"When you look at what happened today, remember we talked a lot about the scope memo. What were the directions given to the special counsel? Well, we now know hidden on page 11, very thinly, still veiled, but we now know they used the Steele dossier, the Clinton dirt, the Clinton-paid-for dirt as part of the memo for the special counsel that directed the special counsel what to do," Nunes told host Sean Hannity.
"On Carter Page and Paul Manafort, that information came from political opponents, the Clinton campaign fed right into the FBI, directed to the special counsel to go investigate what was in the infamous Steele dossier," Nunes said.
"That is the only thing of relevance that was in today's 450-page report," he emphasized.
"Rosenstein then directed them to use that dirt, that dossier, which I think makes up the bulk of what is in the scope memo, that we have still yet to be able to see," Nunes told Hannity.
Nunes is right, although he appears to have failed to take his point all the way back to what Barr calls the "genesis" of the Special Counsel inquisition--the opening EC for the Crossfire Hurrican investigation. Let's take it step by step.
On p. 11, the report addresses the inception of the Special Counsel inquisition into Trump. It begins by rehearsing the initial authorization by Rod Rosenstein:
"The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017." That specifically targeted "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump."
We've dealt with this in detail previously, most recently in What Does The Mueller Report Actually Say. The investigation that Comey confirmed in his testimony was Crossfire Hurricane. It was an "enterprise counterintelligence investigation." The "enterprise" (i.e., a de facto group composed of individuals associated with the Trump campaign) was described by Comey in his December 18, 2018, testimony as consisting of "four Americans" who "did not include the candidate," i.e., did not include Trump. Those Americans did include Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos--all of whom were cleared of all of the false allegations of "collusion."
As a very practical legal matter, what this means is that the Mueller inquisition at its inception had no more factual predicate than the original Crossfire Hurricane investigation. It rests on the exact same predication and is supposed to focus on the exact same issues. And, since the Mueller report categorically and repeatedly states that there was no collusion whatsoever, that means that Mueller has confirmed that Crossfire Hurricane--and ipso facto his own inquisition--had no factual predicate to support it. None. It was quite literally a hoax.
This finding should be very disturbing to any thinking person. Despite a totally over the top inquisition that utilized the most advanced an intrusive techniques and methods, including FISA electronic surveillance--
the Special Counsel ... employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence analysts, forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
--Mueller was utterly unable to even justify the existence of his inquisition in the first place, which also means the existence of Crossfire Hurricane. I'll say it a again. It was a hoax.
The question then comes down to this alternative: Was the FBI (and thus Mueller) hoaxed, or did they perpetrate a hoax. And that comes down to how they dealt with the famous Steele "dossier." We know that that "dossier" was supposed to have provided the factual predication for all that investigation because the "dossier" served as the probable cause predicate in the four FISA applications--and those FISA application could only have used the probable cause contained in the original Crossfire Hurricane investigation in order to claim that Carter Page was an agent of Russia. Which is all the more remarkable, because that Steele "dossier"--the basis for it all, without which none of this would have happened, including the utterly bogus obstruction theories--has essentially disappeared from the Mueller report.
Think about that. The FBI and Rosenstein and Mueller relied uncritically on documentation that was paid for by the Clinton campaign and was specifically intended to discredit the opposition candidate, Donald Trump. Uncritically. The allegations in the Steele "dossier" were never verified. Uncritical reliance by highly educated and trained professionals whose entire jobs as investigators and prosecutors really comes down the critical examination and evaluation of purported assertions of fact. How could that have happened? Could such an egregious lack of critical sense truly be put down to an honest mistake, or was it instead the result of a deliberate abuse of office to target a candidate--and later a president--who was deemed unacceptable?
And yet, unbelievably, Mueller hasn't even the simple human decency to acknowledge any of this. To admit the injustice of it all, to regret the disruption to the all important office of POTUS for two long years. Not even a "sorry". Really--it's almost beyond belief, except that it actually happened.
Nunes knows all this, of course. I'm sure all the above considerations were running through his mind as he spoke. However, what Nunes chooses to focus on is the "scope memo" that Rosenstein later wrote to Mueller, which is described on pp. 11-12 of the report. This is natural, because to this day, after repeated requests, the scope memo remains redacted in part. It's importance relative to the original authorization memo is that it names names, goes into a bit more detail regarding the Special Counsel's mandate--without expanding it. Here is the passage that Nunes states is the only thing of relevance in the entire report:
"The Acting Attorney General further clarified the scope of the Special Counsel's investigatory authority in two subsequent memoranda. A memorandum dated August 2, 2017, explained that the Appointment Order had been "worded categorically in order to permit its public release without confirming specific investigations involving specific individuals." It then confirmed that the Special Counsel had been authorized since his appointment to investigate allegations that three Trump campaign officials--Carter Page, Paul Manafort, and George Papadopoulos--"committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian government officials with respect to the Russian government's efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election."
The paragraph continues with some additional matters regarding payments to Manafort by the Ukrainian government and the claim that Papadopoulos was an unregistered agent of the Israeli government.
What Nunes wants the world to understand from this is simply that the scope memo confirms that as of August, 2017--a full year after Crossfire Hurricane was opened--there was no evidence that any additional justification had been developed. How do we know this? We know this because the scope memo, which was requested by Mueller and written by Rosenstein, was written at the very time that Mueller had decided (with Rosenstein's knowledge) to back off from any further FISA applications. This can only mean that Mueller knew that the "dossier"--which served as the predication not only for the FISA but also for Crossfire Hurricane and its extension in the Special Counsel--did not provide probable cause for the FISA applications. As Andy McCarthy has noted out, the logical corollary of this is that, as of August, 2017, Mueller knew that his inquisition had no legitimate investigative predication. It was a hoax investigation and those who authorized it must be called to account, but it was a very real political inquisition.
I'd like to point out something further. Mueller claims that his appointment authorized him to investigate "allegations." For me, there's a very significant omission here. The FBI is not authorized to investigate "allegations". In point of fact, the FBI receives virtually countless "allegations"--all day, every day of the year. It investigates only a tiny fraction of all those allegations. Which is to say, that fraction of the allegations it receives that, upon critical examination, are believed in good faith to provide reasonable grounds to believe that a federal crime has occurred. Mueller omits to defend his authorization by claiming that the allegations he investigated were in fact credible. Simple oversight on his part? I don't think so. To defend his actions and judgment he would have had to address the origins of those allegations as politically motivated and funded opposition research. And his actions and judgment are indefensible.
Mueller and Rosenstein must be made to answer for their criminal abuse of office. This is no time to play patty cake. There is a paper trail for all of this. It's time for it all to be made public: FBI investigative and informant files, DoJ authorizations--all of it. And the same applies to the CIA and all other complicit federal agencies.
UPDATE 1: It's inevitable that there will need to be updates as more and more analysis of the report is published. Here, however, is Frank Miele making similar points to what I say above, but with one really eye opening addition--it's not actually news, but it's very telling in the big scheme of the Russia Hoax:
The fact that there is no mention of Steele at all in Volume 1 of the report (which covers Russian interference in the 2016 election) is shocking since it was his unverified dossier that promoted the lie that the Russians had control of Trump because they possessed compromising material on the real estate tycoon. Steele’s participation with Russian sources is the most direct evidence of Russian interference in the election, but Mueller showed no interest in it because it implicated Democrats.
Volume 2 (which covers obstruction) does on page 235 acknowledge Steele's existence as the source of what even Mueller calls the "unverified allegations" published by BuzzFeed in January 2017. It also notes on pages 239 and 240 that Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on the phony dossier on Jan. 6, 2017, and that the briefing was subsequently leaked to the public.
Moreover, page 246 acknowledges that the president wanted the FBI to investigate Steele's allegations on Jan. 27, 2017, but that Comey talked him out of it. If the president had gotten his wish, the entire Mueller investigation would never have taken place at all because it would have been quickly established that Steele was working at the behest of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.
UPDATE 2: This is very hopeful, of course, but I'll just repeat: Of course Comey, Brennan, and the rest must answer--but Rosenstein and Mueller must, too:
UPDATE 3: In this Russia Hoax it's always good to find yourself nodding along with Mark Penn, whose commentary has been simply outstanding, from start to finish:
Most people don’t understand what it is to not only to be personally investigated for something you didn’t do but to have your friends, family members and associates placed in legal jeopardy over it. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team systematically targeted the people around the president, squeezing them like lemons, indicting them on mostly process crimes created by the investigation itself. They reviewed everyone’s emails, text messages, phone calls, bank statements — and yet, their conclusion on collusion was clear and definitive. It has to be believed.
... There never was a crime, and what seemed far-fetched was simply that — this time, a duly elected president was investigated for a crime that never even existed. In fact, evidence is mounting that the investigation itself was launched on phony grounds.
As I predicted in earlier columns, the Mueller report was always going to try to paint a picture of obstruction of justice. It was a lot weaker than I thought it would be because the alleged acts of obstruction are nothing more than acts the president could have legally taken or ordered. While talking a tough game publicly and brooding in private, the president and his legal team gave unprecedented access to White House documents and personnel.
In fact, the event that triggered the appointment of the special counsel — the firing of former FBI Director James Comey — didn’t even merit much discussion in the report, raising again the question of why there ever was a Mueller investigation whose focus was Trump and his campaign.
Even if you believe Mueller should have been appointed given the swirl of questions kicked up about Russia, Volume 2 of the Mueller report should not exist at all, once investigators determined there was no collusion and they were not issuing any charges. ...
The cloud under which the president and his associates have lived for more than two years deserves to be lifted. The officials who launched this aborted investigation should be held accountable for their actions. And the country deserves a Congress focused, not on investigations, but on issues like health care, infrastructure and immigration.