White House Releases GOP-Authored Memo On Russia Probe
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The controversial memo created by Republican staffers on the House Intelligence Committee alleging abuse of surveillance authority by the Justice Department and FBI has been declassified, according to White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah.
On Friday, Mr. Trump said the memo on alleged abuses at the FBI is a "disgrace."
The release comes against strong objections from the intelligence community. On Wednesday, the FBI issued a rare statement warning against the memo's release, saying incompletely information in the memo raised "grave concerns." FBI Director Christopher Wray also objected to the memo's release, and, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asked White House chief of staff John Kelly not to allow its release.
The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday night to release it, allowing the White House five days to object to its release. But Kelly had indicated Wednesday morning in an interview with Fox News Radio that the memo would be released, and President Trump, after his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, said he agreed "100 percent" that the memo should be released.
What does the memo say?
The gist of it: CBS News' Jeff Pegues reports that the memo focuses in part on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that authorized the surveillance of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Federal law enforcement sources as well as congressional sources briefed on the intelligence during the 2016 campaign have said that well before Page joined the Trump campaign, there were concerns about his contacts with Russian spies. The memo connects information gathered for the Trump "dossier" to the obtaining of those FISA warrants.
The details: The memo claims that on Oct. 21, 2016 the DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order authorizing electronic surveillance on Page. The FBI and DOJ obtained three FISA warrants targeting Page and three FISA renewals, according to the memo. Then-FBI Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one, according to the memo. The memo says then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of the DOJ.
That's where the "dossier" — information compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of Democrats — comes in. The memo says neither the initial application for the warrant in October 2016 or any of the renewals reference the roles of the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton's campaign in funding of Steele's efforts — even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials."
"The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier.) The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and the Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information," the memo claims.
The memo also claims that, before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he kept in contact with the DOJ through then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr. Ohr, who worked closely with Yates then Rosenstein, eventually spoke with the FBI about his communications with Steele. In September 2016, Steele apparently told Ohr he was "'desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,'" according to the memo. The memo also notes Ohr's wife worked for Fusion GPS to help with the opposition research against Trump, something the memo claims was not disclosed.
The memo also claims that McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought without the Steele dossier information. But there is no direct quote from McCabe's (behind-closed-doors) testimony.
The memo also claims information about George Papadopoulos — who has since leaded guilty to lying to the FBI — triggered the opening of a counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok. (Strzok was removed from Mueller's probe after anti-Trump texts between him and former FBI agent Lisa Page were discovered.)
What does the memo not say?
The memo does not appear to allege any violation of federal law. The memo also does not claim the Russia investigation was started with the dossier.
The memo also does not immediately appear to disclose information that seriously compromises national security, or law enforcement methods, as Democrats had feared. There could be longer-term concerns about faith in the FBI, or the willingness of the intelligence community to share information with congressional committees.
How are people reacting to the memo's release?
Page gave this response to the release of the memo to the media: "The brave and assiduous oversight by congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America's democracy. Now that a few of the misdeeds against the Trump movement have been partially revealed, I look forward to updating my pending legal action in opposition to DOJ this weekend in preparation for Monday's next small step on the long, potholed road toward helping to restore law and order in our great country."
What were the objections to its release?
The release came against strong objections from the intelligence community. On Wednesday, the FBI issued a rare statement warning against the memo's release, saying incompletely information in the memo raised "grave concerns." FBI Director Christopher Wray also objected to the memo's release, and, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asked White House chief of staff John Kelly not to allow its release.
Democrats have expressed concern that Republicans are using the memo to undermine the credibility of the FBI and DOJ as Mueller investigates Russian election meddling and any ties to Russia.
The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday night to release the memo, allowing the White House five days to object to its release. But Kelly had indicated Wednesday morning in an interview with Fox News Radio that the memo would be released, and President Trump, after his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, said he agreed "100 percent" that the memo should be released.