A memo–drafted by Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) Devin Nunes (R. CA)– that outlines alleged government surveillance abuse was released Friday. The crux of the memo is that without the now infamous Trump dossier–crafted by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and political investigative firm Fusion GPS– the FBI and DOJ would not have secured surveillance warrants to spy on at least one member of the Trump team.
The memo claims the FBI and DOJ used false and misleading media reporting to lend credibility to the dossier while Fusion GPS briefed major American news outlets to include New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, New Yorker, Yahoo and Mother Jones–effectively an indictment of the media, accusing them of providing false information that ultimately prompted the multiple FISA warrant applications into members of the Trump campaign like Carter Page.
The HPSCI memo shows that after former British spy Christopher Steele was terminated as a source from the FBI for unauthorized disclosure, 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 lays out evidence that Steele had a personal hatred towards President Trump alleging that Steele had ideological motivations that were not included in the FISA application. Senior DOJ officials knew about ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump bias, according to the memo.
“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 release of the four-page memo came after the HPSCI voted earlier this week, over unanimous Democrat objections, to make the document public. This led to an admonition from the FBI, which said Wednesday they had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” Historically the FBI does not weigh in publicly on these types of issues.
During the days leading up to the release, the primary objections stemmed from a supposed risk to exposure of intelligence and counterintelligence sources and methods. The memo–effectively a summary of congressional oversight considerations and not classified details from the applications themselves– does not appear to reveal anything of a deeply classified nature–calling in to question the initial Top Secret//NOFORN classification of the document itself, as well as the concerns raised about its release–making the protestations seem spurious.
On Thursday night in an effort to prevent the memo’s release, Rep. Adam Schiff–the ranking Democrat on the House committee– claimed that Nunes had made “material changes” to the memo that was sent to the White House for review. In response, Nunes’ office described the changes as minor and blasted the complaint as a distraction.
The White House backed the memo’s release, declassifying it ahead of time and calling for “transparency.”
GOP-led House investigators believe the FBI used a questionable dossier, initially prepared as campaign opposition research for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, to obtain the FISA warrant later exercised on various members of the Trump campaign. Republicans and right leaning pundits have argued for several weeks that the memo should be immediately made public, leading to a social media #ReleaseTheMemo campaign.
Meanwhile, Democrats and those self identified members of the “resistance” maintain the memo brings nothing new to the table –calling it misleading, inaccurate and an attempt to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and alleged collusion to that end with the Trump campaign.
The release of the memo promises to be just the tip of the iceberg, as each side of the political aisle, the DOJ, and the FBI claim no one is in possession of all the facts. If nothing else, this memo has raised far more questions than it answers.
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