The FISA abuse scandal may go beyond the FBI and Department of Justice.
Last week’s public release of a House Intelligence Committee memo describing the FBI’s use of the controversial Steele dossier to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump associate Carter Page is bringing new scrutiny on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judges who signed off on the warrants.
The Washington, D.C.-based FISC is comprised of 11 federal judges designated by the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice. Each judge serves a seven-year term on the court.
In late 2016, when the FBI was conducting its probe of the Trump campaign, FISC was filled with judges appointed during Barack Obama’s presidency. Two of them, US District Judge Rudolph Contreras and US District Judge James Boasberg, were Obama appointees.
Because FISA is a secret court and designated judges typically serve in rotation a week at a time, it’s not immediately clear which judges were involved in the FISA warrant applications for Carter Page.
Judge Contreras was recused from the case of former Trump National Security Advisor Mike Flynn last December, the Washington Times reported.
A spokesperson for Contreras did not say why he was recused. The question remains whether Contreras signed off on any of the FISA warrants issued to the FBI in their investigation of the Trump campaign.
On Friday, Judge Boasberg, another Obama-appointee who sits on FISC, sided with the Department of Justice in rejecting requests from multiple news outlets for the release of memos of former FBI Director James Comey’s conversations with President Trump, Politico reported.
Are federal judges cooperating with the FBI and Department of Justice to conceal information about the full extent of the investigation into President Trump?
As revealed in the memo, the wife of senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr was contracted by Fusion GPS, the firm behind the Steele dossier, to work on opposition research against then-candidate Trump.
“During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump,” the memo read. “Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, said of the payments Fusion GPS made to Ohr’s wife:
“The money sweetened the pot for the Ohrs, and it certainly made it easier for Fusion to get the dossier to be used before the court if they made that payment to Bruce Ohr’s wife.
“Fusion had to have known that because of the relationship between Bruce Ohr and his wife, they were bringing Fusion, the DOJ and the DNC together under one roof to work for the same goal, which was to stop Donald Trump from becoming president.”
The lawmaker also questioned the role of FISC judges, who have not taken action against the agency heads who omitted details about the dossier’s origins when they used the document to apply for FISA warrants.
“The judge has to have known for months now that he or she had a fraud committed against them and he or she has done nothing,” Gohmert asserted. “Any judge worth any salt would have called them in for hearings, and he can even order anyone who committed fraud upon the court to go to jail. This judge is either worthless or is in cahoots with those who manipulated it.”
According to Gohmert, former Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe could go to jail for “committing fraud upon the court.”
It remains to be seen whether there will be a shake-up of a justice system whose credibility has greatly deteriorated.