By John Solomon | The Hill
Former FBI Lawyer Lisa Page and fired FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok exchanged anti-Trump text messages during their time at the bureau. (AP, File)
To date, Lisa Page’s infamy has been driven mostly by the anti-Donald Trump text messages she exchanged with fellow FBI agent Peter Strzok as the two engaged in an affair while investigating the president for alleged election collusion with Russia.
Yet, when history judges the former FBI lawyer years from now, her most consequential pronouncement may not have been typed on her bureau-issued Samsung smartphone to her colleague and lover.
Rather, it might be eight simple words she uttered behind closed doors during a congressional interview a few weeks ago.
“It’s a reflection of us still not knowing,” Page told Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) when questioned about texts she and Strzok exchanged in May 2017 as Robert Mueller was being named a special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation.
With that statement, Page acknowledged a momentous fact: After nine months of using some of the most awesome surveillance powers afforded to U.S. intelligence, the FBI still had not made a case connecting Trump or his campaign to Russia’s election meddling.
Page opined further, acknowledging “it still existed in the scope of possibility that there would be literally nothing” to connect Trump and Russia, no matter what Mueller or the FBI did.
“As far as May of 2017, we still couldn’t answer the question,” she said at another point.
I reached out to Page's lawyer, Amy Jeffress, on Friday. She declined to answer questions about her client’s cooperation with Congress.
It might take a few seconds for the enormity of Page’s statements to sink in.
After all, she isn’t just any FBI lawyer. She was a lead on the Russia case when it started in summer 2016, and she helped it transition to Mueller through summer 2017.
For those who might cast doubt on the word of a single FBI lawyer, there’s more.
Shortly after he was fired, ex-FBI Director James Comey told the Senate there was not yet evidence to justify investigating Trump for colluding with Russia. “When I left, we did not have an investigation focused on President Trump,” Comey testified.
And Strzok, the counterintelligence boss and leader of the Russia probe, texted Page in May 2017 that he was reluctant to join Mueller’s probe and leave his senior FBI post because he feared “there’s no big there, there.”
The Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general asked Strzok shortly before he was fired from the FBI what he meant by that text, and he offered a most insightful answer.
Strzok said he wasn’t certain there was a “broad, coordinated effort” to hijack the election and that the evidence of Trump campaign aides talking about getting Hillary Clinton dirt from Russians might have been just a “bunch of opportunists” talking to heighten their importance.
Strzok added that, while he raised the idea of impeachment in some of his texts to Page, “I am, again, was not, am not convinced or certain that it will,” he told the IG.
So, by the words of Comey, Strzok and Page, we now know that the Trump Justice Department — through Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — unleashed the Mueller special prosecutor probe before the FBI could validate a connection between Trump and Russia.
Which raises the question: If there was no concrete evidence of collusion, why did we need a special prosecutor?
Page’s comments also mean FBI and Justice officials likely leaked a barrage of media stories just before and after Mueller’s appointment that made the evidence of collusion look far stronger than the frontline investigators knew it to be.
Text messages show contacts between key FBI and DOJ players and the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the New York Times during the ramp-up to Mueller’s probe.
And that means the news media — perhaps longing to find a new Watergate, to revive sagging fortunes — were far too willing to be manipulated by players in a case that began as a political opposition research project funded by Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and led by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, who despised Trump.
Finally, Page’s statement signals that the nation’s premier intelligence court may not have been given a complete picture of the evidence — or lack thereof — as it approved an extraordinary surveillance intrusion into an American presidential nominee’s campaign just weeks before Election Day.
There was no fault to the FBI checking whether Trump was compromised by Russia; that is a classic counterintelligence responsibility.
The real fault lies in those leaders who allowed a secret investigation to mushroom into a media maelstrom driven by official leaks that created a story that far exceeded the evidence, and then used that false narrative to set a special prosecutor flying downhill ahead of his skis.
No matter where Mueller ends his probe, it is now clear the actions that preceded his appointment turned justice on its head, imposing the presumption of guilt upon a probe whose own originators had reason to doubt the strength of their evidence.
By Scott Johnson | POWERLINE
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (AP, File)
Earlier this year I wrote a series of posts contra the dross of April Doss.
The “dross” was found in the Weekly Standard cover story by Doss.
The cover story disparaged House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and asserted that he is retailing a “conspiracy theory” involving the Obama administration’s misuse of FISA on Carter Page to investigate the Trump presidential campaign.
Doss purported to lay down the truth about Nunes and FISA.
The truth is that Doss’s cover story was a disgrace.
The FISA warrant applications on Carter Page open a window onto the biggest scandal in American political history.
I have embedded them here previously and have embedded them again below. They are the ocular proof of the scandal.
The invaluable Andrew McCarthy has now cracked open the window a little wider in two columns with one theme: FISA Docs Show: Long Before Mueller, Trump-Russia Was an Investigation Without a Crime.
The first column (posted yesterday afternoon) is “Reading the FISA redactions.” The second is “In the Russia Probe, It’s ‘Qui S’excuse S’accuse’” (posted this morning — the French expression is to the effect that “he who excuses himself accuses himself”).
These are long, detailed, illuminating and educational columns that draw on McCarthy’s professional expertise. Stick with them — both of them. Do not miss either one.
Andy says he has read the FISA applications so you don’t have to. He has performed a great public service in these columns. Even so, I say you have to review the FISA applications with your own eyes.
They are shocking. Drawing from my series on Doss’s Weekly Standard cover story, I want to restate the relevant background in the context of Andy’s linked columns:
• Under Title I of FISA — see this useful House Intel Committee summary
It was the burden of the government to establish probable cause that Page was engaging in espionage, terrorism, or sabotage by or on behalf of a foreign power that involved a violation of a criminal statute.
Doss stated: “Although Page had left the campaign, the FBI feared Russia was using him for its own purposes. The application states that the FBI alleged there was probable cause to believe Page was an agent of a foreign power under a specific provision of FISA that involves knowingly aiding, abetting, or knowingly conspiring to assist a foreign power with clandestine intelligence gathering activities, engage in clandestine intelligence gathering at the behest of a foreign power, or participate in sabotage or international terrorism or planning or preparation therefor.”
• Doss to the contrary notwithstanding, the allegations cited by Doss in her article don’t make out probable cause that Page is a Russian agent on any fair reading of the facts once the Steele dossier is seen for what it is.
• The FBI relied in substantial part on the allegations of the Steele dossier to obtain the FISA warrant on Page. Although the applications swear otherwise, these allegations were unverified. I observed in my series that Andy was one of the knowledgeable observers who disputes Doss on the propriety of this reliance. Doss simply omitted any acknowledgement of the related issues.
• The FBI nevertheless secured the FISA surveillance warrant on Page in October 2016 and renewed it three more times at 90-day intervals. I held out the possibility that the cited facts together with the redacted material fairly establish probable cause, but we have yet to see it. McCarthy now demonstrates that this is highly unlikely.
• Whether or not the FBI made out probable cause, it must have monitored Page’s every communication by text, email and cell phone for a year. Yet Page remains a free man. No charge of any kind — not even a process crime such the one used against Michael Flynn and George Papadoploulos — has been brought against Carter Page. The circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that Page is not a Russian agent.
• Given the year-long surveillance on him without any resulting charge, Page might not only not be a Russian agent, he might be the cleanest man in Washington.
• Carter Page was a victim of government misconduct whose true object was Donald Trump.
Quotable quote: “[L]et’s dispense with the tired claim that the Obama administration did not really spy on Trump and his campaign.
Every one of the four FISA warrant applications, after describing Russia’s cyberespionage attack on the 2016 election, makes the following assertion (after two redacted lines): ‘the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts to influence the 2016 election were being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s [i.e., Trump’s] campaign.]'”
One more: “For Mueller, the Russia counterintelligence probe was cover to conduct a criminal investigation of Trump in the absence of grounds to believe a crime had occurred.”