Was the FBI out to get candidate Donald Trump?
That’s the big question emerging from the much-ballyhooed memo from Representative Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes’s memo focuses on the application for a FISA warrant against former Trump foreign-policy aide Carter Page; the application supposedly relied heavily on the Hillary Clinton–funded Fusion GPS dossier compiled by British spy Christopher Steele. That dossier was filled with unverified information. According to Nunes, top actors at the FBI knew all of this and used the dossier as the basis for the application — all without informing the FISA court that the dossier was a political document.
Now, the memo admits that the Trump–Russia collusion investigation didn’t begin with the Page FISA application — it began, instead, with an investigation into former Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, who has now pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. Furthermore, Page is a longtime target for the FBI, which began monitoring him in 2014, thanks to his extensive connections to the Russian government.
But the case seems to be this: Fusion GPS funneled its dossier to the FBI; the FBI’s top officials, including director James Comey, worked with the DOJ, led by attorney general Loretta Lynch and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, to attain the FISA warrant based on the shoddy Steele information. This is evidence that the “deep state” wanted to get Trump, and that the same “deep state” wants to take Trump out now via the Mueller investigation.
It may well be true that the FISA application on Page was fatally flawed and driven by prosecutorial aggression. But in order for the most conspiratorial “deep state” claims to be true, a few other things have to be true. First, we have to assume there’s no there there: that the FBI had no reasonable grounds for suspicion regarding the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. Second, we have to assume that the entire Steele dossier is pure garbage, and that all parts of it remain unverified. Third, we have to assume that the FBI’s attempts to get a warrant against Page were driven by anti-Trump bias, not by serious suspicions about Page. Fourth, we have to assume that all of this wasn’t bureaucratic incompetence, but malice. Finally, we have to assume that the same supposedly bad actors within the FBI and DOJ are now staffing the Mueller investigation, or at least that their legacy continues through Mueller.