President Trump has approved the release, with no redactions, of the classified memo prepared by Rep. Devin Nunes on alleged FISA court abuses. Democrats, along with some Senate Republicans, have expressed disagreement with releasing the memo over grounds of national security. FBI and Justice Department officials also disagreed with the memo’s release. However, despite the opposition, President Trump chose to declassify the memo in full and make it publicly available.
First and foremost, I have made a full copy of the memo available here as a PDF document. There is nothing worse than getting filtered bits and pieces of a source document from various media outlets. Read it for yourself. (Courtesy Axios)
Since this matter is being politicized, I’ll try to include reports on this memo from a variety of sources.
First, a report from Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday approved the release of a classified Republican memo that alleges bias against him at the FBI and Justice Department, in an extraordinary showdown with senior law enforcement officials over the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ignoring the urgings of the FBI earlier this week, Trump declassified the memo and sent it to Congress. The Republican president told reporters that the contents of the document tell a disgraceful story and that “a lot of people should be ashamed.”
The memo was commissioned by the Republican chairman of the House intelligence panel, Devin Nunes. It purports to show that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department misled a U.S. court in seeking to extend electronic surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
The Reuters story did not go deep into detail over what the memo contained. For deeper content, we’ll need to go to a Fox News story on the memo:
A memo that shows alleged government surveillance abuse has been released and includes testimony from a high-ranking government official who says without the infamous Trump dossier, the FBI and DOJ would not have secured surveillance warrants to spy on at least one member of the Trump team.
It specifically cites the DOJ and FBI’s surveillance of onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, saying the dossier “formed an essential part” of the application to spy on him.
The memo shows that after former British spy Christopher Steele was cut off from the FBI, he continued to pass information, as did Fusion GPS, through Justice Department Official Bruce Ohr. Ohr’s wife Nellie began working for Fusion GPS as early as May 2016.
It also claims evidence that Steele has a personal animus for the President Trump.
“Steele admitted to Ohr his feelings against then Candidate Trump, in September of 2016, when Steele told Ohr, that he Steele ‘was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” the memo reads, according to an excerpt obtained by Fox News.
And here is how CNN covered the release:
House Republicans, with the approval of President Donald Trump, on Friday released a disputed GOP intelligence memo that alleges FBI abuses of its surveillance authority.
The highly controversial memo from the GOP and Rep. Devin Nunes alleges that then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee that no surveillance warrant would have been sought for a Trump campaign aide without the Steele dossier.
The memo’s release threatens to further fracture the frayed relationship between the President and his Justice Department and intelligence community, both of which opposed the release of the document, which is based on classified intelligence. The FBI issued a rare public warning on Wednesday that the memo omits key information that could impact its veracity.
The FISA court granted a warrant to monitor former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and approved three subsequent renewals, according to the memo.
Even if the dossier was used as part of the application, a FISA renewal indicates that a judge was convinced that the surveillance was yielding information about the target acting as an agent of a foreign power that merited continued monitoring.
Democrats are now trying to discredit the memo by accusing Devin Nunes of making last-minute “secret” changes before release:
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has accused the committee’s Republican chairman, Devin Nunes, of modifying a secret GOP memo that is thought to accuse the FBI and the Justice Department of improperly surveilling a Trump campaign adviser before the 2016 election.
House Intel Committee Republicans voted on Monday to release the memo, despite Justice Department warnings that such a move would be “extraordinarily reckless” because of questions over its claims’ accuracy. That started a five-day countdown for the White House to approve or deny its release.
Schiff said in a statement on Wednesday night, however, that Nunes made “material changes” to the version the committee sent to the White House. He asserted that committee members were not immediately made aware of the modifications and had no opportunity to compare the original memo to the modified version until Wednesday evening.
The memo immediately became politicized last week as members of Congress were granted access to view it as a classified document. Republicans immediately wanted it released, while Democrats immediately questioned the veracity and content of the memo. As a result, it looks like Democrats are in the process of creating their own memo:
In response to the release of a Republican memo alleging that the FBI abused its surveillance tools, Democrats on Capitol Hill have prepared their own memo.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, produced the 10-page document as a rebuttal to the GOP memo on alleged Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses that the House panel voted to make public on Monday.
For the Democrat’s memo to actually be released, it would have to undergo the same process that the Republican memo has gone through.
First, the House Intelligence Committee would vote to have the memo released to the public — and if they vote for it, President Donald Trump would have five days to object to its public release. [Emphasis added]
You read right, President Trump could ultimately choose to disallow the release of a Democratic memo which counters the Nunes memo. What transpires over the next week will be fascinating as both sides circle the wagons and prepare for a political mud fight.
Former FBI Director James Comey tweeted his thoughts on the memo:
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.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 2, 2018
This is relevant since most of the actions alleged in the memo would have occurred while Comey was the FBI Director in 2015 and 2016.