Release of Depositions to Shed Light on Russia-Collusion Narrative

Interviews could bring transparency to agency leaking and role of reporters
September 17, 2018 Updated: September 17, 2018

News Analysis

When the House Intelligence Committee issued its final “Report on Russian Active Measures,” Democrats dismissed it as politically one-sided and partisan.

But a massive number of man-hours and effort went into the preparation of the committee’s report—including the review of 7,292 pages of testimony.

As part of their investigation, the House committee noted that they interviewed 73 individuals, resulting in 55 transcribed interviews. The report also indicated that seven witnesses had invoked their Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

In late June and early July 2018, House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes referred a total of 42 individuals to the House Judiciary and House Oversight and Government Reform committees for open-setting interviews. His referrals came through a series of three closely grouped letters to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va). The letters can found herehere, and here.

In the somewhat cryptically worded letters, Nunes referred to “discovered matters” and actions taken by FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, which included “information that may have been received from and/or provided to officials at the Department of State and other agencies.”

Nunes also noted the exchange of information to and from “individuals outside government relating to the 2016 presidential election.”

The names referred by Nunes were grouped into three distinct categories. The first referral letter sent by Nunes focused on DOJ and FBI officials. The second letter discussed State Department officials, some Obama administration officials, and some members of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. The third and final letter focused on individuals outside the government. Many of these names were related to Fusion GPS—the opposition research company behind the controversial Steele dossier.

Notably, the referred names cut off at a certain political level. Below former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates at the DOJ, below former FBI Director James Comey at the FBI, and below former Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department.

A common theme is present throughout the referrals from Nunes. The individuals referred all appear to have been involved or affiliated in some fashion with the formation, use, and/or dissemination of the Steele dossier, which led to the October FISA warrant on Carter Page.

It appears that Nunes obtained his referral list from the House Intelligence Committee investigation.

Most of the interviews conducted by the House Intelligence Committee have the names redacted, but not all. Contained in unredacted footnotes from the House report are cited interviews with Jake Sullivan, a senior policy advisor to the Clinton campaign; Glenn Simpson, co-founder of Fusion GPS; and Marc Elias of the law firm Perkins Coie.

Dan Jones of the Penn Quarter Group is listed, as well as the FBI’s head of counterintelligence, Bill Priestap. Lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin was interviewed regarding his role at the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. All of these individuals have been referred for interviews by Nunes.

Following the referral list from Nunes, no additional letters were sent and no additional names were publicly referred. Everything went suspiciously quiet—until Sept. 16, when Nunes gave an interview on Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo that was full of new information and provided indications of where various House investigations may be headed.

He disclosed that almost 70 individuals have been subject to deposition. Even more importantly, he declared his intention to have the depositions made public—before the midterm elections.

Nunes made the disclosure matter-of-factly, prompting a clearly shocked Bartiromo to ask for clarification: “So, let me just go back here—this is breaking news right now. You are going to declassify your depositions of some 70 individuals related to the Trump–Russia collusion narrative?”

Nunes affirmed what he had just said, noting: “Some of them are not even classified. Some of them are just held at the committee. [As a] matter of fact, I think 70 percent or 80 percent of them are not classified.”

He indicated the depositions that remained classified would be sent to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats for shepherding through the declassification process: “We hope that would only take a matter of days.” Nunes then reiterated his intention to have all the depositions made public in advance of the midterm elections.

The majority of the depositions likely come from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation, although notably, the number of depositions cited by Nunes exceeds the 55 transcribed interviews referenced within the House’s “Report on Russian Active Measures.” It’s unclear where the additional depositions came from.

In a potential signal of support, Trump posted on Twitter about the interview several times and encouraged folks to watch a later broadcast of the entire interview:

“Watch @MariaBartiromo at 6:00 P.M. on @FoxBusiness. Russian Hoax the big topic! Mainstream Media, often referred to as the Fake News Media, hates to discuss the real facts!”

Toward the end of the interview, Nunes shifted his focus to the topic of leaks, and specifically, leaking by the FBI and DOJ. Nunes pulled no punches, accusing both agencies of actively leaking and planting fake news stories and then using those very stories as a “pretext to go out and interview American citizens.”

Considering Nunes’s role in the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation—helping direct the entire probe and subsequent report—the accusations are unlikely to be the subject of mere speculation or unguarded comments. The activity that Nunes alleges is almost certainly grounded in interviews that he has seen and may have helped to conduct.

He concluded the interview with Bartiromo by calling out a circle of coordinated collusion among the Clinton campaign, Fusion GPS, the FBI, DOJ, and the State Department, noting they cooperated to generate fake news stories—not just one or two, but “dozens and dozens.”

Those news stories were leaked to various mainstream media reporters that Nunes said numbered as many as two or three dozen. In an active effort involving circular reporting, these stories were then used as “a basis for an investigation.”

Nunes appears to know who these leakers and reporters are. And he should. He likely has material inside knowledge, as many of these individuals were probably identified during at least some of those 70 depositions—the same ones Nunes wants to make fully public in the coming weeks.

The House Intelligence Committee also last year obtained the bank records from Fusion GPS, which detailed payments to at least three journalists.

There’s one other important event occurring later this week. Bruce Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, is expected to testify before the same investigative committees to which Nunes submitted his referrals—the House Judiciary, and House Oversight and Government Reform committees.

Nellie Ohr was an employee of Fusion GPS and likely had a meaningful role in the creation and dissemination of the Steele dossier. That’s another deposition to add to the growing list.

Jeff Carlson is a CFA Charterholder. He worked for 20 years as an analyst and portfolio manager in the high-yield bond market. He runs the website TheMarketsWork.com

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

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