WASHINGTON – The US House of Representatives’ Intelligence Committee published on Friday a memo authored by its Republican members that outlines alleged improper surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia-Trump investigation.
The now-declassified memo was released with President Donald Trump’s authorization and without any of the redactions sought by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Justice Department.
GOP members of the committee, headed by California Rep. Devin Nunes, put together the memo on the basis of classified information provided to the panel in connection with its oversight activities. Democratic members of that committee have compiled their own counter-memo that also contains classified information but which has not yet been released to the public.
The four-page Republican memo alleges that a controversial dossier filled with sordid details about Trump and his purported ties to Russia was an “essential part” of an application by the FBI and the Justice Department for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) probable cause order authorizing electronic surveillance of Carter Page, a US citizen who served as a volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign.
The now-infamous dossier was compiled by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, whose research was partially funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, the memo notes.
Yet, according to the memo, neither the initial application for the FISA warrant in October 2016 (shortly before the US presidential election) nor any of its subsequent renewals “disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.”
The application also did not mention that “the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information,” says the memo, whose subject line reads “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
Steele, who was terminated as an FBI source for an unauthorized disclosure of his relationship with the bureau in an October 2016 news article published by US progressive magazine Mother Jones, “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected,” the memo said, citing FBI’s interviews of a former associate deputy attorney general, Bruce Ohr, who continued to have contact with Steele.
The memo goes on to say that then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who resigned abruptly this week, said in closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in December of last year that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secretive federal tribunal) without the Steele dossier information.”
Just days before Trump’s decision Friday to authorize the release of the memo, the FBI had urged the president not to do so, saying it had “grave concerns about (the document’s) material omissions of fact.”
Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, also fought the release of the memo, saying it could endanger national security.
Those legislators also said the document cherry-picked facts and was aimed at discrediting the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, into alleged collusion with Russia by Trump and his associates to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.
Trump, for his part, said of the memo Friday that the actions of the FBI and the Department of Justice were a “disgrace.”
“I think it’s terrible, you want to know the truth, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on in this country ... A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that,” Trump told reporters at the White House.