Rep. Devin Nunes says the FBI violated its own rules, and may have skirted federal law, by using a Democratic Party-bought dossier to spy on a Trump campaign volunteer.
In a letter, he has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “hold accountable” those who oversaw the warrant on Carter Page.
The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence told Mr. Sessions that the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG) contains specific instructions on how to apply to a judge for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) wiretap.
Mr. Nunes, California Republican, says the FBI clearly violated those rules.
The manual, Mr. Nunes says in his March 1 letter, states, “The accuracy of information contained within FISA applications is of utmost importance …. Only documented and verified information may be used to support FBI applications [FISA] to the court [FISC].”
He said that Justice Department and FBI witnesses confirmed that the unverified dossier made up a big part of the warrant application and without it there would have been no application.
Mr. Sessions already announced Tuesday that Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz will investigate how Justice Department and FBI agents handled the warrant presentation, which was renewed three times.
The dossier was written by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Hilary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Steele and his Kremlin sources accused Mr. Page of serious crimes. It says that while on a trip to Moscow in July 2016 to deliver a public speech he met with two Kremlin figures and discussed receiving bribes for sanctions relief.
It was this part of Mr. Steele’s broad series of charges against President Trump and his aides that clenched the surveillance warrant’s approval since the FBI needed to alleged that a crime was committed.
Mr. Page, a former Navy officer who lived in Moscow as an investor, has repeatedly denied the charges under oath. The FBI, after wiretapping Mr. Page for nearly a year beginning on Oct. 21, 2016, has not confirmed the allegation.
Said the Nunes letter, “The FBI [guidance] provides internal oversight and controls over authorized FBI activities so the American public can be assured the Bureau is conducting its vital mission in accordance with law and established guidelines. However, in this instance it’s clear that basic operating guidance was violated.”
Mr. Nunes said that “the presentation of false and/or unverified information” to the FISA judge who approved the Page wiretap “could entail violations” of five federal laws including conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
He asked Mr. Sessions two questions: is the 2011 FBI FISA protocols the committee possesses still in effect and if so “what steps has the DoJ and/or the FBI taken to hold accountable those officials who violated these protocols?” He asked for a response by March 8.
Mr. Nunes said the FBI manual says, “FISA surveillance is a very intrusive means of acquiring information that must balance the need to obtain sensitive national security information against civil liberties.”
Mr. Nunes and his Republican colleagues issued a declassified memo on Feb. 2 that said the FBI attempted to corroborate the dossier in the FISA filing by citing a September 2016 Yahoo News story.
But the dossier and the Yahoo story came from the same source — Mr. Steele — so there was no outside corroboration. Republicans have accused Mr. Steele of lying to the FBI by denying he was the Yahoo source.
Mr. Nunes has also castigated the FBI for not disclosing to the judge that the dossier was basically a Democratic political hit job on Mr. Trump.
The only application reference to its political motives was in a last-page footnote that said the FBI “speculated” that it was meant to harm an unnamed candidate. Mr. Nunes says the FBI, in fact, knew on Oct. 21 that the dossier was bought and paid for by Democrats.
A Washington Times analysis shows that the 35-page dossier contains 10 charges of collusion by Trump people, a Russian entrepreneur and a Russian diplomat. None has been verified publicly.
Seven libel suits have been filed by four people accused in the dossier against Mr. Steele, Yahoo, Fusion GPS, which paid Mr. Steele, and BuzzFeed, which published the dossier on Jan. 10, 2017.
To the chagrin of Democrats, Mr. Nunes began a parallel investigation of Russia election interference to examine the dossier. Through a court case, he found out that the Democrats and Mrs. Clinton funded the project as opposition research.
He also pressed the Justice Department for documents that showed what he considers the FBI’s FISA abuse.
He discovered that a high-ranking Justice official, Bruce Ohr, met with Mr. Steele during the election and served as a conduit to the FBI for material from his wife, Nellie, who worked at Fusion GPS.
Mr. Steele told Mr. Ohr he was “desperate” to sink the Trump campaign, according to the official’s FBI interview.
Peter Strzok, the FBI agent leading the Trump probe at the time the Page warrant was acquired, was fired by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for making a series of anti-Trump comments in texts to his FBI lover.