House Republicans Boycott Intelligence Panel Hearing, Say FISA Abuse More Important

February 12, 2020 Updated: February 12, 2020
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In a sign that partisan tensions remain high in the wake of President Donald Trump’s impeachment, House Republicans boycotted a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, accusing Democrats of ignoring a Justice Department inspector general (IG) report released last year.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking member, and Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), wrote a letter saying that the Intelligence Committee needs to focus on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuse that was detailed in the IG’s report and as a result, Republicans will not attend Wednesday’s meeting.

“Under your chairmanship, the House Intelligence Committee has strayed far from its mandate of overseeing the Intelligence Community. In fact, we have gone months at a time in which we’ve hardly held any oversight-related briefings or hearings at all,” Republicans wrote Wednesday to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who is the committee chairman and served as the lead impeachment manager in Trump’s inquiry and trial.

The letter added that “numerous critical issues pertinent to this Committee’s jurisdiction were ignored” in recent days, adding that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his report on Dec. 9, 2019—during the height of the impeachment inquiry—that found “seventeen serious shortcomings related” to the FISA process to surveil former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz
Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington on Dec. 11, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

“The IG Report was followed by the release of a declassified assessment by the Department of Justice acknowledging that at least two of the four FISA applications lacked probable cause,” the GOP committee members continued. “Despite the seriousness of these issues and our clear jurisdiction, you have failed to hold a single briefing or hearing on this matter.”

Schiff’s office has not returned a request for comment.

The letter from Nunes and Stewart was signed by Reps. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Michael Turner (R-Ohio), Brad Wenstrup, Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Will Hurd (R-Texas), and John Ratcliffe (R-Texas).

Wednesday’s Intelligence Committee held a hearing involving Strategic Technology and Advanced Research Subcommittee, which had experts on intelligence and technology.

Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) told reporters he had received the letter on Wednesday morning that said Republicans won’t attend the event.

“Last week, I asked ranking [subcommittee] member Stewart what was going on, he told me that ranking member Nunes felt strongly that his Republican members not engage in the public work of this committee because of some perceived grievance associated with the impeachment investigation,” Himes also said. “So, this letter is actually a reversal of what I was told last week.”

In December, Horowitz confirmed that the FBI’s FISA applications to monitor Page relied on an unverified dossier on Trump and media reports that were linked by former UK spy Christopher Steele’s research. Horowitz, who also testified in a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, also questioned the FBI’s leadership in his report.

“That so many basic and fundamental errors were made on four FISA applications by three separate, hand-picked teams, on one of the most sensitive FBI investigations that was briefed to the highest levels within the FBI and that FBI officials expected would eventually be subjected to close scrutiny, raised significant questions regarding the FBI chain of command’s management and supervision of the FISA process,” the inspector general report read.

“We concluded that the Steele reporting played a central and essential role in the decision to seek a FISA order,” Horowitz said in his public testimony. Horowitz also added, “I would not have submitted the one [FISA] they put in. No doubt about it. It had no business going in.”