News update, Jan. 15, 2020: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose seven House members as impeachment managers in the Senate trial of President Trump, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. The article below about Nadler appeared last month.
By Paul Sperry, RealClearInvestigations
December 16, 2019
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman who has drawn up articles of impeachment accusing President Trump of abusing his power, last year falsely accused a Trump campaign aide of being a Russian spy who helped Moscow interfere in the 2016 election -- an accusation the Justice Department’s watchdog declared unfounded in his newly released report.
Nadler made the accusation in a letter distributed on Capitol Hill in early 2018. In the same document, he also defended the FBI for obtaining a highly invasive FISA warrant to wiretap the Trump aide, Carter Page. The watchdog now concludes that this warrant, renewed three times, was obtained under false pretenses.
The Democratic leader — who’s expected to argue the impeachment case before the Senate next month — dismissed as “a conspiracy theory” the president’s characterization of the FBI spying as an “abuse" of the government’s surveillance powers.
Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz found the FBI did in fact abuse its authority, including withholding exculpatory evidence from its spy warrant on Page and subsequent renewals — including one in which the evidence was falsified by an FBI lawyer whom Horowitz referred for criminal investigation.
Capitol Hill sources say the inspector general's scathing report uncovering FBI misconduct undercuts Nadler's credibility as a prosecutor for the impeachment case.
“The chairman has no credibility left,” said a Republican staffer on the judiciary committee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “He is not an honest broker."
Sources complained that by publicly defending the FBI against charges of egregious surveillance abuses, Nadler effectively gave federal officials a congressional blessing to illegally spy on American citizens.
In February 2018, Nadler, then the ranking Democrat on the House panel, issued a “Dear Democratic Colleague” letter rebutting a House Intelligence Committee report detailing FISA surveillance abuses involving Page.
His letter, which was leaked to the media and assisted a campaign to discredit the GOP-led report, asserted that Page conspired with the Kremlin during the 2016 election, and that the FBI was justified in spying on him.
“Carter Page was, more likely than not, an agent of a foreign power," Nadler claimed. “The Russian government waged a massive campaign to discredit our election. Carter Page appears to have played a role in that effort.”
But Horowitz, a Democrat appointed by President Obama, debunked the allegation that Page was compromised by Moscow. In the 480-page IG report released last week, Horowitz noted that Page had assisted the CIA for several years in its Russian spying efforts, and had even helped the FBI put away a Russian agent in March 2016 — around the same time he joined the Trump campaign. The FBI withheld this exculpatory information from the FISA court. Worse, it doctored an email from the CIA to make it look like Page had not worked as an agency asset.
The FBI in the end found no evidence Page was a Russian agent and stopped monitoring him in late 2017. Special Counsel Robert Mueller never charged him in the investigation he took over from the FBI.
Nadler also insisted in his four-page letter — which he described as a “legal analysis” — that a discredited Clinton campaign-funded dossier did not play a substantial role in supporting warrants to spy on Page. But Horowitz found it played a “central and essential role” — language that matches the House Intel report, known as the “Nunes Memo,” which also found the dossier formed an "essential part" of the FBI applications for warrants.
Nadler implied then-House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes was lying about what he had read in the classified applications and supporting documents. “I have had the benefit of reading the materials that form the basis for the Nunes Memo,” Nadler argued, dismissing the Republican leader's condemnation of the FISA warrants as “embarrassingly flawed,” a “disgrace,” and “deeply misleading."
Horowitz also had access to the same classified information, but came to the opposite conclusion of Nadler and concurred with the findings of Nunes.
Hill sources say it’s now clear Nadler was the one misrepresenting the documents and misinforming the public.
“Two years ago he tried to impeach the Nunes Memo, and now the inspector general has exposed that effort as an embarrassing piece of dishonesty,” said another GOP congressional aide involved in the impeachment proceedings. "So why should anybody trust him now to be an honest arbiter of the facts in impeaching the president?”
Nadler’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Nadler was not happy that the inspector general was investigating the FISA process. After firing off his February 2018 letter to colleagues, the New York congressman issued a press release the following month scolding Republicans for “overt attacks” on the FBI and bashing them for requesting IG Horowitz launch an investigation of the FBI over the abusive FISA warrants, which he called “a conspiracy theory."
“It is a shame that the Inspector General has to devote resources to investigate a conspiracy theory as fact-free, openly political, and thoroughly debunked as the President’s so-called ‘FISA abuse,’” Nadler complained in his March 2018 press release. "Any objective review of these claims should tell us what we already know — that the FBI was right, that there was sufficient evidence to continue investigating certain Trump campaign officials for their connections to the Russian government, and that the Republicans are desperate to distract from that investigation.”
But Horowitz documents that Nadler was wrong in his assessment of the facts.
The same holds true for his Democratic impeachment partner, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Like Nadler, Schiff issued his own memo claiming to debunk the Nunes assertions.
Schiff released a February 2018 memo, titled “Correcting the Record," claiming the FBI “did not ‘abuse’ the FISA process, omit material information or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.” He also claimed the FBI “made only narrow use of information from [Christopher] Steele’s [dossier] sources.”
Horowitz found just the opposite, saying the FBI hid several “significant" material facts from the FISA court which, if revealed, may have convinced judges to reject the four warrants the FBI requested to surveil Page from October 2016 to September 2017. Instead, they allowed investigators to effectively spy on the Trump campaign, transition and presidency.
Faced with the IG’s findings, Schiff now acknowledges the FBI committed “serious abuses.” But he maintains they weren’t “apparent to us two years ago” when he wrote his memo disputing the abuses his GOP counterpart was able to find.
Republicans on his committee maintain he and Democrats deliberately sold the public a bill of goods to protect the FBI. “Adam Schiff repeatedly made false statements to the American people,” said Rep. John Ratcliffe of the House intelligence panel.
Nunes was more direct: “The Democrats lied.”
On Sunday, Nunes fired off a letter to Schiff accusing him of “excusing and covering up intelligence agency abuses” and being “complicit in the violation of an American’s civil liberties."
An intelligence analyst who was instrumental in writing the Nunes memo said he feels vindicated.
“The FISA abuse memo has been totally validated, point by point,” said former House Intelligence Committee staffer Kashyap “Kash" Patel, who helped draft the memo. He dismissed Democrats’ two-year campaign to discredit the facts as partisan “talking points.” “The facts speak for themselves,” he asserted.
In a House floor vote set for Wednesday, Democrats are expected to approve the two articles of impeachment Nadler drafted.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly will tap him along with Schiff as the high-profile "impeachment managers” who will go to the Senate next month to make the case for convicting and removing Trump from office.
Within days of the Democrats winning back the House in November 2018, Nadler was overheard on the train from New York to Washington plotting to impeach Trump for alleged treasonous collusion with Russia. He was headed to the capital for a two-day planning session with his Judiciary Committee staff. But he had to ditch his plans just four months later when Mueller reported he found no evidence Trump or his aides conspired with Russia. (In his February 2018 letter, Nadler claimed Nunes only released his FISA abuse memo as “a backhanded attempt to cast doubt on the origins of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”)
Then this past summer, an intelligence community “whistleblower” complaint against Trump concerning Ukraine, which was coordinated with Schiff’s office, revived impeachment hopes, and put Nadler’s quest back on track.
During the impeachment hearings, Nadler has intoned that although seeking the removal of the president is a somber affair, he nonetheless has a solemn duty to "uphold the Constitution.”