The House committee “has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes.
- Rep. Devin Nunes
“This is far worse than Watergate. This is an abuse of surveillance and intelligence to win an election. It is a massive abuse of power, and it was all done by just a few people who think and thought they knew better than you about who should be the president of the United States. It is the biggest national scandal by far in our lifetime.”
- Sean Hannity
Accepting the argument that the Republican members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence promote requires one to believe that the FBI and Obama Department of Justice set a level of incompetence that would make the Buchanan administration swoon. Their fundamental argument is that the FBI and Justice abused their authority to undermine the Trump campaign in an effort to assist the Clinton campaign. Hannity, et al., proclaim that leadership committed a fundamental violation of the Fourth Amendment and all of this was done to assist Sec. Clinton. The facts simply do not support the suggestion.
Trump identified Carter Page as one of his foreign policy specialists on March 21, 2016. The FBI, however, did not reveal at that time that it had interviewed Page in 2013, in connection with a Russian spy ring. Certainly, the FBI did not reveal that it had interviewed Page in connection with possible Russian recruitment efforts. That disclosure could have adversely impacted the Trump campaign.
The FBI and Justice sought the FISA warrant in October 2016. Of course, Page had already left the Trump campaign by that date. Yet, neither FBI nor Justice officials thought to leak to the press of the existence of the FISA warrant. Potentially, that disclosure would have embarrassed the campaign and suggested an even stronger link between the rumoured connection between Trump and Russia. In short, officials within the Obama administration had multiple opportunities to leak damaging information that would directly impact the Trump campaign, yet it did not take such action.
Instead, FBI Director Comey revealed on October 28, that the FBI had reopened its investigation into the Clinton e-mails. On that date, Clinton had a five percent lead and Trump had only an estimate nine percent chance of winning. Certainly, individuals have connected that disclosure with Clinton’s electoral loss in 2016.
The track of history undermines any suggestion that the FBI and Justice Department worked in favour of the Clinton campaign. The steps that Director Comey took, or did not take, in October 2016, had the opposite impact of what individuals now wish to argue happened then. No evidence exists to suggest a deep state conspiracy against the Trump campaign or Donald Trump.
The process underlying a FISA warrant defeats the existing conspiracy story. A FISA warrant utilizes multiple sources, runs approximately 60 to 80 pages in length and, on average, ten people review the application. The Director of the FBI and the Deputy Attorney General must sign off on the application. In drafting the application for a FISA warrant, the government must demonstrate that the individual was “knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering activities for or on behalf of” another nation. The government then must present its application before a federal judge whom the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has appointed to a seven-year term on a special FISA court. These judges, in turn, have years of experience including handling warrant applications in criminal matters. While the potential for abuse exists, the probability of Rep. Nunes’s story is remarkably low.
– 30 –