by WorldTribune Staff, May 11, 2020
The FBI operated essentially with no guidance from the Department of Justice in its now-debunked investigation of the Trump campaign, newly-released documents show.
Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch said she never knew the FBI was placing wiretaps on a Trump campaign associate or using the Democratic Party/Hillary Clinton campaign-funded dossier as the impetus to investigate the Trump team.
“I don’t have a recollection of briefings on Fusion GPS or Mr. Steele,” Lynch told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in October 2017. “I don’t have any information on that, and I don’t have a recollection being briefed on that.”
Under pressure from acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, the House Intelligence Committee last week released transcripts of Lynch’s testimony and that of more than 50 other witnesses in 2017 and 2018, when Republicans controlled the Trump-Russia investigation.
The documents “show FBI agents operated on autopilot in 2016 and 2017 while targeting President Trump and his campaign,” Rowan Scarborough noted in a May 10 report for The Washington Times.
Lynch also testified that she had no knowledge the FBI had taken the step of opening an investigation, led by agent Peter Strzok, into the Trump campaign on July 31, 2016.
“Did [FBI Director James Comey] seek permission from you to do the formal opening of the counterintelligence investigation?” Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat, asked the former attorney general.
“No, and he ordinarily would not have had to do that,” Lynch answered. “lt would not have come to the attorney general for that.”
Schiff, a fierce defender of the FBI in the Russia probe, seemed taken aback. “Even in the case where you’re talking about a campaign for president?”
“I can’t recall if it was discussed or not,” Lynch said. “I just don’t have a recollection of that in the meetings that I had with him.”
Attorney General William Barr announced that the attorney general now must approve any FBI decision to investigate a presidential campaign.
“Lynch’s testimony adds to the picture of an insular, and sometimes misbehaving, FBI as its agents searched for evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 election to damage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton,” Scarborough wrote.
In documents filed by the DOJ last week, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates expressed dismay that Comey would dispatch two agents, including Strzok, on Jan. 24, 2017, to interview incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn at the White House.
Yates, interviewed by FBI agents assigned to the Robert Mueller special counsel probe, said Comey notified her only after the fact.
“Yates was very frustrated in the call with Comey,” said the FBI interview report, known as a 302. “She felt a decision to conduct an interview of Flynn should have been coordinated with [the Department of Justice].”
Yates told the FBI that the interview was “problematic” because the White House counsel should have been notified.
During his book tour, Comey boasted that he sent the two agents without such notification by taking advantage of the White House’s formative stage. He said he “wouldn’t have gotten away with it” in a more seasoned White House.
Scarborugh noted “other evidence of an FBI on autopilot” was that the DOJ inspector general’s report on how the bureau investigated the Trump campaign “revealed more than a dozen instances of FBI personnel submitting false information in wiretap applications and withholding exculpatory evidence. For example, agents evaded Justice Department scrutiny by not telling their warrant overseer that witnesses had cast doubt on the reliability of the Steele dossier.”
The Mueller and Horowitz reports have discredited the dossier’s dozen conspiracy claims against Trump and his allies.
Schiff, now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had held on to the declassified transcripts for more than a year. Under pressure from Republicans and Grenell, he released the 6,000 pages on the same day Barr moved to end the Flynn prosecution.
The closed-door testimony included witnesses such as Obama’s national security adviser, a United Nations ambassador, the nation’s top spy and the FBI deputy director. There were also top Clinton campaign associates and lawyers.
The transcripts show Obama investigators never saw evidence of a Trump-Russia conspiracy between the time the investigation was opened until they left office in mid-January 2017.
“I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the committee.
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and former chair of the House Intelligence Committee, was one of the first to focus on the “unmaskings” of Trump officials by Obama appointees.
“The National Security Agency, by practice, obscures the names of any Americans caught up in the intercept of foreign communications. Flynn was unmasked in the top-secret transcript of his Kislyak call so officials reading it would know who was on the line,” Scarborough noted.
In reading intelligence reports, if government officials want the identity of an “American person,” they make a request to the intelligence community. The fear is that repeated requests could indicate political purposes.
Then-U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power explained to the committee why she though the unmaskings were necessary:
“I am reading that intelligence with an eye to doing my job, right?” Power said. “Whatever my job is, whatever I am focused on on a given day, I’m taking in the intelligence to inform my judgment, to be able to advise the president on ISIL or on whatever, or to inform how I’m going to try to optimize my ability to advance U.S. interests in New York.”
She continued: “I can’t understand the intelligence. Can you go and ascertain who this is so I can figure out what it is I’m reading. You’ve made the judgement, intelligence professionals, that I need to read this piece of intelligence, I’m reading it, and it’s just got this gap in it, and I didn’t understand that. … But I never discussed any name that I received when I did make a request and something came back or when it was annotated and came to me. … I never discussed one of those names with any other individual.”
Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, listened and then mentioned other officeholders, such as the White House national security adviser and the secretary of state.
“There are lots of people who need to understand intelligence products, but the number of requests they made, ambassador, don’t approach yours,” Gowdy said.
Power implied that members of her staff were requesting American identities and invoking her name without her knowledge.