Focus Shifts to Obama-era State Department in Spying Probe
The House intelligence committee has referred 10 Obama-era State Department officials for testimony in its investigation into the origins of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign.
As part of the FBI’s investigation, a FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant was used to spy on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, as well as people within two degrees of separation from Page. These could have included many Trump campaign members, including Trump himself and his family members.
Despite several congressional investigations into the controversial probe, it remains unclear what evidence, if any, it was based on.
So far the investigation by the committee has found no existing official intelligence that would have supported the launch of the probe.
“We still don’t understand how this investigation was actually opened,” committee chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in an interview with Fox News on July 2.
“We know that many people in the Obama-era State Department were involved in the opening of that investigation.”
Information allegedly made its way from Australian diplomat Alexander Downer to the U.S. Embassy in London, after which it was transferred to the State Department.
Downer allegedly told the U.S. Embassy about a statement made by Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos that the Russian government had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos, however, appears to have been told this information several weeks earlier by a Maltese academic named Joseph Mifsud, who himself had ties to American and British intelligence services.
Under normal circumstances, an official intelligence product under the so-called “Five Eyes” agreement would be used to communicate the alleged evidence that led to the start of the FBI’s probe.
However, in the case of the Trump investigation, no such intelligence product exists.
“It somehow short-circuited that process,” Nunes said.
The 10 officials, who have been referred to a joint task force of the committees on Oversight & Government Reform and the Judiciary, include current and former employees of the Department of State or the Executive Office of the President.
Among those referred for public testimony is former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.
Nuland testified before the Senate intelligence committee last week that she had been aware of a briefing that former British spy Christopher Steele provided to officials in the department.
Nuland, while testifying under oath, said that she had actively chosen not to be part of the meeting.
She did say, however, that she had seen memos on then-candidate Donald Trump written by Steele as early as July 2016.
Steele was hired by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, through Washington-based intelligence firm Fusion GPS, to produce a smear dossier on Trump.
The dossier, which consists of a series of memos containing uncorroborated information, was then spread throughout the government as well as the media in an apparent attempt to damage Trump.
Part of the House intelligence committee’s investigation is to determine what role the dossier played in the opening of the investigation.
So far, it has been revealed that the dossier was cited heavily by the FBI in its application for the FISA warrant on Page. The warrant was extended after Trump was sworn into office by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Other officials sought for questioning include Jonathan Finer, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement under the Obama administration.
Winer admitted in an opinion article in The Washington Post that based on a meeting he held with Steele, he prepared a two-page summary that he shared with Nuland, which they then passed along to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Other officials sought for questioning are Elizabeth Dibble, Jonathan Finer, Colin Kahl, Kathleen Kavalec, Lewis Lukens, Shailagh Murray, Jake Sullivan, and Thomas Williams.
Nunes said that the current and former officials will be subpoenaed in case they refuse to testify. He has also requested the joint task force to make the hearings public “for the sake of transparency and to keep the American people as fully informed as possible.”