Meadows told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on April 14.
President Trump also speculated that the inspector general’s report would contain damning allegations against former top officials for the world’s most powerful law enforcement agency.
“I think he [Horowitz] knows how big this is,” Trump told Sean Hannity in an interview last week. “The IG report coming out in three or four weeks, from what I hear, is going to be…a blockbuster because he has access to information that most people don’t.” If anyone misled the FISA court, including Comey and Yates, Trump suggested that “they’ll all be in a pile of trouble.”
Since last fall, Trump has threatened to declassify the entire application, much of which is still concealed behind redactions, but that has presumably been delayed to protect the integrity of the investigation. Once the inspector general’s report comes out, however, Trump would be free to unredact crucial portions of the application.
So the targets of the inspector general’s probe and their media pals now are spinning hard in preparation of the report’s release.
Natasha Bertrand, a reliable mouthpiece for Fusion GPS, is smearing Horowitz and raising questions about his investigation. “Former U.S. officials interviewed by the inspector general were skeptical about the quality of his probe,” she wrote in an April 17 piece for Politico. “The inspector general seemed neither well-versed in the FISA process nor receptive to the explanations, the officials said.”
Comey unconvincingly is rejecting accusations by Attorney General William Barr and others that there was “spying” on the Trump campaign. “When I hear that kind of language used, it’s concerning,” serial uptalker Comey said in an April 11 interview. “The FBI and the Department of Justice conduct court-ordered electronic surveillance. I have never thought of that as spying. I don’t know of any court-ordered electronic surveillance aimed at the Trump campaign (emphasis added).”
Yates appeared on Sunday for a softball interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press” host Andrea Mitchell. Without any sense of irony, Mitchell introduced Yates as “someone who seems to show up at key moments in the Trump presidency,” including her central role in the set-up, laughable Logan Act inquiry, and subsequent firing of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. (Yates served as acting attorney general for 10 days before Trump fired her for insubordination.)
Yates, much like Comey, has a flair for the dramatic, often using hushed tones, theatrical facial expressions, and overwrought rhetoric to make her point: “When the Russians came knocking at their door, you would think a man who likes to make a show of hugging the flag would have done the patriotic thing and would have notified law enforcement.” (Hard eye roll.)
Yates referred to Trump campaign objections about Russian collusion as “a lie” and (falsely) lamented that “now we have devolved to ‘there’s nothing wrong with taking help,’ illegal help, from a foreign adversary. Surely that’s not where we’ve come to.”
But Yates’ own words might come back to haunt her, and soon.
An April 19 article in the New York Times, which now is backpedaling on the legimitacy of the Steele dossier in advance of the Horowitz report, speculated that the dossier was part of a Russian propaganda campaign targeting the Trump team.
“There has been much chatter among intelligence experts that Steele’s Russian informants could have been pressured to feed him disinformation,” the Times reported. Further, at the time Steele was working for Fusion GPS on Russian-sourced dirt against Trump, he also was lobbying on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin.
So if Yates signed a court document that heavily relied on shady sources and a lobbyist (Steele) for a Putin-connected billionaire, who would be guilty of relying on help from a foreign adversary for political purposes? Not Donald Trump.
The imperious Yates and her accomplices might have a chance to answer that question—and others—in front of Congress in the very near future.
In response to her “Meet the Press” interview, Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) tweeted that Yates’ actions “will certainly be part of forthcoming Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearings on FBI/DOJ during Obama years in which she served as Deputy AG under Loretta Lynch.”
The Horowitz report could do what the Mueller report could not: Find legitimate evidence of conspiracies between political operatives, Russian interests, and top government officials; uncover attempts to obstruct justice as the various investigations into misconduct proceeded; and expose rank corruption at the highest levels of a presidential administration.
It just won’t be the presidential administration that Mueller and his colleagues were targeting.
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Photo Credit: Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The New Yorker
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