GOP memo alleging FBI abuse of surveillance powers in Russia probe released
WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) - The House Intelligence Committee has released a memo prepared by Republican staff that accuses FBI officials of abusing surveillance powers to investigate President Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
The four-page memo alleges that FBI agents used unverified information from a dossier partially funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to obtain a warrant to surveil former Trump adviser Carter Page in the fall of 2016.
“I think it’s terrible,” Trump said Friday of the memo’s allegations after authorizing its release. “I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on in this country.”
“A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves,” he added.
The FBI has stated that there are “material omissions” in the memo and it has "grave concerns" about its contents. Senior FBI officials had made direct appeals to the White House, warning that the document release could set a dangerous precedent.
Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., dismissed those complaints and accused the FBI and DOJ of trying to hide misconduct by top officials biased against President Trump.
"The Committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another," Nunes said in a statement Friday.
The memo asserts “a troubling breakdown of legal processes” intended to protect Americans, and it raises concerns about the interactions between the FBI and DOJ and the FISA court.
According to the memo, the FBI obtained a FISA probable cause order on Page on Oct. 21, 2016 and renewed that warrant three times. Each renewal required a separate finding of probable cause, and the applications were approved at different times by then-FBI Director James Comey, then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
The memo alleges that, in each instance, the FBI failed to provide the FISA court with all of the relevant information about its evidence against Page.
It also aims to discredit former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was paid over $160,000 by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to produce the dossier, specifically accusing Steele of lying to the FBI about his contacts with journalists in the fall of 2016. It notes that his relationship with the FBI was severed over those contacts and an assessment later found Steele’s reporting was “minimally corroborated.”
The FISA applications allegedly did not reveal the political origins of the dossier or Steele’s anti-Trump bias, which he confirmed to Associate Attorney General Bruce Ohr in a conversation in September 2016. They also did not reveal that Ohr’s wife worked for the firm that hired Steele.
According to the memo, agents used a Yahoo News article to bolster Steele’s claims about Page, but they did not reveal to the court that the article was also based on Steele’s 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 states.
The document makes no reference to other evidence against Page included in the FISA applications. However, it claims McCabe told the committee in December 2017 that the initial warrant would not have been sought without the Steele dossier material.
The memo appears to confirm recent New York Times reporting that the initial counterintelligence probe was spurred by information about another Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos obtained in July 2016. Papadopoulos later pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
It also attempts to cast doubt on the case against Papadopoulos, stating that it was initiated by FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who displayed “a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton” in text messages to his mistress obtained by the DOJ Inspector General’s Office.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, issued a statement Friday calling the release of the memo a "shameful" effort to discredit the FBI with misleading information.
“The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few Members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman Nunes himself chose not to review," he said. "It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign. The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President. Tellingly, when asked whether the Republican staff who wrote the memo had coordinated its drafting with the White House, the Chairman refused to answer."
Democrats on the committee authored their own memo rebutting the document, but the committee voted against releasing it at this time.