Nunes is demanding the DOJ/FBI produce the Electronic Communication (EC) used to establish the opening of the FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump Campaign.
There are actually two components to Nunes’ demands:
- Information – known as the “Electronic Communication” (EC) – used to open an FBI Counterintelligence Investigation into the Trump Campaign in July 2016.
- The FISA Application used to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter Page on October 21, 2016.
On April 6, 2018, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd responded to Nunes’ April 4, 2018 letter (pdf here):
The Department and the FBI agree to permit all members of the Committee to review the FISA applications and renewals in camera at the Department. The Department considers this an extraordinary accommodation based on unique facts and circumstances.
We are also extending this review opportunity to the members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The DOJ agreed to allow all members of the House Intelligence Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee to review the FISA Application.
However, Nunes received no response to his demand to see the Electronic Communication.
To my knowledge, no Congressional member has seen a fully unredacted version of the Electronic Communication.
The EC has potential to prove important for a number of reasons – none mutually exclusive:
- Brennan did not fully or truthfully divulge all information to the Gang of Eight. The Electronic Communication does not mesh with representations Brennan made in August/September 2016.
- The Inspector General’s Investigation has identified material issues with the Electronic Communication and cannot afford to have them divulged while Phase III of the Investigation continues.
- The EC contains information that conflicts with the Carter Page FISA Application.
- The reasons for initiating the FBI Counterintelligence Investigation are transparently weak or unsubstantiated – and do not rely primarily on Papadopoulos.
- The Electronic Communication highlights involvement of British and EU Intelligence Agencies.
- The Electronic Communication exposes John Brennan’s primary role.
I discuss more fully here.
The deadline for production of the EC is tonight – April 11, 2018. Nunes has indicated he will pursue an impeachment vote if the deadline is not honored.
I would like to pose a simple question.
Why haven’t you heard Devin Nunes complaining about his lack of access to the witness list previously promised.
On December 28, 2017, Devin Nunes sent a letter to Deputy AG Rosenstein demanding, among other things, that a specific group of individuals be made available for interviews (more here).
Missing from that list was an important name:
Why is Bill Priestap not on that interview list?
Could it be that he’s already being interviewed (turned)?
— Jeff @ themarketswork (@themarketswork) December 29, 2017
On January 3, 2018, Nunes reached an agreement with DAG Rosenstein and FBI Director Chris Wray (more here).
Nunes would get his documents – and his witnesses to be made available for interviews no later than end of January 2018.
Added to Nunes’ initial list were two additional names:
- Bill Priestap – FBI Counterintelligence Head
- James Rybicki – Comey’s Chief of Staff and senior counselor
It’s unclear if Nunes subsequently asked for these individuals or Wray and/or Rosenstein added them.
Scheduling for these interviews would quietly slip into February 2018. Then the scheduling seemed to disappear altogether.
Yet Nunes never said a word. No complaints. No follow-up letters. Nothing.
The explanation for this lay with the Inspector General.
On February 18, 2018, I added four more names to that list – bringing the number of cooperating individuals to five:
- James Baker – FBI
- Peter Strzok – FBI
- Lisa Page – FBI/DOJ
- Bruce Ohr – DOJ
- Bill Priestap – FBI
Priestap, Ohr and the others have all been interviewed by the Inspector General.
They are an active part of the Inspector General’s Investigation – which would answer why Nunes has been so quiet on the matter.
Here’s the thing.
The Inspector General has seen the Electronic Communication.
I have material difficulty imagining any scenario where this hasn’t occurred.
- Phase I – The Clinton Email Investigation.
- Phase II – Carter Page FISA Application.
- Phase III – Russia-Trump Investigation.
The FISA Application to which Nunes was recently granted visual access falls into Phase II.
The Electronic Communication falls into Phase III – but has overlap with Phase II.
Neither are direct components of Phase I.
So why is access to one (FISA Application) given and the other (EC) withheld – for now.
Three possible answers – again not mutually exclusive:
- There is truly damning information that elements of DOJ/FBI want hidden from Congress and public.
- The Inspector General and Prosecutor John Huber – as part of their case building – do not yet want these documents made public.
- Attention – which had been sorely lacking – is specifically being drawn to the EC.
Consider Nunes’ request against the backdrop of the last couple days.
The office and home of Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen were raided by the FBI – an action surely designed to provoke Presidential retaliation.
Rumors that Trump may fire Mueller. Despite intentional goading, I doubt that will happen in the immediate future.
Rumors that Trump may fire Rosenstein and/or AG Sessions. Unknown on Rosenstein – highly doubtful on Sessions.
The situation and our potential response in Syria remains in flux.
In the midst of all this noise and manufactured dissension it’s important to retain focus.
The Department of Justice is currently covering their own trail because they know they engaged in FISA abuses that they don’t want to be prosecuted for.
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 10, 2018
Representative Gaetz is correct – but it goes beyond DOJ.
Set against a generalized backdrop of Intelligence Agency weaponization – aided by complicity at DOJ and State – there are two fundamental stories that deserve primary focus:
- John Brennan’s role in establishing the FBI’s Trump-Russia Investigation and pushing the Trump-Russia Narrative.
- FISA Abuse committed by the DOJ’s National Security Division and the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
Both stories are intertwined but retain their own specific components, actions and details.
Both also lead up the political food-chain of the Obama Administration.
These are the areas deserving of sunlight.
Inspector General Horowitz knows this. Grassley, Goodlatte and Nunes understand as well.
Which is precisely why Nunes made those two-pronged demands in his April 4, 2018 letter.
Some of what’s occurring is political theater – other aspects represent acts of desperate factions within the DOJ and FBI. From an outside perspective it can sometimes prove near-impossible to distinguish one from the other.
But worth noting is this.
For a man oft-rumored to be fired by President Trump, AG Sessions has been busy.
Sessions recently announced the appointment of John Lausch to serve as a point of contact between IG Horowitz/Huber and Congress.
It will be Lausch’s job to facilitate document production from the DOJ to Goodlatte’s House Judiciary Committee and oversee the level of redactions.
Of potentially greater significance, was the announcement that Ezra Cohen-Watnick will serve as an adviser to AG Sessions on “counterintelligence and counterterrorism”.
Cohen-Watnick was an early member of President Trump’s National Security Council – put in place by General Flynn – and oversaw covert action and other intelligence programs.
This is incorrect.
Nunes was actually aware of the information back in January 2017 – but lacked access to underlying documents.
Cohen-Watnick helped Nunes navigate through the documents in March 2017 but was not the actual source.
The true source informed Nunes two months earlier. NSA Director Mike Rogers’ name leaps to mind.
The DIA and the CIA have often been in conflict with each other and the rivalry between the two is real.
An admittedly simplistic summary of the two:
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – civilian intelligence, covert ops.
- Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) – defense and military intelligence, black ops.
Cohen-Watnick’s appointment will prove significant – more in a later post.
In the meantime, it will be interesting to see DOJ’s response – or lack thereof – to Nunes.
The Electronic Communication is deserving of greater attention.
My guess is Nunes gets what he’s asking for.