The top Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform wrote a scathing letter on Thursday to the judge in charge of the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court regarding his appointment of an Obama administration lawyer who has denied that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has abused its spy powers.
The letter from Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Mark Meadows, R-N.C., blasted James Boasberg, who heads the court that approves federal spy warrants, for tapping David Kris to advise the spy court on how to address the findings of DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz. Kris is a former Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) official who falsely claimed that the FBI had done nothing wrong in surveiling Trump campaign officials during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. In a nearly 500-page report issued late last year, Horowitz detailed myriad instances in which the FBI violated the law and its internal policies in how it sought permission to secretly spy on Trump campaign affiliates.
Jordan and Meadows noted to Boasberg that Kris denied that any Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses occurred, falsely claimed that the FBI would have told the FISA court all relevant information about Christopher Steele and Carter Page, and even attacked the investigation conducted by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the entirety of which was corroborated by Horowitz’s findings.
Prior to the release of Horowitz’s report, the FISA court had been repeatedly informed that the FISA spy warrant application against Page was riddled with false and incomplete information. The FISA court, headed at the time by Rosemary Collyer, ignored the warnings and did nothing to address the rampant abuse of its authority.
“Mr. Kris has frequently defended the FBI’s existing electronic surveillance practices,” the lawmakers wrote. “In February 2018, as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) prepared to release a memorandum of findings about FISA abuses, Mr. Kris boasted about the rigorious process for FISA warrants.”
Jordan and Meadows noted Horowitz’s report showed that the FBI’s supposed processes did nothing to prevent the agency from peddling false information to the spy court. In one instance, an FBI lawyer even fabricated evidence and falsified documents to hide the fact that Page had previously worked with a U.S. intelligence agency to bring Russian spies to justice in the United States.
The two Republicans also told Boasberg that Kris had explicitly denied that the FBI had ever misled the FISA court. After the HSPCI memo detailing FISA abuses was released, Kris still claimed that there was no evidence that the FBI gave false information to support its application to spy on Page.
Even after Horowitz released his findings on rampant FISA abuse by the FBI, Kris again still tried to minimize and explain away the FBI’s behavior, the two congressman wrote. Kris “said that the FBI’s misconduct was not ‘political’ and attributed it to sloppiness on the part of the FBI,” they noted. “Inspector General Horowitz testified, however, that the OIG review did not rule out political bias or intentional misconduct.”
After cataloging Kris’s history of denying FBI spy abuses and attacking congressional efforts to investigate them, Jordan and Meadows asked Boasberg to explain to Congress, which created the FISA court, why he chose Kris to assist the court in its response to Horowitz’s report. They asked Boasberg to provide the names of all other attorneys he considered before selecting Kris and to explain whether he had even bothered to review Kris’s previous biased statements about the Page FISA.
They also asked him to inform them when the FISA court was first notified that the application it approved to spy on Page may have contained false information and how the court responded, if at all, to that information.
“Please explain whether you believe that the FISC bears any responsibility for the FBI’s illegal surveillance of Carter Page,” they asked. “Please explain and detail when the FISC first received any indication that information contained in the FBI’s surveillance applications for Carter Page was misleading or false. Please explain what actions, if any, the FISC took at that time to address the FBI’s misconduct.”
The two lawmakers told Boasberg that they expected him to deliver complete and forthcoming answers to their oversight questions no later than January 30.