If you ever needed a plot for a political thriller, something of a cross between Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days In May, and the Laurel and Hardy movie of your choice, the investigations into alleged links between various staffers on the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officials would provide good material.
Until now, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has been at the center of the hurricane with his meeting with an unnamed source concerning NSA surveillance of the Trump transition team and his, in my view justified, refusal to share the identity of the leaker with other committee members — would you trust Adam Schiff with anything? Now Charles Grassley enters the fray with an interesting take:
The Senate Judiciary Committee, headed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, is investigating whether the FBI wrongly included political opposition research from Trump’s opponents in its probe, and then paid the author of that controversial report, a former British spy, to work for the FBI on its investigation. The committee’s probe began March 6 with the letter Grassley sent the FBI and was furthered Monday with requests for information from the company that did the opposition research.
“When political opposition research becomes the basis for law enforcement or intelligence efforts, it raises substantial questions about the independence of law enforcement and intelligence from politics,” Grassley said Monday.
Most concerning, Grassley said, is that “Fusion GPS and Steele reportedly shared the dossier with the FBI, which then offered to pay Steele to continue his political opposition research on Trump.”
Grassley wants to determine “the extent to which the FBI has relied on the political dossier in its investigation.” The senator also has requested documentation from Fusion GPS as to who hired and paid them, when Steele was hired, how the FBI got involved and whether Fusion GPS was aware of the FBI paying Steele.
That is only one part of the story, though a serious one. If the FBI was actually paying a private and foreign “security” company for unsubstantiated smut on Trump and his associates and then weaving that information into their own investigative work, it would certainly be significant to conservatives who believe arbitrary surveillance of political candidates by the US government is improper. (Both of us are meeting in my gazebo tonight, let me know if you want an invite.) But there are more questions about the FBI’s conduct.
If you recall, the FBI deputy director is a guy named Andrew McCabe. McCabe first came to our attention when it was revealed that even though he was directing the investigation (still no results, just sayin’) of the Clinton Foundation and Criminal EmpireTM his wife, a Democrat candidate for a state senate seat, received $700,000 raised by Hillary Clinton, herself.
Grassley has sent a letter to Comey demanding answers to several questions:
BREAKING : FBI's #2 Andrew McCabe who's wife was given 700K by Clinton/McAuliffe may be one of the wrong doers in Donald Trump unmasking etc pic.twitter.com/eIG845FUbl
— USA NEWS (@USANEWS007) March 28, 2017
Pursuant to its authority under the Constitution and the Rules of the Senate, the Committee requires information to determine: (1) the extent to which FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has been involved in the FBI’s investigation of President Trump’s associates and Russia; (2) whether that involvement raises the appearance a conflict of interest in light of his wife’s ties with Clinton associates; and (3) whether Mr. McCabe has been or should be recused from the investigation.
As you know, Mr. McCabe is under investigation by the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General. That investigation is examining whether the political and financial connections between his wife’s Democratic political campaign and Clinton associates warranted his recusal in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation. … While Mr. McCabe recused himself from public corruption cases in Virginia—presumably including the reportedly ongoing investigation of Mr. McAuliffe regarding illegal campaign contributions—he failed to recuse himself from the Clinton email investigation, despite the appearance of a conflict created by his wife’s campaign accepting $700,000 from a close Clinton associate during the investigation.
The Committee requires additional information to fully understand this situation. Please provide the following information and respond to these questions by April 11, 2017:
- Has Mr. McCabe been involved in any capacity in the investigation of alleged collusion between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia? If so, in what capacity has he been involved? When did this involvement begin?
- Has Mr. McCabe been involved in any requests or approvals for physical surveillance, consensual monitoring, searches, or national security letters relating to the investigation? If so, please provide all related documents.
- In the course of the investigation, has Mr. McCabe been involved in any requests or approvals relating to the acquisition of the contents of stored communications from electronic communication service providers pursuant to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act? If so, please provide all related documents.
- Has Mr. McCabe been involved in any FISA warrant applications relating to the investigation? If so, in what capacity? Please provide all related documents.
- In the course of the investigation, has Mr. McCabe, or anyone under his supervision, made any representations to prosecutors or judges regarding the reliability of information in the FBI’s possession as part of seeking judicial authorization for investigative tools? Has he or anyone under his supervision made any such representations about the political opposition research dossier compiled by Mr. Steele and Fusion GPS? If so, please explain and provide copies of all relevant documents.
- Was Mr. McCabe involved in any FBI interactions with Mr. Steele? If so, please explain.
- Did Mr. McCabe brief or otherwise communicate with anyone in the Obama administration regarding the investigation? If so, who did he brief, and when? Please provide all related documents.
- Has Mr. McCabe been authorized by the FBI to speak to the media, whether as an anonymous source or otherwise, regarding the investigation? If so, please provide copies of such authorizations. If he was so authorized, to whom did he speak, and when? If he was not authorized to do so, does the FBI have any indication that he nonetheless spoke to the media?
- To the best of your knowledge, has anyone within the FBI raised concerns within the Bureau that Mr. McCabe appears to have a conflict of interest in the investigation of Trump associates? If so, who raised such concerns, when did they do so, and how did FBI respond?
- To the best of your knowledge, has anyone within the FBI filed a complaint with the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General regarding Mr. McCabe’s involvement in the investigation?
- Have personnel from the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General spoken with you yet as part of that Office’s investigation into Mr. McCabe’s alleged conflict of interest in the Clinton investigation? If so, did they also raise concerns as to whether Mr. McCabe’s alleged partisan conflict would also apply to the investigation of Mr. Trump’s associates?
- Has anyone at FBI, the Department of Justice, or the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General recommended or requested that Mr. McCabe recuse himself from the investigation of Mr. Trump’s associates or from any ongoing investigations of the Clinton Foundation? If so, what action was taken in response?
The very fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee is asking Comey these questions is significant because they imply the Committee has been told or has been shown evidence that many of these things have happened. One thing I’ve learned over the past couple of months is that a lot of self-proclaimed conservatives will look at this list of potential misdeeds and say, “So what, he was trying to get Trump, so that’s fine.” But to the both of us who still believe in the rule of law, the implication is stark: the FBI may very well have been involved in pushing the BuzzFeed “dossier” and the FBI may be the source of some or all of the rumors that have kept this investigation alive. This would imply that there actually might be a “Deep State-lite” in the US government, and no right thinking person is allowed to even consider that…