On Monday night, the Washington Post reported a new leak from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report on FISA Abuse. According to the WaPo, Horowitz agrees that the FBI had reasonable cause to believe several members of the Trump campaign may have been colluding with the Russians to win the election. Having not yet read the report, we have no idea if this is truly Horowitz’s position. However, if Horowitz actually did reach this conclusion, the FBI has new questions to answer.
Unknown to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a Chinese-American employee who had served as both her driver and an aide for 20 years, was found by the FBI to be a spy for China. According to the FBI, this man had been reporting information back to China’s Ministry of State Security for over ten years. The FBI notified Feinstein and she promptly fired the individual. And that was the end of that.
During Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, Paul Manafort’s business partner at the time, Rick Davis, became his campaign manager. McCain had been unaware of their work for the Putin-backed Viktor Yanukovych (who was then the Ukrainian Prime Minister). In a September 2017 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wrote:
Mr. Manafort and Mr. Davis reportedly had previously arranged for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to meet Senator McCain twice. According to John Weaver, a former top campaign advisor to Senator McCain: “My sense is that Davis and Manafort, who were already doing pro-Putin work against American national interests, were using potential meetings with McCain—who didn’t know this and neither did we until after the fact—as bait to secure more rubles from the oligarchs.”
Mr. Weaver further stated that “U.S. intelligence raised concerns to McCain’s staff about the Davis Manafort work.” A recent report quoted an anonymous U.S. counterintelligence official who had been involved as saying: “Before there was Trump, there were concerns about some of the same people being around McCain about 10 years ago, and we alerted his team to those concerns and they appeared to take some defensive action.” Indeed, earlier, Senator McCain’s inner circle was reportedly cautioned by U.S. intelligence to distance itself from a Russian advisor who U.S. intelligence believed might have ties to the Russian military, and the McCain team subsequently asked the advisor to leave.
These warnings from U.S. intelligence officials are called defensive briefings. I don’t believe it for a New York minute, but assuming the WaPo is correct, if FBI officials truly had reason to believe that advisors Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Sam Clovis or any other members of Trump’s campaign had ties to the Russians in 2016, why was candidate Donald Trump not granted a defensive briefing? If Trump were shown the same courtesy they had previously extended to Sens. Feinstein and McCain and the evidence had been credible, Trump would have fired them.
Some of us recall the circus-like first day of the House Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings against President Trump in September. That disastrous day was the reason Nancy Pelosi handed off responsibility to Adam Schiff. A defiant Corey Lewandowski gave Committee chair Jerry Nadler and the rest of the Democratic members of the Committee the respect they deserved – that is to say, very little. He asked for statements to be repeated, for a copy of the report and he refused to answer many of their questions.
Here is an exchange between Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Corey Lewandowski from the hearing.
Gaetz: Mr. Lewandowski, you were the campaign manager for the president’s campaign when the Obama-Biden administration was notified that there might be efforts by the Russians to interfere with our election. Isn’t that right?
Gaetz: And can you describe for us the briefing you got as the campaign manager to ensure that our system was resilient and American democracy was protected?
Lewandowski: There was no briefing provided by anybody from the Obama-Biden administration, members of the intelligence community or the FBI to our campaign that I — when I was present or during my tenure as the campaign manager.
Gaetz: Man, that’s just baffling to me. I mean our democracy is so precious. We have to cherish it. We have to protect it, and yet when the Obama-Biden administration knew that there might be nefarious efforts to interfere or co-opt or in any way disturb our democracy, they didn’t say anything to you. Now, as you sit here today, having watched these facts unfold, do you have any, any rationale as to why maybe the Clapper-Brennan-Comey-Obama-Biden team didn’t want to give the Trump campaign a fair defensive briefing about the threats that we were facing?
Lewandowski: It’s actually unfathomable to me that they didn’t contact the major political nominee for president of the United States and inform them of potential threats against the election process in 2016.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) addressed this topic at that hearing as well. He said:
I think they were trying to trap the president. Page 17 of the inspector general’s report points this out. January 6, 2017, they go up to the Trump Tower when it’s President-elect Trump and they’re trying to set him up about a pending investigation. All the while, Mr. Comey’s been telling the president, ‘You’re not under investigation.’ Of course they didn’t give you a defensive briefing during the campaign or even when — up until that date, because they were trying to set him up.
In seeking a FISA warrant to spy on Carter Page, the FBI chose the most invasive tool that law enforcement has at its disposal. It is the most drastic step against a U.S. citizen they could take. What was their justification for doing so?
The American people need to see evidence. We’re not simply going to take the IG’s or the FBI’s word for it.
And, if there was evidence that a member or members of Trump’s campaign might have been colluding with Russia (which I highly doubt), why wasn’t Trump given a defensive briefing, as any other candidate or lawmaker would have received?