Sunday, March 5, 2017

It’s Not Interference with Justice Department Independence for White House to Ask for FISA Information

In my earlier post, I explained that the Obama camp is disingenuously responding to revelations that, during the presidential campaign, the Obama administration conducted an investigation, including wiretapping, against Trump associates and perhaps Donald Trump himself. As I elaborated, one avenue of response is to conflate the Justice Department’s two missions – law-enforcement and national security. We can see this strategy playing out in the New York Times coverage of the controversy. According to today’s Times report, a Trump official said that White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II is “working to secure access” to what is believed to be “an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.” Presumably, this means the Trump White House is seeking to review the Justice Department’s applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance of Trump associates, and perhaps Trump himself, from June and October 2016, including any orders issued by the FISA court – as my post explains, it has been reported that the Obama Justice Department’s June application was denied, but its October application (which apparently did not name Trump) was granted. The Times report continues (the italics are mine): It would be a highly unusual breach of the Justice Department’s traditional independence on law enforcement matters for the White House to order it to turn over such an investigative document.

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