As I’m sure our readers must know, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (Republican of California) released a controversial memorandum that raises questions about the FBI’s investigation of former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page and, by extension, the Trump presidential campaign and its links to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
At the heart of the Nunes memo are allegations that Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants permitting FBI surveillance of Mr. Page were dependent on a dossier created by former British secret service agent Christopher Steele, who had once led MI6’s Russia office. The essence of the Nunes memo is that the FBI’s efforts were tainted because Steele (through his private consulting firm) produced the dossier for “the law firm of Perkins, Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia,” as agents of “the DNC and Clinton campaign,” and because he himself “’was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected.’” (This is the dossier that, among other things, concluded that Donald Trump “and his inner circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin, including on his…political rivals,” and a “former top Russian intelligence officer claims” Trump was “compromised…sufficiently to be able to blackmail him.”)
The Nunes memo makes very serious allegations that, if true, suggest a politicized FBI has abused its authority. As a committed civil libertarian, I believe strongly that these allegations must be thoroughly investigated by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. And because these issues have now been aired in public via the Nunes memo, I believe just as strongly that the hearings must also be held in public. Only then can we the people be certain that the nation’s top law enforcement agency is properly fulfilling its duties.
Of course, key to any such investigation will be the veracity of the Steele dossier. After all, it is at the heart of the Nunes memo, which cites or references the dossier 7 times in 3.5 pages. Was the dossier “riddled with fiction” as President Trump’s defenders assert? Or is it credible, as asserted by others? Mr. Steele himself reportedly turned the dossier over to the FBI because he feared Russia might be blackmailing Trump. Were they? Are the dossier’s six allegations of collusion accurate? If we know the answers to these questions, we’ll have a much better idea if the FBI abused its authority. So the president and his defenders have a right, and absolutely should, question Mr. Steele under oath about the memo in a public setting so that we can get to the bottom of this, and, of course, the Democrats should have a right to ask their own questions. Such an investigative hearing should also logically include close examination of a second dossier made available to the FBI by Mr. Steele (albeit produced by a different author/investigator).
A public hearing is also the easiest, most obvious way to clear the President’s name so that he, and we, can move on to other issues. President Trump’s opponents are, after all, suggesting his ties with Putin are the reason he waived sanctions on Russia earlier this week for interfering in the 2016 election. There is also, of course, the problem raised by the appearance that the president is susceptible to blackmail over salacious sexual allegations—the Steele dossier’s description of Trump’s hotel room tryst with Russian prostitutes does have surface similarities to the alleged Stormy Daniels payoff as reported by the Wall Street Journal. This, too, could be cleared up with a thorough public hearing process.
Finally, just as Hillary Clinton was allowed an opportunity to testify in person regarding the House Benghazi investigation, which she did for 11 hours, it’s only appropriate for President Trump to be permitted a similar forum to provide his honest answers to the Steele dossier allegations. One assumes he’d welcome the opportunity to clear his name, once and for all, under oath.
B. Allen Bradford