The House Intelligence Committee on Saturday released a classified Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI inappropriately spied on an adviser to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The committee posted the 10-page document Saturday after weeks of wrangling between the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Justice Department officials over the contours of classified material he hoped to release.
The memo was meant as a counterweight to a GOP memo that Trump declassified three weeks earlier, claiming that FBI officials misled a secret court to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump camp foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
The memo reveals that the FBI has already launched investigations into members of the Trump team prior to receiving a dossier of allegations about Trump’s ties to the Kremlin, which the president has long derided as a fiction. The dossier was financed by the campaign of Hillary Clinton, leading Republicans to allege that the FBI’s Russia investigation was prompted in part by political opposition research.
The memo also reveals that the FBI’s application to spy on Page and three subsequent renewal were approved by four different judges, all appointed by Republican presidents.
The memo suggests the FBI corroborated elements of Steele’s dossier pertaining to Page when it sought renewals. It also emphasizes that the bureau didn’t rely on the dossier’s most salacious allegations to obtain a warrant to spy on Page.
It also indicates that the FBI’s fact-finding contradicted Page’s testimony to the House Inteligence committee in November about his meetings with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign.
In a statement, Schiff said: “The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the FISC. Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests.”
At the time of the memo’s release, House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (D-Calif.) was addressing the CPAC gathering of conservative activists.
From the stage, he said: “Democrats are “colluding with part of the government to cover up” the FBI’s alleged abuses.
“We think it is clear that the Democrats are not not only trying to cover it up, but are colluding with parts of the government to help cover this up. As you read it, you will see personal attacks on myself and chairman [Rep. Trey] Gowdy with a lot of interesting things that sound really bad, like a lot that has been happening with this Russian investigation over the course of the last year, but what you’re not going to see is anything that actually rejects what was in our memo.”
Nunes has been at the center of debate over a Republican-led memo, which President Donald Trump approved for release on Feb. 2.
Based on previously classified information, the memo contains allegations that top officials at the FBI and Department of Justice officials abused their abilities to conduct surveillance by relying on the disputed Steele dossier as evidence for an application to spy on a Trump campaign adviser. The push to release the memo became a cause célèbre among conservatives.
Schiff and Democrats had complained that Nunes’ memo cherry picks information and gave an inaccurate portrayal on how federal officials sought and secured a special warrant to spy on Page.