Posted by Curt on 26 February, 2018 at 11:37 am. 1 comment.

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Maybe Adam Schiff has more of a sense of humor than I’d have given him credit for. The House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat begins his long-awaited memo — the minority response to the Nunes memo that was penned by staffers of the committee’s Republican majority — by slamming Chairman Devin Nunes’s unconscionable “risk of public exposure of sensitive sources and methods for no legitimate purpose.” The Schiff memo, which has been delayed for weeks because the FBI objected to its gratuitous effort to publicize highly classified intelligence, including methods and sources, then proceeds to tell its tale through what appear to be scores of blacked-out redactions of information Schiff pushed to expose.



Heavy Reliance on Steele Dossier Confirmed

The FBI and the Justice Department heavily relied on the Steele dossier’s uncorroborated allegations. You know this is true because, notwithstanding the claim that “only narrow use” was made “of information from Steele’s sources,” the Democrats end up acknowledging that “only narrow use” actually means significant use — as in, the dossier was the sine qua non of the warrant application. The memo concedes that the FISA-warrant application relied on allegations by Steele’s anonymous Russian hearsay sources that:

Page met separately while in Russia with Igor Sechin, a close associate of Vladimir Putin and executive chairman of Roseneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company, and Igor Divyekin, a senior Kremlin official. Sechin allegedly discussed the prospect of future U.S.-Russia energy cooperation and “an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia.” Divyekin allegedly disclosed to Page that the Kremlin possessed compromising information on Clinton (“kompromat”) and noted the possibility of its being released to Candidate #1’s [i.e., Donald Trump’s] campaign. . . . This closely tracks what other Russian contacts were informing another Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos.

This passage puts the lie to two of the main Democratic talking points:

1) This was obviously the most critical allegation against Page. The Democrats attempt to make much of Page’s trip to Moscow in July 2016, but the uncorroborated Sechin and Divyekin meetings, which Page credibly denies, are the aspect of the Moscow trip that suggested a nefarious Trump–Russia conspiracy. That’s what the investigation was about. Far from clandestine, the rest of Page’s trip was well publicized and apparently anodyne. And saliently — for reasons we’ll get to in due course — Page was clearly prepared to talk to the FBI about the trip if the Bureau wanted to know what he was up to.

It is the Steele dossier that alleges Page was engaged in arguably criminal activity. The Democrats point to nothing else that does.

Moreover, because Page was an American citizen, FISA law required that the FBI and the DOJ show not only that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power (Russia), but also that his “clandestine” activities on behalf of Russia were a likely violation of federal criminal law. (See FISA, Section 1801(b)(2)(A) through (E), Title 50, U.S. Code.) It is the Steele dossier that alleges Page was engaged in arguably criminal activity. The Democrats point to nothing else that does.

2) Democrats implausibly insist that what “launched” the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation was not Steele’s allegations but intelligence from Australia about George Papadopoulos’s contact with what Democrats elusively describe as “individuals linked to Russia.” As we learned when Papadopoulos pled guilty, though, it is anything but clear that these “individuals linked to Russia” had much in the way of links to Putin’s regime: London-based academic Joseph Mifsud, who is from Malta and apparently does not speak Russian; an unidentified woman who falsely pretended to be Putin’s niece; and Ivan Timofeev, a program director at a Russian-government-funded think tank.

Even if we assume for argument’s sake that these characters had solid regime connections — rather than that they were boasting to impress the credulous young Papadopoulos — they were patently not in the same league as Sechin, a Putin crony, and Divyekin, a highly placed regime official. And that, manifestly, is how the FBI and the DOJ saw the matter: They sought a FISA warrant on Page, not Papadopoulos. And, as the above-excerpted passage shows, they highlighted the Steele dossier’s sensational allegations about Page and then feebly tried to corroborate those allegations with some Papadopoulos information, not the other way around. (More on that when we get to Schiff’s notion of “corroboration.”)

Concealing the Dossier’s Clinton-Campaign Origins

Another major takeaway from the Schiff memo is that the FBI and the DOJ withheld from the FISA court the fact that Steele’s work was a project of the Clinton campaign. Naturally, the reader must ferret this admission out of a couple of dense paragraphs, in which Democrats risibly claim that the “DOJ was transparent with the Court about Steele’s sourcing.”

How’s this for transparency? The FISA warrant application says that Steele, referred to as “Source #1,” was “approached by” Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, referred to as “an identified U.S. person,” who

indicated to Source #1 that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. Person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s [i.e., Trump’s] ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. Person and Source #1 have a longstanding business relationship.) The identified U.S. Person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. Person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign. [Emphasis in Schiff memo, p. 5]

The first thing to notice here is the epistemological contortions by which the DOJ rationalized concealing that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for Steele’s reporting. They ooze consciousness of guilt. If you have to go through these kinds of mental gymnastics to avoid disclosing something, it’s because you know that being “transparent” demands disclosing it.

Next, Schiff — again, hilariously enough to make you wonder if it’s done tongue-in-cheek — accuses Nunes of hypocrisy for condemning the omission of Mrs. Clinton’s name after having rebuked the Obama administration’s “unmasking” of American names. Of course, the two things have nothing to do with each other.

“Unmasking” refers to the revelation of American identities in intelligence reports. These are Americans who, though not targeted as foreign agents, are incidentally intercepted in surveillance. In marked contrast, we are talking here about a FISA warrant application, not an intelligence report. In a warrant application, it is the DOJ’s honorable practice, and the judiciary’s expectation, that the court must be informed about the material biases of the sources of the factual allegations that the DOJ claims amount to probable cause.

As the Democrats’ own excerpt from the FISA application illustrates, unmasking has nothing to do with it, because there is no need to use names at all: Note that Simpson is referred to as “an identified U.S. person”; Perkins-Coie is referred to as “a U.S.-based law firm.” The dispute here is not about the failure to use the words “Hillary Clinton.” They could have referred to “Candidate #2.”To state that “Candidate #2” had commissioned Steele’s research would have been just as easy and every bit as appropriate as the DOJ’s reference to a “Candidate #1,” who might have “ties to Russia.” Had DOJ done the former, it would not have “unmasked” Hillary Clinton any more than Donald Trump was unmasked by DOJ’s description of him as “Candidate #1”; but it would have been being “transparent” with the FISA court. By omitting any reference to Clinton, the DOJ was being the opposite of transparent.

Two other things to notice here.

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