The FISA Court selected a longtime defender of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation to be its adviser in overseeing the FBI’s implementation of reforms following the Justice Department’s watchdog report on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
David Kris, a former assistant attorney general with the DOJ’s national security division during the Obama administration, is a controversial choice, having spent most of President Trump’s term defending the bureau’s decision-making, including its use of British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s salacious and unverified dossier to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign associate Carter Page. Kris also defended the FISA Court itself from accusations it hadn’t done its due diligence to ensure the bureau’s investigation was conducted properly.
Kris harshly criticized the FISA memo put together by Republican California Rep. Devin Nunes in early 2018 that alleged “abuses related to the FISA process” by the FBI, though DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report released late last year showed nearly all the claims made by Nunes in his memo were correct, a fact acknowledged even by Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, who released a competing memo at the time.
Kris claimed “the central irony” of the Nunes memo “is that it tried to deceive the American people in precisely the same way that it falsely accused the FBI of deceiving the FISA Court” and “the key question going forward is whether the memo’s authors and sponsors will face any consequences for their dishonesty” in one of many articles for Lawfare, a website created by fired FBI Director James Comey’s friend, Benjamin Wittes.
Horowitz concluded the FBI’s investigation was flawed and criticized the DOJ and the FBI for 17 “significant errors and omissions” in targeting Page and relying on Steele’s dossier, affirming most of the claims Nunes made almost two years prior and criticizing the bureau’s “entire chain of command.” Horowitz was unable to determine whether the FBI’s screw-ups were due to “gross negligence” or “intentional misconduct.” Horowitz also referred one FBI lawyer to the DOJ for possible criminal prosecution.
“You can’t make this up!” Trump tweeted of Kris on Sunday. “Zero credibility. THE SWAMP!”
“The fact that of all the people in the swamp … this is the guy you come up with?” Nunes said Sunday on Fox News. “The court must be trying to abolish itself … He picks one of the guys who was essentially covering up for the dirty cops.”
James Boasberg, the presiding judge over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, appointed Kris to serve as the court’s amicus curiae — a position which is supposed to provide impartial advice to the court. Kris has defended the FISA Court against criticism, claiming, “FISA applications are subjected to exacting … and serious scrutiny” and “the FISA Court is not a rubber stamp.”
Kris did not respond to the Washington Examiner‘s request for comment.
Kris claimed “the Nunes memo looks even worse” when hundreds of heavily redacted pages from the Carter Page FISA applications were released in July 2018. And he went on MSNBC and agreed with host Rachel Maddow’s claims that fuller disclosures about the FISA process would make Trump look worse.
“Yes, I think you are right that these applications already substantially undermine the president’s narrative and that of his proxies. And it seems to me very likely that if we get below the tip of the iceberg into the submerged parts and more is revealed, it will get worse, not better,” he said.
After the release of Horowitz’s report, Kris conceded in late December that Nunes memo had been right about many things, including that the FBI incorrectly told the FISA Court Steele wasn’t the source of a Yahoo News article they used in the FISA applications, DOJ official Bruce Ohr acted improperly in a multitude of ways, and the Steele dossier formed a central part of the bureau’s pursuit of FISA surveillance.
“Even if the Nunes memo had some of the details wrong, its basic point that this behavior was highly irregular was correct,” Kris said.
But Kris stood by his contention that the FBI did nothing wrong when it didn’t inform the FISA Court that Steele was being paid by the Clinton campaign through cut-outs, and he did not retract his Nunes attacks.
Kris also criticized the decision by Attorney General William Barr and U.S Attorney John Durham to publicly disagree with Horowitz’s conclusion that the launch of the Trump-Russia investigation was properly predicated, suggesting both will be the subjects of complaints within the DOJ office which investigates misconduct and seeming to hope for an inspector general investigation into Barr himself, accusing Barr of acting upon political considerations and quoting former Attorney General Eric Holder’s claim that Barr is “unfit to lead the Justice Department.”
And Kris said, “Nor am I outraged by the FBI’s actions” last January because “the FBI effectively could not avoid investigating the president.” Kris claimed the Steele dossier “has held up quite well … according to the best and most recent assessment that I have seen” and was “properly taken seriously.”
Natalia Veselnitskaya – official website