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Friday, April 6, 2018
Threatening legal fight, Nunes demands document that kicked off FBI Trump-Russia investigation
House Intelligence Committee Chairman
Devin Nunes, R-Calif., has sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod
Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding an uncensored copy of
the document the bureau used to formally begin its investigation into alleged
collusion between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign.
Rep. Devin Nunes
The originating document has been the
subject of much controversy. After some Republicans alleged that the FBI used
never-verified parts of the Trump dossier as part of its reason to begin the
investigation in July 2016, some "current and former" officials
leaked to the New York Times that no, it was the case of George Papadopoulos,
reported to U.S. authorities by foreign intelligence agents, that prompted the
"The information that Mr.
Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of
the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the FBI to open a
counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the
presidential election?" the Times reported
on Dec. 30. "It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged,
a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead,
it was firsthand information from one of America's closest intelligence allies."
The Times report led to a lot of
arguing back and forth over what "started" the investigation. It
wasn't a particularly enlightening argument, because whatever the FBI cited to
formally begin the investigation, it is beyond debate that in the summer of
2016, the bureau knew not just about Papadopoulos, but also about a) Carter
Page's trip to Moscow, b) the dossier, and c) the DNC hack, among other things.
They would all play big roles in the investigation.
Nevertheless, Nunes has wanted to see
the originating document, referred to as an Electronic Communication, or EC. In
the new letter to Rosenstein and Wray, Nunes outlines the steps he has taken to
see it, so far without success.
After the Intelligence Committee
subpoenaed the FBI on Aug. 24, 2017 for a broad range of documents, including
the opening EC, the bureau made the EC available to the committee in
"heavily redacted form," according Nunes. On Feb. 27 of this year,
Nunes writes, he asked for Wray's help in seeing an unredacted version of the EC.
He didn't get it. In early March, Nunes writes, he told Rosenstein about the
Chris Wray and Rod Rosenstein
"On March 14, 2018, committee
investigators were given access to a still heavily redacted version of the EC,
which — as I informed Director Wray the next day via phone — was unsatisfactory,"
On March 23, Nunes continues, an FBI
legislative affairs officials told the Intel Committee that "the FBI would
refuse to further unredact the EC based on its supposed sensitivity." It
appears Nunes finds
that decision particularly frustrating, because he writes, "The
document in question is not highly classified, and law enforcement sources have
apparently not been shy about leaking to the press information that the
[Justice Department] and [FBI] refuse to share with Congress."
Citing the subpoena from last August,
Nunes directs Rosenstein and Wray to produce "an unredacted version of the
EC" to the committee by April 11. "Be advised that failure to comply
in a satisfactory manner will result in the committee pursuing all appropriate
legal remedies, including seeking civil enforcement of the August 24 subpoenas
in federal district court."
The letter, and the demands, are
following a now-familiar pattern: Hill Republicans demand
information on the Trump-Russia investigation, and the FBI and Justice
Department don't give it to them. Many deadlines have been set and ignored; the
question now is whether this is just another one.