The memo about abuses at the Department of Justice and the FBI prepared by the House Intelligence Committee has been declassified and made public. It contains serious allegations of abuses of power by the federal government.
At the heart of the controversy is a dossier prepared by a former British spy named Christopher Steele that was handed over to the FBI. Many say the dossier contains false accusations and is a vicious personal attack directed at Donald Trump. For political reasons and in their zeal to incriminate the president, certain FBI bigwigs did not vet the dossier for accuracy before using it to justify surveillance of a Trump campaign operative.
After the FBI received the dossier it obtained a warrant to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, the aforementioned Trump supporter, an American who had previously been under investigation as a double agent for Russia. The dossier was part of a larger package presented to FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance). The FBI did not inform the presiding judge that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign funded the dossier. The surveillance warrant was approved.
Interestingly Steele leaked the dossier to some media outlets including Yahoo News who reported the story. This reporting was cited as credibility of the tainted information in the dossier. It is an unethical tactic called “circular journalism” in which information is provided to a news agency, which is then used as a source.
If all the items above are true the major problems with this whole affair include the following:
- The dossier was not totally factual.
- The FBI did not vet the information in the dossier.
- The FISA judge was not told that information detrimental to Donald Trump was orchestrated and paid for by the Clinton campaign.
- A bogus warrant was issued to spy on an American citizen.
Trump’s opponents, including the entire Democratic Party, are saying that the Republican memo is inaccurate and presented events out of context. Additionally they are claiming that the episode has been drummed up by conservatives to degrade the efforts of the Special Counsel investigating Trump collusion with Russia in the 2016 Election.
Republican supporters believe that top people at the FBI and the Department Of Justice are Trump-haters (both organizations are supposed to be apolitical). And the use of an un-vetted dossier for a FISA warrant was a serious violation of an American’s right to privacy.
The story will have a long tail. Democrats have drafted a competitive memo that they say points out faulty accusations in the Republican document. And there are many questions to be asked and answered about the activities of the FBI and Department of Justice leadership, including the dismissed head of the FBI, James Comey, the dismissed second in charge of the FBI, George McCabe, the former Deputy Attorney General and the current Assistant Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein.
The next few weeks will be a whirlwind of political sabre rattling, mudslinging and fake news. Hold on tight.