On CNN, House Republican struggles to explain a glaring hole in his FBI conspiracy theory

Jim Jordan thinks the FBI should ignore any tip that comes from a partisan source. It doesn't work like that.

CREDIT: SCREENGRAB
CREDIT: SCREENGRAB

During a CNN interview on Wednesday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) struggled to account for a gaping hole in the conspiracy theory he and other Republicans have been pushing about purported anti-Trump bias in the FBI.

Jordan has played a leading role in the Republican effort to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. His conspiracy, which he’s often given the opportunity to articulate without being challenged on Fox News, is that the FBI was actually colluding with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in an (obviously unsuccessful) effort to bring down Donald Trump before the election.

During the CNN interview on Wednesday, Jordan repeatedly suggested that because some of the information taken to the FISA court to get a warrant on former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page may have originated from a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, an ex-British spy who was working for a research firm that being compensated by Democrats, Page shouldn’t have been surveilled in the first place.

“Here’s the process that concerns me — we have the FBI go to a secret court to get a secret document to spy on a fellow American citizen, and they used a campaign document,” Jordan said, alluding to reports that the firm the Steele worked for, Fusion GPS, was compensated by a Democratic campaign lawyer. “They relied on the dossier, and they didn’t tell the court that it was paid for by the Democratic National Committee the Clinton campaign.”

Jordan’s claim about federal agents not telling the court that the dossier was a political document is false. As House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) acknowledged during a Fox & Friends interview over the weekend, the application federal agents brought to the FISA court to get a warrant against Page in October did in fact reference the political origins of the dossier.

But as CNN host Chris Cuomo pointed out, Jordan’s entire line of argument is beside the point. The FBI takes tips from anyone who provides them, but then works to verify information on its own.

Steele’s relationship with the FBI “irrelevant to the sustainability and the worth of his information,” Cuomo said.

“They’re totally separate… They vetted the individual material themselves, and they built on it.”

“You don’t know that,” Jordan insisted.

In order to obtain a 90-day FISA warrant, federal agents have to demonstrate probable cause that a potential target is acting as a foreign agent. Not only did investigators who sought a warrant against Page meet that standard in October 2016, but they presented enough evidence to secure three subsequent renewals.

And even if one shares Jordan’s concerns about the Steele dossier, the FBI’s investigation actually began when a different Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, bragged to an Australian diplomat that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos’ comments were brought to the attention of the FBI, and the bureau opened a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign in July 2016 — three months before a FISA warrant was taken out against Page.

As Republicans have tried to make a case that the FBI’s investigation into Trump is rooted in political bias, some of the legitimate reasons that Page came under suspicion have become more clear. In 2013, Page wrote a letter stating bragging about his service “as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.” Page also admittedly had a relationship with Victor Podobnyy, who was later charged with working as a Russian intelligence agent under diplomatic cover.

Jordan has spent months pushing the FBI/Clinton conspiracy theory on Fox News. On Tuesday, he joined Fox & Friends and teamed up with host Ainsley Earhardt in an attempt to discredit the entire FISA court — the logic being that since two of the 11 judges were appointed to the federal bench by former President Bill Clinton, those judges were incapable of following the law when it comes to cases involving Republicans.

While Fox News generally doesn’t push back on Jordan’s claims, other networks do. In December, for instance, Jordan did an interview with CNN anchor John Berman and admitted that he’s discussed Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with the White House.

Berman also pointed out a major and obvious hole in Jordan’s FBI/Clinton conspiracy theory — if the FBI was colluding with Clinton during the election, then why did FBI Director James Comey go out of his way to publicize the Clinton email investigation just days before the election, while remaining silent about the bureau’s investigation of Trump?

All Jordan could say in response was “we’ll find out.”