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Jordan, Meadows Send Letter to FISA Court Questioning Kris Appointment

Republican Rep. from Ohio Jim Jordan on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 13, 2019 ( Jim Lo Scalzo/Reuters)

House Oversight Committee Republicans Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows issued nine demands to FISA Court presiding judge James Boasberg in a Thursday letter in response to the appointment of Obama Department of Justice lawyer David Kris to help oversee the FBI’s reform of FISA applications.

The letter, obtained by National Review, asked Boasberg to identify who else besides Kris was considered, whether Kris’s past defense of the FISA application to surveil Trump-campaign adviser Carter Page was taken into account, and whether “the FISC bears any responsibility for the illegal surveillance of Carter Page,” among other concerns.

“If the FISC’s goal is to hold the FBI accountable for its serious misconduct, Mr. Kris does not appear to be an objective — or likely effective — amicus curiae for several reasons,” the letter states. “At minimum, the selection of Mr. Kris creates a perception that he is too personally invested on the side of the FBI to ensure it effectuates meaningful reform.”

A Republican official with knowledge of the letter told National Review that the letter signaled a concerted Congressional effort to reform FISA.

“For too long, the FBI has remained largely un-checked when it comes to the FISA process. Congress must ensure that FISC stands ready to protect civil liberties without even the slightest indicia of political bias,” he said.

The letter appears to be a follow-up to Monday comments from Meadows, who said in an interview that Republicans were “appealing this to the Judge” regarding Kris’s appointment. The North Carolina Congressman also slammed the move to appoint Kris, saying that “there’s no way” Kris is the right man to address abuses “if he doesn’t even acknowledge that there is a problem.”

Kris, a former assistant attorney general in the Obama DOJ’s national security division, has extensive experience with the FISA Court, serving as an amicus curiae, or special adviser, since March 2016.

A frequent contributor to Lawfare blog, Kris was an outspoken defender of the FBI’s authority in surveilling Page, who was accused of being a Russian agent.

Following the release of heavily-redacted FISA applications used to surveil Page in July 2018, Kris doubled down. “It seems to me very likely that if we get below the tip of the iceberg into the submerged parts and more is revealed, it will get worse, not better,” for Page, he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow at the time. The letter references Kris’s comment to Maddow as evidence that he is biased in favor of the bureau and against Page.

DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed in December that the FBI knowingly withheld information that Page was a CIA informant in order to obtain a FISA warrant against him, and even doctored an email to keep the information from the court. The report also revealed that the bureau did not inform the FISC of the partisan origins of the uncorroborated Steele dossier despite its playing a “central and essential” role in their application to surveil Page.

In their letter, Jordan and Meadows also request that Boasberg give greater insight into the details surrounding the court’s assessment of the Page applications, including when it “first received any indication that information contained in the FBI’s surveillance applications for Carter Page was misleading or false.”

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