Rep. Devin Nunes is referring 42 Obama administration officials, FBI agents and outside political activists to a House task force for an investigation into how the Obama Justice Department targeted the Donald Trump campaign.
If the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and Judiciary Committee agree, their task force would conduct the most extensive probe to date on anti-Trump government operations in 2016.
Mr. Nunes, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has sent letters to Oversight head Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Judiciary’s Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.
The California Republican is asking his fellow GOP legislators to summon for public testimony all 42 — a cast of FBI, Justice Department and State Department officials and outside anti-Trump people with whom they communicated.
Last year, amid a probe into Russian election interference, Mr. Nunes veered from the Trump collusion narrative. His new inquiry was sparked by indications that a piece of evidence driving the FBI probe — the Democratic Party-financed dossier — was unverified and at worst a hoax.
Former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was paid by Democrats to write the dossier and who told a Justice official he was “desperate” to destroy the Trump candidacy, is not one of the Nunes 42.
Last winter, Mr. Nunes released a declassified memo that showed the FBI relied greatly on the dossier to convince a judge to approve a series of wiretaps on Trump volunteer Carter Page.
Through subpoenas, Mr. Nunes also forced Democrats to acknowledge that the dossier was financed by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. He says the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by using opposition research on one party to spy on the other––in this case the Trump team.
There are other issues: the use of one or more FBI informants to penetrate candidate Trump’s circle of advisers; anti-Trump bias by agents who began and conducted the Russia probe; and outside political activists who worked behind the scenes to get Donald Trump investigated.
A Republican source said Mr. Nunes would like the oversight and judiciary committees to investigate the 42 individuals since those chairmen own jurisdiction over the FBI, Justice and State, and they command larger staffs to accommodate the workload.
Mr. Nunes first letter contained 17 former and current FBI and Justice officials, some of whom displayed rank bias toward President Trump in text messages to colleagues.
They include FBI agent Peter Strzok, who kick-started the Trump-Russian probe in July 2016. He told his lover, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page (who is also on the list) that he planned to “stop” Mr. Trump.
House Judiciary and Oversight investigators have already interviewed Mr. Strzok in private. They subpoenaed him to testify in public in July, but his lawyer says he may ignore it.
Also on the list is former Justice associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr. He served as a conduit for anti-Trump material from Fusion GPS, the investigative firm that hired dossier writer Steele. His wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion. It has not been disclosed what exactly Mr. Ohr provided to the FBI or to whom.
Mr. Ohr told the FBI that Mr. Steele was “desperate” to destroy the Trump candidacy. The ex-spy’s weapon: the dossier’s allegations of collusion between Trump and Russia. None of these charges has been proven publicly to date.
A second Nunes letter, dated July 2, focuses on 10 State Department officials. Jonathan Winer, an aide to then-Secretary of State John Kerry, brought together Mr. Steele with Hillary Clinton operatives who had supposed dirt on Mr. Trump.
Victoria Nuland, a former assistant secretary of State, gave the go-ahead for an FBI agent in Italy to travel to Great Britain in July 2016 to hear Mr. Steele’s charges.
The most recent letter, dated July 5, pertains to 15 outside operatives, such as Glenn Simpson, a co-founder of Fusion GPS who worked with spotty success to get Mr. Steele’s allegation into the news media before election day.
Hillary Clinton loyalists Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer, whose anti-Trump work found its way to Mr. Steele via Mr. Winer, made the list too.
Also listed is Daniel Jones, a former top aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
He founded his own investigative firm, Penn Quarter Group, and then hired Fusion GPS and Mr. Steele to continue investigating Mr. Trump post-election, he told the FBI. Mr. Jones said wealthy donors had given him $50 million.
He met with the FBI last year. Whether he is providing the FBI with anti-Trump material is unclear.
The FBI made a commitment to Mr. Steele’s work. It decided to pay him $50,000 to keep investigating Mr. Trump, but then fired him after he went to the news media about his investigation.
Why the FBI put so much trust in Mr. Steele’s dossier has not been disclosed, though they say he did previous reliable investigations. Justice and FBI officials refused to discuss him in open testimony.
Also listed in the July 5 letter is Robby Mook, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign manager and now a CNN analyst.
One investigative avenue is how did the Clinton campaign use the material it bought from Mr. Steele, who relied on Kremlin sources yet to be revealed.
In late July 2016, Mr. Mook was one of the first Clinton people, if not the first, to finger Moscow as the hacker of Democratic computers to help candidate Trump. The U.S. intelligence community came to the same conclusion the following month.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on Mr. Nunes’ committee, has fought the Republican’s inquiry into Obama officials, including finding out who paid for the dossier and how it was used.
Mr. Schiff was an early supporter of Mr. Steele’s work, who praised him openly and repeated his allegations.
On CNN, Mr. Schiff attacked Republicans for pressing Justice to turn over reams of documents, accusing them of being Mr. Trump’s “cult-like following.”
“They do enormous damage to these institutions,” Mr. Schiff said. “Ultimately, they’ll be held accountable. I think when this chapter of history is written it will condemn the president in the strongest terms, but it will also condemn this Congress and these architects for undermining our system of checks and balances.”