WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said Wednesday that the public can “absolutely” trust the FBI, even though some in the organization “basically lied to the court” to obtain a surveillance warrant on a former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
According to Nunes, a criminal referral released by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Tuesday confirms much of the information in the four-page memo his committee made public last Friday. The memo alleged that the FBI used unverified information from a former British intelligence officer who was working for a firm being paid by Hillary Clinton’s campaign in an application for a FISA warrant on Carter Page, a one-time foreign policy adviser to Trump.
“You had one campaign, the Hillary Clinton campaign, working in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee - dug up dirt on Donald Trump that was phony dirt, gave it to the FBI who then opened an investigation,” he said.
According to Nunes, the FISA application did not reveal that Christopher Steele, the former intelligence officer who compiled a dossier of information on Trump’s ties to Russia, was directly connected to Clinton’s campaign.
“They actually went to great lengths to not tell anyone that the Democrats had paid for this, and the Hillary campaign paid for this,” he said, acknowledging that a footnote in the application did indicate Steele’s partisan motivation but it was “buried way deep.”
Grassley referred Steele to the Department of Justice for criminal investigation several weeks ago alleging that he lied to investigators about his contacts with the media, but some of the details were only made public Tuesday. Nunes called the case against Steele laid out in the referral “a slam dunk.”
“The mainstream media has tried to deflect, tried to obfuscate,” he said. “But now we know from the release last night of the Grassley letter confirms everything that’s in our memo.”
According to Nunes, FBI officials either did not confirm Steele’s information or they did know it was wrong and misled the court.
“What happened is the FBI presented the dossier as if it was true,” he said. “And then they used a news article to corroborate this dossier – the dirt – but what they didn’t say is that Steele, who wrote this, also briefed the reporters.”
The Nunes memo claims FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified the warrant to surveil Page would not have been sought without the information from Steele’s dossier, but Democrats dispute that account of his testimony. Nunes confirmed that Page had been on the FBI’s radar for years before he joined the Trump campaign, but he stressed that Page cooperated with the FBI in a previous case against a Russian spy ring that tried to recruit him.
“When the FBI actually goes to that American citizen and that American citizen cooperates with the FBI, then that information is used in a court proceeding to help bust the Russians, it’s really disingenuous to put out fake information that Carter Page is some kind of Russian superspy that needed to be monitored by the government,” he said.
Now that all this information is public, Nunes said the FBI and DOJ should take some action to restore the faith of the public, but he is not sure if they can run an investigation into the conduct of their own agents and top officials.
“They’d have to do a whole investigation to determine who lied,” he said. “Right? I mean they basically lied to the court. So that’s their problem to figure out. I don’t get involved in the Judicial Branch of government but there should be something done there.”
Democrats on the committee say the Nunes memo vastly mischaracterizes evidence and provides an incomplete picture. The FBI has also expressed “grave concerns” about its accuracy.
Democrats produced their own 10-page memo in rebuttal and Nunes believes the public should see that too once sensitive information is redacted.
“I mean, it’s loaded with sources and methods,” he said. “If those are stripped out of it, I mean there’s really no problem with it.”
President Trump must decide by the end of the week whether to allow the Democratic memo’s release. He approved the declassification of the Republican memo against the advice of FBI leadership.
Nunes dismissed the concerns expressed by the FBI that releasing his memo could be damaging to national security. Instead, he suggested the FBI and DOJ spent months stonewalling the committee and hiding evidence of malfeasance.
“I think now the American people know, that was basically two weeks that I had to endure of nonsense about me supposedly releasing classified information that was going to harm national security,” he said.
Despite the conspiracy against Trump he outlined and the illicit conduct he alleged, Nunes emphasized that the public can still trust the FBI.
“Absolutely you can trust the FBI,” he said. “In fact, the FBI, the rank and file people - I’ve spoken to current agents, their spouses, retired agents, all of them that I’ve spoke to – because they call my office, they come by. They’re thanking us. They’re thanking the House and the Intelligence Committee for what we’ve exposed.”