The House Intelligence Committee chairman has sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray demanding an uncensored copy of the document that the bureau used to formally start its probe into the alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
In the letter, California Rep. Devin Nunes, the Intel Committee chairman, said that he is giving the Department of Justice and the FBI until April 11 to provide the material. Otherwise, he will start a legal action against both institutions for what he said is a failure to comply with a subpoena for documents related to the investigation of the Trump campaign. Furthermore, he pointed out that the committee issued subpoenas in August that “remain in force.”
Apparently, Nunes is also demanding copies of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants taken out against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
As everyone knows, the originating document has been the subject of a major controversy that has seriously harmed the investigation conducted by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
After some Republicans alleged that the bureau used never-verified parts of the infamous anti-Trump dossier as part of its reason to begin the investigation in 2016, some “current and former” officials leaked to the New York Times that it was actually the case of George Papadopoulos that prompted the FBI investigation. Apparently, this case was reported to U.S. authorities by foreign intelligence agents.
On December 30, the Times reported that the information that Papadopoulos gave to the Australians clarified the detail that alarmed American officials to provoke the bureau to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign.
In addition, the liberal newspaper noted that far from being the dossier compiled by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele, it was actually “firsthand information” from one of America’s closest intelligence allies.
Naturally, this report led to a lot of arguing back and forth over what really started the probe.
According to different analysts, it wasn’t a particularly enlightening argument, given the fact that whatever prompted the bureau to formally begin the investigation, it is undeniable that in the summer of 2016 they already knew about Papadopoulos, the dossier, the DNC, and even Carter Page’s trip to Moscow.
Legal experts believe each of these elements would eventually play significant roles in the controversial investigation.
Nevertheless, Nunes has wanted to see the originating document, referred to as an Electronic Communications (EC.)
In the letter he sent to Christopher Wray and Rod Rosenstein, the Intel Committee chairman outlined the steps he has taken to see it, so far without success.
According to Nunes, the FBI made the EC available to the committee in “heavily redacted form” after the Intelligence Committee subpoenaed the FBI on August 2017, for a broad range of documents, including the opening EC.
Moreover, Nunes said that on February 27 of this year, he asked for the FBI director’s help in seeing an unredacted version of the EC. Apparently, he didn’t get it.
In addition, Nunes pointed out that he told Rosenstein about the problem in early March. Nunes wrote that committee investigators were given access to a still heavily redacted version of the EC on March 14, which –as he said he informed Wray the next day through a phone call- was “unsatisfactory.”
On March 23, Nunes continued, a legislative affairs official at the FBI told the Intel Committee that the bureau would refuse to further disclose the EC based on its “supposed sensitivity.”
Apparently, Nunes found that decision quite frustrating, given the fact that he stated the document in question wasn’t highly classified and pointed that enforcement sources haven’t been shy about leaking information to the press that the Justice Department and the FBI refuse to share with the Congress.
Citing the subpoena from last August, the Intel Committee chairman directed Wray and Rosenstein to produce an unredacted version of the EC to the committee by April 11.
In the letter, he warned that failure to comply in a “satisfactory manner” will result in the committee pursuing every appropriate legal remedy, including seeking civil enforcement of the August 24 subpoenas in federal district court.
According to different reports, the letter and the demands are following a now-very familiar pattern, which is Hill republicans demanding information on the Russian investigation and the bureau and Justice Department refusing to give it to them.
While some deadlines have been set and ignored, the main question is whether this is simply another one or the beginning of a turning point.