Robert Hur, the special counsel assigned to investigate President Biden‘s sloppy secret-keeping, played an intricate role in the Department of Justice‘s maneuvering to thwart dossier killer Devin Nunes.
In January 2018, then-Rep. Nunes was set to release a memo detailing the FBI’s abuse of power in its determination to sabotage President Donald Trump.
Under Director James Comey, the FBI became the biggest D.C. promoter of the Christopher Steele dossier.
The FBI took the 30 pages of unconfirmed tattle to judges to get wiretaps on a Trump associate, to the Oval Office, to the intelligence chiefs to have it included in their official Russia election history, and to then-President-elect Trump himself without telling him that it was all Democratic Party-paid smut.
Mr. Nunes — fighting Rep. Adam Schiff, other Democrats and the Washington media — wanted to expose one part of the trafficking: FBI wiretap affidavits under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that relied almost exclusively on the dossier compiled by Mr. Steele, a retired British spy.
Thus began one of the oddest periods in the history of the Department of Justice. The Russia inquiry was being overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom Mr. Trump appointed. Mr. Hur was Mr. Rosenstein’s principal associate deputy AG. But instead of waging a just bureaucratic fight to expose FBI sins, they put up the barricades and protected the G-men.
Justice’s weapon was a Jan. 24, 2018, letter to Mr. Nunes urging him to delay or stop publication. “Extraordinarily reckless,” the letter said.
Item No. 2. In early 2017, the intelligence community told the FBI that the Kremlin had penetrated Mr. Steele’s source network and had planted disinformation about Mr. Trump. This is according to reports for which Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson won declassification in 2020. What’s more, by 2018, the FBI had not confirmed a single Steele felony claim against Mr. Trump or his associates, according to recent trial testimony.
Senior Justice people decided the way to thwart Mr. Nunes was the caution letter, and on Jan. 22, 2018, they began a fast-paced back-and-forth via email to get the words just right.
Mr. Hur looked over a late draft and emailed, “Some suggested edits and comments in the attached for your consideration. Thanks, Rob.”
Twenty-four hours later, he looked over another iteration and commented: “Redline with further edits and one comment attached.”
The DOJ letter went out on Jan. 24. It relied on press reports on the damage Mr. Nunes was about to unleash and stated, “We understand many members of the House of Representatives have viewed this memorandum and that it has raised concerns.”
This would principally be Mr. Schiff and other Democrats who vouched for the dossier — without any independent evidence — at a March 2017 House hearing.
The letter to Mr. Nunes, then the House Intelligence Committee chairman, said: “We have also heard that [the committee] is considering making the classified memorandum available to the public and the media, an unprecedented action. We believe it would be extraordinarily reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the Department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum.“
Mr. Nunes did not want to get bogged down. Five days later, committee Republicans voted to publish the memo, and then Mr. Trump stepped in and declassified a Feb. 2 release.
The four-page Nunes memo confirmed that the FBI based four wiretap warrant requests largely on the Democrats’ Steele dossier. The memo spelled out that the FBI had an obligation to present the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court with all evidence surrounding the target — in this case, Carter Page.
Not one of four warrant applicants told judges that the Steele dossier was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. A news article cited as backup evidence actually came from Mr. Steele.
What is almost laughable about DOJ’s threatening January letter to Mr. Nunes is this sentence: “Though we are currently unaware of any wrongdoing relating to the FISA process, we agree that any abuse of that system cannot be tolerated,” the letter said.
That was the problem with the Trump-appointed Department of Justice. It did not know what the runaway FBI was doing to sink the president.
The Nunes memo rocked Washington’s dossier-loving Democratic establishment, which went into a four-alarm alert to knock it down. Mr. Schiff put out a counter-memo exonerating the FBI.
Mr. Schiff’s memo wrongly stated, “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the [FISA] process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”
The Nunes memo, in contrast, has survived the test of time.
Nearly two years later, the Justice inspector general issued a full-throttled, fact-based condemnation of FBI tactics.
The first of four wiretap applications alone contained seven “significant inaccuracies and omissions,” said the report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Mr. Horowitz reported: “Our review found that FBI personnel fell far short of the requirement in FBI policy that they ensure that all factual statements in a FISA application are ‘scrupulously accurate.’ We identified multiple instances in which factual assertions relied upon in the first FISA application were inaccurate, incomplete, or unsupported by appropriate documentation, based upon information the FBI had in its possession at the time the application was filed.”
Things got worse for the FBI in 2020. Sens. Grassley and Johnson won a hard-fought battle to lift the censor blackout on IG report items — a cover-up I can only assume was demanded by the FBI.
The following sentences, for example, were blacked out in the public IG report. This is what intel told the FBI: “A January 12, 2017, report relayed information from [REDACTED] outlining an inaccuracy in a limited subset of Steele’s reporting about the activities of Michael Cohen. The [REDACTED] stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele’s reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate U.S. foreign relations.”
This was the sensational dossier part that said Trump lawyer Cohen secretly traveled to the city of Prague in 2016 to meet with Vladimir Putin goons and cover up supposed Trump-Russian computer hacking.
It was total nonsense. Yet it drove the FBI/Democratic/news media campaign to oust Mr. Trump from the White House.
Concerning President Biden, Mr. Hur had not taken office at the time the FBI, with Mr. Biden’s attorneys, searched the president’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, on two occasions, the latest on Feb. 20, and found a still-unspecified number of classified documents. Let’s hope he does not fall into the protection mode of anyone involved.
• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.