In light of the declassification and the release of the Nunes and Schiff Memoranda, Judge Mehta has reversed his prior decision and is rejecting the FBI’s refusal to confirm or deny the existence of records reflecting an attempt to verify the two-page synopsis allegations from the Steele Dossier.
A Washington DC judge ruled that the FBI must respond to a FOIA request for documents concerning the bureau’s efforts to verify the controversial Steele dossier before it was used as the foundation of a FISA surveillance warrant application and subsequent renewals. They must give the documents to Judicial Watch.
The FBI has been fighting the release of that information. It seems one reason they are doing that is to keep the public from knowing how thorough or not thorough they were in compiling the dossier. Conservative Republicans contend the FBI did not try to verify it and, in fact, colluded with the Clinton campaign and Fusion GPS to invent the document.
The document was used fraudulently, they believe, to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. That warrant allowed the FBI to also spy “incidentally” on anyone Page was in contact with during the 2016 campaign.
U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta [an Obama judge] in January sided with the FBI’s decision to ignore the FOIA request. However, he said that President Trump’s release of two House Intelligence Committee documents (the “Nunes” and “Schiff” memos) changed the situation.
In January, Mehta concurred with the FBI’s decision to not disclose the existence of any records containing the agency’s efforts to verify the dossier. He ruled that Trump’s tweets about the dossier didn’t require the FBI and other intelligence agencies to act on records requests.
“But then the ground shifted,” writes Mehta of Trump declassifying the House memos. “As a result of the Nunes and Schiff Memos, there is now in the public domain meaningful information about how the FBI acquired the Dossier and how the agency used it to investigate Russian meddling.”
“It remains no longer logical nor plausible for the FBI to maintain that it cannot confirm nor deny the existence of documents,” Mehta wrote.
“It is simply not plausible to believe that, to whatever extent the FBI has made efforts to verify Steele’s reporting, some portion of that work has not been devoted to allegations that made their way into the synopsis. After all, if the reporting was important enough to brief the President-elect, then surely the FBI thought enough of those key charges to attempt to verify their accuracy,” he continued.
WHAT THIS MEANS
To make a long story short, the FBI must show what they did to verify the claims contained within the Nunes and Schiff memos.
The information about this ruling showed up on Politico’s, Under the Radar, and it is a big deal.
It won’t go into effect immediately because the case was on appeal to the D.C. Circuit when Trump approved the release of the House memos. The appeals court is now likely to remand the case to Mehta to determine whether the FBI has other grounds to withhold records about verifying the dossier.
Dossier believers will find it ironic if the President’s decision to declassify those two documents ends up hanging him. However, given the FBI’s lack of transparency, it’s more likely it will expose them.