Politics

FBI Blew ‘Really Good Opportunity’ for FISA Warrant Transparency, Gowdy Says

'We'll never know whether' the bureau 'had enough' info 'without the dossier' to surveil Carter Page

Americans will “never know” whether the FBI gleaned enough information to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page without using the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) lamented on “Fox News Sunday.”

“We’ll never know whether or not the FBI had enough without the dossier — the unvetted dossier — because they included it, and everyone who reads this [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] application sees the amount of reliance they placed on this product funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the DNC,” Gowdy said.

Gowdy’s comment came following the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) release late Saturday of 412 pages of heavily redacted material used for the FBI’s 2016 FISA warrant application for permission to spy on Page, who was briefly a low-level foreign policy adviser during President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. The documents included pages from the original application and three requests to renewal the spying permission.

The retiring Gowdy, who is also a member of the House Committee on the Judiciary and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, received the mostly unredacted documents months ago. The lawmaker rebuked the FBI for missing “a really good opportunity” to promote transparency by not disclosing that the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was funded by the DNC and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“The other thing I hope my fellow citizens will take note of is the FBI missed a really good opportunity to tell the judge exactly who paid for that,” Gowdy said, pointing to a footnote in the warrant application. “If you look at the footnote, it takes a lot more effort to define it the way they did, where you have no idea who funded it, than just to come right out and say the DNC hired Perkins Coie, who hired Fusion GPS. who hired Christopher Steele.”

“There, done. That’s an easy footnote, everybody can follow it,” Gowdy continued. “But for whatever reason, the FBI decided not to represent that to the court.”

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Gowdy emphasized that he has “an issue when you rely on political opposition research that is unvetted and you represent that to a court and use it to spy on an American.”

When Fox News host Bret Baier, who substituted for Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” asked Gowdy if he was “equally adamant” that Trump did not collude with Russia to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election in his favor, the lawmaker replied, “I have not seen one scintilla of evidence that this president colluded, conspired, confederated with Russia.”

“And neither has anyone else, or you may rest assured [Rep.] Adam Schiff [D-Calif.] would have leaked it,” Gowdy said. “So that’s why they’ve moved off of collusion onto obstruction of justice, which is now their current preoccupation.”

Democratic lawmakers like Schiff, the ranking minority member on the House Intelligence Committee, have homed in on investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Schiff insisted Sunday during an interview on ABC News’ “This Week” that the documents released Saturday do not prove that the FBI misled the FISA court during the application process.

“I know those applications set out in some detail, a lot of which unfortunately is redacted, just why the FBI was so concerned that Carter Page might be acting as an agent of a foreign power,” Schiff said. “And let’s remember that application and those renewals have been vindicated in substantial part by Carter Page’s own words in the letter I think you asked him about, and in which Carter Page acknowledged being an informal adviser to the Kremlin.”

Related: This FISA Passage Points to the Heart of Mueller’s Collusion Case Against Trump?

Schiff insisted that the FBI’s inclusion of information showing Page “had in fact, been a target of Russian intelligence in the past, that Carter Page had gone to Russia during the campaign, that he had meetings with the Russian officials that Page had publicly denied, but we can now confirm that he did, in fact, have meetings with Russian officials,” vindicated the surveillance warrant application.

“So it was a solid application and renewals signed by four different judges appointed by three different Republican presidents,” Schiff concluded.

Trump, however, rejected Schiff’s interpretation of the warrant application documents.

“Congratulations to @JudicialWatch and @TomFitton on being successful in getting the Carter Page FISA documents. As usual, they are ridiculously heavily redacted but confirm with little doubt that the Department of ‘Justice’ and FBI misled the courts. Witch Hunt Rigged, a Scam!” Trump tweeted Sunday.

“Looking more & more like the Trump Campaign for President was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC. Ask her how that worked out — she did better with Crazy Bernie. Republicans must get tough now. An illegal Scam!” Trump added.

Gowdy encouraged Trump to recognize that “it is possible to conclude that Russia interfered with us and it still does not delegitimize your presidency.”

“That’s where I would encourage the president to go,” Gowdy said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that the FBI’s FISA warrant application process “needs to be looked at.”

“The warrant on Carter Page was supported mostly by [the] dossier that came from [Christopher] Steele who is being paid by the Democratic Party to do opposition research, and the dossier was collected, I think, from Russian intelligence services,” Graham said. “And if you ask the FBI today how much of the dossier on Trump has been verified — almost none of it.”

Graham insisted that the surveillance was “not at all” justified.

“The FISA warrant process needs to be looked at closely about Congress. The main reason they issued the warrant was the dossier prepared by Mr. Steele. They never told the court that he was a paid operative in the Democratic Party,” Graham said. “The substance of the dossier to this day is a bunch of garbage.”

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