WASHINGTON — Republicans released the “Nunes memo” on Friday, a document that they say reveals abuse of the government’s surveillance powers and so-called “deep state” bias against President Trump.
The memo — named for its author Devin Nunes, the GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee — was criticized by the FBI as being misleading. The bureau, under director Christopher Wray, said that it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
The memo, below, largely focuses on the way that the FBI and the Justice Department obtained surveillance warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to monitor Carter Page, who had been a volunteer Trump campaign adviser.
The first warrant was granted on Oct. 21, 2016, and three renewals were granted. The memo claimed that an “essential part” of the FBI’s application for the warrants was a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, an ex-British intelligence officer, on the extent of Trump and his campaign’s contacts with the Russians.
“Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Cole and the research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia,” the memo says.
It notes that Steele “was suspended, then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an Oct. 30, 2016 Mother Jones article by David Corn.”
The Nunes memo, however, does not go into detail on what other factors the FBI and the DOJ used in their application to justify the issuance of a warrant. It claims that Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the FBI who resigned earlier this week, testified to the Intelligence Committee in December that “no surveillance warrant” would have been sought from the FISA court “without the Steele dossier information.”
“While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations,” the memo says.
The 4-page memo goes in detail to try to lay out the case that FBI and DOJ officials held a bias against Trump. The inference is that the Russia investigation, now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was tainted by the political leanings of federal agents.
In one passage, it claims that Steele, after he was “terminated as a source,” maintained contact with Bruce Ohr, who was then associate deputy attorney general.
“Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing Ohr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he ‘was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.’ This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at subsequently in official FBI files — but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.” The memo also claims that Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS “to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump.” The memo says that Ohr later provided the FBI with the opposition research, but the Ohrs relationship with Steele was “inexplicably concealed” in the FISA application.
But the memo also points out that the impetus for the Russia investigation was not Page, but George Papadopoulos, who also was a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. According to the memo, FBI agent Pete Strozk opened the investigation in July, 2016, over Papadopoulos’ contacts with Russian sources. In November, Papadopoulos plead guilty to lying to federal agents over his Russian contacts, and he is cooperating with Mueller and his team. Strozk was reassigned from the Mueller team for exchanging texts with his girlfriend, FBI attorney Lisa Page, about their dislike for Trump.
Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), said that its release was a way to undermine law enforcement at a time when Mueller is conducting his investigation into Russian interference.
Schiff, who is the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote a rebuttal memo but said that the Republican majority has so far refused to release it. Democrats are expected to challenge claims that the FISA warrants were granted on the basis of the Steele dossier, and that other intelligence was a factor.
A number of media outlets also raised questions of why two conservative media outlets, the Washington Examiner and Fox News, got an early look at the memo. Nunes will be interviewed by Fox News’ Bret Baier on Friday evening.
House Speaker Paul Ryan supported the memo, and contended that it would not have an impact on the Mueller investigation. But others saw it as an attack on the independence of law enforcement agencies.
Earlier on Friday, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who is currently undergoing cancer treatment, released a statement in which he that “the latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the release of the memo “reckless,” and said it “demonstrates an astonishing disregard for the truth.”
“Unlike almost every House member who voted in favor of this memo’s release, I have actually read the underlying documents on which the memo was based. They simply do not support its conclusions,” he said.
But Trump ordered it declassified, writing in a tweet on Friday morning, “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!”
At the White House, shortly after its release, he told reporters, “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.” One of those named in the memo is Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who signed off on one or more of the FISA applications. There has been speculation that Trump would attempt to fire him after the release of the memo. Asked about Rosenstein, Trump told reporters, “You figure that one out.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement, “Congress has made inquiries concerning an issue of great importance for the country and concerns have been raised about the department’s performance. I have great confidence in the men and women of this Department. But no department is perfect.”
Former FBI director James Comey responded to the release on Twitter Friday saying, “That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”