Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request, the government has now released the heavily-redacted FISA application requesting a warrant against Donald Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, suspected by the FBI as acting as “an agent of a foreign power.” For much of this year, House Republicans had demonized the FBI’s efforts to investigate Page’s actions during the campaign as a witch hunt; that demonization was premised around a “memo” by Rep. Devin Nunes purporting to summarize the still-classified document as a partisan-laced, spuriously sourced attempt by the FBI to infiltrate the Trump team’s ranks in order to snoop around for Russia connections they oughtn’t to have been looking for in the first place.
Now that the (heavily redacted) documents are out for all to read, it’s evident that Rep. Nunes simply lied about their contents, and lied brazenly. David Kris:
I said then, and I still believe, that the “Nunes memo was dishonest. And if it is allowed to stand, we risk significant collateral damage to essential elements of our democracy.”
Now we have some additional information in the form of the redacted FISA applications themselves, and the Nunes memo looks even worse.
Many of Nunes’ most salacious claims about the investigation into Page, repeated ad nauseum by a cadre of other House Republicans and quickly taken up as arguments by the White House itself, are amply debunked by the released documents. Investigators did indeed reveal to the court the partisan origins of the so-called “Steele dossier”, the reports of a British investigator tasked with investigating Trump’s Russia connections, and did so at length; there was indeed substantial information that came from sources aside from Steele; a news article Nunes claimed was being used to burnish the FBI’s claims of Russian connections was in fact used in the document to note that Page was denying those claims; the Nunes fit over the document not mentioning either Steele nor Fusion GPS turns out to be a bout of epic stupidity on his part, as in fact all references to third parties are anonymized, even to the extent of not naming Trump himself, as matter of legal course.
Nunes and other House Republicans used his would-be analysis of these documents to argue that the investigation of Trump campaign figures over Russian connections, during a period of intense Russian efforts to manipulate the outcome of the presidential election, was itself “illegal.” Nunes has staked his entire reputation on these claims, in fact–a mysterious move in itself. But the document itself does not back up his claims, or the claims of the Republicans that rallied to repeat the same notions.
Nunes may have been under the assumption that, as a top-secret document, the FISA application he was railing against would never be made public, making his claims unchallengeable. But it is public, now, and it plainly demonstrates that he and his fellow Republicans misled the public substantively in order to protect the Trump campaign from an FBI investigation into possible collusion with figures in the Russian government. Rep. Nunes lied.