The Nunes Memo Only Partially ‘Vindicates’ Trump, But it Fully Indicts the FBI and the FISA Court

On February 2, US president Donald Trump approved public release of a memo from the US House Intelligence Committee concerning FBI malfeasance in its applications for warrants to surveil Carter Page, a former member of his campaign team.

The following day, Trump triumphantly tweeted that the memo “totally vindicates” him in the ongoing “Russiagate” probe. It doesn’t really do that – proving a negative is always difficult – but it does add a great deal of credibility to his charge that the probe is a politically driven witch hunt rather than a serious criminal investigation.

According to the memo, the FBI based the probable cause claim in its multiple surveillance applications to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge on two pieces of “evidence”:

1) A “minimally corroborated” (the FBI’s own words) dossier of political opposition research on Donald Trump, compiled by a British former spy in the pay of Trump’s political opponents; and

2) A Yahoo! News article based – although the FBI denied it – on leaks from that same foreign operative.

The memo also claims that at no point did the FBI apprise the judge of the political origins or “minimal corroboration” of the memo.

If these claims are true, then what happened was the equivalent of crazy Uncle J. Edgar going before a judge and using a picture of me with a Frisbee [TM] in the air behind me, taken by my angry ex-wife, as probable cause to believe that I’m from Mars, then asking for a warrant to search my garage for flying saucers.

As you may recall, this is the same FBI which (and the same FBI director who) amassed mountains of evidence that Trump’s opponent in the 2016 presidential election had committed multiple felonies in her grossly negligent handling of classified information as Secretary of State, yet recommended against prosecuting her because, well, she’s Hillary Clinton.

And as you may also recall, this is the same FISA court that, between 1979 and 2013 approved 35,434 warrant requests and denied 12.

How many of those 35,434 requests were backed by evidence no more substantial than that described in the Nunes memo?

How much more dumb and evidenceless did those 12 denied requests have to be to not get a pass?

And why did the same Republican Congress which just released this memo recently vote to renew Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, giving even more expansive powers to organizations which have clearly used those powers abusively and without regard to even minimal standards of evidence?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Did Trump and/or his campaign team “collude” with the Russian government to manipulate the 2016 presidential election? I don’t know. But I do know that disguising a circus as an investigation isn’t likely to shed real light on the matter.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives and works in north central Florida. This article is reprinted with permission from William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

30 thoughts on “The Nunes Memo Only Partially ‘Vindicates’ Trump, But it Fully Indicts the FBI and the FISA Court”

  1. Does anyone know who the other denials were in regards to? I have a hunch that they were more than just your average Jane or Joe. If they were someone important to somebody I’m sure they got a little extra scrutiny. It stands to reason. For instance if they tried to get a warrant for Trump the judge might want a little more evidence than if they were getting a search warrant for you or me. So my bet is that if someone is a public figure or might be “connected” that they at least get more than just the rubber stamp treatment.The public might be interested in knowing if people are getting special consideration while others get no consideration at all.

    1. FISA is just a fig leaf for 1984 type spying. Snowden told us that which is why they want him in jail. The question to ask is how many convictions for actual crimes were uncovered. A very small number (if any?).

      They spy on political opponents because that’s what they do, that’s who they are.

      1. “The question to ask is how many convictions for actual crimes were uncovered”.

        It certainly seems like a relevant question doesn’t it? I don’t know if anyone has the answer, it’s probably super extra top special secret.

  2. The GOP memo is purely political…Nunes refused to say if the WH was involved in its creation…and refused to allow the Dem 10 page Counter memo to be released. Let’s see the Dem memo. Drumpf is desperate to stop the investigation into his crime family activities. He knows his days are numbered.

    1. “The GOP memo is purely political”

      Yep. As are all memos emitting from congressional committees.

      “…Nunes refused to say if the WH was involved in its creation…and refused to allow the Dem 10 page Counter memo to be released.”

      They’re voting on whether or not to release that one today. Let’s see the Dem memo.”

      “4 FISA judges went ahead with the warrants. Bias is hardly ever an issue.”

      Given that the FISA court approves 99.997% of warrant requests, that’s doubtful.

      “Facts are what counts”

      Yes, they are. And instead of facts, the FBI decided to use minimally corroborated political claims. Which presumably means they didn’t HAVE facts to use.

      1. The FISA court approves such a high percentage of applications because to get to the point of an application, the FBI needs to have an ongoing Full Investigation, the highest class of investigation they conduct, and pass what are known as the Woods Procedures where every assertion in the application is verified.

        IOW, they are approved regularly because to get to the point of an application, the FBI has to have solid, unassailable evidence of wrongdoing already in their possession.

        Nunes won’t tell us the underlying intelligence, he hasn’t read it by his own admission. The only way the Steele dossier and yahoo article would be included in the application is to corroborate the intelligence in the FBI’s possession and show that time is of the essence as intelligence is getting out to the public and Page may seek to cover his tracks, destroy evidence and stop talking freely.

        1. Maybe they approve a high number because they are a bunch of rubber stamp bureaucrats. +30k warrants resulted in how many convictions? Nobody will say.

          1. The FISA court is not made up of “rubber stamp bureaucrats”. They take the law very seriously.

    2. You talk about bias yet clearly don’t see your own. You accept the talking heads words and parrot them right back here. It’s a “dud”, or it’s “nothing” etc. etc. That’s the talking point of the day, but it’s wishful thinking. The memo shows that Comey and the rest of them swore to a judge that everything in the request was true when in fact it wasn’t. If any of us lie to a judge it’s a very big deal indeed.

      As for the WH being involved in the creation of the Memo, why would they be? Again this is just wishful thinking and parroting. There is ZERO evidence that the WH was involved in crafting the Memo or anything to do with the Intelligence committee.

      Then you finish off strong with more wishful thinking and speculation. And I know it’s fun to speculate and all that but again you are just parroting here and it’s not even “new” speculation which can be interesting. No, instead you just show your bias and parrot the talking points. In reality you have no idea if Trump has committed any crimes nor do you know that “his days are numbered”. In fact people such as yourself have been saying this since before he was elected. First he would never be elected, then he wasn’t going to last a month, then a year and blah blah blah.

      And I get it that you hate Trump but there are so many actual reasons to oppose him and his actions that for the life of me I don’t get why you want to cozy up to the “intel agencies” and the rest of the MIC that is pushing us into a new cold war. You can absolutely be against Trump without kissing the backsides of the people that bring us war and who illegally spy on all of us. Go ahead and hate on Trump, just do it for the things he has actually done, not your wishful thinking and speculation that actually encourages the same people who want endless war and endless power. Instead of taking the side of the warmongers and the groups who spy on us take the side of pro civil liberties and the anti-war position. And by the way, you are far less likely to see that blow up in your face than believing that Russia Gate is going to save you from the orange one.

      The enemy of your enemy is rarely your friend and on the odd occasion they are, it rarely takes long before they turn on you.

      We don’t need a new cold war, the last one sucked enough. We don’t need to hand over more power to the intel groups who violate our civil liberties. Nothing good will come from climbing into bed with these cretans. So why not take the principled position and oppose all of them instead of joining half of them?

  3. Let’s not overlook the fact that the “Trump Dossier” originated with Bill Kristol and Company.

  4. Did Thomas Knapp collude with the Russian government to fix the election or did Dilbert? To paraphrase Knapp, “I do not know.” But if there had been 18 months of a pricey investigation by a group which on top of all else was biased against Knapp or Dilbert and nothing came up, I would say enough is enough.
    So enough is enough with Trump too.
    Let us get on and see whether the evidence of criminal acitivity of those biased against Knapp and Dilbert – I mean Trump – is biased or not.

    1. I have written multiple columns on the thus far evidenceless “Russiagate” investigation and have made it clear that those advancing the theory should put up or shut up and have yet to do the former. Best summary quote I could find in two minutes on Google:

      “Trump’s true crime in the eyes of the establishments of both major political parties is that he beat them. First he whipped a large field of certified establishment Republicans in the primaries, then he shut down the ‘inevitable’ Hillary Clinton in last November’s general election. For this he cannot be forgiven. But, well, winning a presidential election isn’t against the law. So they have to find something else to nail him on.”

      Just because I didn’t get conned on foreign policy by Trump like you did, that doesn’t mean I’m reflexively anti-Trump. I have defended him on several issues, including “Russiagate.”

  5. You want to take Nunes’ word on what the application does and does not say?

    He is recused from the investigation for his “midnight run” where he coordinated with the WH to manufacture a crisis out of the legal and appropriate unmasking of Trump officials snared during routine surveillance of Russians, something that the Obama admin announced they were doing around a month earlier. Those were 18 recordings of Trump people scheming with a foreign power, possibly including Page.

    Nunes has not even read the underlying intelligence for this application.

    To argue that the application and 3 subsequent renewals relied solely on an unverified report from a retired foreign intelligence official and a yahoo article is lunacy and belief requires a high level of wishful thinking.

    In order to submit an application for a FISA warrant an investigation “normally would have been opened months, if not years, prior. In fact, FISA warrants can be approved only for what are called Full Investigations… and require an “articulable factual basis” to open: For counterintelligence cases on U.S. persons (USPERs), these cases involve facts demonstrating that the subject is in contact with and working on behalf of a foreign intelligence service. That means that, at some point prior to obtaining the FISA warrant, the FBI opened an investigation on Carter Page, obtained enough factual evidence to justify making it a Full Investigation, and would have done enough investigative activity to be able to put together a FISA application.” […]

    “(W)hen a FISA order is obtained on an USPER, the FBI must go back to the FISA court (perhaps before a different judge than the first time) within 90 days and demonstrate that the surveillance has, in fact yielded foreign intelligence substantiating… that the target is engaging in clandestine intelligence activity on behalf of a foreign power.” (link to follow)

    The FISA court approved the application and 3 renewals because they had the goods on Carter Page.

    The Nunes memo seeks to undermine a legitimate and necessary investigation.

    1. Discus, for some reason, is treating the link as spam.

      Please read Asha Rangappa’s article in Just Security dated Jan 30, 2018.

    2. Well carter page is still walking around and from what has been leaked his only crime is to have talked to Russians and express opinions on Russia not in line with the establishment. So the idea that because they spied on him he must have done something is ridiculous.

      In the event that even Trump himself got dirt fro Russians how is that different from Clinton getting (via Steele) dirt from Russians with apparent help from a host of foreign entities from Bill Browder, or from (via Max Blumenthal) Ukrainian Intelligence

      1. There’s a big difference between collecting opposition research and receiving help to win an election from a foreign entity.

        The former is commonplace, the later is illegal.

        FYI- Page is accused of influencing the Trump campaign to soften its stance on Ukraine in return for money from the Kremlin.

          1. so far

            Why on earth would Mueller present the public with any evidence he may have during an ongoing investigation?

            But there certainly is a lot of smoke to suggest a raging fire that we don’t yet know about. Recordings, meetings lying to Congress… tip of the iceberg.

          2. So far Mueller has four indictments that have nothing to do with “Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

            Granted, he may be using those indictments to pressure the indicted to roll over on matters relating to the supposed object of the investigation, but normally if you commission a guy to do X and months later all he has to show for it is something other than X, you start to think that 1) he’s not doing the job he was supposedly going to do and 2) there’s no “there” there.

            So far, the sum total of “evidence” that Russia “meddled” in the 2016 election is:

            1) The “intelligence community” claiming that they know Russia tried to hack stuff because they saw certain methods “consistent with” Russian hacking methods … and the hacking methods of all other hackers of all other nationalities;

            2) That same “intelligence community” claiming that they know it was Russia because they found certain IPs used by Russian hackers … and by all other hackers (they’re called Tor exit nodes; and by the way, the US Navy created Tor, and yet for some reason isn’t accused of “meddling in the election”); and

            3) A few hundred thousand dollars worth of weirdass ads on social media — “Help Jesus Beat Hillary!” — that seem to have been aimed at the voters who were already going to vote for Trump, and that may or may not have any relationship to the Russian government.

            On the basis of that kind and quantity of “evidence,” I could “prove” that Pewdiepie “meddled” in the US election. And, for that matter, that the US government “meddled” in every election in the world for the last 50 years.

            I dislike Trump intensely. I’d love to see him impeached for all kinds of unconstitutional crap. But making shit up because you don’t like the way the election came out is neither a sound or honest way to go about that.

          3. Thank you Mr Knapp for your continued participation.

            Good ponts. We’ll see what the sum of evidence is as we move forward.

            I’ve been commenting because many here seem to take Nunes’ memo at face value. and we shouldn’t. He has proven himself to be a partisan hack (not uncommon among his peers).

            It seems clear to me that Nunes, the GOP and allied media are circling the wagons around the President because they fear the actual sum is far greater than what we know. And I want to know, therefore I want Mueller unimpeded.

          4. It seems clear to me that far from circling the wagons, Nunes and and Co. are going on the offensive.

            I don’t care too much one way or the other about what happens to Trump, but if Nunes et al. can savage the FBI so badly that it gets cut down to pre-1990s levels of ability to engage in political fuckery for even a little while, they’ll be doing God’s work.

          5. Clinton received “help” from foreign entities from The Pope to Ukrainian intelligence. So What? The law refers to campaign contributions (money or anything of value). Bad press doesn’t count. Unless there is a canceled check from the FSB there is no crime. The investigation is nothing but state sponsored propaganda.

        1. So basically his crime would be not registering as a foreign lobbyist. Again let’s see the money transfers or checks.

        1. Recordings don’t lie.

          In order for your Deep State theory to be true, at least how it applies here, at least a dozen FBI agents, DOJ prosecutors, Mueller (Republican), Comey (Republican) Yates, Rosenstein (Trump appointee), up to 4 FISA court justices and all their staffs (from Mueller on) would have to be in on it and willing to risk their careers – and possible persecution – with no whistleblowers among the dozens involved.

          For what? To “discredit” Trump’s win? So what? Without concrete damning evidence from Mueller, there will be no indictment or impeachment and Trump can still pursue whatever policies vis a vis Russia. Even with evidence either is very unlikely.

          You’re venturing into serious Tinfoil Hat territory here.

          1. No, they successfully derailed better relationship with Russia by smearing anybody who suggests it as a Putin stooge.

  6. Necessary for who? Not me. Maybe to justify a useless bloated over paid and over staffed bureaucracy.

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