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Mollie Hemingway

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The appointment of a former official who served as an apologist for the FBI signals that the court isn’t particularly concerned about the civil liberty violations catalogued by Inspector General Michael Horowitz.

The nation’s top spy court appointed an Obama-era Justice Department official who has denied and downplayed FBI surveillance abuse to assess the FBI’s response to a scathing new report cataloguing problems with how the agency secured authority to spy on a Donald Trump campaign affiliate.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) presiding Judge James Boasberg appointed David Kris to review the FBI’s proposed changes to its surveillance application process even though he spent the past few years running interference for the FBI as substantive criticism of the agency mounted.

Lengthy investigations in the House of Representatives and by the Department of Justice inspector general showed major problems with the claims the FBI made as part of an investigation into whether Trump was a traitor who had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. Those problems include withholding exonerating evidence, undue reliance on shady sources, and outright alteration of evidence.

Kris, who served as assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s National Security Division, recently claimed the IG report that catalogued egregious abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) powers actually vindicated the FBI. He also smeared Rep. Devin Nunes in 2018, saying his initial sounding of the alarm about those abuses was incorrect, threatened national security, and should be harshly punished.

Kris appeared in locations that pushed the false Russia collusion narrative, such as Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, the Lawfare blog, and Twitter, to defend the FBI and attack President Trump and other critics of the harmful surveillance campaign. He once wrote that Trump “should be worried” that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into treasonous collusion with Russia meant “the walls are closing in.

The appointment of a former official who served as an apologist for the FBI signals that the court isn’t particularly concerned about the civil liberty violations catalogued by Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s investigation into the year-long surveillance of Carter Page. Page is the Trump campaign affiliate whose phone and email communications federal agents wiretapped, and who had confidential human sources and overseas intelligence assets placed against him. False claims that Page was a Russian spy were leaked to the media by government officials as part of a years-long campaign to paint President Trump as a traitor who had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election.

The court “finds it appropriate to appoint David S. Kris, Esq., to serve as amicus curiae to assist the Court in assessing the government’s response to” a Dec. 17, 2019, order to “inform the Court . . . of what it has done, and plans to do, to ensure that the statement of facts in each FBI application accurately and completely reflects information possessed by the FBI that is material to any issue presented by the application.”

The pick was justified on the grounds that he is one of the few officials with FISA experience. But Kris has repeatedly shown himself to be a reflexive defender of the FBI, even as evidence mounted of its malfeasance. Here are some examples of that.

Kris Adopted Resistance Messaging about the Russia Collusion Theory

Kris was one of the many Washington insiders who either fell for or pretended to fall for the validity of the Russia collusion hoax.

“I suspect that POTUS and his closest advisors are and should be worried that, depending on the evidence, Mueller’s next steps will make it feel like the walls are closing in,” he opined on Twitter.

The Mueller investigation noted that Russia, as per its historic practice, attempted to meddle in the 2016 campaign. It found no evidence that it had colluded with any American, much less any Trump campaign affiliate, much less Trump himself, in its ongoing meddling campaign.

Kris Was Grievously Wrong about the Nunes Memo
Kris’ biggest problem was his published denunciation of the now-vindicated Nunes memo. He joined many other members of the Resistance, whether in the media, the Democratic Party, or the NeverTrump movement, in denouncing Nunes and defending the FBI as beyond reproach.

“The Nunes memo was dishonest. And if it is allowed to stand, we risk significant collateral damage to essential elements of our democracy,” Kris said. In fact, the Nunes memo was right, although it only touched on some of the FBI malfeasance that the inspector general report later confirmed in detail.

Kris specifically said the “fundamental claim” by Nunes that the FBI misled the court about Christopher Steele was “not true.” Kris said that the government “provided the court with enough information to meaningfully assess Steele’s credibility.” He credulously accepted the FBI’s claims that there was probable cause that Page was a secret Russian asset. “It’s disturbing that Page met that legal standard and that there was probable cause to conclude he was a Russian agent,” he wrote.

Kris said Nunes should be removed from office and removed as chairman of the committee. He floated the idea that Nunes should be charged with obstruction of justice. Kris called for voters to rise up against Republicans and unseat them to keep Nunes from performing oversight of the agency and intelligence community.

Kris Adopted Resistance Spin on the IG Report

When the IG report came out, Kris was in lockstep with the spin that the leakers had put out for the weeks leading up to the release of the Horowitz report. He said, as the pre-report leakers asserted through friends in the media, that the “main finding” was that there was no bias and that the claims of critics were fully repudiated. He did acknowledge some mistakes, but downplayed them.

Kris Helped Maddow Defend the FBI against Oversight

When the applications to spy on Page — a man who was victimized by a false dossier alleging he betrayed his country and endured one year of intensive surveillance without being charged with any crime, much less any crime related to treasonous collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election — were released, Kris appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show to defend the FBI and lambast its critics.

Maddow spun the release of those applications in such a way as to say they helped the FBI’s case that Page was a threat to national security who had lost his right not to be spied on by the government. Kris agreed, and claimed the FBI had done everything right in its surveillance process. Kris was presented as one of the few people who have ever had responsibility for the FISA process. He used his time to criticize Nunes, the member of Congress who first revealed the problems at the FBI in the face of derision by the media and other members of the Resistance.

Kris falsely claimed that the applications “substantially undermine the president’s narrative and that of his proxies” and that if there were more investigation or transparency, it would “get worse and not better” for them.

He said, though, that more investigation and release of information would be “dangerous.” He criticized the president, saying he was “free to make up whatever facts suit him” while the FBI was at a disadvantage by its desire to do things properly.

When Kris was attacking Nunes for bringing the FBI malfeasance to light, he claimed that if the FBI had withheld information in its FISA applications, “heads would have rolled on Pennsylvania Avenue.” FBI headquarters are located on Pennsylvania Avenue. The FBI has been definitively shown to have withheld information in its FISA applications, but instead of heads rolling, vehement apologists of the agency are being assigned to assess proposed reforms.

Author: Mollie Hemingway

Source: The Federalist: Spy Court Picks FISA Abuse Denier To Tackle FISA Abuse

Nearly two years later, the inspector general’s report vindicates the Nunes memo while showing that the Schiff memo was riddled with lies and false statements.

The new inspector general report on FISA abuse settles the debate between Republicans and Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Both groups put out memos about the Department of Justice’s efforts to secure a warrant to wiretap Carter Page.

At the time of their release, the media praised Democrat Adam Schiff and his memo and vilified Republican Devin Nunes and his memo. Nearly two years later, the inspector general’s report vindicates the Nunes memo while showing that the Schiff memo was riddled with lies and false statements.

The memo from the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee reported:

  1. A salacious and unverified dossier formed an essential part of the application to secure a warrant against a Trump campaign affiliate named Carter Page. This application failed to reveal that the dossier was bought and paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
  2. The application cited a Yahoo News article extensively. The story did not corroborate the dossier, and the FBI wrongly claimed Christopher Steele, the author of the dossier, was not a source for the story.
  3. Nellie Ohr, the wife of a high-ranking Justice Department official, also worked on behalf of the Clinton campaign effort. Her husband Bruce Ohr funneled her research into the Department of Justice. Although he admitted that Steele “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” this and the Ohrs’ relationship with the Clinton campaign was concealed from the secret court that grants surveillance warrants.
  4. The dossier was “only minimally corroborated” and unverified, according to FBI officials.

All of these things were found to be true by the Inspector General Michael Horowitz in his December 9 report. In fact, Horowitz detailed rampant abuse that went far beyond these four items.

The Democratic minority on the committee, then led by Rep. Adam Schiff, put out a response memo with competing claims:

  1. FBI and DOJ officials did not omit material information from the FISA warrant.
  2. The DOJ “made only narrow use of information from Steele’s sources about Page’s specific activities in 2016.”
  3. In subsequent FISA renewals, DOJ provided additional information that corroborated Steele’s reporting.
  4. The Page FISA warrant allowed the FBI to collect “valuable intelligence.”
  5. “Far from ‘omitting’ material facts about Steele, as the Majority claims, DOJ repeatedly informed the Court about Steele’s background, credibility, and potential bias.”
  6. The FBI conducted a “rigorous process” to vet Steele’s allegations, and the Page FISA application explained the FBI’s reasonable basis for finding Steele credible.
  7. Steele’s prior reporting was used in “criminal proceedings.”

Each of these claims were found by Horowitz to be false.

Horowitz found that FBI and DOJ officials did in fact omit critical material information from the FISA warrant, including several items exculpatory to Page. Material facts were not just omitted but willfully hidden through doctoring of evidence.

The warrants were based on Steele’s dossier, which was known by January 2017 to be ridiculously uncorroborated. The renewals did not find information that corroborated Steele’s reporting. The warrants clearly didn’t allow the FBI to collect valuable intelligence. And Steele’s prior reporting was not used in criminal proceedings.

“We found that the FBI did not have information corroborating the specific allegations against Carter Page in Steele’s reporting when it relied upon his reports in the first FISA application or subsequent renewal applications,” the executive summary of the report says.

The media joined Department of Justice bureaucrats in bitterly opposing the release of the Nunes memo. The Justice Department released a letter to the press saying the action was “extraordinarily reckless,”would be “damaging” to “national security,” and would risk “damage to our intelligence community or the important work it does in safeguarding the American people.”

Then, when the report was released, the media made a variety of contradictory claims, all of them downplaying or dismissing the memo as nothing whatsoever. “Why Were The Democrats So Worried About The Nunes Memo?” asked The New Yorker. Rachel Maddow said that, far from destroying national security, instead the memo delivered “a sad trombone for Trump.” “It’s a joke and a sham,” claimed Washington Post writers.

“The memo purports to show that the process by which the FBI and Justice Department obtained approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to conduct surveillance on former Trump adviser Carter Page was deeply tainted,” the Post article says. “It does this by straining every which way to suggest that the basis for the warrant was the so-called ‘Steele dossier,’ which contains Democratic-funded research by former British spy Christopher Steele.” (The IG confirmed this week that the efforts to secure a warrant to spy on Page were dropped due to lack of evidence until Steele delivered his memos.)

On the other hand, Salon called the memo “fake news.” New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who fervently believes that Trump is a traitor who colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election, all evidence to the contrary, went even further. “The Nunes Memo Is Fake and the Russia Scandal Is Very Real,” he claimed. “While the evidence that the DOJ has been corrupt or even sloppy in its investigation has disintegrated, evidence for the seriousness of the investigation itself has grown progressively stronger,” Chait claimed.

CNN had their good buddy James Clapper, an Obama intelligence chief, say that the memo was a “blatant political act.” John Brennan, Obama’s CIA chief who was also implicated in the spying on the Trump campaign, told Politico that the memo was “exceptionally partisan.” Politico claimed the memo “makes no sense.”

“Nunes Memo Accidentally Confirms the Legitimacy of the FBI’s Investigation,” asserted The Intercept. “All Smoke, No Fire,” claimed resistance member Orin Kerr in The New York Times. “The Nunes Memo Continues To Backfire,” declared the hyperpartisan Washington Post editorial board.

A great example of the general media treatment of the issue of FISA abuse was offered up by U.S. News and World Report. “Nail in the Coffin for Nunes Memo,” declared the headline of an article that effusively praised Schiff while utterly condemning Nunes. “Nunes’ memo was a bad joke from the start,” the author writes, going on to assert that Page was a dangerous agent of Russia, multiple Trump campaign operatives were surveilled for excellent reason, and the ex-British spy secretly hired by Hillary Clinton to produce the dossier alleging Trump was a secret agent of Russia was simply beyond reproach.

“If the GOP’s defense of Page is puzzling so is its targeting of Steele, an accomplished British former spy with an expertise in Russia and Vladimir Putin,” claimed the U.S. News and World Report article. Steele’s reputation with most reporters was not based in reality and he doesn’t even claim he verified any of the information in his report, which a sprawling special counsel investigation was unable to corroborate in any of its central and major claims.

It is unclear if the media will revisit, much less apologize for, their false claims about the Nunes memo or credulous support of Schiff’s memo.

Author: Mollie Hemingway

Source: The Federalist: IG Report Confirms Schiff FISA Memo Media Praised Was Riddled With Lies

Unlike how they handled the Russia collusion conspiracy theory, Republican politicians have shown themselves less likely to fall for the Ukraine story being peddled through leaks to the same sympathetic reporters from anonymous partisan sources.

On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper amplified a tweet from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, with some additional commentary:

In recent days, Resistance figures have run an operation similar to the Russia collusion conspiracy that gripped the country for years. That since-debunked conspiracy theory, supported by daily drips of “bombshell” “news” reports from media employees including Tapper, was that Trump had seditiously colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. Even the partisan probe ostensibly led by the ailing Robert Mueller was unable to find a single American, much less the president of the United States, had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. The hysteria about Russia caused real harm to the country’s foreign policy and administration of government. No one has yet been held accountable for perpetrating the hoax. And many media are helping the co-conspirators in the hoax avoid that accountability.

Now similar figures are alleging, based on an anonymous source without firsthand knowledge, that Trump should be impeached because of a phone call he had with Ukraine in which corruption involving Hunter Biden was discussed. Biden is the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. He is famously troubled, but also acquired a great deal of wealth thanks to his father’s connections, including in Ukraine and China. The anonymously sourced reports are changing, depending on the media outlet. First it was a whistleblower, then it turned out to be a hearsayer — someone without firsthand information. Supposedly a quid pro quo was demanded, then it turned out there was no quid pro quo. President Trump, for his part, is adamant that the phone call was nothing as described, even as that description is ever-changing.

Trump released the transcript of the phone call, which showed that the media and other Resistance figures’ early reports of the call mischaracterized it. Last week, it might be noted, Democrats were demanding the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh due to a false report in the New York Times of dubious provenance to begin with.

What Tapper highlighted is worth highlighting, though. While during the Russia hoax, nearly all prominent Republicans expressed concern about collusion with Russia to steal the 2016 election, rushed to microphones to condemn the president for what turned out to be a false smear of sedition, and went out of their way to protect the relentless investigation of him based on lies secretly funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, this time, it’s mostly just Mitt Romney.

The standard of evidence required from Resistance figures in and out of the media to perpetrate yet another Russiagate is so high that it might be impossible to meet. But at the very least, it’s higher than what’s offered now. Yes, Democrats have wanted to impeach Donald Trump for the crime of winning the 2016 election, and they very well might do that no matter what they pretend the underlying reason is. But Republican politicians, Romney and those like him excepted, are either smart enough not to fall for this particular Resistance effort, or they’re simply savvy enough to realize there is no appetite for Republican politicians to assist Democrats in undermining a duly elected Republican president based on questionable hearsay, a complicated narrative that doesn’t even add up, and a desperate desire to undo 2016.

Author: Mollie Hemingway

Source: The Federalist: GOP Politicians Aren’t Falling For Ukraine Hysteria Like They Did Russia

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