A Justice Department official turned whistleblower appeared caught off-guard Wednesday when Republican Rep. Doug Collins pressed him in a House Judiciary Committee hearing about his efforts in 2019 to work for House Democrats during the Trump impeachment saga.
John Elias, a chief of staff to the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general in the antitrust division, reluctantly conceded at the hearing that he sought a position on the Democratic side of the House Judiciary Committee.
“Did you ever attempt to get detailed to this committee’s majority staff?” Collins asked.
Elias appeared unprepared for the question, replying after a brief pause: “I, like people, over time have explored various career options.”
He then told Collins that he had a “very preliminary conversation” with Democrats about a job on the Judiciary panel.
Elias initially told Collins that he wanted to work on antitrust policy. But after a follow-up question, he said that he might have also asked to work on oversight matters during the impeachment probe.
“Did you not ask to be detailed to the committee’s work on oversight during impeachment, is that not correct? Refresh your memory,” Collins said.
“I may have also asked for oversight at one point,” Elias answered.
Elias then said that he sought the position in early 2019.
“Mr. Elias’s political inclinations and job prospects obviously have absolutely no bearing on whether the serious allegations that he is making about the attorney general are true,” he said, appearing to read from a written statement.
He panned Collins’s questions as a “personal attack and a distraction.”
The Justice Department on Tuesday provided Michael Flynn’s lawyers with handwritten notes that former FBI official Peter Strzok took in early 2017 as part of the investigation into the former national security adviser.
Michael R. Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told Flynn’s lawyers that a federal prosecutor appointed to review the Flynn case discovered the documents.
Sherwin said that Strzok, the former deputy chief of FBI counterintelligence, compiled the notes likely between Jan. 3 and Jan. 5, 2017, a key date range in the FBI’s investigation of Flynn.
The Daily Caller News Foundation was unable to view the document because it was filed under seal. A source familiar with the document told the DCNF that the notes are “very significant” to Flynn’s case.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the document was filed under seal, said the notes are “totally exculpatory” for Flynn.
The Justice Department filed a motion on May 7 to drop charges against Flynn, who had pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to a charge of making false statements to the FBI. Flynn admitted as part of the plea deal that he made false statements in a Jan. 24, 2017, interview with Strzok and another FBI agent regarding his contacts weeks earlier with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Flynn retracted his claim to have lied to the FBI in a Jan. 29 statement he filed in his case. Attorney General William Barr appointed Jeffrey Jensen, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, to review Flynn’s case after his lawyers accused prosecutors of withholding exculpatory information.
Jensen has since discovered and turned over several documents to Flynn’s lawyers.
One document is a Jan. 4, 2017, memo from the FBI’s Washington Field Office recommending that the counterintelligence investigation against Flynn be shut down due to a lack of evidence that he was conspiring with Russia.
Strzok intervened to keep the case open, writing to others at the FBI that the “7th floor” — the FBI’s leadership — wanted to continue its investigation of Flynn.
Jensen also discovered handwritten notes that Strzok’s boss, Bill Priestap, took during a meeting before the White House interview with Flynn.
“What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired?” Priestap wrote in the notes.
Twitter has hired former FBI general counsel James Baker, the firm announced Monday.
Baker was the FBI’s top lawyer during Crossfire Hurricane, the investigation into the Trump campaign.
In that role, Baker supported the decision to obtain surveillance warrants against Carter Page. A Justice Department watchdog has found that the FBI improperly relied on the Steele dossier in order to obtain those warrants.
Twitter announced Monday that it has hired the former FBI lawyer who approved key steps taken during the investigation into the Trump campaign, including the decisions to surveil former campaign aide Carter Page and to use an FBI agent to secretly monitor Michael Flynn during a national security briefing for the campaign.
James Baker will serve as deputy general counsel of Twitter, said Sean Edgett, the general counsel of the social media company.
Baker “is committed to our core principles of an open internet and freedom of expression,” Edgett said in a statement. Baker “brings experience navigating complex, global issues with a principled approach.”
Baker joins Twitter amid a battle with President Donald Trump over censorship of conservative users of the platform.
Trump signed an executive order on May 28 that calls to remove social media companies’ shield against liability if they engage in censorship. He took the step after Twitter fact-checked two of Trump’s tweets regarding mail-in voting ballots.
As the FBI’s top attorney, Baker reviewed and approved decisions that the bureau took during Crossfire Hurricane, the counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign.
A Justice Department inspector general’s report on the investigation said that Baker approved the decision to seek Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against Page, who served on the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team.
“Baker told us that he also remembered being satisfied at the time that there was probable cause articulated in the draft application to believe that Carter Page was an agent of a foreign power,” the IG report says.
The IG ultimately found that the FBI committed at least 17 “significant” errors and omissions in its applications to surveil Page. Many of the omissions involved the Steele dossier.
The FBI relied heavily on information from Christopher Steele, a former British spy hired by the Clinton campaign and by the Democratic National Committee to investigate the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
Steele alleged in a dossier that the Trump campaign — and Page — conspired with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election.
The special counsel’s office found no evidence that Page or any other Trump associate conspired with the Russian government to influence the election.
Thrilled to welcome @thejimbaker to @Twitter as Deputy General Counsel. Jim is committed to our core principles of an open internet and freedom of expression, and brings experience navigating complex, global issues with a principled approach.
Baker was unable to provide insight into the FISA process during his interviews with the IG because he was one of only two witnesses (including former FBI Director James Comey) who declined to undergo a classification review in order to answer questions regarding Crossfire Hurricane that involved classified information.
Baker, who is also a CNN analyst, was part of a small team at the FBI who approved sending a special agent into a national security briefing for the Trump campaign in August 2016 that was intended to collect evidence as part of an ongoing investigation of Michael Flynn.
Baker also met one-on-one with Mother Jones journalist David Corn, who provided him memos from Steele’s dossier. The FBI attorney also met in September 2016 with Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the firm that hired Steele on behalf of the DNC.
Sussmann provided Baker with now-debunked allegations regarding computer server connections between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank.
FBI officials left key details about former British spy Christopher Steele and his infamous dossier out of a newly declassified Intelligence Community Assessment regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The two-page document, which Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe declassified this week, describes Steele’s allegations about possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian government. It says that an FBI source — Steele — had provided information thought to be credible regarding Russia’s goals in meddling in the election.
But the document, which was attached as an annex to a Jan. 7, 2017, Intelligence Community Assessment, failed to disclose information that the FBI had regarding Steele that likely would have raised questions about his motives for investigating the Trump campaign, as well as the validity of his allegations.
According to a Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report, Steele told his FBI handlers on Oct. 3, 2016, that a key sub-source for his dossier was a “boaster” and “egotist.”
The annex also does not disclose that the FBI cut ties with Steele on Nov. 1, 2016, after he had unauthorized contact with the media.
“The source’s reporting appears to have been acquired by multiple Western press organizations starting in October,” the annex stated.
What it leaves out is that the press outlets acquired Steele’s information from Steele himself.
The retired spy met with numerous journalists in the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 election. He was the primary source for a Yahoo! News article published Sept. 23, 2016, and a Mother Jones story published on Oct. 31, 2016.
While the annex stated that Steele produced the dossier on behalf of a private client, it does not identify the client as the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign.
Perkins Coie, the law firm for the DNC and Team Clinton, hired opposition research firm Fusion GPS to investigate Donald Trump in April 2016. Fusion GPS in turn hired Steele.
The annex leaves out all of that information.
It says that an FBI source volunteered “highly politically sensitive information” during summer 2016 regarding “Russian influence efforts aimed at the U.S. presidential election.”
“We have only limited corroboration of the source’s reporting in this case and did not use it to reach the analytic conclusions of the CIA/FBI/NSA assessment,” reads the annex.
The now-declassified annex said that “some of the FBI source’s reporting is consistent with the judgments in this assessment.”
The IG report said that FBI officials, including James Comey and Andrew McCabe, pushed to include the information in a Jan. 7, 2017, Intelligence Community Assessment regarding Russian efforts to influence the election.
The IG report said that McCabe argued that Steele was a “credible” source and that the annex would support the information about Russia’s covert election-related activities.
The ICA asserted that Russian operatives were behind hacks of Democrats’ computer networks, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed the operation in order to help Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
The IG report said that CIA analysts opposed including the annex in the ICA because the dossier appeared to be nothing more than “Internet rumor.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on June 4 whether to authorize subpoenas for documents and testimony from more than 50 current or former government officials, including James Comey and John Brennan, as part of the panel’s investigation into abuse of the surveillance process during Crossfire Hurricane.
The committee will debate and vote June 4 on whether to issue the subpoenas, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary panel.
Graham is seeking documents and testimony from 53 individuals in all.
Committee rules require Graham, a Republican, to either obtain consent from the top Democrat on the committee or to obtain a majority vote in order to issue subpoenas.
Graham is seeking documents and testimony referenced in the Justice Department inspector general’s (IG) report on the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe. The FBI committed 17 “significant” errors and omissions in applications for surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, the report stated.
The FBI relied heavily on the unverified Steele dossier to obtain the spy warrants.
Graham included the following list of individuals he plans to subpoena:
Trisha Anderson, Brian Auten, James Baker, William Barr, Dana Boente, Jennifer Boone, John Brennan, James Clapper, Kevin Clinesmith, James Comey, Patrick Conlon, Michael Dempsey, Stuart Evans, Tashina Gauhar, Carl Ghattas, Curtis Heide, Kathleen Kavalec, David Laufman, Stephen Laycock, Jacob Lew, Loretta Lynch, Andrew McCabe, Mary McCord, Denis McDonough, Arthur McGlynn, Jonathan Moffa, Sally Moyer, Mike Neufield, Sean Newell, Victoria Nuland, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, Lisa Page, Joseph Pientka, John Podesta, Samantha Power, E.W. “Bill” Priestap, Sarah Raskin, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Rod Rosenstein, Gabriel Sanz-Rexach, Nathan Sheets, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Glenn Simpson, Steve Somma, Peter Strzok, Michael Sussman, Adam Szubin, Jonathan Winer, Christopher Wray, and Sally Yates.
Several of the officials that Graham listed made requests for Flynn intelligence reports. Many of the officials submitted the request while at the Treasury Department. Graham is also proposing a subpoena for Steve Ricchetti, who served as chief of staff to Joe Biden when he served as vice president. An unmasking request was submitted under Biden’s name on Jan. 12, 2017.
Graham is hoping to subpoena former FBI officials and agents who oversaw Crossfire Hurricane. Many of the proposed witnesses are well known to the public, including Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. But Graham is also requesting subpoenas for agents whose names have not appeared as prominently in the press.
One of those is Stephen Somma, an FBI counterintelligence agent who has been identified as “Case Agent 1” in the IG report. The report said that Somma was “primarily responsible” for some of the most significant errors during Crossfire Hurricane.
Somma was the agent who drafted the applications for surveillance orders against Carter Page. The IG report said that he failed to disclose exculpatory information related to Page.
Somma also took part in an interview in January 2017 with Christopher Steele’s primary source of information for the dossier. The interview was arranged by David Laufman, another potential Graham witness who served as chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence division through 2018.
In that interview, Steele’s source disputed many of the key allegations that Steele published in the dossier. The FBI and Justice Department withheld that information in the FBI’s final two applications to surveil Page. Because of that omission and others, the Justice Department invalidated the two FISA orders.
Two GOP senators released a list of Obama administration and White House officials who submitted requests that ‘unmasked’ the identity of Michael Flynn in intelligence reports.
The disclosure of the list has touched off an intense partisan debate about unmasking, a common practice used by U.S. government officials.
Republicans have accused members of the Obama administration of abusing the unmasking process, and of illegally leaking information about Flynn.
Here is what to know about unmasking and the case of Michael Flynn.
The release of a list of U.S. government officials on Wednesday who made unmasking requests for information about Michael Flynn has quickly descended into a tense partisan debate over whether the Obama administration improperly targeted the former national security adviser.
Two Republican senators released a list of 39 officials in the Obama administration and White House who made unmasking requests during the presidential transition period that revealed Flynn’s name in classified intelligence reports held by the National Security Agency.
Several prominent government officials were included on the list: former Vice President Joe Biden, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Republicans say that the list is evidence that members of the Obama administration unfairly targeted Flynn, a retired general who served as Donald Trump’s first national security adviser. Democrats defended the requests, saying that they were part of a routine intelligence gathering process.
Here’s what we know and don’t know about the unmasking process, who was involved, and what it means for Flynn.
What is an unmasking request?
Certain U.S. officials can submit requests to uncover information that is redacted in intelligence reports regarding foreign targets of U.S. surveillance. The names of Americans identified in the reports are typically redacted, but an unmasking request can unveil the information.
Admiral Mike Rogers, who served as director of the National Security Agency, explained the unmasking process during a June 7, 2017 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
Rogers said there are three criteria that an unmasking request has to meet.
“Number one, you must make the request in writing. Number two, the request must be made on the basis of your official duties, not the fact that you just find this report really interesting and you’re just curious. It has to tangibly tie to your job,” Rogers testified.
The third criteria, Rogers said, is that “the basis of the request must be that you need this identity to understand the intelligence you’re reading.”
He said that intelligence reports that are distributed to the intelligence community use generic terms — “U.S. Person 1” or “U.S. Person 2” — in place of U.S. citizens’ names.
Rogers said that when the NSA approves unmasking requests, recipients of the intelligence are reminded that the information is classified.
“By revealing this U.S. person to you, we are doing it to help you understand the intelligence, not so that you can use that knowledge indiscriminately. It must remain appropriately protected,” Rogers said.
U.S. officials make thousands of unmasking requests each year, according to data from the NSA. Rogers said that 20 officials at NSA across 12 different divisions had the authority to grant unmasking requests submitted from other agencies.
Is there anything wrong with unmasking Flynn?
Unmasking is a common practice and is not illegal. But Republicans have questioned whether Obama administration officials specifically targeted Flynn with unmasking requests and then leaked the information to the media.
The leak issue was first raised in reference to stories that appeared in The Washington Post regarding Flynn’s calls in late December 2016 with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
On Jan. 12, 2017, Post columnist David Ignatius reported that a senior U.S. official said that Flynn had spoken by phone weeks earlier with Kislyak.
Ignatius raised the possibility that Flynn and Kislyak discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia. The columnist further questioned whether Flynn had violated the Logan Act, an obscure law that bars private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.
The disclosure to Ignatius was seemingly a leak of classified information taken from transcripts of Kislyak’s phone calls, which are routinely monitored because of his position in the Russian government.
Republicans have theorized that after Flynn’s name was unmasked in intelligence reports, his involvement in the call with Kislyak was leaked to the Post.
Who made the Flynn unmasking requests?
Thirty-nine government officials submitted requests from Nov. 8, 2016 and Jan. 31, 2017, according to government records. Biden, Comey, Brennan and Clapper received the most attention given their top positions in the Obama administration.
Several Treasury Department officials, including Sec. Jacob Lew, also submitted requests. The ambassadors for Italy, Russia and Turkey also made requests as well, according to the documents.
Beyond Biden, the only other request from a White House official was one made on Jan. 5, 2017 by Denis McDonough, who served as Obama’s chief of staff.
Clapper, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, Samantha Power, and Justice Department officials Sally Yates and Mary McCord told the House Intelligence Committee that they did not leak the information, according to transcripts released last week.
Former Rep. Trey Gowdy asserted Thursday that the list of Obama officials is “a really nice witness list to start investigating the leak of classified information.”
“Disseminating that name to the Washington Post is a 10-year felony,” said Gowdy.
Why did Biden make an unmasking request?
Biden submitted his request on Jan. 12, 2017, the same day that a Washington Post column revealed that Flynn had phone calls weeks early with Sergey Kislyak.
There is no indication that Biden was the source of information for the column, but it remains unclear what prompted him to make an unmasking request that revealed Flynn’s identity.
Gowdy, the former Republican lawmaker, questioned how frequently Biden made unmasking requests.
“Vice President Biden how many other unmasking requests did you make?” he asked rhetorically in a Fox News interview.
“I bet it wasn’t very many.”
WATCH: @TGowdySC reacts after the list of officials, including former VP Joe Biden and former FBI director James Comey, who requested the ‘unmasking’ of former national security adviser Michael Flynn is released #nine2noonpic.twitter.com/zQoVcYO7tn
The dates of the unmasking requests tend to match up with news reports out at the time mentioning Flynn or other information about Flynn’s activities that have come to light through the special counsel’s investigation or other reports.
Power, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, submitted a request on Nov. 30, 2016. That was around when the Justice Department opened an investigation into Flynn’s work for the Turkish government.
Power and Clapper made requests on Dec. 2, 2016, the same day that Flynn and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner met Kislyak at Trump Tower.
Officials submitted a flurry of requests in mid-December 2016. That was around the same time that Flynn, Kushner, and Trump strategist Steve Bannon met at Trump Tower with Sheik al-Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates.
Clapper submitted a request on Dec. 28, 2016, the same day that Kislyak reached out to Flynn. Kislyak and Flynn spoke by phone the following day. The next request on the list was submitted by McDonough, the chief of staff to Obama.
Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, has declassified documents related to Obama administration officials’ unmasking of Michael Flynn in transcripts of phone calls he had with Russia’s ambassador, a senior intelligence official told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Grenell visited the Justice Department last week to meet with officials there to discuss releasing the documents, which include names of Obama-era officials involved in unmasking Flynn’s name in the phone call transcripts.
ABC News first reported that Grenell visited the Justice Department to discuss the unmasking issue. The senior intelligence official told the DCNF that the documents could be released “soon.”
Unmasking refers to a process where top U.S. government officials can request information on American citizens picked up during electronic surveillance of foreigners. Flynn was unveiled as taking part in a Dec. 29, 2016 phone with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.
It is not illegal for U.S. officials to make unmasking requests. But the information on Flynn was leaked to The Washington Post, opening up the possibility that someone in the Obama administration illegally disclosed classified information.
An unidentified senior U.S. official provided details of the Flynn-Kislyak phone call to The Washington Post for a column published on Jan. 12, 2017.
The revelations set off a chain of events that led the FBI to interview Flynn at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements in that interview regarding the substance of his conversation with Kislyak. But he retracted that admission of guilt on Jan. 29.
The Justice Department filed a motion to withdraw charges against Flynn on Thursday, citing the discovery of FBI documents that showed that the bureau was about to shut down a counterintelligence investigation of Flynn just before he was unmasked in the phone call with Kislyak.
Attorney General William Barr defended the decision on Thursday, saying that he believed the FBI set a “perjury trap” for Flynn. He also said that there was nothing illegal about Flynn’s call with Kislyak.
Grenell, who is also serving as ambassador to Germany, has led a push in recent weeks to declassify a trove of documents related to the FBI’s investigation of various Trump associates.
He took part in the process to declassify footnotes from a Justice Department inspector general’s report on the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation. The footnotes, which were published on April 10, revealed that the bureau had evidence of possible Russian disinformation in the Steele dossier.
Grenell also pressured Rep. Adam Schiff into releasing 53 transcripts of interviews that the House Intelligence Committee conducted as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The transcripts showed that multiple Obama administration officials testified that they had not seen evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.
The transcripts also revealed that Obama administration officials James Clapper, Susan Rice, Ben Rhodes, and Samantha Power denied taking part in the Flynn leak.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond to a request for comment.
FBI Director James Comey planned to write an op-ed early last summer making the case that Russia was meddling in the U.S. election, but other top Obama administration officials vetoed the idea.
That’s according to a report from Newsweek magazine.
“The White House shut it down,” one source told the magazine of Comey’s op-ed offer. “They did their usual — nothing.”
The revelation, if accurate, would appear to suggest that the Obama administration did not take Russia’s meddling in the presidential campaign as seriously as many Democrats would have liked.
Comey, who took over the FBI in 2013, proposed the op-ed during a meeting in June or July in the situation room of the White House in which Sec. of State John Kerry, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and Sec. of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson were also present, according to Newsweek.
“He had a draft of it or an outline. He held up a piece of paper in a meeting and said, ‘I want to go forward, what do people think of this?’” a source with knowledge of the meeting told Newsweek of Comey.
According to Newsweek’s source, Comey’s op-ed would have laid out some of the evidence showing that the Kremlin was attempting to influence the presidential election. The Obama administration would not make a similar public accusation until Oct. 7, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security alleged that Russia was involved in cyber attacks against Democrats.
The piece, which likely would have been placed at an outlet like The New York Times, would not have revealed anything about an investigation into possible ties between the Russian government and Trump campaign. Comey said earlier this month that the FBI opened that probe in early July.
The other Obama administration officials opposed the idea, Newsweek reports, because they preferred a more coordinated message.
“An op-ed doesn’t have the same stature, it comes from one person,” Newsweek’s source said.
Democrats have blamed the Obama administration for failing to address Russian meddling early enough in the campaign cycle. Comey has been one of the biggest targets for criticism, largely because of his public involvement in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
A top Chinese health official said Wednesday that the government will begin counting coronavirus patients without symptoms in its official tally of cases of the virus, in what is a tacit acknowledgement that Beijing has underreported data on the pandemic.
China’s National Health Commission disclosed that the government is monitoring 1,541 people who have tested positive for coronavirus but have no symptoms.
Chang Jile, the head of the health agency, said at a press conference in Wuhan that the government will start reporting asymptomatic patient numbers Wednesday.
“From April 1, we will publish reports, outcomes and management of asymptomatic people in daily epidemic notifications, and respond to social concerns in a timely manner,” Jile said, according to CCTV.
Jile’s statement is the first time that the government has officially acknowledged that it has undercounted patients.
China’s official tally has hovered just above 80,000 cases for several weeks, while countries around the globe have seen their case numbers explode. The United States had reported more than 160,000 positive cases as of Tuesday.
Analysts outside China have speculated for weeks that the communist regime has underreported its case load. The government quarantines asymptomatic patients, and adds them to the official case tally if they begin showing signs of disease, according to Caixin Global, an independent news outlet in China.
The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong–based outlet, reported March 22 that Beijing failed to record more than 43,000 positive tests for so-called “silent carriers,” or asymptomatic patients.
There have also been anecdotal reports that the government is reporting the number of fatalities from coronavirus. Chinese officials have reported just over 3,300 deaths since the virus emerged out of Wuhan in November 2019. Residents of the city have said that they’ve seen a surge in urns outside of funeral homes in the metropolis.
Determining the prevalence of asymptomatic cases is key to shaping health officials’ strategy to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. If coronavirus was transmitted mainly by patients who show symptoms, those patients could more easily be isolated in order to prevent transmission, making it easier to slow the pandemic. But if the virus is easily transmitted by people who do not know they are infected, the pandemic becomes harder to contain.
Epidemiologists are increasingly confident that asymptomatic patients play a key role in spreading coronavirus.
“We now know that asymptomatic transmission likely [plays] an important role in spreading this virus,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN.
Osterholm told the network that asymptomatic transmission “surely can fuel a pandemic like this in a way that’s going to make it very difficult to control.”
U.S. and international health officials early on in the pandemic cited China’s data to conclude that coronavirus was likely not spread by asymptomatic carriers.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, who led a fact-finding mission to China last month, insisted in multiple statements that it did not appear as if coronavirus was being transmitted by asymptomatic carriers. The absence of asymptomatic cases led Aylward to tout Beijing’s draconian crackdown in Wuhan and other provinces to stop the spread of the virus.
A federal judge sided with the Trump Justice Department on Tuesday by ruling against the release of classified portions of the FBI’s applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
At issue in the lawsuit was whether President Donald Trump had ordered 21 pages from four of the applications to be declassified and released to the public. The Justice Department released heavily redacted versions of the applications on June 21, 2018.
The James Madison Project, a government transparency group, filed the lawsuit in conjunction with USA Today reporter Brad Heath, arguing that Trump ordered the documents to be declassified in a statement and White House press release issued last year.
In the press release, the White House directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to declassify and release four categories of information related to the Russia probe. Trump backed off of ordering the declassification several days later, reportedly because of pressure from intelligence community and Justice Department officials.
Judge Amit P. Mehta said in Tuesday’s ruling that he accepts the Justice Department’s argument that Trump’s statement and the press release were not official orders to declassify the documents.
“DOJ’s declaration now makes clear that the Press Release was not a declassification order,” he wrote.
The decision means the public will not see portions of the Carter Page FISA application that Republicans have asserted would show that the FBI misled the FISA Court in order to surveil Page.
Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called on Trump to declassify the 21 pages. He specifically identified pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the final renewal FISA warrant granted against Page in June 2017.
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe approved the surveillance application, which is 121 pages in all.
The Justice Department’s inspector general blasted the FBI for omitting key details about Page and the Steele dossier in the applications submitted to the FISA Court.
The IG found 17 “significant” errors and omissions on the FBI’s part, according to a report released on Dec. 9, 2019. The report said the FBI left exculpatory information regarding Page out of the surveillance applications.
Investigators also failed to disclose multiple problems with the Steele dossier, which the FBI cited extensively to make the case that Page was a Russian agent, according to the IG report.
FBI investigators failed to corroborate the dossier before using it in the FISA applications.
It is unclear why Trump or Attorney General William Barr have not declassified the rest of the FISA application. Trump announced that Barr would have the authority to declassify documents related to the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign.