With each passing day, the FISA scandal takes on another layer. As this behemoth of a story continues to grow like a Russian athlete on steroids, we at The Daily Wire have decided to put together the following guide. From the beginning to today, this is the FISA story.
Part I: The Dossier
On January 10, 2017, BuzzFeed News released what’s become commonly known as "the Trump dossier." Beginning in the summer of 2016, former MI6 agent Christopher Steele began to compile the report at the behest of research firm Fusion GPS (which was co-founded by former Wall Street Journal reporter Glenn Simpson).
Fusion GPS was initially hired by individuals at The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, to conduct opposition research on Republican presidential candidates, including then-candidate Donald Trump. Once Trump secured the Republican nomination, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee took the reins, hiring Fusion GPS "through lawyer Marc Elias and his firm, Perkins Coie," reports Kaitlyn Schallhorn of Fox News.
The 35-page dossier, which can be read in its entirety here, is loaded with shocking and salacious allegations. The primary claims made in the dossier are that Russia had "been cultivating, supporting, and assisting" Donald Trump for years, that "the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his team valuable intelligence on his opponents," and that "Russian authorities" had "exploited Trump’s personal obsessions and sexual perversion," recording alleged sexual exploits in order to blackmail him.
While Steele was gathering information for Fusion, the presidential election approached. In July 2016, Steele decided to hand over some of his initial research to an FBI agent in Rome, Italy, reports USA Today. During an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 22, 2017, Glenn Simpson alleged that Steele met with the Rome FBI official in September 2016, two months after the initial contact, providing him "a full briefing of his findings."
According to The New York Times, Steele’s contacts with the FBI were occurring around the same time as then-CIA head John Brennan was briefing top elected officials about Russia’s alleged effort to meddle in the 2016 election. Anonymous "officials" claimed that Brennan "also indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election." More on this later.
Possibly frustrated by the apparent lack of movement by the FBI in relation to his unverified claims, Steele eventually spoke about his findings with David Corn of Mother Jones. On October 31, 2016, Corn published a story based on the information he received from Steele. The piece, titled "A Veteran Spy Has Given the FBI Information Alleging a Russian Operation to Cultivate Donald Trump," failed to make waves due to the deluge of other important news occurring at the time, reports Vanity Fair.
However, according to The New York Times, the FBI had indeed begun an investigation near the end of July 2016 to "examine possible links between Russia and people tied to the Trump campaign."
In early January 2017, two months after the election, summaries of the information contained in the dossier were given to then-President Obama and then-President Elect Trump.
Part II: Carter Page
Now, let’s rewind to the claim that Trump campaign advisors may have had ties to Russia. In March 2016, during an interview with The Washington Post editorial board, then-candidate Donald Trump spoke of a man named Carter Page:
FREDERICK RYAN JR: "We’ve heard you’re going to be announcing your foreign policy team shortly. … Any you can share with us?"
TRUMP: "Well, I hadn’t thought of doing it, but if you want I can give you some of the names… Walid Phares, who you probably know, PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives caucus, and counter-terrorism expert; Carter Page, PhD; George Papadopoulos, he’s an energy and oil consultant, excellent guy ..."
Carter Page, a former investment banker who worked in Moscow for several years and co-founded Global Energy Capital, a "private equity firm specializing in investments in the energy sector," according to Bloomberg, was mentioned multiple times in the Fusion GPS/Steele dossier, along with former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
On page seven, the dossier reads in part:
Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the Trump side by the Republican candidate's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was using foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and others as intermediaries.
The document goes on to state that according to an anonymous source, Page visited with Igor Sechin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the chairman of Rosneft, an integrated oil company based in Moscow. The source claims that Sechin asked Page about "future bilateral energy cooperation, and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia," and that Page "reacted positively" to the idea, but was "non-committal." Later in the document, it is claimed that Page was keen on cooperation, and that he "expressed interest and confirmed that were Trump elected U.S. president, then sanctions on Russia would be lifted."
The alleged meeting is said to have taken place on or around the 7th or 8th of July 2016, a source in the dossier said. Page also allegedly met with someone who offered to release compromising information on Hillary Clinton, according to another source mentioned.
Page did indeed travel to Moscow in July 2016, giving a speech at the New Economic School. Although the meetings mentioned in the dossier have not been confirmed, throughout 2017, Page’s story regarding the individuals with whom he did or did not speak mutated.
Per ABC News:
In January , Page told ABC News that he spoke “not one word” to anyone from the Kremlin during the trip, and then in April, he acknowledged only that he “said hello briefly to one individual, who was a board member of the New Economic School where I gave my speech.”
However, during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on November 2, 2017, Page admitted that he had "briefly said hello to Arkady Dvorkovich," Russian Deputy Prime Minister.
According to The Atlantic’s David A. Graham, Page was then challenged by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA):
Schiff pointed out that in a memo to Trump campaign staffers after the trip, he had written, “In a private conversation, Dvorkovich expressed strong support for Mr. Trump and a desire to work together toward devising better solutions in response to the vast range of current international problems.” He also wrote an email to Trump campaign staffers Tera Dahl and J.D. Gordon, saying, “On a related front, I’ll send you guys a readout soon regarding some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential administration here.”
Following Schiff’s inquiry, Page claimed the alleged "incredible insights" came not from lengthy exchanges, but from listening to speeches.
"Page was also fuzzy about an encounter with a man who works for the Russian oil giant Rosneft, whom he called an old friend, saying he could not recall who had contacted the other or whether they had discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia," writes Graham.
During his testimony, Page also maintained that his trip wasn’t related to the campaign — that it was personal in nature. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) found that peculiar. The congresswoman quoted an email Page sent to the campaign prior to his speech, which stated: "Please let me know if you have any reservations or thoughts on how you’d prefer me to focus these remarks."
She then asked Page what such an email meant if not in the context of the campaign. He called it a "courtesy."
Page also claimed to have told several members of Trump’s staff about his trip to Moscow, including then-Senator Jeff Sessions, spokesperson Hope Hicks, and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. An anonymous "former campaign adviser" told Politico that Lewandowski even okayed the trip "on the condition that he would not be an official representative of the campaign."
In short, Page’s testimony was inconsistent and possibly unreliable.
According to the Associated Press, more than one "cease and desist" letter was sent to Page in the months following his departure from the campaign.
Fox News adds:
Attorney Don McGahn told Page in a December 2016 letter to “immediately cease” saying he is a Trump adviser and to stop suggesting he was more than a short-lived advisory council member “who never actually met with the president-elect.”
Part III: FISA Surveillance
In the summer of 2016, the FBI, along with the Department of Justice, requested and received a warrant from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to monitor the communications of Carter Page.
The Washington Post reports that in order to obtain the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant, "prosecutors must show that a significant purpose of the warrant is to obtain foreign intelligence information." The outlet adds that "any FISA application has to be approved at the highest levels of the Justice Department and the FBI."
Officials concluded that "there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power," and persuaded a FISC judge to grant them the warrant. Part of the warrant application, according to The Washington Post, referenced interactions Page had with Russian spy, Victor Podobnyy, in 2013.
BuzzFeed News writes that Podobnyy, who worked as the Attaché to the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, met Page in January 2013 while attending an "energy conference." Podobnyy then allegedly attempted to recruit Page.
Podobnyy and two others were uncovered and charged in 2015 with "conspiracy to gather intelligence on behalf of Russia." Podobnyy was charged "in absentia," as he was no longer in the United States.
According to court documents, in June of 2013, Page was interviewed by the FBI regarding his contacts with Podobnyy (Page is identified in the documents as "Male-1"):
Male-1 stated that he first met Victor Podobnyy, the defendant, in January 2013 at an energy symposium in New York City. During this initial meeting, Podobnyy gave Male-1 Podobnyy's business card and two email addresses. Over the following months, Male-1 and Podobnyy exchanged emails about the energy business and met in person on occasion, with Male-1 providing Podobnyy with Male-1's outlook on the current and future of the energy industry. Male-1 also provided documents to Podobnyy about the energy business.
Another part of the application, according to The Washington Post, "included a lengthy declaration that laid out investigators’ basis for believing that Page was an agent of the Russian government and knowingly engaged in clandestine intelligence activities on behalf of Moscow, officials said."
This isn’t the first time Page has been under watch, says CNN. "U.S. officials briefed on the probe" allegedly told the outlet that "Page had been the subject of a secret intelligence surveillance warrant since 2014, earlier than had been previously reported."
Part IV: The Memo
A memo written and compiled by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and staff over the course of several months allegedly claims abuse by the FBI regarding the FISA warrant application. Though the memo hasn’t been released, leaks are springing up everywhere.
According to a New York Times report, the memo claims that "Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved an application to extend surveillance" of Carter Page, and that the information used to justify the application may have been faulty:
The memo’s primary contention is that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by an investigator, Christopher Steele, that had been financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
... Republicans could potentially use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page.
Rosenstein appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and some believe his decision has led to resentment from the president.
The possibility that information closely tied to funded opposition research may have been used to partially justify a FISA warrant could put a massive dent in the public’s trust of the supposed impartiality of the officials running the Russia investigation.
On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Nunes, voted "along party lines" to release the memo despite the protestations of Democrats and DOJ officials. The proverbial ball is now in Trump’s court, and it looks like he’s going to allow the release.
On Tuesday evening, several outlets released a video showing Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) telling Trump to "release the memo" as he shook the president’s hand following the State of the Union address, to which Trump replied, "Don't worry, 100%. Can you imagine?"
Adding a stinger to this monster of a story, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe resigned on Monday — the day after FBI Director Christopher Wray "viewed the memo on Capitol Hill," reports the Washington Examiner. The resignation could be the beginning of memo-related fallout, or it could simply be unusual timing.
The next revelation in FISA-gate could come a week from now, or in the next hour. At least now you’re up to speed.