Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) said that the FBI neglected to tell the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court that the controversial dossier on then-candidate Donald Trump the agency relied upon had been prepared at the behest of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The secret court granted the FBI’s petition to conduct surveillance on Carter Page -- an American citizen volunteering for the Trump presidential campaign. He also expressed confidence in special counsel Robert Mueller -- the former FBI chief who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and any links to the Trump political organization.
Gowdy said he believes that the FISC would not have granted and repeatedly renewed the warrant to snoop on the Trump campaign if it had not been for the material contained in the uncorroborated dossier that had been prepared by ex-British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm. Republicans have expressed concerns that the wife of a high-level FBI official was hired by Fusion GPS to help in the effort.
In an exchange with CBS correspondent Margaret Brennan, Gowdy cast doubt on materials reportedly used by the Obama administration in petitioning for a surveillance warrant before the FISC. Referring to an article that appeared on Yahoo News, that was supposedly used to bolster the Obama administration argument for a warrant, Gowdy said, "...there's no court in America that allows a newspaper article to be considered as evidence."
MARGARET BRENNAN: But short of that disclosure, you still would have believed this FISA surveillance warrant was justified? I mean, it-- your-- your problem is in the disclosure within the application, but the surveillance itself of this American, Carter Page -- was named in your memo, who was at one point a Trump campaign associate -- was that justified, that surveillance?
REP. GOWDY: Um, we'll never know, because the application contained three parts: it -- it included the dossier, it included reference to a newspaper article which by the way no court in America considers a newspaper article to be evidence, and it included other information they had on Carter Page. So what I would say to the FBI and DOJ is if you had enough on Carter Page with just him, why did you include something that the National Enquirer might not run? And why did you cite a newspaper article when there's no court in America that allows a newspaper article to be considered as evidence? If you had enough without it, why did you use it? That would be my question to them.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Were the judges political? Four times, this was approved.
REP. GOWDY: No. I-- I-- the judges are only as good as what's put in front of them. Judges don't do independent research. So, you're looking at--
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, this is an --
REP. GOWDY: -- this stack of paper.
While the revelations should not affect the current investigations into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, Gowdy asserted that the FBI was wrong in failing to disclose the anti-Trump sentiments of the agency’s sources. “They could have easily said it was the DNC and Hillary Clinton. That would have been really easy,” Gowdy said in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Speaking on Sunday, Gowdy said, “It took longer to explain it the way they did than if they just came right out and said, ‘Hillary Clinton for America and DNC paid for it.’ But they didn’t do that.”
Gowdy was among Republicans who wrote a memo that describes the FBI’s use of the dossier to snoop on Trump volunteer Page in October 2016. It examines the leading FBI and DOJ bureaucrats involved in petitioning the secret federal court for authorization to conduct surveillance. Gowdy joined House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and two investigators on the committee in drafting the memo, which was declassified by President Trump and released on Friday. The memo shows how Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants were obtained, and what relationship the Trump dossier had with those FISA warrant applications. Gowdy said the public may "never know" if the surveillance against Page was justified. The congressman said that the FISA warrants relied on just the uncorroborated dossier, a reference to a Yahoo News article, and other information available to the FISA court judges who approved the warrants.
Gowdy is the only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who has seen the actual FISA warrant applications, while Rep. Nunes has not. He said that the memo does not discredit special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and ties to the Trump campaign. "Not to me, it doesn't, and I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of it," Gowdy said, asked if the memo has an impact on the Russia probe. "There is a Russia investigation without a dossier." He said that the dossier is not relevant to the June 2016 meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., senior adviser Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer. Saying that the dossier has nothing to do with obstruction of justice, Gowdy said, "So there's going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier."
Gowdy said that he has confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. When asked whether it would be troubling should Trump fire Rosenstein, he said, "It would. Again, I'm not in the Senate. I don't have advice and consent. And the president has not sought my counsel on this," Gowdy told CBS News' correspondent Margaret Brennan. He confirmed that Rosenstein should not be fired.
Gowdy also expressed confidence in special counsel Mueller, who he affirmed is independent. "Well I'm actually in a really small group, I think, of Republicans that think that this FISA process is suspect and wrong and should not have taken place. But you still have a Russia investigation even without it," Gowdy said. "So I don't know how many other Republicans feel that way. I am on record as saying I support Bob Mueller 100 percent. I think you would have a Russia -- look, Russia tried to interfere with our election in 2016 with or without a dossier. So you need an investigation into Russia. You need an investigation into the Trump Tower and the Cambridge Analytica email, separate and apart from the dossier. So those are not connected issues to me. They may be for Republicans, but they're not for me. I say investigate everything Russia did but admit that this was a really sloppy process that you engaged in to surveil a U.S. citizen."
Gowdy told CBS correspondent Brennan that the Republican memo he co-authored with Rep. Nunes will not have "any impact on the Russia probe." With regard to President Trump's claim that the memo "totally vindicates" him in the Russia investigation, Gowdy said, "I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of [the memo]," Gowdy said.
"There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower. The dossier has nothing to do with an email sent by Cambridge Analytica. The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain." Papadopoulos is a former Trump campaign volunteer who has been convicted of lying to the FBI. Cambridge Analytica conducts data mining and other services to electoral campaigns and worked for the Trump campaign.