In an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, former Rep. Trey Gowdy said the FBI gave Donald Trump’s presidential campaign different intelligence briefings than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign received, raising yet again the specter of preferential treatment by the bureau in dealing with the two candidates.
The South Carolina Republican, who’s now a contributor to Fox News, appeared on “Sunday Morning Futures” to discuss Attorney General William Barr’s look into the numerous investigations that surrounded the 2016 presidential campaign.
Both of the candidates had been given so-called defensive briefings by the FBI. However, Gowdy told host Maria Bartiromo that there were worries that there were “two different kinds of defensive briefings to candidates depending on who you like and who you don’t.”
Given that the FBI had withheld transcript material obtained from subjects of the investigation into the Trump campaign from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, Gowdy said, “then your bias begins to impact the investigation.”
“I think what we’re going to find in 2016 is, the intelligence community was providing information to law enforcement that then went into this investigation, where some Democrats are calling for Donald Trump to be in prison,” Gowdy said.
“Have you ever seen the FBI’s internal analysis of whether Christopher Steele was reliable?” he said. “Have you seen the paperwork where he was defrocked as a source because he couldn’t follow FBI rules and regulations? Have you seen the exculpatory information as it relates to George Papadopoulos?
“Here’s one, Maria. Have you seen the disparate defensive debriefings that they gave candidate Clinton versus candidate Trump? And has anyone asked the FBI to explain why they took entirely different tracks with those two debriefings? There’s a lot left to be seen by you and your viewers.”
As for the transcripts, Gowdy said he had seen one that “changed my perspective, because you want to think of law enforcement as being unbiased and disinterested in the outcome, as long as we just find the facts.
“But when you have information that someone you think has done something wrong has, in fact, not done something wrong, when you have exculpatory information, and you don’t share it with others, and then you put that together with Strzok and Page and then the defensive briefings, remember, Maria, the defense of Comey and the media and the Democrats has always been, yes, some in the FBI was biased against Trump, and it didn’t matter. This really matters.”
The transcript related to evidence collected on Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that hadn’t been included in the FISA court warrant obtained against another Trump adviser, Carter Page.
“When you have exculpatory information, and you don’t share it with a court, when you give two different kinds of defensive briefings to the candidates, depending on who you like and who you don’t, then your bias begins to impact the investigation,” Gowdy said.
The FBI has so far denied that different reports were given to different candidates; in a 2017 letter to Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa — former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — an FBI official seemed to indicate that both candidates had received comparable treatment in the area of defensive briefings.
“In August of 2016 the FBI provided a counterintelligence defensive briefing to then-candidate Donald Trump and other senior campaign officials. This defensive briefing was conducted by an experienced FBI counterintelligence agent and focused on the broad range of threats posed by foreign intelligence entities,” the letter from Gregory Bower, assistant director of the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, read.
“Similar briefings were also provided to then-candidate Hillary Clinton and the two Vice Presidential candidates prior to the November election. FBI counterintelligence personnel also provided defensive briefings fo r both campaigns’ staff prior to the election. The FBI is not aware of any action(s) taken as a result of these briefings.”
The assumption here — if Gowdy is accurate — is that the Clinton campaign could have received more information regarding Russia’s disinformation and election-tampering efforts than the Trump campaign received.
That’s a pretty big accusation — and one with major implications.
These are early days of Barr’s investigation into the investigators, as it’s so often termed. However, this is precisely why such an investigation is required.
If we’re to have any confidence in how our intelligence and law enforcement agencies handled themselves during the 2016 campaign, we have to know the facts.
Whether or not this is an accurate accounting of the facts remains to be seen. If it is, however, there need to be repercussions.
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