02.07.2018 0

Did the Obama Justice Dept. and the Clinton campaign coordinate to place the Isikoff piece to get the FISA warrant on the Trump campaign in 2016?

By Robert Romano

Besides the DNC and Clinton campaign-funded Christopher Steele dossier that alleged Trump campaign-Russia collusion that was used as evidence by the Obama era Justice Department to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court warrant against Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, another piece of evidence was a Sept. 2016 Yahoo! News piece by Michael Isikoff that alleged the same.

A news story, which turns out, was sourced to Steele himself, anonymous at the time, and was presented as evidence to the FISA court to “corroborate” the Steele dossier. It was circular confirmation, Steele confirming himself in essence, according to the now-released House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence memorandum by Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.): “This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News.”

But what stands out about the Isikoff piece, besides the fact it became one of the bases on which to spy on a presidential campaign smackdab in the middle of the election, is the fact that Isikoff quotes Justice Department officials confirming that Page was already under investigation.

Isikoff referred to a Congressional source who alleged that, in Isikoff’s words, “U.S. officials in the briefings indicated that intelligence reports about the [Page]’s talks with senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin were being ‘actively monitored and investigated.’”

Which, reported Isikoff, they were, writing, “A senior U.S. law enforcement official did not dispute that characterization when asked for comment by Yahoo News. ‘It’s on our radar screen,’ said the official about Page’s contacts with Russian officials. ‘It’s being looked at.’”

However, now we know that, thanks to the memo outlining FISA court abuses during 2016, that the Isikoff story was used as evidence that Page was acting as a Russian agent to put him under surveillance. But according to Isikoff’s sources, Page was already under investigation by that time. Were those sources lying? What really happened?

One clue could come from the Dec. 2016 Guardian report by Julian Borger that initially broke the news about the Page FISA warrant. At the time, it stated, “The Guardian has learned that the FBI applied for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court over the summer in order to monitor four members of the Trump team suspected of irregular contacts with Russian officials. The FISA court turned down the application asking FBI counter-intelligence investigators to narrow its focus.”

Eventually, now we know, that the warrant against Page was finally granted in Oct. 2016. But who were the other three Trump campaign officials that the Obama administration sought warrants for? Congress should find out. How many FISA court applications were there?

More troubling is the possibility that the Justice Department and Steele — who was working for the Clinton campaign as a contractor — coordinated the Isikoff story to help get the FISA warrant into the Trump campaign. According to the memo, the stories were placed at the direction of Fusion GPS and with the knowledge of Perkins Coie, the Democrat law firm that hired Fusion: “Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News and several other outlets in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington D.C. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.”

And the story discussed the FBI’s ongoing investigation into Page and the Trump campaign. They wanted that out there.

In Fusion GPS CEO Glenn Simpson’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in August 2017, he stated in reference to Hillary Clinton’s ongoing FBI troubles, “we began getting questions from the press about, you know, whether [the government] were also investigating Trump and, you know, we encouraged them to ask the FBI that question.”

It raises the specter that the Trump-Russia collusion narrative might have actually been spun by the Clinton campaign to politically counter Clinton’s own FBI investigation troubles. What if Trump had an FBI investigation as well? Then, that would neutralize the Clinton matter politically.

As the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel reported in November, right after the Isikoff story broke, the Clinton campaign seized on it: “Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s communications director, the next day took to television to tout the Isikoff story and cite ‘U.S. intelligence officials’ in the same breath as Mr. Page. Other Clinton surrogates fanned out on TV and Twitter to spread the allegations.”

So, at least one senior Justice Department official was quoted by Iskioff confirming the investigation into the Trump campaign, and per Simpson’s testimony, Steele gave the FBI all his sources in Sept. 2016: “they wanted to know everything he had.” And the FBI ultimately used the Isikoff story to produce the FISA court warrant.

Did the Clinton campaign coordinate, via Steele, Fusion GPS and the Justice Department, to get a FISA warrant into the Trump campaign all to give the Clinton campaign an extra talking point on the trail?

If so, then Isikoff could have been used to put the story out there, to enable the spying and the investigation he thought he was reporting on. The FISA court was deceived about the provenance of not only the Steele dossier, concealing the DNC and Clinton campaign funding origins, but also of the Isikoff story, according to the memo: “The Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News.” Was that a lie?

We don’t know, but there is the possibility. It raises the question of coordination.

Given the media strategy Simpson outlined, where Trump-Russia collusion stories were placed in response to the investigation into Clinton, and the fact that Steele’s relationship with the FBI was not terminated immediately after the Isikoff story in September, but only after the unauthorized Oct. 30, 2016 David Corn Mother Jones piece where Steele was tooting his own horn and taking credit for the Trump-Russia collusion investigation by the FBI, give the appearance that the Isikoff story could have been planned and approved by the Justice Department.

What we do know is that the Isikoff story became part of the basis for the FISA court warrant into the Trump campaign. Congress should investigate how that came into being. Classified information was revealed about an ongoing investigation to serve a political campaign.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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