The long-awaited release of the so-called “Nunes’ FISA memo” – which was reported by some Republicans in Congress to document FBI surveillance abuses, has finally been released. Although the full memo has not yet appeared, excerpts of it have appeared in conservative news sites. New reports allege that the memo claims the FBI used an unverified and salacious anti-Trump dossier funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign to obtain a warrant to conduct surveillance on Donald Trump campaign advisers.
Around noon on the east coast, it was reported that President Donald Trump had transferred the memo back to the House Intelligence Committee, meaning it will likely be released imminently. Conservative news outlets then started reporting pieces of it.
“A disputed dossier was used by the FBI to obtain a warrant to spy on members of the Trump team, and the FISA court was never told the dossier was political opposition research, according to a House Intelligence Committee memo expected to be released in full today,” Fox News reported on February 2.
Byron York of the Washington Examiner has reported what he says are some of the memo’s key points: Among them, “the Steele dossier formed an essential part of the initial and all three renewal FISA applications against Carter Page”; “Andrew McCabe confirmed that no FISA warrant would have been sought from the FISA Court without the Steele dossier information”; “The political origins of the Steele dossier were known to senior DOJ and FBI officials, but excluded from the FISA applications”; and “DOJ official Bruce Ohr met with Steele beginning in the summer of 2016 and relayed to DOJ information about Steele’s bias. Steele told Ohr that he, Steele, was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected president and was passionate about him not becoming president.” You can read more of York’s report here.
President Donald Trump set the stage on Friday morning, tweeting, “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!”
He then quoted a conservative activist named Tom Fitton, tweeting, “‘You had Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party try to hide the fact that they gave money to GPS Fusion to create a Dossier which was used by their allies in the Obama Administration to convince a Court misleadingly, by all accounts, to spy on the Trump Team.’ Tom Fitton, JW.”
First of all, what is the memo? It’s four-page document that was authored by the staff of House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif. That committee voted to release the memo, and President Donald Trump could have stopped its release. However, the president chose not to do so.
Democrats and the FBI have cried foul about the memo. Some Democrats fear that the memo’s release is an attempt by Republicans and Trump to deflect attention from the Robert Mueller probe or, worse, is laying the foundation for a Saturday Night Massacre style ouster. The Republicans who had seen the memo before its release likened it to Watergate and alleged that it shows concerned abuses of power and bias against Trump by the Justice Department and the FBI.
Until February 2, the public wasn’t able to see the memo’s contents because it was classified. At the center of the GOP charges is the infamous dossier of salacious and unverified accusations about Trump. It was created by a former British spy who was contracted by a firm being paid for by Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and Republicans allege that the dossier was used as a foundation to get a FISA warrant to spy on Carter Page, an affiliate of the Trump presidential campaign.
The FBI’s investigation into Hillary’s Clinton’s email service – which resulted in no criminal charges – is front and center when it comes to Republican concerns. Republicans have also been incensed by texts showing two FBI agents once involved in the probe, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, disliked Trump.
The FBI released a statement raising “grave concerns” about the memo’s release.
“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the FBI said in a statement. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Nunes responded, according to Fox News, “Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies.”
The vote to release the memo reportedly fell along partisan lines, with Democrats considering whether to issue their own counter memo.
“If Americans’ civil liberties were abused, then that needs to come to light so that doesn’t happen again,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said of the memo. “This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice, it does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general.