The controversial memo produced by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleging “worse than Watergate” intelligence abuses has been declassified and released.
The report confirms – amid protests by Democrats and FBI officials that it is inaccurate and missing crucial context – that the salacious and widely discredited Democrat-funded, opposition-research “dossier” was essential to obtaining permission to spy on a Trump campaign aide.
Spearheaded by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the memo says then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe – who resigned unexpectedly Monday – testified to the committee that the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court would not have approved surveillance warrants to wiretap former Trump policy adviser Carter Page if not for the dossier.
The dossier, commissioned by the political research firm Fusion GPS with funding from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, was written by former British spy Christopher Steele.
Further, according to the memo, the FBI and Justice Department relied on a Yahoo News story by Michael Isikoff to lend credibility to the dossier.
But the source of the report was the author of the dossier, Steele, who held personal animus toward Trump, according to the memo, and was “passionate” about ensuring Trump did not become president.
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Senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, the memo says, met multiple times with Steele, beginning in the summer of 2016, and informed the DOJ of Steele’s bias.
The memo says senior DOJ and FBI officials knew about the political origins of the Steele dossier but didn’t state that fact in the FISA applications.
Link to Mueller investigation
Steele was suspended and then terminated by the FBI as a source for disclosing to the media his relationship with the bureau. But Steele, the memo states, continued contact with the Justice Department through Ohr, who worked closely with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who opposed release of the Nunes memo.
It was Rosenstein who approved FISA applications to wiretap Carter Page, and it’s Rosenstein who now oversees special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election.
Trump told reporters Friday regarding the memo that “a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.”
“I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country,” he said.
Asked whether the memo would increase the likelihood he would fire Rosenstein, the president replied: “You figure that one out.”
The memo further states that during the time Steele was in contact with Ohr, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS “to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump.”
“Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNS and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS,” the memo says.
“But Ohr’s relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed” from the FISA court.
Judicial Watch: Memo shows Russia probe unwarranted
In an interview Friday after the release of the memo, Tom Fitton, the president of the government watchdog Judicial Watch, said the revelations in the memo show that the entire Mueller investigation is unjustified, arguing it is based on the discredited dossier.
“When you have Andrew McCabe, who is no friend of Donald Trump, testifying there would be no spying operation on the Trump team without this Clinton dossier, that necessarily means there wouldn’t have been a Mueller investigation,” he told the Fox News Channel’s Harris Faulkner.
Fitton reasoned that Mueller was hired to investigate alleged Russia collusion, “and the only reason there’s alleged Russia collusion, it looks like, is because they had this dossier, paid for by the Clinton camp.”
However, a Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, affirmed Friday in a tweet he remains “100 percent confident in Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”
“The contents of this memo do not – in any way – discredit his investigation,” the congressman wrote.
But Gowdy also had a message for detractors of the memo, asserting it is consistent with Congress’ responsibility for oversight.
“It is important for the American public to know if the dossier was paid for by another candidate, used in court pleadings, vetted before it was used, vetted after it was used, and whether all relevant facts were shared with the tribunal approving of the FISA application,” tweeted Gowdy, who announced Wednesday he will not seek re-election this fall.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Friday Trump’s decision to release the memo could result in a “constitutional crisis.”
“He has abdicated his responsibilities as commander in chief to protect the American people by protecting our intelligence sources and the rest,” she said of Trump. “If the president uses this fake, horrible release of distorted intelligence as an excuse to fire Rosenstein or Mueller, it could lead to a constitutional crisis.”
Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump last May, slammed the memo in a tweet Friday.
“That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs,” Comey wrote.
FBI’s ‘grave concerns’
The House Intelligence Committee voted on partisan lines Monday to make the memo public, with Democrats asserting the Republicans’ objective is to protect Trump by diverting attention from the Mueller investigation. Prior to its release Friday, the top Democrat on the House intel panel, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the Republican report “misleading and inaccurate,” and Wednesday night he claimed edits were made to the document since it was approved for release by the committee. The FBI issued a statement expressing “grave concerns” about the memo’s accuracy, and there were reports that FBI Director Christopher Wray could resign in response to its release.
Schiff tweeted Wednesday night: “Discovered late tonight that Chairman Nunes made material changes to the memo he sent to White House – changes not approved by the Committee. White House therefore reviewing a document the Committee has not approved for release.”
Republicans claim the Democrats were aware of the changes. They say some edits were requested by Democrats for clarity, the FBI asked for some for security reasons, and there were minor grammatical corrections.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., a member of the intel committee, argued in an interview Thursday with Fox News that it’s standard procedure to make “technical” changes after a committee approves the release of a classified document.
Only three or four words were changed, at the request of the FBI, the congressman said.
“It doesn’t affect the substance or the spirit of the memo,” King said, emphasizing it’s “vital and essential for the American public to see” the memo.
Pelosi: Dump Nunes
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter Thursday to Speaker Paul Ryan demanding he remove Nunes as chairman.
“Chairman Nunes’ deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as Chairman, and he must be immediately removed from this position,” Pelosi wrote.
The FBI said in a statement this week that after its initial review of the memo, it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
However, two senior FBI officials who reviewed the document “could not point to any factual inaccuracies,” according to the Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge, citing a source close to the matter.
One of the officials was from the FBI’s counter-intelligence division and the other from the legal division.
Fox News further reported, according to sources, the edited version was shown to five FBI officials at the White House on Tuesday afternoon, and they were satisfied that their concerns were addressed.
Nunes reacted to the complaints in a statement Wednesday.
“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,” he said.
House Speaker Ryan defends memo release
Asked Thursday at the Republicans retreat in West Virginia about the imminent release of the memo, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the document is not an indictment of the FBI, the Department of Justice or the Mueller investigation.
He said it’s about “the Congress’ legitimate function of oversight to make sure the FISA process is being used correctly.”
Asked about the objections of FBI Director Christopher Wray, who was appointed by Trump, to the release of the memo, Ryan emphasized the power the secret FISA court has over citizens’ civil liberties.
“If there are institutions or individuals who have abused that power, it is our job in Congress to shed light on that and bring transparency to the process,” he said, noting the “vast majority” of FBI employees are “doing a great job.”
“It’s very important that we guard citizens’ civil liberties,” he said.