The mainstream media is setting the stage to thrust a new narrative onto the American people. The opening salvo involved a joint effort by CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post and other left-leaning media outlets to get ahead of the most damaging revelations expected to be contained in the DOJ Inspector General’s report on possible FISA Abuse. Their valiant efforts to minimize the fallout have left many conservatives feeling demoralized and frustrated. However, a deeper dive into the details reveals some documented evidence that Democrats may find difficult to spin.
On Sunday, I posted on an assessment of the media leaks by the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, an especially perceptive political analyst, entitled “The First Glimpse into Horowitz’s FISA-Abuse Report,” I wrote that if his analysis was correct, I would stick needles in my eyes. On Tuesday, investigative reporter and Fox News’ contributor Dan Bongino, devoted his one-hour podcast to McCarthy’s conclusions. Bongino not only confirms them through videos and news reports, he takes it further. (All Bongino quotes were taken from this podcast which can be viewed below.)
(Note: The media reported that fired FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was a low level employee who had altered an email which was included as supporting evidence for one of the FBI’s renewal applications for the warrant to spy on Carter Page. (Clinesmith resigned from the FBI in September and IG Michael Horowitz has since referred him for criminal prosecution.) On the contrary, Clinesmith was involved in the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private server, he served as the lead attorney for their counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign and then transitioned to the Mueller probe. This is documented in IG Horowitz’ June 2018 report.
Bongino starts with the premise that the media is beginning to set the narrative. “The media and the Democratic Party are a symbiotic, venom-like organism from the Spiderman comic books.” They are trying to change “the story,” which is reality, to “a story,” which is what they’d like Americans to believe.
“The story,” Bongino says, is that the Democrats and the media used their police state powers, their law enforcement and intelligence gathering capabilities to spy on a political campaign to alter and win an election.
“A story” is that ‘we had to spy on the Russians who were trying to interfere in our election, maybe we overreached, that happens sometimes during investigations. Sorry.’
The ‘Premise’ of the Investigation
CNN adds that some of the witnesses interviewed expect the IG’s report will “find mistakes in the FBI’s handling of the FISA process, but that those mistakes do not undermine the premise for the FBI’s investigation.” The network describes that premise as the conclusion “that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.”
Of course, that only relates half the story — the uncontroversial half. The FBI’s full premise was that the Trump campaign was complicit in Russia’s election interference.
Bongino: The warrant to spy on Page didn’t say ‘The Russians are really bad.’ It said, ‘The Russians are really bad and they’re working with Donald Trump and his team.‘
Bongino stresses that we haven’t seen the report. “All of this is based on leaks from the media and the story it looks as if they are currently laying the groundwork for. If the leaks are accurate, it looks as if there is a serious bait and switch going on. We need to ask what is the premise? We all know that the Russians are bad, but that’s not a premise to spy on Americans.”
Although Strzok would later disclaim participation in the Carter Page surveillance application, the texts show he was heavily involved — a fact the FBI and Justice Department attempted to conceal. On October 11, 2016, he told Ms. Page he was “currently fighting with Stu for this FISA” — a reference to Stuart Evans, a lawyer in DOJ’s National Security Division. When the FBI first grudgingly disclosed the Strzok–Page texts, the words “Stu for this FISA” were blacked out.
Prior to applying for the first FISA warrant to spy on Page, we learned through text message exchanges between then-FBI agent Peter Strzok and then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page, that there was one DOJ official, Stuart Evans, who was not quite on board with spying on a U.S. citizen in October 2016. Evans had “continuing concerns” about “possible bias of the chs (confidential human source — a reference to Christopher Steele). Page told McCabe that this issue would be addressed with “a robust explanation.”
Electronic surveillance is the most invasive technique that law enforcement has at its disposal. Evans was questioning the need to use it. Was there probable cause?
Bongino: Evans thought there was a real problem with using Steele’s unverified dossier. “There were big issues at DOJ that got papered over.”
I presume this means it was not make-or-break on the issue of probable cause. Under federal jurisprudence, false information does not necessarily invalidate a warrant. Instead, the warrant is deemed valid if, were the false information stripped out, the remaining information would still have been sufficient to establish probable cause.
It should go without saying by now that what’s being reported is but a fraction of the problematic information provided to the FISC. I would briefly rehearse four points:
1. The Steele-dossier claims formed a substantial basis for the warrant application. McCabe has assessed that there would not have been probable cause without them; others have indicated that it was a 50–50 proposition, at best. It is impossible for us to make a judgment about this without knowing the totality of the non-dossier information.
Bongino: He explains that if one data point is incorrect, but the rest is accurate, the incorrect item can be stripped out. If we remove Clinesmith’s altered documents, would the rest of the evidence be sufficient to establish probable cause? If it is, then the warrant is still valid. McCarthy is “making the case that the leakers are trying to make the case to the media that ‘just because this FBI agent is alleged to have manipulated an email, don’t worry because there’s still a lot of probable cause left that shows that Carter Page may have been involved.’ ”
Are the leakers “now suggesting there is something else out there”? McCabe himself once said there would have been no warrant without the dossier. “Where is it? Where’s the beef?…Where is this information they’re claiming would be probable cause? Your dossier was false. Your information on Carter Page was false and now it’s alleged you manipulated evidence to get this passed through the court? Where’s the other stuff?…You’re suggesting that hiding out there is a gift basket of information that was used to spy on the Trump team that was verified and true that would have led to a warrant anyway? And it hasn’t leaked yet? Nobody’s heard it? Mueller didn’t find it? The press didn’t find it? So there’s probable cause to believe the collusion hoax was real?”
And here’s the crescendo.
On the other hand, if the Horowitz report is going to take the tack that, because Russia did in fact meddle in the 2016 campaign, any investigative overreach amounts merely to regrettable but understandable overzealousness, that would be a very big deal — and not in a good way.
Bongino: This is going to be the narrative. “This is going to be their story post-IG report on December 9th. ‘These were innocent mistakes made against innocent Americans, but the Russians are really bad.’”
First warrant was obtained in October 2017, the first renewal in January, the second renewal in April and the last in July.
Something interesting happened right before the second renewal was obtained on April 7th. Bongino explains that FISA warrants are serious things. The FBI has to provide new material each time they go for a renewal. “You have to go before a judge with new information. If I go in front of a judge and say Joe is a terrorist, I can’t keep spying on Joe for the rest of my life. I have to produce new information to a judge on renewal.”
Bongino believes (from his sources) that by early April, the FBI likely had exculpatory information rather than incriminating information. They had to find something to use to renew the warrant.
In the meantime, Carter Page had been emailing the FBI. He wrote a letter to James Comey. He wanted to clear his name. He had been extremely cooperative.
What a coincidence! On April 6, the day before the FBI obtained this renewal, Kevin Clinesmith received an email from Carter Page. This is the one he is believed to have altered.
Bongino lowers his gavel. Warrant approved.
(Part 2 of this story will appear on Friday.)
If you have the time, I highly recommend watching this video.