Drain the Swamp

Fitton Calls FBI’s FISA Application a ‘Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone’

Judicial Watch chief points to multiple circular justifications that show Russia collusion narrative was manufactured by Trump's opponents

Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI officials were pushing a “self-licking ice-cream cone” when they applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for approval to spy on a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump, according to Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

“Self-licking ice cream cone. FISA docs cite Clinton-DNC Dossier, leak of Dossier to media, and leak of Dossier info through Dem Senator Harry Reid. Corrupt dishonesty to get court approval to spy on @RealDonaldTrump team,” Fitton tweeted Sunday concerning the 421 pages of FISA application-related documents DOJ made public late Saturday.

The phrase a “self-licking ice cream cone” refers to “a self-perpetuating system that has no purpose other than to sustain itself. The phrase appeared to have been first used in 1992, in “On Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones,” a paper by Pete Worden about NASA’s bureaucracy,” according to Wikipedia.

Fitton told LifeZette Sunday that the excessive redactions by DOJ throughout the 421 pages should be sufficient reason “for President Trump to just declassify all of it and get it all out in the public.” Trump, as president, has the final decision on whether to make public any classified federal document.

Judicial Watch has filed dozens of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, including one in February that resulted in Saturday’s document release. Many of the most important document releases in the Russia collusion scandal, and also the FBI’s investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to do official U.S. government business, have resulted from Judicial Watch litigation.

The FBI’s initial application and three subsequent requests for renewal of the surveillance authority the FISA court granted against Carter Page — who was briefly a Trump foreign policy adviser during the 2016 campaign — relied almost exclusively on a controversial dossier prepared by former British spy and paid FBI informant Christopher Steele, who has multiple links to Russian intelligence interests.

The Steele dossier purported to include a great deal of extremely negative information about Trump, including his alleged crude dalliance with a Moscow prostitute in 2013. Steele, who was also well-connected within DOJ and the FBI, was desperate to keep Trump from being elected president.

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

Fitton’s “self-licking ice cream cone” seems especially applicable to the FBI’s investigation of allegations that Trump and/or his aides colluded with Russian interests to influence the outcome of his 2016 campaign against Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, who was widely expected until the last few days before the election to win easily.

Steele’s intelligence connections in Moscow and Washington, D.C. and his bitter antipathy made him an ideal resource for anybody searching for negative opposition research on Trump. He was retained by Fusion GPS, a Washington, D.C.-based opposition research firm, and his funding for the dossier came indirectly from Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which she then controlled.

The entire process was built around and moved forward in the government’s investigation by a small group of high-ranking executives relying on back-channel and official assurances from each other — and evidence provided by a former paid FBI informant.

The payments to Steele were made to Fusion GPS by Perkins Coie, a Washington, D.C., law firm with deep ties to and litigation experience on behalf of major national Democratic officeholders, donors and activists.

A version of the completed dossier was passed to DOJ and the FBI by Steele via former associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, whose wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, also doing opposition research on Trump. Bruce Ohr was demoted after it came out he had not disclosed his wife’s employment.

The dossier became public knowledge after Steele shopped negative stories about Trump based on it around to multiple media outlets during 2016, but only one, BuzzFeed, chose to publicize it by posting the entire document on its web site on Jan. 10, 2017.

Related: 10 Ways Trump Put Real Muscle in U.S. Policies, Defenses Against Russia

Articles based on the dossier, however, had appeared in July and August of 2016 and were cited by the FBI in the FISA application as evidence that Page was coordinating with Russian interests to influence efforts aimed at persuading Trump to go easy on Russian military aggression in Ukraine.

That those articles were based on the Steele dossier was not disclosed to the FISA court, nor was the fact that the Clinton campaign and the DNC had funded Steele’s research. It isn’t clear that the original application or any of the three subsequent renewals would have been approved by the presiding FISA court judges had they known those two key facts.

In other words, the entire process was built around and moved forward in the government’s investigation by a small group of high-ranking executives relying on back-channel and official assurances from each other and — evidence provided by a former paid FBI informant with extensive connections to Russian intelligence.

Only those in the group can say if the cone tasted like Russian vodka.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Tom Fitton, CC BY-SA 2.0Gage Skidmore)

meet the author

Mark Tapscott manages LifeZette's political coverage. He is an elected member of the First Amendment Center's Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, has testified before Congress on transparency in government, and is a former CPAC Conservative Journalist of the Year.