WHERE IS THE TRUTH?
by Sharon Rondeau
(May 27, 2019) — On page 67 of the transcript of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s closed-door testimony from last December to the House Judiciary Committee, Lynch confirmed that she “had the authority to oversee [the] FISA application process” while heading the U.S. Justice Department in 2016.
At the time of Lynch’s interview, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was three months away from delivering a report to the Justice Department, now led by Attorney General William Barr, indicating that his team of 19 prosecutors and 40 FBI agents found insufficient evidence that anyone from the 2016 Trump campaign conspired with Russian operatives to affect the outcome of the presidential election.
Mueller’s investigation, assumed from the FBI’s 2016 counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign, ran for 22 months after then-FBI Director James Comey was fired in May 2017.
The FBI, which reports to the Justice Department, claims its investigation began on July 31, 2016. However, the surveillance of George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (Ret) and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, which Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX18) stated as fact during her questioning of Lynch, appear to have commenced considerably earlier.
A former Texas judge, Jackson Lee announced approximately a month after the Lynch interview that she was resigning as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) as a result of a lawsuit alleging retaliation against a former Foundation staffer who “threatened to sue” over an alleged sexual assault by a supervisor.
The suit names Jackson Lee’s congressional office and the CBCF as defendants. In addition to resigning from the CBCF, Jackson Lee did not assume her scheduled leadership of the House Judiciary Committee’s crime, terrorism, homeland security and investigations subcommittee.
After Mueller’s findings were made public last month, many congressional Democrats were clearly disappointed and vowed to continue investigating Trump, including his business dealings from before he entered politics. His banking records, tax returns, eldest son and former administration associates have become the subjects of congressional subpoenas, while several committee leaders, including House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, continue to insist that the president committed a crime.
On page 66 of the transcript, Jackson Lee is noted as having said to Lynch, “I want to talk about the spring, summer, and autumn of 2016. Carter Page, at the time, was suspected of being a Russian asset; George Papadopoulos had told the Australian ambassador that Russians had Hillary emails; Paul Manafort had been named Trump campaign manager; Michael Flynn was Trump’s chief national security adviser and foreign policy adviser; and just yesterday, had a continuance in his sentencing.”
One thing that all of these persons had in common was that each was the subject of a FISA court investigation, which we now know, and all were directly connected to Trump. As Attorney General, you had the authority to oversee FISA application process. Is that correct?”
Under previous questioning from Nadler, Lynch denied that the U.S. Justice Department and FBI conducted an investigation into the Trump campaign “for political purposes.” “I know that they did not,” she responded to Nadler on page 52.
Nadler’s line of questioning stemmed from his reference to President Trump’s tweets claiming not only that his campaign was illegally surveilled, but also that Lynch “made law enforcement decisions for political purposes,” invoking the Justice Department’s declination to pursue a criminal inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server over which she sent and received classified material.
Nadler decried Trump’s alleged “repeated attacks” on former FBI Director James Comey, Lynch and “the rule of law” in general.
Flynn was announced as Trump’s national security adviser on November 17, 2016 and installed shortly after Trump’s inauguration. He served approximately three weeks, resigning after he was accused of having lied to Vice President Mike Pence about the content of his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.
Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), personnel from foreign countries are often the subjects of U.S. surveillance, with the names of any American citizens with whom they interact normally “masked.” However, Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak were leaked to the press, with the perpetrator not yet identified.
Before he resigned at Trump’s request on November 7, 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions had reported that the Justice Department launched 27 investigations into the leaks which plagued the early months of the administration.
Papadopoulos wrote in his book, “Deep State Target,” released in late March, that he does not recall mentioning “emails” in his conversation of May 6, 2016 with then-Australian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Downer. Frequently on Twitter, Papadopoulos has referenced Downer as someone doing the bidding of the Clintons.
In 2006, Downer reportedly arranged for a $25 million donation from the Australian government to the Clinton Foundation.
In recent interviews, a number of Republican Congressmen had stated that Papadopoulos’s interactions with not only Downer, but also other individuals who approached him in Europe in 2016 about “Russia” were recorded, that transcripts exist and could be released as part of Trump’s sweeping declassification authorization made to Attorney General William Barr last Thursday.
The four individuals Jackson Lee named are identical to those Papadopoulos claimed were the subjects of 2016 FISA warrants, although as of April 2017, only Carter Page’s surveillance had been made public.
During congressional testimony in early April, Barr shocked the Washington, DC political establishment when he said he believes “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign. He is now seeking to discover whether or not an appropriate “predicate” existed for its inception, an element Lynch confirmed in her testimony as necessary for the government to investigate an American citizen (p. 53). “Investigations can only be opened if there is what is called ‘predication,’ clear evidence of wrongdoing that has to be looked into, not a determination of liability at the beginning, but something that warrants the vast exercise of Federal power,” she told Nadler.
Atty. Brad Weinsheimer of the Justice Department objected to Jackson Lee’s question on the basis that “it potentially gets into possibly classified information, and also equities in an ongoing investigation.” Lynch was accompanied to the interview by three private attorneys who reportedly did not enter objections.
Jackson Lee disagreed, insisting, as did Nadler after her, that the question was general in nature.
Weinsheimer insisted that “the preface of the question was all of the indications about the various people that may or may not be under investigation, okay, the whole lead-up to the question.”
Jackson Lee then responded:
To that, Weinsheimer replied, “I have no objection to that question,” prompting Lynch’s response:
Yes. The Attorney General has the authority over the final signature on the FISA applications. It is delegated by regulation to the Deputy Attorney General, and the head of the national security division, as well.
Weinsheimer objected to Jackson Lee’s next question, after which the congresswoman responded, “It refers back to the FISA applications that are in the public domain. The names are in the public domain, not the information of the FISA, but the names are in the public domain, and so the question is if any of those names had been released, would that have hampered any campaign?”
Carter Page’s name was leaked to Yahoo! News “chief investigative correspondent” and former NBC reporter Michael Isikoff, who produced a September 23, 2016 article titled, “U.S. intel officials probe ties between Trump adviser and Kremlin” featuring a prominent photo of Page. The following month, Isikoff’s article was used to obtain the first of four surveillance warrants on Page.
Isikoff has since expressed “surprise” that his article was included in the “evidence” submitted to the FISA court for the Page warrants and admitted that the “dossier,” information provided to him for the article, presumably by dossier author Christopher Steele, contains “likely false” information.
On February 2, 2018, a memo from the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican members, then in the majority, reported that Steele was fired by the FBI for making “disclosures to the press.” Democrats disagreed with the content and release of the “Nunes” memo and released their own on February 24, 2018 defending the FBI and DOJ’s surveillance of Page, including the alleged “rigor, transparency and evidentiary basis” upon which it was granted.
Steele’s compilation was the work product of his contracted employment with Fusion GPS, which had been hired by the DNC and Clinton campaign to procure opposition research on Trump. The dossier was used as the mainstay of evidence for at least Page’s surveillance warrants, which spanned a full year. Congressional Republicans now want to know why the FBI and Justice Department submitted the dossier as having been “verified” when newly-discovered documentary evidence indicates otherwise.
At the same time he was assembling opposition research on Trump, Steele was on the FBI’s payroll, John Solomon of The Hill reported in a column earlier this month.
In direct contradiction to Lynch’s claim that the Justice Department did not carry out political targeting under her watch, Solomon has claimed in at least three interviews that in March 2017, after he appeared on FNC’s “Hannity” at the outset of his now 2+-year investigation into the “Russia collusion” narrative, he was met at his home by two federal agents who informed him that the assets of the U.S. intelligence community were, in fact, used for political purposes in 2016 and that he should continue his nascent investigation.
On May 2, 2019, Solomon reported an apparent 2016 Ukrainian effort to assist the Clinton campaign by producing information potentially harmful to the Trump campaign.
On March 5, 2018, Solomon reported:
Downer, now Australia’s ambassador to London, provided the account of a conversation with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos at a London bar in 2016 that became the official reason the FBI opened the Russia counterintelligence probe.
But lawmakers say the FBI didn’t tell Congress about Downer’s prior connection to the Clinton Foundation. Republicans say they are concerned the new information means nearly all of the early evidence the FBI used to justify its election-year probe of Trump came from sources supportive of the Clintons, including the controversial Steele dossier.
Downer is no longer Australia’s foreign minister to the UK.
On page 70 of the transcript, Lynch told Jackson Lee that leaking Page’s name to the press “would have been against Department policy.”
Jackson Lee then asked, “But the information was not leaked. Is that correct?” to which Lynch responded, “That is correct” without expounding further.
On April 12, 2017, The New York Times quoted “a government official” as having said he or she “was not aware of any instances in which an active member of Mr. Trump’s campaign was directly surveilled by American law-enforcement or spy agencies, though some Trump associates were swept up in surveillance of foreign officials.”
The article continued:
That assertion was in line with previous statements by Obama administration officials, including James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence, who said during a March 5 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the surveillance court issued no warrants either for the president or his campaign staff.
“For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as D.N.I., there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign,” Mr. Clapper said.
“DNI” stands for “Director of National intelligence.” In March 2013, Clapper lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee about whether or not the U.S. intelligence community collects the communications of average Americans without a warrant. “Not wittingly,” Clapper responded to a question from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
Three months later, Glenn Greenwald, then of The Guardian, broke revelations from former CIA contractor Edward Snowden that virtually all Americans’ communications were being swept up in a massive data-collection operation by the NSA and that its British counterpart, GCHQ, was monitoring the communications of “foreign politicians” at the 2009 G20 summit in London.
Just after Snowden’s revelations were first reported, Clapper told Wyden in a follow-up testimonial that he “gave the ‘least untruthful‘ answer possible” to Wyden about the NSA’s data-collection on American citizens.
Papadopoulos, who was interviewed last fall by members of Congress about the Russia investigation, has made repeated claims, based on the strange encounters he experienced in Europe in 2016 and his subsequent prosecution for allegedly lying to the FBI and for which he accepted a plea agreement, that the British, Italian, Ukrainian and Australian intelligence services were coordinating with the CIA and FBI to spy on the Trump campaign.
Rep. Devin Nunes, formerly the House Intelligence Committee chairman and now its ranking member, has suggested that when the president visits the UK next month, he raise the question with outgoing UK Prime Minister Theresa May as to the information her country’s intelligence service was provided on the “dossier.”
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.