Join Jim and Greg as they expose yet another day of Joe Biden not being able to appear in public the day after holding events, strongly suggesting he’s not up to the rigors of the campaign trail or the presidency. They also blast the violence perpetrated in Louisville and other cities in the wake of no police officers being charged for murder in the Breonna Taylor case. They also find it unacceptable that there is no bodycam evidence of the entry into the apartment or of the shooting. And they react to the case of arson at the Minnesota home of a Trump supporter and the graffiti left behind noting support for Biden, BLM, and more.
All sides of the Trump-Russia debate see the recently released application for a FISA warrant against a former Trump campaign figure as confirming their previously held opinions on the matter, but a former federal prosecutor says that’s because some are conflating two very different matters and reaching a faulty conclusion.
Over the weekend, the FBI released a redacted version of the FISA warrant request it sought against former Trump aide Carter Page. The paperwork shows the FBI did rely heavily on the Steele dossier, assembled by a former British intelligence official hostile to Trump, and a footnote in the application admits the dossier was funded for months by the Hillary Clinton campaign an the Democratic National Committee.
So what does former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy see as the headline in this new information?
“That it’s a confirmation of my previously held position,” joked McCarthy, before turning serious.
“My previously held position is basically what we learned in congressional hearings over the past year-plus, which is that the FBI used the Steele dossier, which is a partisan opposition research screed, which was basically commissioned by the Clinton campaign,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says there’s still information we don’t know, but that we also know there’s no further corroboration of the dossier in the FISA application.
“We know that that’s not there because there have been hearings. There have been reports. Senators (Charles) Grassley and (Lindsey) Graham, for example, put out a report on a classified memo that was declassified earlier this year which laid out not only the passages of the actual FISA warrants that were relevant but also explained what the FBI had done was rely on the credibility of Christopher Steele,” said McCarthy.
So how are all sides claiming victory after the release of the FISA warrant application? McCarthy says it’s because many people are confusing two very different matters: whether Carter Page was someone worthy of further federal scrutiny and whether the government had built a legal case for obtaining a surveillance warrant.
Page aroused suspicion years before the 2016 campaign for trying to become a Russian agent but was dismissed by the Kremlin as an “idiot.”
“To get a FISA warrant under federal law, you have to have probable cause that an American citizen in this case is willfully acting as a clandestine agent of a foreign power.
“That is, he is quite intentionally acting to advance the interests of Russia in the United States in a clandestine way, which means under federal law is a probable violation of federal criminal law,” said McCarthy.
He believes the feds fell short of that burden.
“They didn’t have that that we can see, other than through the Steele dossier, which is why I think (former FBI Deputy Director Andrew) McCabe said that they couldn’t have gotten the warrant without the Steele dossier,” said McCarthy.
“It’s fine to say we should have been concerned about Carter Page and even that we should have investigated Carter Page. Getting a FISA warrant on someone is a drastic step up from that,” he added.
McCarthy also believes President Trump could easily clear up all speculation about what’s still behind those redacted sections of the FISA warrant application.
“President Trump has the power…to declassify and publicize anything in the way of classified information that the government has. Until we get this information, there’ll be a lot of this speculation that goes on,” said McCarthy.
After months of current and former federal officials insisting there was no merit to allegations the government conducted surveillance on Donald Trump or his campaign during the 2016 cycle, there are now reports that former campaign manager Paul Manafort was being wiretapped.
After Trump tweeted his frustration at the Obama administration for greenlighting the alleged wiretapping, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper rejected and validity to such an assertion.
“For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the president-elect as a candidate or against his campaign,” said Clapper on NBC’s “Meet the Press” back in March.
But CNN’s revelation that the government did procure a FISA warrant against Manafort and conduct surveillance in on him in 2016 and 2017 brings such denials under the spotlight once again. Most importantly, did they lie?
Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy says the way Clapper and others carefully worded their denials earlier this year probably leaves them some wiggle room.
“I always thought that the denials, as indignant as they were by people connected to the Obama administration and even from the Justice Department after Trump took it over were always carefully couched and very narrow,” said McCarthy.
“What I took the denials to mean was that they were saying they never targeted Trump himself for surveillance and even more specifically that Obama did not do it,” said McCarthy.
“I always thought that was quite narrow because as we know, the president does not go to the FISA court and get the authorization to do these surveillances, much less do the physical work to set up the surveillance himself,” said McCarthy.
“I always thought that the loudness and indignation of the denials was much broader than what the denials actually said read carefully,” he added.
According to CNN’s reporting, Manafort was under surveillance from 2014 to early 2016 and again from late 2016 to sometime earlier this year, including time when Trump was president. At issue, according to sources, was Manafort’s cozy relationship with the ousted pro-Putin regime of Viktor Yanukovich in Ukraine, and ultimately whether he was tapping those connections to aid Trump’s campaign in any way.
Still, the government’s pursuit of a FISA warrant is much different than a standard criminal search warrant.
“You have to show there’s probable cause that the subject is an agent of a foreign power. That’s importantly different from a criminal warrant. In a criminal case, you have to show that there’s probable cause that a crime has been or is being committed and that evidence of a crime is likely to be recovered in the place that you want to search,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says the political circumstances surrounding the case should not impact the enforcement of the law but he says there is usually great sensitivity exercised when political events could be impacted. As a result this decision, should have been deliberated at the highest levels of government.
“That gets scrutinized, not only much more carefully at the FISA court, (but) it also should be scrutinized very heavily in the Justice Department, the FBI, and the upper ranks of the administration before you would even go to the FISA court to seek the surveillance,” said McCarthy.
The New York Times is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller is using “shock and awe” tactics, meaning he is threatening witnesses with considerable punishment for not cooperating fully with the Mueller team.
McCarthy says we already saw that when the FBI conducted a pre-dawn raid of Manafort’s Virginia home in July. He points out that any raid conducted before 6 a.m. and allowing agents to pick the locks at a home require special permission from the court.
But perhaps the most curious part of the FBI’s physical raid on Manafort’s home was the timing of it.
“The search warrant that Mueller did came on the day after Manafort met with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators and on the very day he was supposed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy suspects there could be multiple motives at work. One is simply that investigators are eager to determine exactly how much Russia did to influence the 2016 elections, which he believes is warranted.
However, in a politically charged atmosphere like Washington, he says some could be trying to make whatever evidence is in hand fit a political goal.
“I think there are other people looking to cement a political narrative that it was Trump collusion and Russian espionage that cost Hillary Clinton the election. There’s all kinds of factors and considerations that go into it. But certainly Manafort and his prior connection to this Ukrainian faction gives a lot of ammunition to the investigators,” said McCarthy.