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At Best, The FISA Application Shows FBI Misled The Court To Wiretap Trump Campaign

FBI Scandal: The heavily redacted FISA application the FBI used to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump campaign advisor Carter Page is supposed to vindicate the FBI from charges of political bias. But there can be no doubt that the FBI withheld pertinent information from the judges who approved a highly intrusive domestic spying operation during a presidential campaign.

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The FBI coughed up the 412-page FISA application documents over the weekend. Entire paragraphs, and in some cases entire pages, contain blacked-out text. (You can see it here.)

Nevertheless, the mainstream press quickly determined the filings substantially undermined Republican claims that a politicized FBI misled the FISA court so it could spy on the Trump campaign in the middle of a presidential election. Those claims had been laid out in a memo from House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes released in February.

The New York Times said that the records “plainly demonstrated that key elements of Republicans’ claims about the bureau’s actions were misleading or false.”

Over at the Washington Post, Philip Bump determined that the FISA documents show that “Devin Nunes’s memo on Carter Page has gotten even less credible.”

Trump, not surprisingly, has tweeted that the details contained in the application vindicate his witch-hunt claims.

The problem is that even if the truth lies somewhere in between it is incredibly damaging to the reputation of the FBI.

To that end, it’s worth noting that it’s been Democrats — and the press — who have been moving the goal posts as the unsavory facts about the origins of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign emerged.


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Take the role of the infamous “Steele dossier,” which was paid for by the Clinton campaign and conducted by a firm that specializes in peddling campaign dirt.

Once the origins of the Steele dossier became known, Democrats and the press insisted that it played little or no role in convincing federal judges to approve wiretaps on Carter Page.

For good reason, too. The idea that the FBI would use political propaganda paid for by one presidential campaign to launch a high-level investigation against the other in the middle of an election is horrifying.

So, they consistently downplayed the dossier’s importance.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee asserted in February that the FISA application “made only narrow use of information from Steele’s sources about Page’s specific activities in 2016.” Media reports said that any of the information that the FBI did use had been independently corroborated.

But now, with the application documents in hand, even the Washington Post admits that the dossier played “a prominent role” in the wiretap request. And we know that the FBI had corroborated none of the dossier claims before filing its application.

Bought And Paid For By Clinton

Democrats and the press also say that the FISA application documents disprove another GOP claim: that the FBI never told the court that the dossier had been bought and paid for by the Clinton campaign.

Well, here’s what the application does say in a footnote on page 16 (we’ve added the names where the document leaves them out):

“Steele was approached by an identified U.S. person, who indicated that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. person to conduct research regarding (Trump’s) ties to Russia.”

The footnote goes on to say that “the identified U.S. person never advised (Steele) as to the motivation behind the research into (Trump’s) ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit (Trump’s) campaign.”

Does anyone see “Clinton” or “DNC” or “opposing presidential campaign” mentioned?

Instead, the footnote is full of weasel words. The FBI “speculates” that he “was likely” looking for information that “could discredit” Trump.

Democrats say the court could have easily figured out what the footnote meant. But can anyone who is not hopelessly partisan honestly say that the wishy-washy phrasing is anything remotely like the truth?

More to the point, can anyone say with confidence that the FISA court would have reacted the same way had that last sentence in that footnote read: “The FBI has learned that the financing for the Steele investigation came from the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and that Steele himself has a clear bias against Trump”?

Another Problem Surfaces

What about the other claims in that Nunes memo that the application documents supposedly undercut?

Well, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York went through the Nunes memo paragraph by paragraph, and could only find one where the document differs from the Nunes memo. That has to do with claims that the FBI used a Yahoo story to corroborate the Steel dossier, even though the Yahoo story itself was based entirely on that dossier.

He says “the application used part of the Yahoo piece in a way that suggested it was corroborating the dossier. … So call the Nunes memo’s corroboration claim only partly accurate.”

But legal expert Andrew McCarthy notes the application reveals another bit of legerdemain in the FBI’s application no one had noted before: that the FBI misled the court about whether it had corroborated the claims in the Steele dossier.

Writing in National Review, McCarthy notes that:

“Each FISA application — the original one in October 2016, and the three renewals at 90-day intervals — is labeled “VERIFIED APPLICATION” (bold caps in original). And each one makes this breathtaking representation:

 ‘The FBI has reviewed this verified application for accuracy in accordance with its April 5, 2001 procedures, which include sending a copy of the draft to the appropriate field office(s).’

In reality, the applications were never verified for accuracy.”

McCarthy concludes that the FBI was “at best, being hyper-technical, and thus misleading.”

So, after all the spinning, these are the undisputed facts: The FBI went to court to get a wiretap on a U.S. citizen it claimed was a Russian agent. It based this charge mainly on an uncorroborated, salacious document financed by the Clinton campaign. It failed to clearly disclose the funding source. Nor did it reveal that it had independently corroborated any of its claims.

Yeah, nothing wrong there.

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