The memo is out, and it’s damning.
But it’s not the end of the Mueller investigation. In fact, the memo provides evidence that if President Trump were to fire Mueller, he’d be doing so on the false pretense that the entire investigation was predicated on a Hillary/DOJ/FBI/Obama nexus of coordination. The memo itself disproves that notion. With that said, the Democrats’ attempts to stifle the memo on national security grounds appear to have been totally and completely specious and ridiculous to boot.
So, here’s what you need to know about the memo, if its allegations are true.
1. The FBI and DOJ lied to the FISA Court about the grounds for a warrant on Trump foreign policy advisor Carter Page. According to the memo, the Fusion GPS dossier, compiled by Christopher Steele and paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was the central basis for the FISA warrant against Page. But that dossier was obviously biased — and that information was never turned over to the FISA court. The memo states, “The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.” Furthermore, the FBI did not independently verify the claims of the Steele dossier in any serious way before seeking the FISA warrant. Those involved in the application include current deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, which is likely why President Trump refused to rule out firing him today.
2. The media helped garner the warrant. The Carter Page FISA application apparently cited a Yahoo News article that was based on leaks from Steele to the news outlet. But that was not independent corroborating evidence of the Steele dossier — it was a repetition of the information Steele was disseminating. Steele was later suspended and terminated from the FBI for “an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI.”
3. Steele didn’t like Trump, but this information wasn’t included in the FISA application either. According to the memo, Steele told associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr that he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” Ohr didn’t report that in the FISA application, nor was information that Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS on compiling opposition research on Trump revealed to the FISA Court.
4. Most importantly, the Carter Page application was NOT the launching point of the Trump-Russia collusion investigation. This is the most important point. If the Page FISA warrant had been the centerpiece and launching point of the investigation, Trump might have grounds to shut the whole thing down — Trump could claim, rightly, that the FBI, DOJ, and Hillary campaign worked together to trump up these charges, and then weaponized our intelligence and law enforcement community against him. But the memo itself states that “The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos. …The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok.” The memo points out that Strzok was also anti-Trump, but provides no evidence that the Papadopoulos investigation was biased — and that would be hard to prove, since Papadopoulos has now pled guilty to lying to the FBI. So the notion of the Mueller investigation as a sort of “fruit of the poisonous tree” springing from Page is undercut by the memo.
5. This memo doesn’t endanger national security. It’s nearly impossible to see how this memo endangers national security. Democrats can’t express a clear reason. The FBI can’t. The DOJ can’t. Which makes it look as though they were all covering their asses in an attempt to avoid culpability for an attempted political hit on Trump.
So, here’s where we are: the FBI and DOJ clearly cut corners in an effort to push forward the Trump-Russia investigation. They worked with Fusion GPS materials to do so, and didn’t tell the FISA court. And then they apparently fibbed to the American people about the supposed risks to the intelligence community if the public found out about their original lies by omission. But the Page warrant isn’t the entirety of the investigation, and attempts to take down the entire investigation based on this memo will be a wild oversell.