House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., informed the Justice Department on Thursday that the FBI may have violated criminal statutes when it sought Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants to spy on ex-Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
The move comes two days after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the DOJ’s inspector general will investigate the alleged FISA abuses.
In a letter sent to Sessions, Nunes wrote that the apparent use of the controversial “Trump dossier” to make the case for spying on Page suggests a “clear violation” of FBI protocols because it contained unverified information. And such a breach of protocol may have violated five criminal statutes, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and contempt of court.
Nunes asked Sessions to answer two questions. One concerns the FBI protocols that appear to have been violated, via the 2011 Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide. Nunes asked if there has been an update to the October 2011 version, which said “only documented and verified information may be used to support FBI applications to the court.”
The second question asked what steps the DOJ or the FBI has taken to “hold accountable those officials who violated these protocols,” if the guide has not been updated since 2011.
Nunes is demanding a response by March 8, in exactly one week. His letter, first obtained by Fox News, shows that FBI Director Christopher Wray and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz were carbon copied.
In the past couple months, Nunes worked to secure the release of a memo, put together by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and staff, which outlined alleged government surveillance abuses. That memo, which last month was OK’d for release without redactions by President Trump over the objections of the FBI and DOJ, claimed “Trump dossier” author Christopher Steele played an important role in the initial FISA application and all three renewal FISA applications to spy on Page. The dossier is filled with salacious and unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia.
“Former and current DOJ and FBI leadership have confirmed to the committee that unverified information from the Steele dossier comprised an essential part of the FISA applications related to Carter Page,” Nunes wrote in his letter Thursday, referring to the underlying information upon which the GOP memo is based.
The Democrats on Nunes’ committee put together their own memo, meant as a rebuttal, and last weekend that report was released, with redactions though. That memo, spearheaded by Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said that “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”
A key point in the GOP memo says important information about the dossier, including that Steele’s work was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, were withheld by the FBI and DOJ as they sought to spy on Page. In an effort to glean more answers last week, before the release of the Democratic memo, it was revealed Nunes sent an array of 10 questions to more than 20 current and former government officials asking about what they knew and when they knew it about Steele and his dossier. The deadline for a response is March 2.
Sessions, who last year came under fire from Trump for recusing himself from the federal Russia investigation, once again found himself at the receiving end of his boss’s ire this week when he announced that the the DOJ inspector general would be looking into alleged FISA abuses.
“Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse,” Trump tweeted. “Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on [former FBI Director James] Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”
Schiff responded to that tweet, questioning why a FISA investigation is needed at all.
“More important question: Why is the AG asking for a FISA investigation at all? DOJ and FBI already said the Nunes memo was inaccurate, misleading and extraordinarily reckless. With no evidence of abuse, only explanation is political pressure,” Schiff tweeted.