Democrats Release Rebuttal to GOP Memo



Late Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018, the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released a recently declassified memo. The 10-page memo was a rebuttal to the Republican accusations that federal officials abused the process for obtaining warrants in order to place a wiretap on Carter Page. He was a campaign aide to Donald Trump. Page reportedly had Russian contacts.

The Democratic Memo

The new declassified document gives insight into one of the most secretive government processes. It directly quotes the text of a covert surveillance warrant application. This shows that the Justice Department had disclosed that there was some evidence gained from the political opposition research, which was intended to discredit a political campaign. This is a direct contradiction to a GOP claim.

Additionally, the memo claims that information from the dossier, assembled by Christopher Steele was a part of the case officials from the Justice Department used to seek the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court’s permission to place a wiretap on Page and renew other applications. Steele was a former British intelligence operative whose research was funded by a law firm connected to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign after Fusion GPS was used to monitor Donald Trump before the primaries.

The memo briefly expands on a fact mentioned in the document released three weeks ago by the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. In July 2016, the Department of Justice launched the counterintelligence investigation of the Russian attempt to interfere in the election based on information obtained from George Papadopoulos, not the Steele dossier.

The memo states that federal investigators were exploring contacts between Russian agents and others connected to the Trump campaign, however the number and names have been redacted. Additionally, the Department of Justice had “compelling evidence and probable cause” that Page was aware he was assisting Russian espionage efforts in the United States.

The release of the memo was unanimously voted on by the Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee to make it public information. It is in response to the GOP memo released three weeks ago and championed by Chairman Devin Nunes.

The GOP memo claimed that officials from the FBI and the Department of Justice misled the special court by refusing to state the political nature of the origin of the Steele dossier and that without it, the application would have been denied.

According to the Democrats, federal officials explained to the FISA court that the FBI suspected Steele was hired by an American who was seeking to discredit the top candidate’s campaign. Due to masking procedures designed to protect individuals who are not a target of the investigation, neither the Clinton nor the Trump campaign were named in the memo.

Who Hired Steele?

Fusion GPS was hired to dig up dirt on Trump during the Republican primaries. The firm was hired by a conservative website funded by a Republican mega-donor, according to NBC News. The funding stopped after it was clear Trump was going to win the Republican primary. Fusion GPS was then hired by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign for opposition research that would be included in the Steele dossier.

Who Is Using the Steele Dossier?

According to the Democratic memo, released on Feb. 24, the Department of Justice included information from the Steele dossier in the original October 2016 application and subsequent renewals from “multiple independent sources,” however, specific details were redacted. The surveillance of Page enabled the FBI to collect valuable information for the broader investigation. The four judges who separately approved the requests were all appointed by Republican presidents.

The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBU, the Justice Department, and the FISC.” This was in a statement given by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff. He said they reviewed the original FISA application extensively and did not find any evidence of “illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement.” Instead the review proved that the FBI and the Department of Justice “made extensive showings to justify all four requests.

GOP Response to Democratic Memo

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders slammed Democrats in a statement from the White House:

While the Democrats’ memorandum attempts to undercut the president politically, the president supported its release in the interest of transparency. Nevertheless, the politically driven document fails to answer serious concern raised by the Majority’s memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate, loaded with uncorroborated allegations, as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate, at the height of a presidential campaign.

Trump repeatedly denied any collusion between the people who helped with his campaign and Russia. He called the release of the Democratic memo a “total political and legal BUST” on Twitter.

Schiff responded on Twitter telling the president he was wrong once again and stated that the memo confirms that the FBI did their job. He reminded Trump that two of his advisers were approached by Russian agents and let his campaign know they were prepared to disseminate Clinton’s stolen emails.

The Nunes rebuttal stated that the Democratic memo does not explain why the Steele dossier was used if the Department of Justice had other key evidence. He stated that the majority of the dossier was submitted as evidence and that the specific claims are still unconfirmed and uncorroborated by independent sources.

The GOP Memo

The White House was criticized by the Democrats for releasing the memo late on the weekend when it would not receive as much attention as the GOP memo released three weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, President Trump blocked the release of the full Democratic 10-page memo. The release of the document was the latest move in the political back and forth between Democrats and Republicans about the political debacle of the investigation into Russia and Trump campaign and the integrity of the FBI and the Department of Justice.

The GOP memo accused the FBI and the Department of Justice of using the Steele dossier to obtain a covert warrant to monitor the communications of Trump advisor Page.

According to the GOP document, the FBI did not disclose that the Steele dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Asserting that the evidence presented to the special court was one-sided.

However, the Democratic memo states that the Department of Justice disclosed that “the assessed political motivation of those who hired him” and that Steele was most likely hired by someone who wanted to discredit Trump during his presidential campaign.

The GOP says that is not enough because the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee are not named in the application. Specific names who were not part of the target investigation were redacted from the document.

On Feb. 9, the White House was against the release of the Democratic memo, citing concerns about national security. The Democrats returned to negotiations with the FBI, which approved a redacted version of the memo. Then the White House approved the release.

Trump did not have any concerns about the GOP memo released completely on Feb. 2. However, the FBI objected to the declassification of the document due to accuracy.

FBI Interest in Page

According to the Democratic memo, the FBI was interested in Page long before the Steele dossier was written. The government application to run surveillance on Page details activities he undertook during the 2016 presidential campaign, which included a July 2016 tip to Moscow. He went to Russia to deliver a university commencement address.

The Democratic Memo and Trump

The memo did not include any of the “salacious allegations” about Trump that were in the Steele dossier when the Department of Justice applied for the warrant under FISA. It does detail Russian attempts to nurture Page as a spy. It also cited the federal indictment of two Russian spies that were suspected of trying to recruit Page. The FBI interviewed Page based on those suspicions in March 2016.

The GOP believes that any use, no matter how minute, of the Steele dossier is too much. According to the Republican National Committee, Democrats cannot fully deny that a Clinton/DNC-funded document was used to gain permission to wiretap Page is concerning.

Although, Trump believes the GOP memo “vindicates” him of Russian collusion, those who helped draft the memo: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Representative Trey Gowdy, stated that it should not be used to undermine the investigation of the special counsel.

By Jeanette Smith


NBC News: House Democrats defend FBI, DOJ in rebuttal to GOP intel memo
ABC News: Dems release Russia probe memo defending FBI surveillance

Image Courtesy of Phil Roeder’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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