Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray in which he asks one very important question:
After he was fired, Mr. Comey acknowledged in public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that President Trump had never been one of the individuals under investigation. Recent news articles have claimed that Paul Manafort was one of the campaign associates under FBI investigation.1 This raises the question of whether the FBI ever alerted Mr. Trump to the FBI’s counter-intelligence concerns regarding his campaign manager and others associated with the campaign—so that he could take defensive action to prevent the campaign from being infiltrated. Such briefings are one of the tools that the FBI often uses to thwart attempts by foreign intelligence services to infiltrate organizations or compromise U.S. citizens. Such a briefing allows innocent, unwitting organizations and individuals to take defensive action to protect themselves.
In short, if these accounts are accurate it appears that in at least one prior presidential campaign (editor’s note, McCain 2008), U.S. intelligence alerted a candidate’s team about counterintelligence concerns it had regarding campaign associates’ connections with Russia. This makes sense, given that sophisticated foreign intelligence services likely seek to exploit presidential campaigns through various means. The circumstances leading to those prior alerts to a campaign by U.S. intelligence seem substantially similar to the circumstances surrounding President Trump’s campaign.
If the FBI did provide a defensive briefing or similar warning to the campaign, then that would raise important questions about how the Trump campaign responded. On the other hand, if the FBI did not alert the campaign, then that would raise serious questions about what factors contributed to its decision and why it appears to have been handled differently in a very similar circumstance involving a previous campaign.
There are a lot of very bizarre things about the behavior of the FBI during the 2016 campaign. Surveillance was resumed sometime in the fall and stayed in place until January. We don’t know if the surveillance was in place after Trump was inaugurated.
Allegedly, the FBI had a FISA warrant covering Paul Manafort in place throughout the primary season and up until some time after the convention. I say allegedly because James Clapper, who has claimed (I know, I know) that he was informed about all FISA warrants, now says he was unaware of Manafort being under surveillance:
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 21, 2017
Considering the second FISA warrant was allegedly issued while Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan were fouling their drawers, it is hard to imagine a FISA warrant on Manafort just slipping his mind. Clapper lying is not totally outside the realm of possibilities but we also need to consider whether a warrant was ever issued and if not are the leaks about the warrant a) simply made up or b) do they represent some other means of surveillance outside the FISA world?
Comey’s bizarre and near criminal behavior on the Clinton investigation has been noted.
Grassley’s question, of course, is one that should have been asked vigorously at Comey’s hearing. If Manafort was covered by a FISA warrant when he joined the Trump campaign, did the FBI alert Trump to this fact. If they elected not to, and then elected to seek another FISA warrant on Manafort as he was working in some capacity on Trump’s transition and still not notify him, the FBI needs to explain their reasoning. Likewise, if Trump was twice warned, he needs to explain why he decided to ignore the warnings.