The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday urged President Trump to ask Prime Minister Theresa May whether British officials supported intelligence-gathering activities targeted at his campaign associates or coordinated in any way with the author of the unverified Trump “dossier” — as the president prepares to make a state visit to Britain in June.
“I respectfully request that you ask Prime Minister May about the British government’s knowledge of the Steele dossier and whether the British government took any unilateral actions based on information provided by [Christopher] Steele or at the request of any U.S. departments,” California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes wrote in a letter to Trump, exclusively obtained by Fox News.
Nunes cited a May 19 article in The Telegraph titled, “Theresa May’s spy chiefs were briefed on explosive Christopher Steele dossier before Donald Trump.” The report said the heads of MI5 and MI6 and a top May adviser were told about Steele’s salacious memos on the Trump campaign after his 2016 election victory — before Trump was made aware.
Saying the article raised “important questions about the potential role foreign government officials may have played in spreading the dossier’s false allegations and what actions they may have taken in response to the allegations,” Nunes posed a series of questions for Trump to ask May.
“Is the British government aware of, did it give permission for, or did it participate in, activities by any government to surveil or otherwise target active or former associates of the Trump campaign, if any such surveillance activities took place?” Nunes wrote.
Another proposed question reads: “Describe any communications or relationship, if any, Joseph Mifsud … has had with British intelligence and any information the British government possesses about Mifsud’s connection to any other government or intelligence agency.”
Nunes, who has access to classified records on the matter, has been at the forefront of investigating the genesis of the Trump-Russia collusion probe. Trump told Fox News earlier this month that he would declassify related materials soon.
Earlier this week, Nunes told Fox News that the FBI had “something to hide” concerning Mifsud, a Maltese academic who allegedly told former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos in April 2016 that Russia had damaging information about Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton, eventually touching off the original FBI probe. Papadopoulos has accused Mifsud of acting as one of many spies intent on corroborating “bad intelligence.”
“He is the first person that we know of on earth that supposedly knows something about the Russians having Hillary’s emails,” Nunes told “Fox News @ Night.” “He has since denied that, but [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller in his report claimed that Mifsud — or insinuated that Mifsud — was some sort of Russian asset. We know that this is not the case. In fact, we know that he was in the U.S. Capitol … just steps away from an intelligence committee.”
Nunes’ letter to Trump also drills down on how deeply reliant the intelligence community was on Steele, whose dossier played a central role in obtaining a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to monitor former Trump aide Carter Page.
A report from The Hill’s John Solomon earlier this month found that the FBI was told that Steele had admitted to a contact at the State Department that he was “keen” to leak the dossier for purposes of influencing the 2016 election. The State Department official, further, raised concerns about the accuracy of his claims. Steele also acknowledged the dossier was funded by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign. The FBI did not make either fact clear to the FISA court.
Additionally, on four occasions, the FBI told the FISA court that it “did not believe” Steele was the direct source for a Yahoo News article implicating Page in Russian collusion. But London court records show that contrary to the FBI’s assessments, Steele briefed Yahoo News and other reporters in the fall of 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm behind the dossier.
Reads one question in Nunes’ letter: “Did Christopher Steele inform any current or former British intelligence or government officials about the allegations he put forward in the Steele dossier or any other allegations about President Trump or Trump campaign associates colluding with Russians? If so, describe what action British officials took in response to this information.”
And a follow-up: “Did any current or former British intelligence or government officials discuss with Christopher Steele the possibility of Steele writing additional memos about President Trump or Trump associates colluding with Russians? If so, what guidance did British officials give to Steele and when was this guidance provided?”
Nunes also sought to probe any possible coordination between U.S. and British officials.
“Did any current or former U.S. government or intelligence officials inform any current or former British government or intelligence officials about Steele’s allegations or any other allegations about President Trump or Trump campaign associates colluding with Russians, if other such allegations exist? If so, describe the circumstances and timing of this communication and any resulting action that was taken,” Nunes wrote.
As Trump’s own Justice Department launches a review into the origins of the Russia probes, Nunes’ letter suggests the hunt for details could lead overseas. He also asked whether any British officials relayed “classified or unclassified information to any current or former U.S. officials about alleged contacts between Trump associates and suspected Russian intelligence officials, if any such information exists?”
Nunes concluded: “Did any current or former British officials provide an assessment of Christopher Steele, including a determination of his credibility or motivations, to any current or former U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, or government officials, or presidential transition team members?”
Source: Fox News Politics
Michael Flynn was under FBI investigation earlier than previously thought, according to a little-noticed section in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report — and the former national security adviser’s brother told Fox News exclusively this week that the revelation suggested a long-running, high-level effort to “trip him up” and “trap” him.
Buried in the second volume of the Mueller report was a mention of an existing FBI investigation of Flynn “based on his relationship with the Russian government,” which predated Flynn’s phone calls during the presidential transition in December 2016 with then-Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak that ultimately led to his termination for lying.
It was previously thought that Flynn’s communications with Kislyak – picked up by the U.S. intelligence community – made the FBI suspicious, sparking the Flynn probe.
According to Mueller’s report, “members of the intelligence community were surprised by Russia’s decision not to retaliate in response to the sanctions. When analyzing Russia’s response, they became aware of Flynn’s discussion of sanctions with Kislyak. Previously, the FBI had opened an investigation of Flynn based on his relationship with the Russian government. Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak became a key component of that investigation.”
After Fox News reported on the development Friday morning, President Trump questioned, in a tweet, why he wasn’t briefed on the probe in 2016 “so that I could make a change?”
That section of the report cites interviews, documented in witness reports known as FBI “302s,” with former acting assistant attorney general Mary McCord, who helped steer the Russia probe, and former FBI director James Comey.
“It was an absolute surprise when the Mueller report came out,” Flynn’s brother Joe told Fox News.
He said his brother “went through 19 sessions with the special counsel — approximately 90 hours of torturous interviews — and this never came up the entire time. And you would have thought it would have, and they would have maybe focused on that, but it didn’t come up at all.”
The special counsel’s disclosure also sheds new light on a cryptic passage in the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s report on Russian interference released last year. The report said Comey, in closed-door testimony, indicated there was an open case on Flynn — which was about to be closed, until Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador.
“Director Comey testified that he authorized the closure of the CI [counter-intelligence] investigation into General Flynn by late December 2016; however, the investigation was kept open due to the public discrepancy surrounding General Flynn’s communications with Ambassador Kislyak,” the report said. “Deputy Director [Andrew] McCabe stated that, ‘We really had not substantiated anything particularly significant against General Flynn,’ but did not recall that a closure of the CI investigation was imminent.”
The same Republican report found there was no briefing to warn the Trump campaign that a senior figure like Flynn was under investigation.
“The Trump campaign was not notified that members of the campaign were potential counterintelligence concerns,” even though such a defensive briefing would not have been unusual, the report said.
“My suspicion is that they were doing everything they could to trip him up and to trap him.”
“The Trump campaign,” the report continued, “did not receive a general counterintelligence briefing until August 2016, and even then, it was never specifically notified about [George] Papadopoulos, [Carter] Page, [Paul] Manafort or General Flynn’s Russia ties.”
James Trusty, a 27-year Justice Department veteran who worked in the criminal division and served as chief of the organized crime section, told Fox News the wording in the Mueller report likely indicated the existence of an underreported investigation.
“It looks pretty clear to me that the use of the word ‘previously’ is suggesting an independent investigation, but there’s always room for a little fog of war,” Trusty said. “I think there was probably some other investigation; whether a dormant one, or a big one, a little one, we don’t know, but it looks like there was something else out there.”
Flynn’s brother said the passage backed up the family’s long-held concerns.
“Because of his vocal criticism of the Obama administration and specifically the intelligence community which he came out of, my suspicion is that they were doing everything they could to trip him up and to trap him,” Joe Flynn told Fox News.
The Obama administration fired Flynn as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2014.
The Mueller report’s statement concerning Flynn’s Russian government contacts may have referred to a 2015 dinner in Moscow, in which Flynn sat next to Russian President Vladimir Putin and was paid $45,000 for a speech.
But Joe Flynn said his brother, who had led military intelligence, had kept colleagues in the loop.
“He did participate in an event where he made a speech over in Moscow,” Flynn said. “But he briefed the DIA prior to that and he briefed the DIA after that. He maintained his top-secret security clearance right up until the point. He resigned from his job as national security adviser. So if there was a big problem with what his actions were, why wouldn’t they have revoked his security clearance and told him that there’s an issue here?”
Michael Flynn is still awaiting sentencing in the wake of his guilty plea for lying to investigators about conversations with the Russian ambassador. His case returned to the headlines earlier this week after prosecutors said in a court filing that Flynn had told Mueller’s office that people tied to Congress and the administration tried to influence his cooperation with the probe. The judge has ordered relevant sections of Mueller’s report to be unredacted. The special counsel’s report did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice, but Attorney General Bill Barr and then-deputy Rod Rosenstein determined the evidence did not warrant a criminal charge.
Former FBI general counsel James Baker, meanwhile, was recently pressed on other probes involving the Trump team before late July 2016, when the FBI opened an investigation into whether and why Trump aide George Papadopoulos had told an Australian diplomat that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
“Just to clarify, was there an open investigation against anybody associated with the Trump campaign before this Papadopoulos investigation was opened, you know, in response to this information?” Baker was asked at the Brookings Institution.
“Not to my knowledge,” Baker replied. It’s not publicly known when the earlier Flynn investigation began.
Fox News asked a spokesperson for the special counsel about the Flynn investigation, including when it started, what was the predicate and whether it was separate from the FBI probe that opened in July 2016. The spokesperson declined to comment.
Source: Fox News Politics
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec and Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr discussed new allegations concerning the Trump campaign’s Russia connections that were sourced to British ex-spy Christopher Steele, according to documents made public Wednesday.
The previous month, in October 2016, Kavalec had met with Steele and documented his political motivations in writing — particularly that he was “keen” to see his anti-Trump materials “come to light” prior to the election. Kavelec forwarded her written notes, in which she also pointed out that some of Steele’s claims were apparently false, to a senior FBI executive.
The email correspondence between Ohr and Kavalec highlighted Steele’s influence in the DOJ and State Department even as concerns about his reliability mounted, and shed new light on a pivotal period in federal authorities’ probe of the Trump team.
The documents were unearthed this week as part of a transparency lawsuit by the group Judicial Watch.
On Nov. 21, 2016, Kavalec began by thanking Ohr for stopping by to discuss the OCDETF (Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force), then added: “Regarding the person I mentioned, Simon Kukes, below are a couple of links to the story I mentioned.”
The first was a Mother Jones piece entitled, “A Major Russian-American Oil Magnate Is Putting Big Money Behind Trump’s Campaign.” The second was an OpenSecrets article, “Russian-born oil magnate gives big to Trump Victory.”
The articles reported that Russian-American oil magnate Simon Grigorievich Kukes had donated $150,000 to the Trump campaign and a related committee, his first donations in a federal election campaign.
“On this campaign donation story, I just wondered what, assuming this is true, the original source of the funding might have been,” Kevalec wrote, noting that State Department colleague Tom Firestone had previously introduced her to Kukes personally.
Ohr responded: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with us. I really hope we can get something going here.” Ohr did not specify exactly what he meant.
“This is very interesting — I may have heard about him from Tom Firestone as well, but I can’t recall for certain,” Ohr continued. “We will take another look at this. Thanks again, and I look forward to seeing everyone at the next meeting.”
In a follow-up email, Kevalec said she was “re-looking” at her notes from her October 2016 meeting with Steele, whose anti-Trump views are now widely known.
“I see Chris [Steele] said [Simon] Kukes has [sic] some connection to Serge Millian,” Kevalec wrote to Ohr. Millian is a Russian businessman and a purported source for the Steele dossier.
The Hill’s John Solomon first reported details of Kevalec’s meeting with Steele, which Fox News later confirmed. On Nov. 1, 2016, the FBI fired Steele as a source, citing his leaks to the news media.
But the FBI had already relied on much of Steele’s work to pursue a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant targeting former Carter Page in October 2016. And emails previously uncovered by Judicial Watch revealed that Ohr remained in regular contact with Steele even after he was fired by the FBI as a source — effectively providing Steele a back channel to reach the FBI and Justice Department.
According to Kevalec’s notes, Steele told her of “a technical/human operation run out of Moscow targeting the election” and acknowledged that he wanted his allegations publicized in advance of the 2016 presidential election.
Steele also told Kevalec that “payments to those recruited are made out of the Russian Consulate in Miami,” according to Kevalec’s notes, which quickly debunked Steele’s assertion: “It is important to note that there is no Russian consulate in Miami.”
Fox News reported earlier this year that Ohr’s own meetings with Steele in 2016 were shared by Ohr with his expansive circle of contacts inside the department — including senior FBI leadership and officials later assigned to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Additionally, Bruce Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the research group that commissioned the dossier and was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Nellie Ohr conducted extensive opposition research on Trump family members and campaign aides while working for the firm behind the dossier in 2016, according to a transcript of her closed-door interview with Congress released earlier this year.
Her tenure at Fusion GPS lasted from October 2015 to September 2016. Nellie Ohr also testified that when she was hired by the firm’s co-founder Glenn Simpson, he was aware that her husband was a high-level Justice Department official.
Source: Fox News Politics
A high-level dispute over which senior government officials pushed the unverified Steele dossier amid efforts to surveil the Trump campaign has broken out into the open again, after it emerged that Attorney General William Barr appointed a U.S. attorney to examine the origins of the Russia investigation and determine if the FBI and DOJ’s actions were “lawful and appropriate.”
Sources familiar with the records told Fox News that a late-2016 email chain indicated FBI Director James Comey told bureau subordinates that then-CIA Director John Brennan insisted the dossier be included in the intelligence community assessment on Russian interference, known as the ICA.
Fox News was told that the email chain – not yet public — referred to the dossier as “crown material,” but it was not clear why this apparent code was used. On Tuesday night, former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy said on Fox News’ “The Story with Martha MacCallum” that “Comey has a better argument than Brennan, based on what I’ve seen.”
A day earlier, Gowdy told Fox News, “Whoever is looking into this, tell them to look into emails” from December 2016 involving Brennan and Comey. Gowdy, who is now a Fox News contributor, said his assessment was based on sensitive Russia records he reviewed as then-chairman of the Republican-led House Oversight Committee.
But in a statement to Fox News, a former CIA official put the blame squarely on Comey.
“Former Director Brennan, along with former [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, are the ones who opposed James Comey’s recommendation that the Steele Dossier be included in the intelligence report,” the official said.
“They opposed this because the dossier was in no way used to develop the ICA,” the official continued. “The intelligence analysts didn’t include it when they were doing their work because it wasn’t corroborated intelligence, therefore it wasn’t used and it wasn’t included. Brennan and Clapper prevented it from being added into the official assessment. James Comey then decided on his own to brief Trump about the document.”
Fox News has reached out to Comey’s legal team twice, and provided the statement from the former CIA official, but did not receive a reply on the record.
In March, Republican Sen. Rand Paul leveled similar allegations on Twitter, citing a “high-level source” who said Brennan had “insisted that the unverified and fake Steele dossier” be included in the January 2017 ICA.
Clapper previously testified that the dossier was not ultimately used in the ICA. News that Comey had briefed Trump personally on the dossier before the inauguration — purportedly to warn him of potential blackmail threats — leaked within days and opened the door for media outlets to publicize the dossier’s lurid claims.
Whether the FBI acted appropriately in obtaining the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to Trump campaign aide Carter Page is now the subject not only of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s new probe, but also the ongoing review by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz. U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber has been conducting his own investigation separately, although details of his progress were unclear.
As one example, in its FISA application, the bureau repeatedly and incorrectly assured the court in a footnote that it “does not believe” British ex-spy Christopher Steele was the direct source for a Yahoo News article implicating Page in Russian collusion, and instead asserted that the Yahoo article provided an independent basis to believe Steele.
Steele has told a British court that he briefed multiple news organizations during the fall of 2016 — including Yahoo News.
Gowdy’s remarks echoed Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” this past weekend that he was pushing to declassify documents that would expose the FBI’s poor efforts to corroborate the dossier.
“There’s a document that’s classified that I’m gonna try to get unclassified that takes the dossier — all the pages of it — and it has verification to one side,” Graham said. “There really is no verification, other than media reports that were generated by reporters that received the dossier.”
Graham cited a report from The Hill’s John Solomon — which Fox News has not confirmed — that the FBI was told expressly that Steele, the bureau’s confidential informant, had admitted to a State Department contact he was “keen” to leak his discredited dossier for purposes of influencing the 2016 election.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec’s written account of her meeting with Steele on Oct. 11, 2016, was sent to the FBI prior to the bureau’s FISA warrant application to monitor Page, according to records unearthed in a transparency lawsuit by Citizens United.
Fox News’ Martha MacCallum contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
Top Republican lawmakers demanded answers Friday on whether the FBI was warned of anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele’s “political motivations’ before the bureau applied for a surveillance warrant against a Trump campaign aide based in part on that document.
In a pair of letters to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., cited newly revealed notes that a State Department official took during a meeting with Steele in October 2016, just 10 days before the first warrant application and a month before the presidential election. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has also written separate letters to Pompeo and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz.
Those notes, first reported by The Hill, say that Steele’s security firm Orbis was “keen to see this information [in the dossier] come to light prior to November 8,” suggesting that it wanted the information to directly influence the 2016 presidential election.
“Based on the publicly-released version of the typed notes of the meeting, it appears Steele’s intent of the meeting with the State Department was to maximize the impact of the unverified information that he had acquired in an effort to undermine the Trump campaign,” Grassley and Johnson wrote. “Further, if that information was included in the material submitted to the FBI, then the FBI may have been aware of Steele’s political motivations before submitting any FISA application.”
They specifically want to know when the State Department shared these details with the FBI. An email from the official, Kathleen Kavalec, was sent on Oct. 13, 2016, though the recipient’s identity is completely redacted, as is an attachment.
The notes, as published by The Hill and posted by Citizens United, also point to the involvement of opposition research firm Fusion GPS, noting that firm co-founder Glenn Simpson and colleague Peter Fritch recommended Steele’s group for the job.
The dossier was eventually published by BuzzFeed News in 2017 and is filled with salacious and unverified claims about alleged dirt the Russians had over Trump. It is believed to have formed a significant part of the FBI’s application for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Since the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, which did not find evidence of many of the claims within the dossier, fresh scrutiny has returned to the dossier and the role it played in the Page warrant application.
Republicans have pointed to Steele’s political motivations, as well as the funding of the dossier by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign, as proof that the origins of the probe were political as well.
“This important information further demonstrates the bias of the primary source of material that was the basis for the Carter Page FISA warrant,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wrote.
The notes also said that Steele indicated he had been in communication with reporters, which Johnson and Grassley say contradicts the FISA warrant application, “where the FBI repeatedly represented to the court that Steele did not have unauthorized contacts with the press prior to October 2016.”
The lawmakers want to know about the FBI’s communications with the State Department and what information was provided to it about the meetings — specifically when State provided the notes about the meeting to the FBI. Graham also requested that the State Department make the official who took the meeting with Steele, Kathleen Kavalec, available for a transcribed interview with the Judiciary Committee.
The new revelations come as Horowitz is believed to be approaching the end of his investigation into the FBI and DOJ’s surveillance conduct in the 2016 election, and whether the agencies acted improperly. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Horowitz’s team has questioned why the FBI considered Steele a credible source, and why the bureau seemed to use news reports to bolster his credibility.
President Trump has repeatedly called the Russia investigation a “witch hunt” while Attorney General William Barr told lawmakers last month that “spying did occur” during the campaign.
Fox News’ Jason Donner contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
The Justice Department’s inspector general, as part of a long-running internal review, is focusing on how the Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier was used to secure surveillance warrants for a former Trump campaign adviser in 2016, despite questions about its credibility.
A source familiar with the matter confirmed to Fox News that Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz is probing how the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was used to secure the original surveillance warrant for former Trump aide Carter Page in October 2016, as well as for three renewals.
The focus is part of Horowitz’s investigation into alleged surveillance abuses during the 2016 campaign.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Horowitz is close to concluding his inquiry into the genesis of the Russia probe. The report said Horowitz’s team has questioned why the FBI considered Steele a credible source, and why the bureau seemed to use news reports to bolster Steele’s credibility.
With Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report now out in the open, attention has returned to the salacious and unverified anti-Trump dossier authored by Steele — especially since its more sensational claims were not substantiated by Mueller’s team.
Former FBI Director James Comey has also faced renewed scrutiny for his role, as the inspector general as well as Attorney General Bill Barr examine the origins of the probe.
Barr testified recently that “spying” did occur against the Trump campaign.
Comey dismissed Barr’s comments at the time, saying he “never thought of” electronic surveillance as “spying.”
But Comey was put on the defensive again following a recent New York Times report detailing FBI efforts to investigate the Trump campaign.
The FBI reportedly sent a woman to meet with then-adviser George Papadopoulos at a bar in London during the campaign. The woman, who identified herself as Azra Turk, asked Papadopoulos point-blank if Trump was collaborating with Russians to swing the 2016 election.
Trump himself singled out Comey in an interview last week with Fox News.
“Look, I think what they should be focusing on is how did this mess start?” Trump told Fox News‘ Catherine Herridge. “How did this whole investigation start, because I think it’s corrupt as hell.”
Of Comey, he said: “I think that he did a terrible job. I would say he probably … led some kind of an effort. The word spying has been used. He probably was one of the people leading the effort on spying.”
For his part, Comey has been promoting his anti-Trump book and is set to participate in a CNN town hall on Thursday night.
Fox News’ Lukas Mikelionis contributed to this report.
Source: Fox News Politics
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes is scrutinizing the findings in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report about Joseph Mifsud — the mysterious professor from Malta who helped ignite the Russia probe in 2016 – and wants to know exactly who he was working for when he spoke with former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos.
It has long been suggested that Mifsud was connected to Russian intelligence. But Nunes, in a Friday letter obtained by Fox News, questions that assumption, saying Mueller’s report “omits any mention of a wide range of contacts Mifsud had with Western political institutions and individuals.”
Mifsud is a crucial figure in the report: Mueller’s report states that Mifsud was the one who told Papadopoulos in April 2016 that the Russians had “dirt” in the form of emails that could damage Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
As the story goes, Papadopoulos then told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer about his conversations with Mifsud. Downer then informed U.S. officials, leading the FBI to open its investigation into whether Trump associates were coordinating with Russia during the 2016 election.
Nunes also is seeking information about the FBI’s contacts with Mifsud – asking how the bureau knew to question Papadopoulos specifically about Clinton’s emails if it hadn’t already spoken to Mifsud. The congressman said, “it’s still a mystery how the FBI knew to ask Papadopoulos specifically about Hillary Clinton’s emails…”
Nunes’ letter is addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel, National Security Agency Director Paul Nakasone and FBI Director Chris Wray. It asks them to hand over all information they have on Mifsud by May 10.
In his letter, Nunes presents photographic evidence of Mifsud in close proximity to influential Western political and government officials.
“If Mifsud has extensive, suspicious contacts among Russian officials as portrayed in the special counsel’s report, then an incredibly wide range of Western institutions and individuals may have been compromised by him, including our own State Department,” Nunes wrote.
He added: “In fact, this could entail a major scandal for U.S. and allied governments.”
Alternatively, Nunes wrote that if Mifsud isn’t a counterintelligence threat, as implied in the Mueller report, he could have done extensive damage to Western national security. The California Republican wrote that if that’s the case, it “would cast doubt on the Special Counsel’s fundamental depiction of him and his activities, and raise questions about the veracity of the Special Counsel’s statements and affirmations.”
The State Department and the FBI declined to comment. Fox News has also requested comment from the CIA and the National Security Agency.
Mifsud has vanished from public eye after his name began surfacing in news stories.
Source: Fox News Politics
President Trump told Fox News in an exclusive wide-ranging interview Thursday evening that the White House has lost patience with congressional Democrats, and forcefully dismissed their efforts to subpoena former White House counsel Don McGahn and other administration officials to testify.
“They’ve testified for many hours, all of them. I would say, it’s done,” Trump told Fox News’ Chief Intelligence Correspondent Catherine Herridge. “Nobody has ever done what I’ve done. I’ve given total transparency. It’s never happened before like this. They shouldn’t be looking anymore. It’s done.”
Trump added, in a shot at the total cost of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe: “Even my finances, it must have been looked at — for $35 million, I assume they looked at my taxes, I assume Mueller looked at my financial statements. For $35 million, and having 20 people, place 49 FBI agents, and all of the staff and all of the money they spent, I assume they looked at my taxes, which are fine — except they are under audit, by the way.”
Trump added he expected that key FBI documents that may shed light on the origins of the bureau’s probe into his campaign could be declassified and released within a matter of weeks, or months at the latest. Trump previously has told Fox News he would order the materials to be revealed.
Asked about New York Attorney General Letitia James’ ongoing efforts to investigate him, Trump dismissed the probes as partisan stunts.
“Can you imagine someone campaigning — she doesn’t know anything about me, and she’s campaigning on that fact,” Trump said of the Democrat. “They’ve gone through everything — my taxes, my financial statements, which are phenomenal. And I’m so clean. Think of it — after two and a half years, and all of that money spent, nothing. Very few people could have sustained that.”
White House contenders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, Trump told Herridge, remain his most likely opponents in 2020.
“I’d be very happy if it were Biden, Sleepy Joe. I think he did a bad job. … I just don’t think he’d be a very good candidate. I mean, we’ll see what happens. I wish him well, I’d like him to get it. I’d be happy with Bernie. I personally think it’s between those two. I don’t see anybody else, but could be. You never know.”
Biden expressed his lack of concern over China as a global competitor to the U.S. at a rally on Wednesday, prompting a grim response from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man!” Biden exclaimed. “The fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the East — I mean in the West. They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. They’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”
Reacting to those remarks, Trump said Biden was among many politicians “naive” over China. “For somebody to be so naive, and say China’s not a problem — if Biden actually said that, that’s a very dumb statement.”
And, as protesters and military forces clashed in Venezuela, Trump again indicated his strong support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.
“He’s a brave guy, and what’s happening in Venezuela is sad,” Trump said, although he refused to draw a specific red line for military intervention.
“There’s always a tipping point,” Trump said, when pressed on what it would take for the U.S. military to become involved. “Certainly, I’d rather not do that.”
Source: Fox News Politics
Text messages between former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page indicate they discussed using briefings to the Trump team after the 2016 election to identify people they could “develop for potential relationships,” track lines of questioning and “assess” changes in “demeanor” – language one GOP lawmaker called “more evidence” of irregular conduct in the original Russia probe.
Fox News has learned the texts, initially released in 2018 by a Senate committee, are under renewed scrutiny by congressional investigators reviewing the genesis of the FBI’s counter-intelligence probe that was opened in late July 2016 by then-agent Strzok.
It was not clear from the messages whether Strzok and Page merely sought to build bridges with the incoming administration, or wanted to engineer the briefings to investigate Trump and his associates.
“This is yet more evidence that the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation was filled with irregularities,” Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said. “The more we discover about the true origins of the investigation, the more abnormal it appears in every conceivable way.”
Late Thursday, citing the same text messages and other incidents, GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley and Homeland Security Committee chair Ron Johnson sent a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr inquiring about the DOJ’s review of “FBI surveillance of the Trump campaign,” and seeking more information on the transition counter-intelligence briefings as well as media leaks.
“Were these efforts done to gain better communication between the respective parties, or were the briefings used as intelligence gathering operations?” Grassley, R-Iowa, and Johnson, R-Wis., wrote. “Further, did any such surveillance activities continue beyond the inauguration, and in the event they did, were those activities subject to proper predication?”
The senators added: “Any improper FBI surveillance activities that were conducted before or after the 2016 election must be brought to light and properly addressed.”
Barr was criticized by Democrats for testifying earlier this month that “spying did occur” against the Trump campaign – an apparent reference to a well-documented surveillance warrant against Trump adviser Carter Page, among other incidents. Barr stressed that the question for him, as the DOJ reviews the conduct of the original investigation, is whether that “surveillance” was justified and based on solid intelligence.
“Congress is usually very concerned with intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane,” he noted.
The November 2016 text messages may speak to another episode. The text messages begin on the evening of Nov. 17 — nine days after the election. The string discusses an email and briefing to “Pence,” presumably Vice President-elect Mike Pence – and appears to refer to another upcoming briefing.
The messages show Strzok and Page, on their FBI work phones, debating staffing for the upcoming briefing and whether it would make sense to stay with the same agent or send a different one. It is unclear from the texts whether these were part of the formal transition-period briefings between outgoing or incoming administrations or routine intelligence briefings.
“Re above re email, it might be more important for (redacted) to know that (redacted) briefed Pence, no?” Page writes.
Strzok responds: “I think that’s a good idea. I”ll talk with (redacted) so they build messaging/don’t overlap.”
The texts continue with Strzok telling Page he consulted “Bill” – a possible reference to his supervisor, Bill Priestap – about who to send to handle the briefing.
Strzok: “Talking with Bill. Do we want (redacted) to go with (redacted) instead of (redacted) for a variety of [reasons]?”
Page: “Hmm. Not sure. Would it be unusual to have show up again? Maybe another agent from the team?”
Strzok: “Or, he’s ‘the CI [counter-intelligence] guy.’ Same.might make sense. He can assess if [there] are any new Qs, or different demeanor. If (redacted’s) husband is there, he can see if there are people we can develop for potential relationships.”
A former FBI intelligence officer, who retired after nearly two decades of experience, said the texts conflict with strict rules laid out by Robert Mueller when he was FBI director, known as the FBI’s Domestic Investigations Operations Guide (DIOG).
“Based on the formal training all FBI Employees were required to undergo and be tested on with regard to DIOG Sensitive Investigative Matters, these texts indicate both FBI employees were executing investigative strategies on a sensitive investigative matter without any regard for the Mueller/Holder endorsed DOJ DIOG,” Timothy Gill Sr. told Fox News.
Regarding the references to new “Qs” and assessing “demeanor,” Gill said: “This reference may indicate an ‘outside the box [question]’ that may not fall within the uniform line of briefing questions in an effort to see how the recipient of the question may change their tone or catch them off guard.”
As for using someone’s “husband” to develop “potential relationships,” Gill said it was difficult to comment, not knowing who the husband is and whether the spouse was connected to the FBI and DOJ.
Lawyers for Strzok and Page did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Source: Fox News Politics
A top congressional Republican told Fox News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report shows the salacious Steele dossier used by the FBI to obtain surveillance warrants in the Russia probe was “false and fake,” questioning the origins of the investigation into the Trump campaign.
“The question is, ‘was there a proper predicate?” Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Monday on “The Ingraham Angle.” “Was there probable cause to believe that there was a conspiracy or collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia? So that’s the question that has to be answered.”
Ratcliffe said he is one of the few lawmakers to view the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) applications used by the FBI to get authorization to conduct surveillance in the Russia probe. He said those applications relied heavily on a dossier of since-debunked claims about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
“Trey Gowdy and I — I think — were the only two Republicans that had the opportunity to see that probable cause evidence, to see all of those FISA applications in unredacted form and they centered around something called the Steele dossier which was entirely false and fake, and now Bob Mueller says it was false and fake,” Ratcliffe said.
He added: “Now, to be fair, just because Bob Mueller found that there was no evidence of a conspiracy or no evidence of collusion, doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be probable cause to look for it.”
Still, Ratcliffe said officials at the Justice Department like former FBI director Jim Comey, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates have “got some explaining to do.”
It comes amid renewed scrutiny on the genesis of FBI probe. Attorney General Bill Barr has said he is reviewing the origins of the Russia investigation at the FBI and the Justice Department, including whether the surveillance was “adequately predicated.”
Ratcliffe pointed out how the dossier said that one-time Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was “at the center of a well-developed conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.” But Mueller’s probe did not find evidence to back up the claim, saying “the investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
“Carter Page was never charged, he was never going to be charged. The idea he was a Russian agent was a joke,” Ratcliffe said.
The FBI needed probable cause to open its counterintelligence investigation late July 2016. According to Mueller’s report, the FBI opened an investigation into whether individuals associated with the Trump campaign were coordinating with the Russian government on July 31, 2016. The report said it was prompted by a foreign government official who contacted the FBI about a conversation with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who had discussed Russia’s hacking of Democratic emails with the official.
Source: Fox News Politics