Transcripts of two closed-door testimonies by Lisa Web page, the previous assistant common counsel on the FBI, have offered new insights into the actions of the FBI, DOJ, and others—together with CIA Director John Brennan—relating to their investigation into Donald Trump.
Included in the transcripts offered to us is info suggesting Brennan was conscious of the so-called Steele file in early August 2016, and that he included info relating to the file in a briefing given to then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Different key factors in Page’s testimony earlier than Congress:
- The FBI seems to have thought-about investigating President Trump for obstruction of justice each earlier than and after FBI Director James Comey was fired.
- Web page says the DOJ refused to pursue “gross-negligence” fees towards Hillary Clinton over her use of a personal e mail server to ship categorized info.
- FBI agent Michael Gaeta, head of the Eurasian Crime Squad, who acquired the file from former MI6 spy Steele in July 2016 is referred to in the transcript as Steele’s handler.
- The FBI maintained a beforehand unknown verification file for the Steele file. Congressional investigators didn’t beforehand know of its existence.
- John Carlin, the top of the DOJ’s Nationwide Safety Division, was stored abreast of the FBI’s investigative actions by way of contact with then-Deputy FBI Director McCabe.
- Web page labored immediately for DOJ official Bruce Ohr for no less than 5 years and had met his spouse, Nellie, as soon as.
- The position of FBI Agent Jonathan Moffa and DOJ official George Toscas might have been higher than initially assumed.
The interviews with Web page have been carried out by Congressional lawmakers on July 13 and 16, 2018, in an unclassified setting, with the suitable company counsel current to make sure that categorized info didn’t enter into the unclassified setting.
Web page testified that she joined the staff of particular counsel Robert Mueller round Might 18, 2016—and that FBI Agent Peter Strzok was thought-about for inclusion shortly thereafter. Page’s position was to “bridge the gap and transition between what we as a team knew and the evidence that we had gathered to date on the collusion investigation and sort of imparting that knowledge to the new special counsel team,” she stated.
Web page, who acknowledged her private relationship with Strzok at a number of factors through the interview, famous that originally, Strzok was not “brought over as the senior executive to run the investigation. Another individual was, and that was not successful. It was not a good match with Mr. Mueller. He did not really have the sufficient counterintelligence background to be effective.” That particular person would later be recognized as John Brown.
Web page agreed to work for a 45-day trial interval, however on the finish of that point, she left to spend extra time together with her youngsters, by her personal account. Web page left of her personal volition and earlier than Inspector Common Michael Horowitz notified Mueller (and then-Appearing FBI Director Andrew McCabe) of the texts between Web page and Strzok.
Web page famous that she solely traveled overseas as soon as whereas she labored for McCabe, in December 2016, on official enterprise in London. Strzok traveled together with her, as did three different unnamed people. One person who Web page specified as not being half of the journey was Invoice Priestap, the FBI’s head of counterintelligence. Web page was prohibited by FBI counsel for detailing the aim of her go to.
Previous to her work for Deputy FBI Director McCabe, Web page labored inside the DOJ—the place Bruce Ohr was her direct supervisor for 5 to 6 years. Web page additionally met Nellie Ohr, Bruce Ohr’s spouse, at a summer time barbeque that Ohr held for the workplace in 2011.
One notably fascinating bit of info is that Web page learn the memos written by then-FBI Director James Comey virtually in actual time. As she said in testimony, “I reviewed most of them within a day or on the same day that they were created.”
Based on Web page, others who have been aware about Comey’s memos included 4 further FBI officers, “Jim Rybicki, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Ghattas, maybe Mr. Bowdich.”
Strzok didn’t have entry to Comey’s memos. McCabe additionally stored memos which Web page reviewed, together with “one or two” that pertained to conferences with President Donald Trump. Throughout questioning, it turned obvious that the McCabe memos have been “relevant to the matters that the special counsel is investigating.”
- 1 Web page Denies Bias, However Says FBI Focussed Extra on Trump Than Clinton
- 2 DOJ Affect
- 3 Disagreements Between the FBI and DOJ
- 4 Emails to a Third Social gathering
- 5 Page’s Commentary on the DOJ
- 6 Gross Negligence and Intent
- 7 John Carlin’s Position
- 8 Brennan’s Position
- 9 FISA Briefings & White Home Information
- 10 Steele’s FBI Handler
- 11 The FBI’s Verification File & the Dragon FISA
- 12 Page’s Russia Bias
- 13 Comey’s Draft Memo
- 14 The Insurance coverage Coverage
- 15 Kortan’s Position in Page’s Leaks to the Media
- 16 A Potential Obstruction Case
Web page Denies Bias, However Says FBI Focussed Extra on Trump Than Clinton
Web page steadfastly maintained there was no bias current in both the Clinton-email investigation or the Trump-Russia investigation on the half of anybody inside the FBI or the DOJ and went to some lengths as an example that, in basic, FBI personnel don’t like most of the individuals they have a tendency to research.
On the similar time, Web page repeatedly and brazenly admitted to putting a larger emphasis and weight on the Trump-Russia investigation than the Clinton-email investigation:
“If you were weighing resources with respect to which poses a graver threat to national security, which is more, frankly, important, there is no doubt—at least in mine or anybody else’s mind that I know—that the Russia investigation posed an incredible threat to national security, and whether we got into the Weiner laptop simply did not.”
Web page returned to this matter a number of occasions:
“The notion that there might be more emails that have not previously been seen that existed on Hillary Clinton’s email server just simply don’t even enter into the realm of the same room of seriousness. The Clinton investigation involved activities that had taken place 3 years prior. It’s an entirely historical investigation.”
“In the assessment of the Counterintelligence Division, they still don’t even come close to the threat posed if Russia had co-opted a member of a political campaign.”
Though Web page admitted to a private dislike for Trump, she additionally admitted to a less-than-favorable view of Hillary Clinton, noting that whereas she didn’t like then-candidate Trump, she “wasn’t particularly fond or favorable toward Secretary Clinton. Page summed her position up thusly: “I mean, given a Trump-Clinton race, yes, I was supporting Clinton, but I was not a particularly big fan of hers.”
The position of FBI agent Jonathan Moffa, at present a deputy assistant director on the Federal Bureau of Investigation, might have been higher than beforehand understood. Web page famous that the majority of the FBI personnel concerned in the Clinton and Trump-Russia investigations have been separate from one another—they labored on one investigation or the opposite.
Strzok and Moffa, each from the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, labored on each investigations, as Web page famous:
“Actually it’s the those that met with Jim Comey. These are the one those that have been actually the identical with respect to each groups. So it’s the identical common counsel, the identical deputy basic counsel, me, Mr. McCabe, Dave Bowdich. The EAD for Nationwide Safety Department modified, however that was simply because of common personnel turnover.
“Bill Priestap was the same. Pete was the same. Jon Moffa was the same. But other than that, all of the rest of the personnel were, to the best of my knowledge—there could have been one or two—but all of the rest of the personnel on the Clinton team and the Russia team were different.”
Web page additionally repeatedly famous a rigidity between the FBI and DOJ, noting that the DOJ was much more cautious in their strategy to issues and was finally liable for the choice to not prosecute in the Clinton Case.
One other facet that developed in the dynamic between the DOJ and the FBI was strain from the division to put further individuals into the FBI’s investigation. Web page famous that “as soon as the planning started to begin to interview some of the more high-profile witness, not just Mrs. Clinton but also Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan, and her sort of core team, the Department wanted to change the sort of structure and the number of people who were involved.”
Particularly, David Laufman, a Deputy Assistant Lawyer Basic and head of counterintelligence for the DOJ’s Nationwide Safety Division on the time, pushed extensively to be current for the upper profile interviews. As Web page famous, this shortly spiralled into an issue for the FBI:
“Once we started talking about including David, then the U.S. Attorney’s Office also wanted to participate in the interviews, although they had participated in virtually none by that point. And so then the U.S. Attorney’s Office was pushing to have the AUSAs [Assistant U.S. Attorney], who were participating in the Clinton investigation, also participate.”
“And so now, all of a sudden, we were going from our standard two and two to this burgeoning number of people.”
Apparently, Laufman felt so strongly that he went to his boss, George Toscas, the Deputy Assistant Lawyer Basic in the Nationwide Safety Division, who then approached Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe instantly.
The DOJ’s ongoing affect was felt in different methods as nicely. Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, each reality witnesses, have been allowed to attend Clinton’s interview as her attorneys. As Web page admitted, “I would agree with you that it is not typically appropriate or operationally necessary to have fact witnesses attend the interview.”
The choice to permit attendance of reality witnesses throughout Clinton’s interview got here from the DOJ, though Web page stated she was not sure who had made the choice. She famous that the FBI protested the transfer however have been overridden, so the choice should have come from a senior degree inside the DOJ.
Disagreements Between the FBI and DOJ
As Web page famous throughout her testimony, “there were lots and lots and lots of disagreements between the FBI and the Department.” One concern of ongoing rivalry was Clinton’s precise e-mail server:
“There was a great deal of discussion between the FBI and the Department with respect to whether to proceed, obtain the server which housed the bulk of Secretary Clinton’s emails, pursuant to consent or pursuant to a subpoena or other compulsory process.”
Moreover, entry to the laptops of Clinton’s aides and private legal professionals was an space of specific rivalry:
“There have been, I feel, months of disagreement with respect to acquiring the Mills and Samuelson laptops. So Heather Mills and—Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson have been each legal professionals who engaged in the sorting. As soon as it had been recognized that Secretary Clinton had these emails—I’m guessing it’s pursuant to the FOIA request, however I don’t actually know—she—properly, our understanding is that she requested her two legal professionals to take the majority of the 60,000 emails and to type out these which have been work-related from these which have been private and to supply the work-related ones to the State Division.
“They did so. That 30,000 is sort of the bulk of the emails that we relied on in order to do the investigative technique, although we found other emails a jillion other places. We, the FBI, felt very strongly that we had to acquire and attempt to review the content of the Mills and Samuelson laptops because, to the extent the other 30,000 existed anywhere, that is the best place that they may have existed.”
“And notwithstanding the fact that they had been deleted, you know, we wanted at least to take a shot at using, you know, forensic recovery tools in order to try to ensure that, in fact, the sorting that occurred between—or by Mills and Samuelson was done correctly.”
In response to Web page, the continued dispute with the DOJ ran from “February/March-ish of 2016” to June of 2016. Web page additionally famous one different important issue in the investigation: “the FBI cannot execute a search warrant without approval from the Justice Department.”
Notably, Web page, an skilled lawyer, thought the authorized case could possibly be made that the Mills and Samuelson laptops must be made obtainable for forensic examination. As she famous, the frustration inside the FBI got here, in half, from the DOJ’s “unwillingness to explain their reasoning.”
Web page famous that this situation relating to the laptops rose to “the head of the OEO, the Office of Enforcement Operations, which is the unit at the Justice Department who would have to approve a warrant on a lawyer—because, of course, these were all lawyer laptops. It rose to that individual, it rose to George Toscas, over the course of this 3 months or so.”
Toscas may also come up in the part under referring to his boss, John Carlin.
Equally necessary, the difficulty, no less than as soon as, rose even greater:
“I think that even the Director [Comey] may have had a conversation with Sally Yates, the DAG [Deputy Attorney General], about it.”
Web page was additionally important of the State Division’s dealing with of the affair, noting, “rather than the State Department itself conducting that analysis of whether or not there was—or whether these emails were work-related or not, deferred to Secretary Clinton to do that.”
Emails to a Third Social gathering
Throughout one trade, one of the Representatives questioning her famous, “we’ve got info from the inspector common of the intelligence group … that there have been anomalies that might recommend that there was copies of each e-mail going to a 3rd celebration … Is that this information to you immediately?
Web page admitted it was and famous it was “completely baffling to me.”
She was then requested the apparent query: “why would the investigative team not have had multiple interviews with Mr. Rucker, who brought it to the FBI’s attention originally?”
Web page responded by saying the next:
“My understanding is that the IC IG [Intelligence Community Inspector General] did refer the existence of the server to the FBI, but that was because of the existence of classified information on that server, not because of any anomalous activity, not because of potential intrusion activity. Because it’s not my understanding that the IC IG conducted any sort of forensic analysis like that.”
The questioning continued:
“So what you’re telling me, it would surprise you to know today that, if there were anomalies, that the inspector general’s forensic team found those before it was referred to the FBI?”
Web page responded:
“To the extent that a foreign government or even a criminal outlet had had access to Secretary Clinton’s private email server, that would have been something we cared very much about. And it’s my understanding that there was no evidence that would have supported that kind of conclusion.”
Page’s Commentary on the DOJ
Web page, whereas by no means truly accusing the DOJ of direct wrongdoing, additionally seemed to be no fan of the division. Some commentary from her testimony:
“We all felt that we [the FBI] were more credible than the Justice Department to close this investigation out.”
“We, the whole team, really, felt that the Justice Department, being led by Democrats, would be to essentially absolve the Democratic candidate.”
“She is so loathed, she is a very polarizing figure, Secretary Clinton, and so we all knew it was 100 percent consistent and universal that she was—there was not a prosecutable case. And we, the FBI, thought that that message was more credible coming from the FBI, who is independent and is not a political sort of body, in the same way that the Justice Department is being headed by political appointees who have closer relationships with the White House.”
Web page additionally mentioned the DOJ’s response to Comey’s determination to carry his solitary press convention:
“I don’t honestly have the sense that the Attorney General was ultimately disappointed, because it really did let the Justice Department off the hook. Everybody talks about this as if this was the FBI investigation, and the truth of the matter is there was not a single step, other than the July 5th statement, there was not a single investigative step that we did not do in consultation with or at the direction of the Justice Department.”
In relation to then-Lawyer Basic Loretta Lynch, Web page had a notable remark:
“I am not sure she ever formally recused herself. She sort of, I think, did a half step, which I think she’s been criticized for, which was that she didn’t fully sort of step away from the investigation following the tarmac incident. She said that she would defer to the sort of judgment of the career prosecutor. So I don’t—I wouldn’t—we can call that a recusal if that’s how you want to frame it, but I don’t know that that legally would be considered one.”
Gross Negligence and Intent
Of specific word all through the interview was the dialogue of intent. Web page famous that what they have been in search of was “an intent to mishandle classified information.” She continued, “I cannot point to anything with respect to what the team uncovered that spoke to her having an intent to mishandle classified information.”
Web page spent a good quantity of time describing the authorized points of the time period “gross negligence” and why that particular language was faraway from Comey’s July 5, 2017, exoneration memo of Clinton:
“We neither had sufficient evidence to charge gross negligence, nor had it ever been done, because the Department viewed it as constitutionally vague.”
The reference to the Justice Division can be repeated a number of occasions with Web page noting, “we had multiple conversations with the Justice Department about bringing a gross negligence charge. And that’s, as I said, the advice that we got from the Department was that they did not think—that it was constitutionally vague and not sustainable.”
This was the rationale as to why “every single person on the team, whether FBI or DOJ, knew far earlier than July that we were not going to be able to make out sufficient evidence to charge a crime.”
As as to if a cost might be introduced beneath the “gross negligence” statute, Web page famous “that’s a determination made by the Department [DOJ].” Notably, this willpower was made earlier than Clinton or anybody else had been interviewed by the FBI.
One Consultant identified that the topic may have the ability to present the lacking component of intent throughout a yet-to-be had interview, however Web page made clear the complete influence of the DOJ’s place:
“Let’s assume things are going swimmingly and, in fact, all 17 of those witnesses admit, ‘We did it, it was on purpose, we totally wanted to mishandle classified information,’ gross negligence would still have been off the table because of the Department’s assessment that it was vague. We would have other crimes to now charge, but gross negligence would not have been among them.”
Web page admitted that it was not totally clear what the DOJ determination was based mostly on, noting, “I presume they looked at case law in which it had been applied. I really don’t know…I don’t have personal knowledge about what the Department did in order to come to that conclusion.”
When pressed, Web page tried to make clear the FBI’s place as investigators, saying that “at the end of the day, this is the Department’s determination. It is up to the Department to determine whether we have sufficient evidence to charge a case.” Later she was a bit extra direct:
“The Justice Department brings charges, and it was the Justice Department’s assessment that they did not have—whether they had—I don’t know whether they had evidence or not of gross negligence but that gross negligence was not available as a statute to bring because it’s—of its constitutional vagueness and its untestedness in court.”
John Carlin’s Position
John Carlin was an assistant lawyer common and head of the DOJ’s Nationwide Safety Division (NSD). He had beforehand served as chief of employees to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Carlin introduced his resignation the day after he filed the Authorities’s proposed 2016 Part 702 certifications. This submitting can be topic to intense criticism from the Overseas Intelligence Surveillance Courtroom (FISC) following disclosures made by NSA Director Mike Rogers. Vital modifications to the dealing with of uncooked FISA knowledge would outcome.
Carlin was changed with Mary McCord–who would later accompany Appearing AG Sally Yates to see White Home Counsel Don McGahn relating to Trump’s Nationwide Safety Adviser Common Michael Flynn.
Web page was requested at a number of factors relating to affect from political appointees. At one level in the dialogue, she singled out Carlin—and what she needed to say proved fascinating:
“I do know that at least John Carlin, for example, who is a political appointee was kept abreast of the sort of investigative activity that was going on. And the only reason I know this is because when there was conflicts between us and DOJ, John might call over to—John Carlin might call over to Andy McCabe, and sort of make his team’s pitch, and then Andy would, you know, sort of the back and forth would go on. So it is clear that John had, was getting some sort of briefing, but he was not, it was, it never occurred by the FBI, which is, in my view, atypical.”
In response to a query asking who was McCabe’s direct counterpart on the DOJ on the investigation, Web page responded, “it would have been John. It was either John Carlin or George Toscas who would have, who would have reached out to Mr. McCabe.”
The Congressional staffer who was doing this specific line of questioning appeared to aim to mitigate the knowledge simply revealed by Web page:
“Numerous witnesses have confirmed to us that George Toscas, a career prosecutor, was in charge of the day-to-day operation of DOJ on this investigation. And that Carlin and other political folks above him had briefings certainly, so they had knowledge but didn’t have input in the investigation.”
“Do you have any personal knowledge of John Carlin, Loretta Lynch, Sally Yates, or other political appointees at the DOJ issuing orders on how to conduct the Midyear investigation?” Web page was requested.
Web page answered that she had “no personal knowledge of that.” Regardless of the makes an attempt to shift the dialog, these admissions are notable.
Carlin was a really senior official inside the DOJ. He was additionally Toscas’s boss. It was Toscas who was contacted by New York prosecutors (probably Preet Bharara) concerned in the Anthony Weiner investigation relating to the Clinton emails discovered on Weiner’s pc. In response, Toscas contacted McCabe, his counterpart on the FBI, finally forcing McCabe to tell Comey of the existence of Clinton emails on Weiner’s laptop computer.
Web page staunchly maintained that any briefings given to the White Home have been all the time concerning the “Russian active measures effort” and weren’t in relation to “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI’s identify for his or her counterintelligence investigation into the Trump-Russia allegations.
Brennan has admitted throughout congressional testimony that his intelligence helped set up the FBI counterintelligence investigation:
“I was aware of intelligence and information about contacts between Russian officials and U.S. persons that raised concerns in my mind about whether or not those individuals were cooperating with the Russians, either in a witting or unwitting fashion, and it served as the basis for the FBI investigation to determine whether such collusion [or] cooperation occurred.”
This admission is essential, notably since Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had beforehand disclosed that no official intelligence was used to open the FBI’s investigation.
Brennan’s position was highlighted once more throughout testimony, as one Consultant questioning Web page questioned her in relation to an Aug. 25, 2016, textual content message: “What are you doing after the CH brief?” CH virtually definitely referred to “Crossfire Hurricane.”
Web page was requested particularly about an occasion that occured on the identical day:
“It’s the same day that Director Brennan is briefing Harry Reid, is why I ask. And so what you’re saying is you were unaware that Director Brennan was briefing Harry Reid that same day?”
Web page stated she was unaware of Brennan’s briefing to Reid. She was then requested the next:
“You give a brief on August the 25th. Director Brennan is giving a brief. It’s not a Gang of Eight brief. It is a one-on-one, from what we can tell, a one-on-one briefing with Harry Reid at that point. And it becomes apparent, based on your text messages and based on Director Comey’s emails, that you all are aware that that conversation took place. Were you aware that Director Brennan had a briefing with Harry Reid and that you expected a letter from Harry Reid?”
Web page famous that she remembered the letter despatched by Reid, however appeared confused as to Brennan’s involvement and attainable information of the Steele file. Value noting is that whereas some inside the FBI probably had elements of the file in July, the Counterintelligence investigative workforce didn’t obtain it till mid-September throughout a visit to Rome the place they met personally with Steele.
The Consultant, who was clearly conscious of the disparity in timing, targeted on exactly how Brennan may need been conscious of the file in August:
Rep.: So what you’re saying is, is that you simply had no information of these potential unverified memos previous to the center half of September in your investigation?
Web page: That’s right, sir.
Rep.: Okay. So on August 30th, you and Peter are going forwards and backwards, and also you go, “Here we go.” For those who’ll take a look at 9:44:50 on August the 30th, you go, “Here we go.” And it’s referencing “Harry Reid Cites Evidence of Russian Tampering in the U.S. Vote and Seeks FBI.” Now, what occurs is, and what I assume provides me somewhat bit of concern is, in the event you drop down, that for those who drop right down to the identical day, August 30th, 9:45, it says: “The D”—which I assume means Director—”stated on the a.m. temporary that Reid had referred to as him and informed him that he can be sending the letter.”
Web page: Okay.
Rep.: So that you get a quick that claims, properly, we obtained the letter, however it’s virtually prefer it’s a coordinated effort between Harry Reid and the FBI Director, as a result of clearly, he’s briefing you.
After a bit of forwards and backwards, Web page responded, “I don’t know what Harry Reid was told or why or what the purpose of Brennan [was.]”
The Consultant pressed on:
“Why would Director Brennan be aware of things that the FBI was not aware of at this particular point when it actually would potentially involve, according to Peter Strzok’s word on January 10th of 2017, an unverified salacious set of memos?”
After which the large reveal:
Rep.: We’ve paperwork that might recommend that in that briefing the file was talked about to Harry Reid after which clearly we’re going to should have conversations. Does that shock you that Director Brennan would remember [of the dossier]?
Web page: Sure, sir. As a result of with all due honesty, if Director Brennan—so we received that info from our supply, proper? The FBI acquired this info from our supply. If the CIA had one other supply of that info, I’m neither conscious of that nor did the CIA present it to us in the event that they did, as a result of the primary time we —
Rep.: We do know there are a number of sources.
Web page: I do know that. I do know that the knowledge finally discovered its means tons of totally different locations, definitely in October of 2016. But when the CIA as early as August, in reality, had those self same reviews, I’m not conscious of—I’m not conscious of that and nor do I consider they offered them to us, and that might be uncommon.
Rep.: Have been you conscious that Christopher Steele had conversations or a number of conversations with Fusion GPS and others outdoors of simply working particular intel for you?
Web page: As of August of 2016, I don’t know who Christopher Steele is. I don’t know that he’s an FBI supply. I don’t know what he does. I’ve by no means heard of him in all of my life. So let me simply type of be clear. When the FBI first receives the studies which might be referred to as the file from an FBI agent who’s Christopher Steele’s handler in September of 2016 at the moment, we have no idea who—we don’t know why these stories have been generated. We don’t know for what objective.
A bit later in the dialogue, the consultant requested one other query:
“So you don’t know whether it’s a coordinated effort to get you those documents or not at that point in September?”
Web page responds, “Coordinated by whom, sir?
Rep.: Anyone, aside from a confidential human supply saying, “Listen, I’ve got reason to be concerned and bring it to you.” It could possibly be coordinated by the CIA. It might have been coordinated by Fusion GPS. You don’t know.
Web page: On the time that we acquired the documentation, no. What we have now is the preexisting relationship with the supply and the reliability of his prior reporting.
FISA Briefings & White Home Information
At a number of factors, Web page famous a frustration on the half of the FBI in relation to the velocity with which the DOJ was shifting in the FISA spy warrant software course of.
When questioned about the necessity to transfer swiftly, Web page famous, “there was an operational reason that we were pushing to get the FISA up, which I am not at liberty to discuss.” Upon additional questioning Web page tried to offer barely extra readability, “we had an operational reason that we wanted to get this thing up quickly with respect to the subject himself.”
In accordance with Page’s testimony, she first discovered of plans to acquire a FISA warrant on Trump marketing campaign adviser Carter Web page roughly a month earlier than the FISA was granted on Oct. 21, 2016.
Web page disclosed that Deputy Assistant Lawyer Basic Stu Evans was the individual inside the DOJ who was in cost of all the FISA course of, however notably, the FBI selected to not inform Evans that that they had opened a counterintelligence investigation:
“We were so concerned about the fact that we were opening this investigation and we were so concerned about leaks that we were literally individually making decisions about who to tell and who not to tell, because we were trying to keep it so closely held.”
Based on Web page, the one DOJ official they advised was George Toscas, the Deputy Assistant Lawyer Common in the Nationwide Safety Division. With out forewarning to the FBI, Toscas knowledgeable Evans in August 2016—probably earlier—of the FBI’s newly opened investigation.
The textual content in query was from Aug. 10, 2016, and was paraphrased by one of the congressional representatives:
“I remember what it was, Toscas already told Stu Evans everything. Sally called to set up a meeting.”
“Sally” is affirmed in the dialog as Deputy AG Sally Yates.
Web page was emphatic that this dialogue didn’t have something to do with the precise FISA however as an alternative mirrored the FBI’s concern that growing numbers of individuals have been studying of their investigation.
Notably, Toscas reported to John Carlin, the top of the NSD, whose actions earlier than the FISA Courtroom in relation to his presentation of the Authorities’s proposed 2016 Part 702 certifications, strongly recommend he was additionally conscious of the FBI’s investigation. Carlin seems to have been conscious of the FBI’s later FISA preparations as properly.
The congressional consultant then requested the next query:
“What you’re saying is when the Director briefed the White House 2 days prior to that, on August the 8th, or prepared for it, actually briefed him on the 10th, that it had nothing to do with any campaign. Even though George Toscas and Stu Evans knew about it.”
Usually, when a member of the FBI makes use of the phrase “Director” they might be referring to the FBI Director. On this case, whereas not made completely clear in the transcript, it seems “Director” refers to CIA Director John Brennan, who had been mentioned in the previous feedback referring to Brennan’s briefing of Reid.
From Brennan’s congressional testimony, we all know that he had briefed the White Home sooner or later in early August 2016, previous to Aug. 11:
“In consultation with the White House, I personally briefed the full details of our understanding of Russian attempts to interfere in election to congressional leadership, specifically Senators Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr; and to Representatives Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Devon Nunes and Adam Schiff between 11, August and 6, September.”
Web page responded to the query: “Sir, I might be shocked. I would really be surprised to
uncover that the Director had briefed the President on the substance of our investigation and even the existence of our investigation. I might be—I can’t say it didn’t occur, I wasn’t there, however I might be surprised to find that.”
Steele’s FBI Handler
Web page had earlier referenced Steele’s handler:
“When the FBI first receives the reports that are known as the dossier from an FBI agent who is Christopher Steele’s handler in September of 2016 at that time, we do not know who—we don’t know why these reports have been generated.”
Steele’s handler is nearly definitely Michael Gaeta, head of the FBI’s Eurasian Crime Squad. Gaeta, an FBI agent and in addition assistant authorized attaché on the U.S. Embassy in Rome, has recognized the previous MI6 spy since no less than 2010, when Steele offered help in the FBI’s investigation into the FIFA corruption scandal over concern that Russia may need been partaking in bribery to host the 2018 World Cup.
On July 5, 2016, Gaeta traveled to London and met with Steele on the workplaces of Steele’s agency, Orbis. For this go to, the FBI sought permission from the workplace of Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. Nuland, who had been the recipient of many of Steele’s stories, gave permission for the extra formal assembly.
Nuland offered this model of occasions throughout a Feb. four, 2018, look on CBS Information’ Face the Nation:
“In the middle of July, when he [Steele] was doing this other work and became concerned, he passed two to four pages of short points of what he was finding and our immediate reaction to that was, this is not in our purview. This needs to go to the FBI if there is any concern here that one candidate or the election as a whole might be influenced by the Russian Federation. That’s something for the FBI to investigate.”
In September 2016, Steele would journey again to Rome to satisfy with the FBI Eurasian squad as soon as once more. It was at this assembly that Steele gave a replica of his file—what there was of it at the moment—to the FBI counterintelligence group investigators.
One particular person who had earlier involvement with the Eurasian Crime Squad was former FBI Deputy Director McCabe:
“McCabe began his career as a special agent with the FBI in 1996,” the FBI states on its web site. “He first reported to the New York division, where he investigated a variety of organized crime matters. In 2003, he became the supervisory special agent of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force.”
McCabe remained with the Eurasian squad till 2006, when he was moved to FBI headquarters in Washington.
The query that has but to be answered was who, precisely, did Gaeta give the file to and when. Was it transmitted to FBI management? In that case, why did the counterintelligence workforce need to journey to Rome in September to get their first copy from Steele.
And eventually, probably the most important query: Did Brennan obtain a replica of the file by way of Gaeta —or whomever he transmitted a replica to—in the summer time of 2016 following Gaeta’s return?
The FBI’s Verification File & the Dragon FISA
Web page testified that as quickly as they acquired the Steele file in September, they “set about trying to prove or disprove every single factual statement in the dossier.” Web page famous that “to the best of my knowledge, we were never able to disprove any statement in it.”
This appears considerably odd provided that Comey advised congressional investigators the Steele file nonetheless wasn’t verified as of Might 2017. Moreover, her assertion doesn’t seem to deal with the widely debunked declare that Cohen was in Prague.
In response to Page’s feedback, clarification was requested:
Rep.: Ms. Web page, are you speaking concerning the Woods file?
Web page: I’m not speaking concerning the Woods file. I’m speaking a few separate effort that was undertaken in order to attempt to confirm for investigative functions, not for functions of the FISA, however a separate effort undertaken to attempt to validate the allegations contained inside the Steele reporting.
It shortly turned obvious that this doc has not been seen by congressional investigators. One Consultant, who famous he has seen the Woods file, was clearly unaware of this file’s existence.
This dialogue shortly led into one other space—an Oct. 18, 2016, e mail from Strzok containing the topic line “Re: Dragon FISA.”
Web page shortly famous that she couldn’t talk about the matter in an unclassified setting—however would be capable of talk about the matter with congressional investigators in a categorized setting.
The Dragon FISA was referenced in an article by John Solomon in The Hill:
“In one email exchange with the subject line “Crossfire FISA,” Strzok and Lisa Web page mentioned speaking factors to get then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe to influence a high-ranking DOJ official to log off on the warrant.
“Crossfire Hurricane” was one of the code names for 4 separate investigations the FBI carried out associated to Russia issues in the 2016 election.
“At a minimum, that keeps the hurry the F up pressure on him,” Strzok emailed Web page on Oct. 14, 2016, lower than 4 weeks earlier than Election Day.
4 days later the identical group was emailing about dashing to get approval for an additional FISA warrant for an additional Russia-related investigation code-named “Dragon.””
At this level, the potential topic of the Dragon FISA stays unknown.
Page’s Russia Bias
Maybe unsurprisingly, Web page expressed robust emotions relating to Russia, noting, “I do always hate the Russians,” and she or he singled out the nation as a nationwide safety menace far exceeding that of China or North Korea:
“Russia poses the greatest threat certainly to Western ideals of any of our foreign adversaries. And we have vast foreign adversaries. But even the threats that are posed by China or by Iran or North Korea or others doesn’t speak to sort of the core of Western democracy, right?”
“It is my opinion that with respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life.”
Web page seemed to be singularly targeted on Russia making just one reference to China all through the whole interview.
Comey’s Draft Memo
The top outcome of the wording in Comey’s assertion was extensively publicized however some of the reporting particulars have been incorrect. The time period “gross negligence” was not exchanged for “extremely careless.” It was merely faraway from Comey’s preliminary draft. Web page defined, “extremely careless had already appeared in that draft, and we moved that paragraph up earlier in the draft.”
Nevertheless, a number of questionable parts surrounding Comey’s draft have been highlighted throughout questioning. On Might 2, 2016, Comey drafted his exoneration letter. On Might three, after studying that Trump can be the GOP nominee, Strzok despatched a textual content noting, ““Now the pressure really starts to finish the MYE.” MYE being a reference to the Mid-Yr Examination—the FBI’s case identify for the Clinton e-mail investigation. The “gross negligence” language inside Comey’s memo was deleted by Might 6.
Web page claimed this was purely dangerous timing and dangerous optics and had nothing to do with Trump’s securing of the GOP nomination. By means of reassurance, she famous that the choice to omit the “gross negligence” language was the choice of one other lawyer—ranked on the degree of GS-15.
One Consultant famous the discrepancy instantly:
Rep.: Did any of the opposite people that you simply’re referencing in reference to making the change have extra prosecutorial expertise than Jim Comey?
Web page: No.
Rep.: As somebody that is aware of Jim Comey, is he an individual that chooses his phrases rigorously?
Web page: He’s, yeah. However I —
Rep.: Would he throw round a time period like “gross negligence” not likely which means gross negligence?
Web page didn’t have a prepared reply to this line of questioning, aside from to reiterate that the DOJ had made clear the cost was not supportable. By no means clarified, was why did Comey select to incorporate the phrase in the primary place. Given the tight sequence of occasions, the DOJ had certainly made the willpower to not pursue gross negligence fees previous to Comey’s choice to make use of the phrase anyway.
The Insurance coverage Coverage
One other difficulty that was introduced up a number of occasions was the well-known Strzok textual content relating to the “Insurance Policy”:
“I want to believe the path you threw out in Andy’s office—that there is no way he gets elected—but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”
Web page confirmed that Andy referred to Deputy FBI Director McCabe. Web page was reminded that the textual content was despatched simply 15 days after the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016. Web page tried to offer an evidence, nevertheless it got here throughout as lower than convincing:
“What this text reflects is our sort of continuing check-in almost with respect to how quickly to operate, what types of tools to use, trying to be as quiet as possible about it because we knew so little about what—whether this was true or not true or what was going to come, because this is, as you said, so nascent in the investigation, and then ultimately trying to balance that against my view, in this case, which was we don’t need to go at a total breakneck speed because so long as he doesn’t become President, there isn’t the same threat to national security, right.”
Maybe realizing she’d been lower than completely clear, Web page tried to make clear her place, noting, “this reflects: Let’s be reasonable, let’s not, you know, throw the kitchen sink at this because he’s probably not going to be elected, and so then we don’t have quite as horrific a national security threat than if we do if he gets elected.”
In equity to Web page, at a later level in the interview, she did handle to offer a considerably extra coherent rationalization:
“He’s making an analogy here so my suggestion is, let’s not, you know, throw the baby out with the bath water, let’s sort of be a little bit more cautious with respect to our investigative steps because if he’s not President, this plays a less of a threat to our national security.”
“And he is saying, no, we have to, you know, do what we have to do in order to get to the bottom of this because it is like an insurance policy. There is no actual insurance policy. He is making an analogy.”
Kortan’s Position in Page’s Leaks to the Media
Web page stated in her testimony that she “was authorized by Deputy Director McCabe and by Mike Kortan to engage with the reporter [Devlin Barrett] on this topic.” This refers to a leak by Web page to Barrett, who labored on the Wall Road Journal, relating to the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Basis.
Apparently, Web page highlighted the position of Kortan as assistant director of Public Affairs Workplace on the FBI. Kortan is talked about nowhere in the IG’s report particular to McCabe, though he’s talked about in the IG’s June report. Kortan, who has since retired, was in place throughout a prolonged sequence of unauthorized disclosures highlighted by the IG’s report—and as Web page testifies, had full information of her leaks on behalf of McCabe:
“I agree with you that it is curious that there is no reference in the IG report at all to Mr. Kortan, particularly in light of what I reported, which is that both interactions with the reporter were done with Mr. Kortan, in coordination with Mr. Kortan and with Mr. Kortan at my side. So I cannot explain why there is no—there is no reference to Mr. Kortan in any testimony, if he did give any, in the IG report.”
Kortan’s involvement in Page’s approved leaks to Barrett had not been beforehand recognized.
A Potential Obstruction Case
Nonetheless one other challenge talked about with some frequency have been two probably associated texts:
“And we need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting.”
“We need to lock in,” redacted, “in a formal, chargeable, way.”
Once more, Web page confirms that Andy is certainly a reference to McCabe. Notably, that textual content was despatched the day after Comey had been fired by Trump. Sadly, a sure degree of readability stays missing as FBI counsel was restricted to noting that “the decision to open the case was not about who was occupying the Director’s chair.” She continued in a considerably confusingly with, “if I was able to explain in more depth why the Director firing precipitated this text, I would.”
One Consultant stored pursuing the query from a number of angles, asking, “Was that a fear that someone other than McCabe would eventually be put into that slot?” Web page once more consulted with counsel and famous she couldn’t reply that query.
The Consultant made the logical remark, “Well, that leads at least some of us to conclude that it may have been an obstruction of justice case.” Web page responded, “that’s a reasonable inference, sir, but I cannot, sort of, confirm that that’s what we are referring to.” The dialogue continued:
Rep.: So the firing of Jim Comey was the precipitating occasion versus the occupant of the Director’s workplace?
Web page: Sure, that’s right.
Rep.: Properly, aside from obstruction, what might it have been?
Web page: I can’t reply that, sir. I’m sorry.
Rep.: Is there something aside from obstruction that it might have been?
Web page: I can’t reply.
Web page maintained that the second textual content was a separate matter from the primary—however time might have been an element because it occured in the times previous Mueller’s appointment as particular counsel. Web page additionally claimed to not know precisely what it pertained to:
“My suspicion is, we have either been interviewing some witness or have been getting kind of closer to some target, either we’ve already had interviews or we haven’t.”
“What this is suggesting is, like, we need to start thinking about locking in whomever in a way that might be able to support charges…my suspicion is that we have somebody who we think is lying… to the extent we want to be able to charge them for lying, we need to lock them in in a formal way, in a way in which we will be able to support those charges.”
The difficulty of obstruction got here up a number of occasions, together with a notable change that passed off through the second day of testimony:
Rep. Have been there discussions about opening an obstruction of justice case or another case towards Donald Trump previous to the firing of Jim Comey on Might ninth of 2017, as mirrored in the Comey memos?
FBI authorized counsel: Congressman, to the extent that goes into the equities of the continued investigation that the particular counsel is now conducting, I’ll instruct the witness to not reply.
Usually this line of questioning ends with inferences having to be made, however in this case what seems to be an trustworthy error on the half of Web page hinted firmly on the true reply:
Rep.: I don’t need any of the small print. I simply need to know whether or not there was a dialogue concerning the risk of opening that previous to the firing of the Director.
Web page: Obstruction of justice was not a subject of dialog in the course of the timeframe you have got described.
Rep.: Okay. Then —
Web page: I feel. One second, sir.
[Discussion off the record.]
Web page: Sir, I have to — I have to take again my prior assertion.
Rep.: Which one?
Web page: No matter the very last thing I simply stated was. Sorry. That there have been no discussions of obstruction, yeah. That’s — I have to take that assertion again.
Rep.: So there have been?
Web page: Nicely, I feel that I can’t reply this query with out stepping into issues that are substantively earlier than the particular counsel presently.
Rep.: Nicely, I feel you’ve simply answered it by not answering it. Was Andy McCabe aware about those self same conversations?
Web page: I can’t reply this substantively, sir. I’m sorry.
Rep.: Nicely, have been these associated to some fees, whether or not obstruction or different fees, probably towards Donald Trump?
Web page: I can’t—I can’t reply that query, sir, with out moving into the substance of issues that at the moment are earlier than the particular counsel.
Rep.: Once more, I feel you’re answering it by not answering it.
At a later level in testimony, this concern was probably additional clarified:
Rep.: Comey has admitted that he informed the President, I feel, that he wasn’t underneath investigation throughout that timeframe.
Web page: That isn’t inconsistent, sir…Someone couldn’t be underneath investigation, however there nonetheless could possibly be discussions about potential felony exercise, and that’s completely in step with FBI insurance policies and wouldn’t be uncommon with respect to any investigation.
This offers an ideal rationalization as to why Comey refused to inform the press that President Trump was not beneath investigation—and the character of the textual content messages.
The FBI had not positioned Trump beneath any formal investigation—however they have been preserving their capability to take action open, and interim FBI Director McCabe might have been planning to initialize a proper investigation earlier than a everlasting director might be appointed.
A query value asking: What occurs if an interim FBI Director opens a proper investigation right into a sitting president throughout a extremely politically charged time? Is it then troublesome, maybe unimaginable, to nominate somebody aside from McCabe as a brand new FBI Director, particularly given Comey’s current firing?
Jeff Carlson is a CFA® Charterholder. He labored for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio supervisor in the high-yield bond market. He runs the web site TheMarketsWork.com and may be adopted on Twitter @themarketswork