Nunes to send eight criminal referrals to DOJ concerning leaks, conspiracy amid Russia probe
House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes exclusively told Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" that he is preparing to send eight criminal referrals to the Department of Justice this week concerning alleged misconduct from "Watergate wannabes" during the Trump-Russia investigation, including the leaks of "highly classified material" and conspiracies to lie to Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court.
The dramatic step comes as Republicans have pushed for the release of key documents to uncover the origins of the now-discredited narrative that the Trump campaign colluded improperly with the Russian government. President Trump recently told Fox News he would release the entirety of the FISA applications used to surveil one of his top aides, and other related documents.
Nunes said he has been working on the referrals for more than two years, and wanted to wait until the confirmation of Attorney General Bill Barr.
"We're prepared this week to notify the attorney general that we're prepared to send those referrals over," Nunes said. "First of all, all of these are classified or sensitive. ... Five of them are what I would call straight up referrals -- so just referrals that name someone and name the specific crimes," Nunes told Maria Bartiromo. "Those crimes are lying to Congress, misleading Congress, leaking classified information. So five of them are those types."
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It was not immediately clear whom Nunes would specifically refer. Both Democrats and Republicans have said former Trump fixer Michael Cohen is likely to face new charges of lying to Congress in the wake of his recent explosive testimony, which seemed to contradict his previous statements on a variety of matters, including whether he had sought a job in the Trump White House.
And House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., touched off a firestorm last August after claiming on Twitter that his office had "hard evidence" suggesting the FBI leaked information to the press and used the resulting articles to help obtain surveillance warrants. The claim stemmed in part from FBI intelligence analyst Jonathan Moffa’s Friday testimony behind closed doors before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees.
Nunes added: "There are three [referrals] that I think are more complicated. ... So on the first one, is FISA abuse and other matters. We believe there was a conspiracy to lie to the FISA court, mislead the FISA court by numerous individuals that all need to be investigated and looked at that, and we believe the [relevant] statute is the conspiracy statute. The second conspiracy one is involving manipulation of intelligence that also could ensnarl many Americans."
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Nunes asserted that "we've had a lot of concerns with the way intelligence was used" during the Trump-Russia probe.
Just nine days before the FBI applied for a FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page, then a Trump campaign aide, bureau officials were battling with a senior Justice Department official who had "continued concerns" about the "possible bias" of a source pivotal to the application, according to internal text messages obtained by Fox News in March.
Redacted versions of FISA documents already released have revealed that the FBI extensively relied on documents produced by Christopher Steele, an anti-Trump British ex-spy working for a firm funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC), to surveil Trump aide Carter Page. The FISA application did not clearly state that the firm was funded by the Clinton team and DNC.
The leaked dossier, and related FBI surveillance, kickstarted a media frenzy on alleged Russia-Trump collusion that ended with a whimper last month, when it was revealed Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe concluded finding no evidence of such a conspiracy, despite several offers by Russians to help the Trump campaign. Page was never charged with wrongdoing, and he is currently suing the DNC for defamation.
DOJ guidelines preclude the FBI from omitting exculpatory evidence, or misrepresenting sources, in FISA applications. Reports have indicated -- and Republicans have charged -- that the FBI improperly withheld evidence that would have suggested their surveillance targets during the Trump probe were in fact innocent.
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"The third is what I would call a global leak referral," Nunes said. "So there are about a dozen highly sensitive classified information leaks that were given to only a few reporters over the last two-and-a-half-plus years. So you know, we don't know if there's actually been any leak investigations that have been opened, but we do believe that we've got pretty good information and a pretty good idea of who could be behind these leaks."
Nunes specifically named a series of known "horrific" leaks, including the leak of conversations between Trump and the leaders of Australia and Mexico, and the transcripts of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn's calls.
Nunes noted that the eight criminal referrals could involve more than eight people, and that a conspiracy referral could involve "a dozen, two dozen people." He added that more referrals could be coming.
"I think it's impossible to ignore," Nunes said. "If the Mueller team was busting people for lying to the FBI -- there are some pretty simple times when people lied to Congress for the sole purpose of obstructing our investigation."
News that the FBI had been secretly monitoring Flynn's communications with Russians broke in January in The Washington Post, and was sourced to anonymous "U.S. officials." Flynn met with FBI officials shortly after the publication of that article, and eventually pleaded guilty to one charge of lying to investigators about whether he had spoken to Russia's ambassador concerning an upcoming U.N. resolution on Israel and the Obama administration's sanctions against Russia.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr. told Fox News in January that "there’s a 99.9 percent chance [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is] the guy” who leaked private testimony that he gave in 2017 before the House Intelligence Committee to discuss the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton.
“I came out of testimony 8 at night and CNN is running quotes from noon on about my testimony, you know, in the House Intelligence Committee,” Trump Jr. said. “I mean, that has to say something about what is going on and who they are. Since [Schiff has] never met a camera he didn’t love, I would bet a lot of money that it was him.”
Federal prosecutors have impaneled a grand jury to investigate former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe following the IG's report alleging that McCabe approved a media disclosure to advance his personal interests. McCabe was later fired for lying to investigators and former FBI Director James Comey about the leaks.
And last year, text messages between FBI lovers Peter Strzok and Lisa Page surfaced that referred to government employees "leaking like mad" in the runup to the Russia collusion probe.
Strzok and Page exchanged numerous anti-Trump text messages when Strzok was a high-level investigator looking into both Clinton and the Trump campaign. The DOJ Inspector General (IG) found that the texts violated policy and compromised the bureau's appearance of impartiality.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office – that there’s no way he gets elected – but I’m afraid we can’t take the risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40,” Strzok texted Page prior to Election Day. Strzok also assured Page that Trump won't become president, because "we'll stop" it.
"The American people have only seen the pieces that have been declassified so far," Nunes said. "There's still more information. This was their insurance policy. A lot of people think the insurance policy was just the overall investigation of the Trump campaign. It's actually much more conspiratorial than that. There was exculpatory information."