President Trump okayed the release of a controversial classified memo from House Republicans (after reportedly bragging to friends that it would “discredit” the FBI), and that memo has dropped. The contents target the FBI and Justice Department over the surveillance of shady Trump campaign advisor Carter Page (who holds extensive Russian ties and was reportedly favored for recruitment as a spy) via a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Order (FISA). In the memo, Rep. Devin Nunes argues that the warrant was issued without the government “accurately provid[ing] an accounting of the relevant facts.”
The Justice Department had warned that this memo’s release would be “extraordinarily reckless,” and FBI Director Christopher Wray also strenuously opposed the document, which was said to lack context and contain “cherry-picked” facts, a complaint further issued by House Democrats. The memo doesn’t accuse any government agency of breaking the law, so what, exactly, does the document allege?
Essentially, the memo reshuffles already-known information with a few new revelations while trying to discredit ex-British spy Christopher Steele’s authoring of the so-called “Golden Showers” dossier, which alleges extensive connections between Trump, his associates, and Russia. You can read the doc in full here, but here are a few main beefs from the House GOP:
- Steele Dossier Funding Not Disclosed To Public: The memo argues that the dossier shouldn’t have been used to justify the FISA order due to its funding by the DNC as opposition research. They take issue with Steele as the compiler of the dossier because he was a “longtime FBI source.” The House GOP believes that all of this (including the $160,000 payment from the DNC) should have been revealed to the public when the dossier surfaced. In addition, the FISA order did not mention Fusion GPS, which is the law firm used by the DNC to obtain the dossier through Steele. It should be noted that NBC is reporting this afternoon that four different FISA judges approved ongoing surveillance of Carter Page.
- Steele’s Words To Yahoo News Cited In FISA Application: The memo alleges that Steele leaked his own words to a Yahoo News article that was cited by the FISA application from the Justice Department. Further, Steele was reportedly “suspended and terminated as an FBI source” due to “an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI.” The memo claims that Steele continued to have contact with then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr — he later worked with Deputy General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing the Russia probe.
- Steele’s Anti-Trump Bias: The memo states that Steele revealed to Ohr how he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” In addition, Ohr’s wife was also reportedly employed by Fusion GPS and engaged in opposition research.
- Outline Of FBI And Justice Department Officials Commenting On The Dossier: The memo calls out the memo as being in its “infancy” at the time that the FISA application was made against Steele. Further, James Comey is blasted for calling the memo “salacious and unverified” when he briefed President Trump on its contents. (It’s worth noting that U.S. intelligence officials later corroborated parts of the dossier.) Further, the memo points out that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe admitted that the dossier was a major reason why the FISA order was approved.
- No Stated Connection Between Page And George Papadopoulos: The memo asserts that the FISA application never connects the dots between Page and Papadopoulos, the Trump campaign aide who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. However, the memo never mentions that Page admitted to MSNBC that he “may have” discussed Russia with the aide who was subsequently downplayed by the White House as a mere “coffee boy.” Yet, curiously, the memo adds (as the very last line), “[T]he Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016,” which was previously reported by the New York Times.
Yes, Nunes’ own memo tries to discredit the dossier while also admitting that it was Papadopoulos, not the dossier, that triggered the Russia probe. Amazing?
In response to the memo’s release, James Comey is not impressed by the “dishonest and misleading” document, not to mention the lack of a smoking gun. He tweeted, “That’s it?”
The FBI has also released a statement, which reads in part: “FBI Special Agents have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission.” Read their full remarks below, courtesy of MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin.
Also via Griffin, the reaction of top Democrats in the House and Senate:
And Senate vice-intel chair Mark Warner:
Interesting, conservative Congressman Trey Gowdy — who spearheaded the numerous House investigations into Hillary Clinton and Benghazi — came out to voice support for Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Sen. John McCain has also weighed in:
Finally, this is always perhaps worth remembering: