My first reaction to reading the much ballyhooed Nunes memo was to wonder why the DOJ and FBI fought so vociferously to prevent its release. It didn’t give a lot of what I would consider worthy of a TOP SECRET classification nor did it reveal any FBI transgressions a hundred times worse than Watergate as promised. What it did reveal is the fact that a FISA warrant was granted on 21 October 2016 targeting Carter Page and that it was subsequently renewed three times.
Typically the DOJ and FBI offer only a Glomar response (neither confirm nor deny) to any inquiry about FISA warrants. I believe this is why they fought the release of this memo. It sets the precedent that the Government acknowledges the issuance of a specific FISA warrant. This will have consequences beyond the Mueller investigation.
One consequence has already happened. Washington DC national security attorney Mark Zaid and his James Madison Project have had a long standing FOIA lawsuit in Federal Court seeking disclosure of any FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. The consistent Government position has been a Glomar response. Earlier today Zaid put in a filing in this case taking into account the President’s unprecedented action to declassify the existence of this FISA warrant. The Court’s response was pretty damned quick. This was just tweeted. “Judge Mehta has just ordered DOJ to notify the court by February 14th whether the Nunes Memo requires the reversal of its Glomar Response. If DOJ says it does not, Judge Mehta wants an explanation from DOJ.”
So, we might all get to see the full, albeit redacted, FISA warrants including the Carter Page one. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for those FISA warrants to appear anytime soon. Mark Zaid also got word today that his FOIA lawsuit to get the Comey memos was denied because releasing those memos could effect an open investigation… the Mueller investigation. Perhaps we’ll see all the warrants and memos once the investigation concludes… or is stopped in its tracks.
Unless Trump uses this Nunes memo in a “go for broke” effort to fire all the top DOJ and FBI folks and replace them with new folks who have pledged their personal loyalty to Trump, I don’t see this memo having a tremendous effect on the Mueller investigation. By the memo’s own admission the FBI investigation began in July 2016 with information surrounding Papadopoulis, probably from Australia.
Prior to this FBI investigation, an interagency working group was established in April 2016 from the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOJ, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the DNI to begin an inquiry into the movement of Russian money into the US to pay hackers and influence the election. This action was taken based on info received from the Estonian IS concerning Trump associates meeting RIS operatives in Europe and a recording indicating the Russian government was planning to funnel funds aimed at influencing the US election. GCHQ became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russia. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information. Germany, Poland and possibly the French DGSE also passed on SIGINT.
The existence of neither of these investigations was leaked to the press before the 2016 election. I would think the vast Borg conspiracy would have done this as a vital part of their soft coup. It would have been effective. Instead, they publicly announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation a week before the election. Is that any way to run a secret society?
The Mueller investigation is not a Borg conspiracy or a leftist conspiracy or a witch hunt. It is a federal counterintelligence and criminal investigation. I have no doubt there have been and will be instances of investigatorial and prosecutorial arrogance, overreach and even errors when this is all over. Whether there will be serious indictments that will permanently hobble or even destroy the Trump presidency is unknown. He may come out of this exonerated and stronger than ever. Only a thorough investigation, with proper oversight, will tell.