Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan seem to be a little unfamiliar with criminal procedures and federal investigations and posed several questions to their readers in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. The questions are relatively basic, so here are the answers.
Question 1: If George Papadopoulos was central to the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign, why did the FBI wait more than 6 months to interview him in late January and again in February? And even if they were trying to keep the probe quiet during the 2016 election, why wait more than 2 months after Election Day?
ANSWER: The way the FBI works with witnesses, the FBI will interview targets of investigations last, after the FBI has a handle on the facts. This is true for fraud cases, drug conspiracies, and most other criminal cases. Armed with these facts, they can pressure the suspect or witness to be truthful. Sometimes, these interviews even occur after indictments are handed out.
Question 2: If Papadopoulos was so critical to the investigation, why did the FBI get a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, warrant on Carter Page in the summer of 2016 but not on Papadopoulos, the alleged central player?
ANSWER: Here, you are assuming Papadopoulos is the alleged central player. Again, in most conspiracy cases, the first defendants to get indicted are the minor participants. Just because a tip prompted an investigation, doesn’t mean the subject of the tip itself is the most critical piece. For example, drug conspiracies often start with a routine traffic stop of someone associated with a minor participant (a buyer, perhaps). The FBI will initiate an investigation and determine who the bigger players might be.
Question 3: If Papadopoulos was key to a collusion investigation and evidence existed supporting that claim, why would Bruce Ohr, the former DOJ official married to Fusion GPS’ investigator, meet with Christopher Steele, author of the so-called “Trump dossier” hired by the Clinton campaign, before and after the election?
ANSWER: Again, you make an assumption that Papadopoulos was the key to the investigation when the tip about him may have been only what prompted the investigation. Also, part two of this question is irrelevant as it pertains to part one.
Question 4: Why would former FBI Director James Comey brief President Obama and President-Elect Trump on the contents of the Russian dossier, but not do the same thing on this campaign staffer’s alleged collusion?
ANSWER: I think it was pretty clear, the president was briefed because the dossier was about to be made public and contained very embarrassing allegations. The Government will never show its hand unless information is already in the public realm.
Question 5: Why won’t the FBI answer questions from Congress on this very topic? Why do they continue to refuse transparency on whether they paid Christopher Steele for the Russian Dossier? We in Congress have asked them repeatedly to tell us what was in the application they took to the FISA Court to get a warrant for spying on the Trump campaign. Did they use the dossier in their application? This demands an answer.
ANSWER: No sane person would want an investigative organization to lay out what they know at the outset. It would give the targets a chance to prep their defense and any statements to align with the facts. Once a case is indicted, discovery will then be shared pursuant to federal rules of criminal procedure. In many cases, however, even after indictment, the Government will seek a protective order on discovery, barring any parties from copying and sharing it. Obviously, there are members of Congress who are loyal disciples of the President and/or other potential targets of the investigation and who would not be able to abide by any protective order. That being said, I’m sure if there was an issue of national security involved, some select members of the House or Senate would probably be briefed as the situation necessitates.