FISA Investigation Compromised Americans’ Privacy, Says Rep. Louie Gohmert

March 29, 2019 Updated: April 5, 2019

In this episode of American Thought Leaders, Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek sits down with Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas). We talk about the conclusion of the Russia collusion probe, in which special counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion, as well as the many questions that remain about the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign.

We also talk about the need for an investigation into potential FISA abuses by the FBI, as well as a review of the FISA process to make sure Americans’ privacy is protected.

Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk a little bit about the big item of the day: the Mueller report. The findings have been summarized. The conclusion has been no obstruction, no collusion on the side of President [Donald] Trump’s campaign for president. What’s your take on all this?

Rep. Gohmert: Well, it’s what most of us knew—that there was no collusion between anybody with the Trump campaign and Russia trying to affect the election. You know, obviously, the Trump campaign wanted to win the election and affected in that way, but never colluded with the Russians. And, in fact, it was a big joke the day he said, “Hey, Russia if you’re listening …” You know, something about the emails. But the truth is that there was more colluding between the Democrats and the Russians.

Early on, I didn’t even realize that [Christopher] Steele hadn’t been to Russia in years. He did his so-called investigation by phone. He didn’t even know for sure who he was talking to, you know, what kind of minions of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin was he talking to. He didn’t know. And, of course, that came out later among the FBI and the DOJ. And so they knew for at least the last two or three warrants they got, that Steele was not trustworthy. They couldn’t rely on him—the FBI would no longer consider him trustworthy. They also knew that the one story by Michael Isikoff was totally based on Steele’s—you know, we call it the dossier so much. I used to think dossier sounds so official, you know; now, it’s become a pejorative because of how badly abused it was.

That’s why I was calling the Mueller investigation the Mueller dossier, because it is a pejorative now—the way it’s been used. But they’ve wrapped our country in this scandal that didn’t exist for two years, and it’s time to bring it to an end. And I really believe if [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein had been left to his own situation there, without having a new AG, I doubt that we would have a report even now. I just know Mueller wanted to drag this thing out as long as he possibly could and, hopefully, to destroy Trump’s election in 2020.

Mr. Jekielek: So you’ve never been a big fan of this investigation. What about now with the results?

Rep. Gohmert: No, I’m still not. I mean, it still reeks of Mueller’s bias and prejudices against the man that refused to hire him 24 hours or so before he took up the role of special counsel. A proper, ethical prosecutor doesn’t investigate to exonerate. That’s not his job. His job is: If there is evidence of a crime, you investigate that crime, and if you find evidence that amounts to probable cause that a crime was committed and that this person committed the crime, you present it to a grand jury, and you get an indictment if you establish probable cause, and then you go to court and you get a conviction. That’s the prosecutor’s job—not to exonerate. So, it was a typical slap by a man often without conscience—Robert Mueller. Yes, I know there’s some Republicans who say, “Oh, yeah he’s completely [someone] everybody trusts and respects.” I don’t. Because apparently, I know him better than the people that are saying that. But to say we found no evidence of collusion, but this does not exonerate him. That wasn’t his job. That was nothing more than a slap at President Trump. That’s all. It’s not his job to say, “We exonerate.” You don’t find a good prosecutor ever saying, “Well, we may not have found evidence that he’s guilty, but we sure aren’t exonerating.” You don’t say that. You say, “There’s not enough evidence.” Even as bad as [former FBI Director James] Comey was—his statement was that, “You know, gee, there is evidence here, but no good prosecutor would ever pursue Hillary Clinton.” He was wrong about that.

I think it’s good that the investigation has come to an end. And look, I know there are people like in our committee hearing today who are heralding all the indictments of all the Russians. There is not one case that the special counsel brought or that he handed off that couldn’t have been done without all the millions of dollars in the special counsel’s office. Everything they did, including looking at Cohen and finding things he was guilty of. Any of that could have been handled by the DOJ (Justice Department) without a special counsel—every bit of it.

Mr. Jekielek: Right. So, you mentioned exoneration. Now, the president has said total exoneration. A number of other people said this is actually a complete exoneration. What’s your take on that?

Rep. Gohmert: Well, if you’re the person that’s had the colonoscopy, figuratively speaking, for the last two years, then it would feel like—and it’s not inappropriate to say that it’s an exoneration, because that’s the way they should feel. There’s nothing there. But, of course, there’s some bitterness, I think, from Mueller and [Andrew] Weissman and some of their lackeys that they didn’t go forward with an obstruction of justice [case]. But mostly everybody who pays attention to the news knows that Rosenstein volunteered to wear a wire. I thought he might deny it when it came public, but he didn’t deny it. He said, “Oh, I was joking.” We know he wasn’t joking. And, in fact, my understanding before [former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe ever did the interview went public was that Rosenstein was being confronted by McCabe and [former FBI agent Peter] Strzok and some of these others, and they were fussing at him because, “You’re not one of our team, you’re not a team player. You did this memo that justified the firing of Comey.”

And being challenged that he wasn’t on the team that was wanting to take out Trump, he responded, “Oh, yeah. You know, in essence, I am a team player. I’m one of you guys. I am with your team. I’ll even wear a wire if you want me to. I’ll wear a wire in and record the president.” And according to McCabe, yes, he was serious and he brought it up at a subsequent meeting a second time. Now, my understanding before that went public was that he did bring it up a second time, and that it was a meeting where he was still trying to prove that “I’m part of the team that’s trying to take out Trump.” And so he says, “By the way, I was serious. I’ll wear a wire, and I’ll record the president” and something to that effect. And McCabe … there was apparently three people at that meeting, and McCabe immediately had a meeting with his deputies after that and said, “You won’t believe it.” And again not quoting, but basically saying, “You won’t believe Rosenstein just brought up again. He’s willing to wear a wire into the Oval Office to show he’s one of our team trying to take out the president.”

So, that’s where we are. Rosenstein needs to go. And, yes, I know [Attorney General William] Barr had Rosenstein’s agreement on the summary that they did, and on the fact that there is not adequate evidence for obstruction, anything to prosecute. But, again, as long as [former Attorney General] Jeff Sessions was there when Jeff was gone and it was [former acting Attorney General] Matt Whitaker, they didn’t really have anybody that would stand up for what was right against Rosenstein. And so I’m not sure if we had not gotten a new attorney general that seems to say, “You know, look, if you got something, let’s go prosecute; if you don’t, please don’t drag this out two more years.”

And I’m surmising here, but knowing Mueller as I do, I don’t believe he would stop the investigation if Rosenstein were still acting AG or basically acting as the deputy, with Matt Whitaker just giving him free rein. I don’t think he would have stopped now. I think he would have just kept going. But now, they’ve got a real AG and it didn’t make sense to just keep spending millions of dollars.

Mr. Jekielek: In the aftermath of the report being summarized, the House Judiciary Committee voted 22–0 in a rare fully bipartisan vote to approve a resolution that will give Congress all the records on the FBI obstruction of justice and counterintelligence probes against the president. Tell me a little bit about how that came about and how it’s even possible.

Rep. Gohmert: The resolution was basically going after any information, transcripts, recordings—anything regarding Rosenstein’s statement that he was willing to wear a wire and take down the president. So it was unanimous, but from two entirely different standpoints. From the standpoint of the Republicans, this sounds like an attempted coup. They were sitting discussing the treasonous act of trying to eliminate a sitting president from the office of president. This is so serious; we need to have more information about it because Rosenstein wasn’t being truthful. It didn’t appear to me that he was truthful at the time, any more than he was about some other things. … So from the Democratic standpoint, they’re looking at it saying, “Well, if Rosenstein was willing to wear a wire into the Oval Office in order to use the 25th Amendment to try to take out a president, he must have really thought the president was crazy.” Therefore, we need all of those conversations, we need to find out who was really pointing out how crazy, and what actions were they discussing of the president, which was evidence that he was not fit to remain in office.

Mr. Jekielek: There are recordings of all these discussions?

Rep. Gohmert: No, we don’t know that. Well, the NSA probably has recordings of everything we don’t know about. But as far as recordings of that, I think it may fall in the category of official statements by Hillary Clinton. They don’t want any recordings because she may have said something that might incriminate her, and they don’t want any recordings when they interviewed her. That’s a little sarcasm there, but I think it’s true. They didn’t record Hillary when they were questioning her because they were afraid she might have incriminated herself. But, anyway, that’s probably part of the deal that Bill Clinton worked out with Loretta Lynch when they met in that tarmac meeting. Again, surmising.

Mr. Jekielek: Right. So, what’s next now that the Mueller report is out and the investigation is over? You mentioned a little bit earlier about the other side of the coin—the other collusion. What do you think the next step is?

Rep. Gohmert: I do think we need to get to the bottom of what happened with the FISA court, with the pursuit of warrants, with the unmasking of so many Americans’ names. [Former Deputy Attorney General] Sally Yates and others who shouldn’t have been in a position to unmask names. And then we find out now, there was an order back … a motion in order back in 2012. I didn’t know about it until just the last few weeks.

Mr. Jekielek: What is that?

Rep. Gohmert: It was a motion to allow greater revealing of classified information, which included unmasking, and transcripts, and information around the unmasking to people that were not previously allowed to get that information. And one of the reasons was: if it helps this person understand more about the issue they’re working on; well, that could be anything.

Mr. Jekielek: Very broad.

Rep. Gohmert: That is so broad. I had no idea that they made a motion and got a court to order secretly that they could. It’s been declassified for public review, but I didn’t see it until just the last couple of weeks. But when I read that language and—I’ve read a lot of language as a judge and as a chief justice, and it’s why I read so much of the language here in Congress—words mean things, but when you say something like, “If it helps them understand the information they’re reviewing,” something of that sort, that could be anything. That’s anybody, anything.

And, apparently, we didn’t know it went back this far but back to 2012, during the Obama administration, they could spread classified information to people that should never have really gotten it, but for the ridiculous motion in order of the court.

And another issue, and I was talking with [Rep.] Jerry Nadler about this today, that you know you guys need to join us. And, yeah, I’m OK if we throw out the FISA courts, but at least, we have got to rein in their power. I mean it is basically a star chamber. And when I came to that conclusion was after WikiLeaks released a motion—well, it’s an application for a warrant affidavit on which it was based and a subsequent order of Verizon. Our constitutional obligation, when I was a prosecutor, is to get a warrant. You have to show some number of probable cause issues, but you also have to describe with particularity the item, the places to be searched, and the specific particularity the items to be seized and with the warrant. And if you go back and read the application, the affidavit, and the order, it basically says we just want all this information, everything Verizon’s got on every single person in America. And, you know, the affidavit says, “Yeah, we really need every bit of information Verizon has.” And then the judge signs off, going, “Yeah, give them every bit of information you’ve got on every single customer they’ve got.” And I’m going, “There is no particularity, there’s nothing specific in here.” This is not the way warrants are supposed to work. I was so deeply offended, and that’s what really awoken me about “we’ve got to do something about this.”

This is way too much power. And when you realize that those FISA hearings for warrants are ex parte; there’s only one side. There is nobody representing the interest of the person to be searched or wiretapped, whatever, and there’s really no person looking out for the Constitution, because it sure isn’t the prosecutor. We used to think we have a Department of Justice, they’ll look out for the Constitution. Well, we’ve seen they don’t; they look every way they can, especially in the Obama years, to override it, and they were successful. So, anyway, that whole system has to be reviewed.

You know that we didn’t always have a FISA court: this secret court. If you had things that pertained to national intelligence or international investigations that might harm national security, you had to talk to the judge in chambers and make a full showing why it was so critical. And back then, prosecutors were nervous. Is this judge going to allow us to keep this secret? And so they really had to make a strong case once they had the FISA court. Now, we find out that 99.9 percent of the time, apparently, they waltz in and get whatever they want signed in the way of a warrant. We shouldn’t have a court like that.

And the thing that really frustrates me and sets all the warning sounds out for me is the fact that we had one or more FISA courts that signed these four warrants regarding the Trump campaign and they were lied to. There was a fraud committed upon their court. These people knew for at least three of the warrants they sought that Steele could not be trusted. And the FBI didn’t trust him and they moved him out as somebody … They never told the court that. They lied and kept saying he was trustworthy. And they knew the Isikoff story was based on Steele. It wasn’t a corroborating piece of evidence. Yet they used that as corroborating evidence, while knowing it wasn’t. It was a complete fraud upon the FISA court.

The fact that whoever that judge or judges are have not put any of those lawyers in jail tells me the FISA system is broken. Any judge worth their salt would have called these lawyers in and said, “You’ve got to show cause why you shouldn’t go to jail for the fraud you committed upon my court.” That hasn’t happened. We’ve heard nothing like that happening. And I feel sure we would have, if it had happened. And we would have known when certain people went to jail for the fraud upon the court. None of that’s happened, so that tells me the FISA court system is broken. We do not have appropriate judges in the FISA system. Something’s got to be done to protect Americans’ constitutional rights.

Mr. Jekielek: Are you calling for an investigation of the FISA process? Right now, there’s all sorts of congressional investigations, exploring all sorts of facets of the president and his family, and so forth. Are you suggesting you would want more investigations?

Rep. Gohmert: Thank you for asking that, because I do want a thorough investigation of the FISA courts. They’ve been around long enough. Let’s see what have they been doing. How many cases like the Verizon case do we have, where there was no particularity, the constitutional requirements were not met—not even close to being met—and yet, you had a judge willing to just sign away Americans’ constitutional rights. So, I do think that. And that’s basically what I was bringing up to Chairman Nadler today.

I hope that we can work in a bipartisan way on this, because it is a threat to Americans’ privacy and for the Democrats, privacy used to be a big deal. Now I saw when they took the majority back in January of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010. And then, during the Obama years, privacy really took a back seat to so many other things. But it used to be that Republicans like me that are very concerned about constitutional rights and Democrats like Jerry Nadler were very concerned about privacy rights and the abuses of a much too powerful federal government.

And I saw during the Obama years, they were ready to protect everything [Obama] did and never speak negatively about anything the administration did. But there were abuses then, clearly. And we really do need to come together as two parties and come back to the basic concerns that many of the Democrats had about privacy, about civil liberties, about civil rights. I mean, nobody on that whole Judiciary Committee would ever support a hero like Martin Luther King Jr. being wiretapped. Of course, that was Attorney General [Robert F.] Kennedy who supported that. But those kind of abuses back in the Hoover days, I thought we had gotten far enough away, but we find out we’re not.

Those things are still going on, maybe now, with a FISA court order but very great concerns. I remember when we took up the reauthorization of the Patriot Act provisions, there was one about allowing surveillance, wiretapping, listening in on Americans. And it was not supposed to ever happen unless an American was talking to a known foreign terrorist, a known foreign terrorist organization representative. And then there was this second part that said “or engaged in clandestine intelligence activities.” Clandestine intelligence activities. And I asked one of the DOJ back then, “What does that mean?” Does that mean if a person stands behind their curtain and watches their neighbor do something? I mean, it’s clandestine. They’re gathering intelligence on their neighbor. Is that the kind of thing that allows you to wiretap an American citizen? “Oh, no, no.” Well, as it turns out, they use everything they can to get wiretaps whenever they want. It’s a problem.

Mr. Jekielek: So, any final words before we finish up?

Rep. Gohmert: No, but we do need to investigate how things could go so grossly wrong as they have, that led to the effort to take out Donald Trump—first from getting elected and then as Strzok called it, the “insurance policy,” in case he did get elected to take him out. And you know we’re just very, very fortunate they were unsuccessful in doing that. They have been attempting a coup using lawfare to try to do it. Thank God, it didn’t work.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Jan Jekielek
Senior Editor
Jan Jekielek is a senior editor with The Epoch Times and host of the show, "American Thought Leaders." Jan’s career has spanned academia, media, and international human rights work. In 2009 he joined The Epoch Times full time and has served in a variety of roles, including as website chief editor. He is the producer of the award-winning Holocaust documentary film "Finding Manny."