FISA Court Not Apolitical in Addressing Spying Abuses Against Trump Campaign

January 12, 2020 Updated: January 14, 2020


The news of whom the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court has just appointed to oversee FBI fixes is nothing short of breathtaking.

On Jan. 10, the FISA court posted an order naming anti-Trump lawyer David Kris to “assist the court” in assessing the FBI’s response to the court-ordered cleanup of lapses and abuses identified by Department of Justice Inspector General (IG) Michael Horowitz.

In a report released in December 2019, the IG found that FBI officials violated rules, policies, and law in their applications to wiretap Trump 2016 presidential campaign volunteer Carter Page. Horowitz testified that the FISA surveillance process needs to be fixed “from top to bottom.”

To some, the appointment of Kris to help with the job is as mysterious as to why the FISA court’s judges failed to flag the FBI abuses on their own. It would seem more important than ever to have an apolitical person, or a balanced group of people, conducting oversight of these politically sensitive matters. Kris’s vocal criticisms of President Donald Trump present numerous, obvious conflicts of interest.

On Twitter, Kris called Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) “a politicized, dishonest [Intelligence Community] overseer who attempts to mislead,” and wrote that Trump and his advisers should be “worried” that the “walls are closing in” regarding the Mueller probe. Kris also bought into the now-disproven conspiracy theory about Trump colluding with Russia and Putin.

But even more importantly, since that time, Kris has advocated for Trump’s removal.

“Do we want to be a country in which elected officials can use their governmental power to attack political opponents? If not, it’s pretty simple: Trump has to go,” Kris wrote on Twitter in October 2019. Specifically, Kris criticized what he said was Trump using government powers against political opponents, seeming to dismiss the possibility that the government had used its powers improperly against Trump.

In addition, Kris writes for the blog “Lawfare” and has called Lawfare’s Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Wittes “incisive.” Wittes is the man who wrote of the need for an “insurance policy” against Trump prior to Trump’s election:

“Our democracy needs a health insurance policy. … The courts have a few obvious advantages, starting with hundreds of independent judges of both parties whom Trump cannot remove from office and who don’t have to face his supporters in forthcoming elections. … The goal … will be to offer a systematic defense of the values the Coalition of All Democratic Forces holds in common and to have the ability to respond rapidly to actions that threaten those values: to forestall such actions in court as long as possible, to whittle them down, and to block those that can be blocked. The goal is to use the courts to render Trump’s antidemocratic instincts as ineffectual as possible.”

Wittes also is a friend of former FBI Director James Comey, who was referred for criminal charges for mishandling and leaking government information in his anti-Trump efforts. (The Justice Department declined to prosecute, with officials stating they didn’t believe Comey meant any harm.)

Horowitz flagged 17 mistakes in the FBI’s surveillance applications against Page and testified, “I think it’s fair for people to … look at all these 17 events and wonder how it could be purely incompetence.”

Likewise, one could look at the FISA court’s appointment of Kris to help fix things … and wonder whether it could be purely incompetence.

The latest FISA court action could be construed as a moment of chilling clarity in the ongoing questions about how these abuses could have occurred, and the challenges with fixing them.

Sharyl Attkisson is The New York Times bestselling author of “Stonewalled,” a five-time Emmy Award winner, and the host of Sinclair’s national investigative television program “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” She is a recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award for investigative reporting and has reported nationally for CBS News, PBS, and CNN.

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