Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) drew blood this morning during his pointed questioning of FBI Director Christopher Wray at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Jordan’s line of questioning concerned Peter Strzok, who was removed from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team last July after he became a political liability to Mueller’s investigation. Jordan was particularly interested in seeing the FBI’s application to the FISA court that allowed the Obama administration to surveil the Trump campaign.
As Jordan pointed out, it was Strzok who changed the criminal term “gross negligence” to the legally inconsequential “extreme carelessness” in former FBI Director James Comey’s statement of findings on Hillary Clinton’s email server. Strzok also played a key role in Mueller’s Russia investigation.
“The same Peter Strzok that we learned this past weekend was removed from the special counsel team because he exchanged text messages with a colleague at the FBI that … displayed a pro-Clinton bias?” Jordan asked.
Wray answered in the affirmative.
“Well here’s what I’m not getting,” Jordan continued. “Peter Strozk is selected to be on Mueller’s team — after all this history, put on Mueller’s team — and then he’s removed for some pro-Clinton text messages. I mean there are all kinds of people on Mueller’s team who are pro-Clinton.”
Jordan pointed out that the vast majority of Mueller’s investigators are Democratic donors.
“Politifact reported 96% of the top lawyers’ contributions went to Clinton or Obama,” he said. “But Peter Strzok, the guy who ran the Clinton investigation, interviewed Mills, Abedin, interviewed Secretary Clinton, changed “gross negligence” — a crime — to the term “extreme carelessness,” ran the Russia investigation, who interviewed Mike Flynn, gets put on Mueller’s team, and then he gets kicked off for a text message that’s anti-Trump.”
He paused dramatically.
“If you kicked everybody off Mueller’s team who was anti-Trump, I don’t think there’d be anybody left,” he exclaimed.
“It can’t just be some text messages … there’s got to be something more. And I’m trying to figure out what it is. But my hunch is, it has something to do with the dossier.”
“Director, did Peter Strozk help produce and present the application to the FISA court to secure a warrant to spy on Americans associated with the Trump campaign?” Jordan asked.
Wray said he was not prepared to discuss applications tied to the FISA process, but Jordan pressed on. We’re not talking about the FISA court but what the FBI took to the court — the application, he said.
Jordan — and later the Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte — argued that the application was not secret or privileged information. But Wray insisted that he could not discuss it.
Jordan offered his own theory. “Let’s remember a couple of things about the dossier,” he said. “The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — which we now know were one and the same — paid the law firm who paid Fusion GPS who paid Christopher Steele who then paid Russians to put together a report that we call a dossier full of all kinds of fake news, National Enquirer garbage, and it’s been reported that this dossier was all dressed up by the FBI, taken to the FISA court and presented as a legitimate intelligence document — that it became the basis for granting a warrant to spy on Americans.”
Jordan is one of a group of conservative Republicans who would like to see a special counsel appointed to investigate how the FISA warrant was obtained to spy on members of President Trump’s campaign team. The congressman continued: “The easiest way to clear it up is … tell us what’s in that application and who took it there.”
Again, Wray dodged answering. He said that FBI staff was having “extensive interaction with both intelligence committees” in response to questions about the FISA court, which he stated was “the appropriate setting for those questions.”
Jordan shot back: “Here’s what I think … I think Peter Strzok. … Mr. Super Agent at the FBI, I think he’s the guy who took the application to the FISA court and if that happened, if this happened, if you have the FBI working with a campaign, the Democrats’ campaign, taking opposition research, dressing it all up and turning it into an intelligence document and taking it to the FISA court so they can spy on the other campaign — if that happened, that is as wrong as it gets.”
Jordan argued that a look at the application would clarify whether this was the case, but Wray wouldn’t budge from his position: “As to the access to the dossier, that’s something that is subject of ongoing discussion between my staff and the various intelligence committees.”
Frustrated, Jordan asked: “Is there anything prohibiting you from showing this committee — what was presented to the FISA court?”
“I do not believe that I can legally and appropriately share a FISA court submission with this committee,” Wray insisted.
I’m talking about what you took to the court, Jordan exclaimed. The two continued to go back and forth on the issue until Chairman Goodlatte interjected, saying that Jordan’s time was up. But he agreed with the point Jordan was making.
“The House Judiciary Committee has primary jurisdiction over the FISA court — so any request for documents coming to any part of the Congress should include the House Judiciary Committee.” Goodlatte said. “It can be provided to us in a classified setting.”
Jordan argued one last time: “I don’t think there’s anything prohibiting the FBI from giving us what they used to put together what was taken to the FISA court.”
“I don’t think there is either,” Goodlatte agreed.