The New York Times reported today that according to three people who have read it, The Unreleased Memo reveals that, some time last year, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved an application to keep Carter Page under surveillance. This is apparently the bombshell information that has so shocked and horrified the handful of Republicans who have read The Memo.
In case you misled your score card, Carter Page was a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser who already had been under surveillance under a FISA warrant beginning in 2016, when he joined the Trump campaign, the BBC says. The FBI suspected Page of being an agent of a foreign government. “The FBI had reportedly had previously investigated Page because of his 2013 ties to Russian bank executive Evgeny Buryakov, who was convicted in 2015 of spying on the US,” the BBC continues. Page resigned from the Trump campaign in September 2016 as Trump’s alleged ties to Russia were gaining attention.
Seems to me that if some guy who has known ties to a convicted foreign spy joins a presidential campaign, putting him under surveillance is not outrageously out of bounds. So what’s the deal? The New York Times explains,
The memoâ€™s primary contention is that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by an investigator, Christopher Steele, that had been financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clintonâ€™s presidential campaign.
So let’s get this straight — first, the shocked and horrified Republicans aren’t complaining about the original FISA warrant, they are complaining about the extension of the warrant. And they are complaining because they say the application for extension didn’t adequately explain that some of the allegations against Carter Page might have come from the Steele Dossier. Allegedly.
First, thereâ€™s no obvious reason why the Justice Department couldnâ€™t use information obtained in opposition research in a warrant application, assuming, of course, that it was accurate. Simpson said Steele approached the FBI with information he had obtained not at the behest of the DNC, but because he worried that there was information important to Americ the woran national security, and he had a duty to inform law enforcement. This is arguably in contrast to the behavior of the Trump campaign, which after being told that an agent of a foreign government wished to offer damaging information about the Hillary Clinton campaign ahead of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, chose not to inform law enforcement. Many political operatives have said they would have contacted the FBI under similar circumstances.
Second, itâ€™s unclear what if any non-Steele information was referenced in the warrant application.Â Bradley Moss, a lawyer who works on national-security cases, said in an email that he expected any application would have used other sources.
So, there is nothing about the Steele research that makes it automatically out of bounds to use to obtain a warrant, and it appears that even if the Steele Dossier wereÂ a source, it wouldn’t have been the only one.
So, yeah, release the freaking memo.
Several media outlets are reporting today that the Trump Administration and much of the Republican Party have targeted Rod Rosenstein as an enemy agent and part of the “deep state” conspiracy they imagine — emphasis on the word imagine — is trying to bring down Donald Trump. Aaron Blake writes at WaPo:
Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein is increasinglyÂ in President Trump’s crosshairs,Â and Trump’s long-standing wish to get rid of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabeÂ finally came true Monday. The subject of his derision in both cases? The idea that they are bothÂ essentiallyDemocrats.
Except they aren’t, really.
But in that way, they fit a growing pattern: Almost every person who has stood atop the supposed â€œdeep stateâ€ law-enforcement-led conspiracy against Trump just so happens to be either a Republican or tied to the same party Trump belongs to.
Rosenstein? A longtime registered Republican. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III? He was aÂ registered Republican when GOP President George W. Bush appointed himÂ as FBI director, and he still was as of 2017.Â James B. Comey? A longtime registered Republican beforeÂ testifying in 2016 that he no longer was.Â McCabe? AsÂ CNN reportedÂ recently, he voted in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
In case you missed it — yes, Andrew McCabe is stepping down from his job as FBI Deputy Director as of today, which is something he had already announced he would do. According to many reports, Trump had been pressuring him to quit. McCabe stayed on the job until he could retire at full pension.
But now the wingnut noise machine will be concentrating on Rod Rosenstein. Back to David Graham:
Attacking Rosenstein serves a dual purpose for Trump and his allies. If Rosenstein is forced to resign or fired, Trump would appoint a replacement who would become Muellerâ€™s boss, and could fire the special counsel or move to limit his probe. The White House seems to recognize that firing Rosenstein merely to mess with the Mueller probe would be politically disastrous, but alleging misconduct in a warrant application could provide an excuse to push him out for other reasons. Even if Rosenstein doesnâ€™t go, however, the current line of argument serves the purpose of undermining trust in the FBI and DOJ as they continue to investigate Trump.
I take it Rosenstein didn’t sign the original FISA warrant application for surveillance on Carter Page, just the extension. That explains why they’re hysterical about the extension application but not the original application.