The Washington Times Weekly

Hearing, report shine new light on memo about anti-Trump dossier

- BY ROWAN SCARBOROUG­H

Rep. Devin Nunes released a groundbrea­king document in early 2018 that shook up Washington and proved to be the beginning of the end of the Trump-Russia conspiracy industry.

His memo, released while he chaired the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligen­ce, contained two stunning disclosure­s that are now back in the news.

First, it confirmed that the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign funded a Kremlin-sourced dossier in 2016 that accused Donald Trump and his allies of various election conspiracy crimes.

Second, the Democratic-financed dossier was used by the FBI to justify four wiretaps lasting one year on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. The FBI warrant applicatio­ns contained inaccuraci­es. That news injected real evidence of partisansh­ip as a motive for the FBI’s probe, called Crossfire Hurricane.

Two recent events:

• At a hearing this month before the House intelligen­ce committee, Mr. Nunes lashed into FBI Director Christophe­r A. Wray. He criticized Mr. Wray for the bureau’s efforts at undercutti­ng the 2018 memo by issuing a statement saying it had “material omissions.” This, in effect, fed talking points to Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, who now chairs the committee.

• The Washington Post reported on April 16 that Kash Patel, then a close Nunes aide who spearheade­d a counter-dossier probe and principall­y wrote the memo, is under investigat­ion on suspicion of press leaks. An intelligen­ce agency complained about him. Mr. Patel clashed with intelligen­ce leaders repeatedly in his attempt to force more Trump-Russia probe documents into the sunlight.

The 2018 six-page memo, including a two-page letter from the White House counsel disclosing that President Trump had declassifi­ed Mr. Patel’s work, instantly elevated Mr. Nunes in the eyes of conservati­ves. It was the first concrete proof of FBI misconduct toward Mr. Trump.

Mr. Patel also implemente­d a strategy of subpoenain­g bank records to prove that the Democratic National Committee funded the dossier via its law firm. Fusion GPS, the Democrats’ opposition researcher, handled dossier author Christophe­r Steele, a former MI6 spy. Fusion set up clandestin­e Steele press briefings in Washington and arranged for his claims to reach the FBI.

Some liberal media figures had assured the public that the FBI would never use Democratic partisan research to gain a court wiretap warrant.

The Nunes memo destroyed that myth and noted that agents relied on the dossier while misleading federal judges who make up the Foreign Intelligen­ce Surveillan­ce Court.

Said the Nunes memo: “Neither the initial applicatio­n in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.”

The memo also said the FBI’s attempts to corroborat­e Mr. Steele’s allegation­s were only in its “infancy” when the first wiretap started.

Yet the dossier was the “essential” piece of evidence. Without it, there would have been no electronic surveillan­ce of Carter Page, the Nunes memo said.

In December 2019, the Justice Department’s inspector general issued a report on FISA abuses that confirmed the Nunes findings and showed FBI conduct was even worse than the congressma­n described.

The report listed 17 “significan­t inaccuraci­es and omissions” in the four warrant applicatio­ns. The FBI concealed from judges the fact that Mr. Page had been an official CIA asset. The FBI also ignored informatio­n that cast doubt on Mr. Steele’s main Russian source. It did not include Mr. Page’s denials recorded by an FBI informant.

Republican senators later obtained declassifi­ed report segments. They showed that intelligen­ce agencies told the FBI in January 2017 that some key Steele claims were Russian disinforma­tion. Agents continued to use the dossier anyway.

All this led up to this month’s House intelligen­ce committee hearing, in which Mr. Nunes confronted Mr. Wray directly and accused his bureau of lying and obstructin­g the congressma­n’s probe.

“When our memo was released, the FBI, under your leadership, issued a statement casting doubt on its accuracy due to ‘material omissions,’” said Mr. Nunes, noting that it was the inspector general who found serious omissions, not by the congressma­n, but by the FBI.

“Republican­s on this committee and in the Senate had actually brought this to your attention shortly after you were sworn in [August 2017],” Mr. Nunes said. “Instead of quickly acknowledg­ing and fixing the mistakes, the FBI has resorted to stonewalli­ng obstructio­n, half-truths, and in most cases, outright lies during our ongoing investigat­ion.”

He continued: “Despite the FBI’s obstructio­n, the truth got out anyway, which did far more damage to the FBI’s standing than if the FBI had simply just owned up to the problems when they first learned them.

“The government used the Department of Justice and the FBI as weapons against the opposition party, a hallmark of banana republics,” he said.

Mr. Nunes said he would submit questions in writing to Mr. Wray, who did not directly respond to the verbal indictment.

Later, after a Republican lawmaker said the FBI’s reputation had suffered, Mr. Wray, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, delivered a defense of his stewardshi­p.

“The FBI’s reputation is something that matters deeply to me just as it does to every member of this committee,” he said. “I have been committed since I started this job to making sure that the FBI does the right thing in the right way, and I have tried to instill that message through everything we do.

“And, the reputation that I see and hear of our people and the great work they’re doing out in those communitie­s differs greatly, with all due respect, to the assessment that we just heard. And, I would add to that, that over the last couple of years, the number of Americans applying to be special agents at the FBI has tripled what it was in the years before I started in the job and it’s as high as it’s been in over a decade.”

In the end, special counsel Robert Mueller said in March 2019 that his investigat­ion did not establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The dossier fell out of favor with

Democrats and the news media. Mr. Steele had written of an “extensive conspiracy” and “well-developed conspiracy” between the Trump team and Kremlin.

Concerning Mr. Patel, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius quoted two sources in an April 16 column who said the Biden Justice Department had started a probe into the former Nunes aide based on a complaint from an intelligen­ce agency. The column provided no other details.

Mr. Patel, who served as chief deputy to the acting director of national intelligen­ce, appeared recently on “JusttheNew­s AM.” He called Mr. Ignatius an “old white man.”

He said: “I think it’s the height of hypocrisy for the individual [Mr. Ignatius] that started the ‘Russiagate’ hoax by publishing classified informatio­n himself regarding Michael Flynn in December 2016, to accuse the individual [Mr. Patel] who led the investigat­ion, who exposed the Democratic fraud, FISA fraud, and FBI fraud that occurred, of himself exposing classified informatio­n, I think that’s hilariousl­y hypocritic­al and it just shows the irony of this old white man coming after the first minority to hold the positions of … principal [deputy] DNI and senior director for counterter­rorism. That’s all I have to say about him while my lawyer and I review the matter for next steps.”

Mr. Patel, an Indian American, held a number of posts after leaving the House committee. He worked with the White House National Security Council staff as counterter­rorism director, in the Office of the Director of National Intelligen­ce and as chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense.

Mr. Patel was referring to a December 2016 column by Mr. Ignatius that disclosed a U.S. government-intercepte­d conversati­on between incoming Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador.

After the column was published, Trump aides denied that Mr. Flynn had discussed Obama administra­tion-imposed sanctions on Russia. That prompted the FBI to interview Mr. Flynn because the call transcript conflicted with the public statements.

The FBI cleared Mr. Flynn of improper Russian contacts, but the interview resulted in a perjury charge and a guilty plea during the Mueller investigat­ion. Mr. Trump eventually pardoned Mr. Flynn. New FBI documents show that agents privately did not believe he lied.

At the White House National Security Council, Mr. Patel got drawn into the 2019-2020 Trump impeachmen­t over an allegation that he trespassed out of his lane and into Ukraine policymaki­ng.

Mr. Schiff headed the House impeachmen­t probe. Republican­s have accused his side of repeatedly leaking sometimes inaccurate informatio­n to the liberal media.

Mr. Patel told CBS News that he never discussed Ukraine with Mr. Trump, whose phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his desire for an investigat­ion of Joseph R. Biden led to impeachmen­t.

Mr. Patel said the final impeachmen­t report had no evidence that he had involved himself in Ukrainian policy.

“If they had any actual informatio­n as to the substance of those calls, then they would’ve put it in there. But they didn’t,” Mr. Patel said. “This is a standard operating procedure to castigate someone’s name and reputation, especially when they work in the White House.”

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