On December 28, 2017, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes sent a blistering letter to Deputy AG Rosenstein with a deadline response of January 3, 2018.
In the evening of January 3, 2018, Nunes received a reply.
Nunes wants answers to the origin of the FBI investigation that ultimately led to the National Security Division of the DOJ assembling a FISA request to engage in surveillance of the Trump Campaign.
The FBI Counterintelligence Division began an official investigation into the Trump Campaign in mid-to-late July 2016.
The first FISA request was made at almost the same time as the start of the FBI Investigation – perhaps just prior to the investigation’s initiation. It was denied – which is quite unusual.
The second FISA request came in late September/early October 2016. It was approved.
A frustrated Nunes is demanding two separate items from the DOJ.
The Committee no longer credits the representations made by DOJ and/or the FBI regarding these matters. Accordingly, DOJ and the FBI are instructed to promptly produce to the Committee no later than January 3, 2018, ALL outstanding records identified as responsive to the August 24 subpoenas.
These would be documents used to establish the FBI investigation and, more importantly, documents used to make the FISA requests.
The Trump Dossier is suspected to be the origin document used in the second FISA request.
Additionally, by the same deadline, please provide – in writing – available dates in January 2018 for interviews with the following officials:
- Former DOJ Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr;
- FBI Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Peter Strzok;
- FBI Attorney James Baker;
- FBI Attorney Lisa Page;
- FBI Attorney Sally Moyer; and
- FBI Assistant Director for Congressional Affairs Greg Brower.
At the time, I noted the following:
Why is Bill Priestap not on that interview list?
Could it be that he’s already being interviewed (turned)?
— Jeff Carlson, CFA (@themarketswork) December 29, 2017
Bill Priestap, while not a household name, is head of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
He held a pivotal role in the FBI’s exoneration of Clinton, the subsequent Trump-Russia Investigation, surveillance of the Trump Campaign and the creation of the Trump Dossier.
He accompanied Sally Yates when the two met with White House Counsel McGahn regarding Mike Flynn.
Priestap is Peter Strzok’s direct boss. Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is Priestap’s direct boss.
Priestap was responsible for the decision not to inform Congressional leadership – the Gang of Eight – about the July 2016 FBI investigation (Per James Comey’s testimony).
As I noted in Where is Bill Priestap – FBI’s Counter-Intelligence Head:
Individuals directly below Priestap (Strzok) and directly above Priestap (McCabe) have been ensnared and exposed by the Inspector General’s Investigation.
So where is Bill Priestap? And why aren’t you hearing his name daily?
On January 3, 2018 – Nunes’ deadline demand – FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy AG Rosenstein requested an emergency and unscheduled meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan.
That meeting must have been fruitful.
Several hours after the meeting, Nunes issued the following statement:
After speaking to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein this evening, I believe the House Intelligence Committee has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that will provide the committee with access to all the documents and witnesses we have requested. The committee looks forward to receiving access to the documents over the coming days.
From the letter:
Committee investigators and staff will be provided access to all remaining investigative documents, in unredacted form, for review at DOJ on Friday, January 5, 2018. The documents to be reviewed will include all FBI FD-1023s and all remaining FBI Form FD-302s responsive to the Committee’s August 24, 2017 subpoenas.
Form 302s are used to report or summarize FBI interviews. Form 1023s are used to document meetings between FBI officials and FBI confidential human sources. Both forms are defined in Nunes’ December 28, 2017 letter.
The only agreed-upon exception pertains to a single FD-302, which due to national security interests, will be shown separately by Director Wray to myself and my senior investigators during the week of January 8, 2018.
I have a sneaking suspicion as to which document that is…
You have agreed that all such witnesses – namely, former DOJ Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr; FBI Supervisory Special Agent Peter Strzok; former FBI General Counsel James Baker; FBI Attorney Lisa Page; FBI Attorney Sally Moyer; FBI Assistant Director Greg Brower; FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap; and FBI Special Agent James Rybicki – will be made available for interviews to be conducted in January.
Neither Priestap nor Rybicki had been listed by Nunes in his December 28, 2017 letter.
As noted, Priestap is head of FBI Counterintelligence. Rybicki was Comey’s Chief of Staff and senior counselor. Both of these men can provided enormous “insight” – especially Priestap, whom Comey blamed for the FBI decision not to inform Congress of their investigation.
Lastly, as to the remaining 9,500 text messages between FBI Supervisory Special Agent Strzok and his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page, it is my understanding…that another search is being conducted and all relevant messages will be provided…no later than close of business, Thursday, January 11, 2018.
These texts should prove a treasure trove …
I understand that your office is researching records related to the details of an April 2017 meeting between DOJ Attorney Andrew Weissman (now the senior attorney for Special Counsel Robert Mueller) and the media, which will be provided to this Committee by close of business on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
Weissman is apparently being investigated already…
Nunes closes his letter with this statement:
The materials we are requesting are vital to the Committee’s investigation of potential abuses into intelligence and law enforcement agencies’ handling of the Christopher Steele dossier. The Committee is extremely concerned by indications that top U.S. Government officials who were investigating a presidential campaign relied on unverified information that was funded by the opposing political campaign and was based on Russian sources.
Nunes has obtained every item he was asking for – and then some.
The documents are being delivered today – with one notable exception. The remaining document and messages to be delivered next week. Same for details on Weissman. All interviews to occur during the current month.
Rosenstein has apparently pushed the inclusion of Priestap and Rybicki – two additional interviews I’m extremely grateful for.
In my earlier piece detailing Nunes’ December 28th letter, I made a few observations:
It’s entirely possible the documents requested by Nunes may already be included in the Inspector General’s much larger delivery – slated for mid-January 2018.
Rosenstein and Christopher Wray, President Trump’s new FBI Director, have been jointly leading a newly created unit to target leaking. Their investigation has been ongoing since at least May 2017. You can read more here.
As I’ve noted before, I’m not yet convinced that Rosenstein is part of the problem. He may well be one of the individuals assisting the investigation.
The direction of Nunes’ anger towards Rosenstein may be procedural in nature. Nunes is furious with the DOJ – but he may not be angry with Rosenstein.
The results Rosenstein delivered to Nunes would seem to confirm my inclinations. Rosenstein had all documents available for reasonable delivery – it appears it was first necessary to coordinate with Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s Investigation.
Rosenstein is delivering everything Nunes asked for while simultaneously providing two additional – and highly relevant people – for Nunes to interview.
In my opinion, Priestap goes far beyond relevant. I see him as crucial.
Consider again, this compressed timeline:
- February/March 2016 – Trump’s securing of GOP nomination seen as probable.
- April 19 2016 – Wife of Glenn Simpson (Fusion GPS) Mary Jacoby visits White House.
- Late April 2016 – Clinton Campaign begins paying Fusion GPS.
- April/May 2016 – Fusion GPS hires Christopher Steele.
- April/May 2016 – Fusion GPS hires Nellie Ohr, wife of DOJ Assoc. Deputy AG Bruce Ohr.
- May 2016 – Trump becomes presumptive GOP Nominee.
- May 23 2016 – Nellie Ohr applies for a HAM Radio license.
- June 2016 – FBI Agent Peter Strzok – and possibly DOJ’s Bruce Ohr – meet with Christopher Steel.
- Late June 2016 – First draft of Trump Dossier shared w/Fusion & possibly FBI’s Strzok.
- Late June 2016 – First FISA request made. It is denied.
- July 2 2016 – FBI Agent Strzok interviews Hillary Clinton.
- July 5 2016 – FBI Director Comey exonerates Clinton.
- July 19, 2016 – Trump officially becomes GOP Nominee.
- Mid/Late July 2016 – FBI begins counter-intelligence investigation into Russia and Trump.
- Late July – Second draft of Trump Dossier shared with FBI.
- August 2016 – Strzok sends “insurance policy” text referencing Deputy FBI Director McCabe
- August/September 2016 – CIA Director Brennan meets with Gang of Eight suggesting Russia is helping Trump.
- Late Summer/Early Fall 2016 – Trump Dossier shopped.
- Mid/Late September 2016 – Second FISA request made.
- September 26 2016 – DOJ’s National Security Division (NSD) admits to FISC that surveillance included Obama’s political opponents.
- September 27 2016 – John Carlin, head of DOJ’s NSD and involved with FISA requests, announces he is resigning.
- Early October 2016 – Bruce Ohr meets with Dossier author Christopher Steele.
- Early October 2016 – Bruce Ohr meets with Glenn Simpson (Fusion GPS).
- October 2016 – FISA request is granted. No evidence is found but surveillance continues – ostensibly for national security reasons.
- October 2016 – The Obama administration is now monitoring an opposing presidential campaign using federal intelligence services
Bill Priestap is directly involved in almost every detail of the timeline.
During Congressional testimony, James Comey assigned full responsibility to Priestap for the FBI’s failure to notify Congress and the Gang of Eight of their investigation into the Trump Campaign.
I’m guessing that got Priestap’s attention.
In conjunction with Nunes’ efforts, a related announcement was made today.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism Chairman Lindsey Graham referred the author of the “Trump Dossier,” Christopher Steele, to the Justice Department for investigation of potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001 for false statements investigators have reason to believe Steele made about the distribution of claims contained in the dossier.
Yesterday evening, Grassley and Graham delivered to Senate Security a letter and classified memorandum for delivery to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray containing information that forms the basis of the referral.
You may recall that Lindsey Graham strongly inferred that he had personally seen evidence of improper use of the Trump Dossier by the DOJ.
Grassley included some interesting remarks:
I don’t take lightly making a referral for criminal investigation. But, as I would with any credible evidence of a crime unearthed in the course of our investigations, I feel obliged to pass that information along to the Justice Department for appropriate review. Everyone needs to follow the law and be truthful in their interactions with the FBI. If the same actions have different outcomes, and those differences seem to correspond to partisan political interests, then the public will naturally suspect that law enforcement decisions are not on the up-and-up. Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely. In any event, it’s up to the Justice Department to figure that out.
After reviewing how Mr. Steele conducted himself in distributing information contained in the dossier and how many stop signs the DOJ ignored in its use of the dossier, I believe that a special counsel needs to review this matter. The rule of Law depends on the government and all who work on its behalf playing by the rules themselves. I hope the Department of Justice will carefully review our letter and take appropriate action.
We are witnessing the execution of a pincer movement. Nunes is working on one angle. Grassley and Graham another.
Note the specific language.
Maybe there is some innocent explanation for the inconsistencies we have seen, but it seems unlikely. In any event, it’s up to the Justice Department to figure that out.
The rule of Law depends on the government and all who work on its behalf playing by the rules themselves.
Grassley and Graham have come across inconsistencies in stories. Between Christopher Steele and the DOJ and FBI…
I recently noted the following in Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS Editorial Failure:
This is what happens when narratives begin to fall apart.
Different parties, with suddenly differing goals and objectives, seek to set their own agendas. They tell their stories as they want the story to be told.
These stories often don’t align with each other out of motivated – and conflicting – self-interests.
The public roll-out of information continues.
Postscript: As a quick aside, two other notable events occurred.
A Federal Judge ruled against Fusion GPS in their attempt to keep their bank records from being examined by the House Intelligence Committee. No date for release has yet been set, but I’m guessing those bank records are going to prove extremely interesting.
The FBI launched a new inquiry into whether the Clinton Foundation engaged in any pay-to-play politics or other illegal activities while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of State (Hint: the answer is “yes”).
Several things are possible here. This could be the beginning of an entirely new investigation. Or it could be the continuation of one reported back in November 2016.
The investigation looking into possible pay-for-play interaction between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Foundation has been going on for more than a year. Led by the white collar crime division, public corruption branch of the criminal investigative division of the FBI.
It could also be a sub-investigation of another ongoing investigation. Not enough details to know for sure at this point but any sunlight is welcome.
You know things are crazy busy when an investigation into the Clinton Foundation is the smaller of news events.
newer post Some Updates & the Participants
older post 18 Questions from Jim Jordan