NEW YORK — Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee claimed several times during a hearing that four members of the Trump campaign were the subjects of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) investigations.
Lee’s claims have not been publically confirmed, but were also not explicitly denied during the hearing in question, with a Justice Department lawyer cautioning against the discussion of classified information.
As of now, the government has only confirmed that Carter Page, a tangential adviser to the Trump campaign, was under surveillance with FISA warrants during the Obama administration. The warrants were reportedly obtained citing the discredited anti-Trump dossier produced by Fusion GPS and funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
Lee made the claim about FISA and the four Trump campaign members while she was posing questions to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch during a December 2018 House Judiciary Committee hearing. A transcript of the hearing was released online last week.
During the hearing, Lee posed the following question to Lynch, referencing George Papadopoulos, Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn as also being under FISA investigation (emphasis added):
I want to talk about the spring, summer, and autumn of 2016. Carter Page, at the time, was suspected of being a Russian asset; George Papadopoulos had told the Australian ambassador that Russians had Hillary emails; Paul Manafort had been named Trump campaign manager; Michael Flynn was Trump’s chief national security adviser and foreign policy adviser; and just yesterday, had a continuance in his sentencing.
One thing that all of these persons had in common was that each was the subject of a FISA court investigation, which we now know, and all were directly connected to Trump. As Attorney General, you had the authority to oversee FISA application process. Is that correct?
“Yes,” was Lynch’s reply.
Lynch did not dispute Lee’s claim about four Trump campaign officials being under FISA probes before Justice Department lawyer Bradley Weinsheimer interjected.
“I would object to that question as it potentially gets into possibly classified information, and also equities in an ongoing investigation,” Weinsheimer stated, notably also without denying Lee’s claim.
The conversation continued as follows:
Lee: I beg to differ. It is a simple question that says as Attorney General, you had the authority to oversee FISA process. It did not ask in particular about any individual name.
Mr. Weinsheimer: The preface of your question leads into the final question you asked, and I wouldn’t want this witness’ answer to be in any way interpreted as agreeing with any part of the preface of the question.
Mr. Nadler: The preface of the question being that as Attorney General, you had the authority to oversee a FISA application, is that —
Mr. Weinsheimer: No, the preface of the question was all of the indications about the various people that may or may not be under investigation, okay, the whole lead-up to the question.
Again, Weinsheimer does not specifically deny the claim about FISA investigations of four people tied to the Trump campaign. Instead he used phraseology referring to “various people” that “may or may not be under investigation.”
Lee pressed on, wrongly implying that the names of Manafort, Flynn and Papadopoulos are in the “public domain” in relation to FISA investigations.
She states: “If I may recite, these were simply statement of facts that are in the public domain. They are in the newspaper about Mr. Page, Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Manafort, Mr. Flynn. I can simply ask with the idea of the Attorney General’s authority does she have authority over FISA applications. That is a simple question.”
Weinsheimer replies, “I have no objection to that question.”
The attorney then says that only Page’s FISA warrants are in the public domain, once again not denying that there may have been other FISA investigations. In late October 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey signed the first of three successful FISA applications to obtain warrants to spy on Page. The second and third were renewal applications, since a FISA warrant must be renewed every 90 days.
Weinsheimer schools Lee:
There has been a public release of one FISA application that relates to Carter Page. If you wanted to ask a specific question about that, I wouldn’t have an objection to it, but just because something is in the public domain does not mean that as the former Attorney General, this witness can talk about it, because it could relate to classified information, and it could also affect equities relating to an ongoing investigation.
Lee retorts that all four names are in the public domain:
Well, let me work to compromise in response to your concern, but to put on record that I am not asking the Attorney General about the details of FISA. I am listing names that are in the public domain, and I am not asking her to assess that. I am asking her if names were released in an ongoing investigation in the Department of Justice, would that have impacted a campaign?
“And is that just a general question hypothetically about any names, not specific names?” asks Weinsheimer.
“I will cede to the general question of any names,” Lee replies.
Finally, Lynch answers the question but doesn’t say anything about Lee’s claims of three other Trump campaign members being under FISA investigation.
She replies: “Yes. Thank you, Congresswoman. Certainly, the release of the names of anyone under investigation or particular surveillance can do great harm in a number of ways to that person’s reputation, to people’s trust in the Department’s ability to maintain confidences, and if anyone were, in fact, affiliated with a campaign for office, certainly there could be aspersions cast on the campaign because of their affiliation, as well.”
Later in the testimony, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said that he was told by the FBI director that the agency previously opened investigative files — but not FISA applications — on four individuals, some associated with Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Jordan stated: “They opened a file on four individuals, my understanding is — if we can correct the record — not a FISA application, but a file on four individuals. And those individuals, at least my knowledge is, some of those individuals were associated with the Trump campaign.”
Speaking on MSNBC last week, Former FBI General Counsel James Baker would not say one way or the other whether the dossier was utilized to conduct surveillance on anyone else from the Trump campaign. Baker said he was not familiar with “what else the government has confirmed” on the subject.
“I don’t think I should comment on that. I don’t know what else the government has confirmed,” he said. “I don’t want to confirm or deny anything about other potential FISA applications.”
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.
Joshua Klein contributed research to this article.