A much-hyped memo that shows alleged government surveillance abuse has been released to the public and includes testimony from a high-ranking government official who says the FBI and DOJ would not have sought surveillance warrants to spy on at least one member of the Trump team without the infamous Trump dossier.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee on Friday released the memo, which states “concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions” involving FISA, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, of Trump associates during the 2016 election.
The dossier, authored by former British spy Christopher Steele and commissioned by Fusion GPS, was paid by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign through law firm Perkins Coie in an effort to conduct opposition research. It included salacious and unverified allegations about Donald Trump’s connections to Russia.
The memo, which has been at the center of an intense power struggle between congressional Republicans, specifically cites the DOJ and FBI’s surveillance of onetime Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, saying the dossier “formed an essential part” of the application to spy on him.
Republicans have charged that the FBI used the dubious dossier, initially prepared as campaign opposition research for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, to get permission from a secret federal court to eavesdrop on Trump campaign and transition team communications.
The memo pointed out that in December 2017, then FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe testified that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought” from the FISA court “without the Steele dossier information.”
The memo also shows that Steele was eventually cut off from the FBI for being chatty with the media. It says he was terminated in October 2016 as an FBI source “for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations—an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI.”
“Steele ‘was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president'”
But even after his termination, Steele remained in close contact with Justice Department official—then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr. At the time, Ohr “worked closely” with Yates and later Rosenstein.
Ohr’s wife Nellie began working for Fusion GPS, the firm behind the dossier, as early as May 2016.
The memo said that while the FISA application “relied” on Steele’s “past record of credible reporting” on other “unrelated matters,” the FISA application process “ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations.
According to the memo, Steele told Ohr that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”
“This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files –but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications,” the memo reads.
It also claims the FBI and DOJ used media reporting to lend credibility to the dossier, while the firm behind the dossier, Fusion GPS, briefed major American news outlets to include New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, New Yorker, Yahoo and Mother Jones.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump, who has read the memo, called the contents “a disgrace.”
“A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
The unclassified four-page memo says it was written to provide lawmakers information on the FBI and DOJ’s use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, surveillance during the 2016 presidential election.
The memo stated that on October 21, 2016, the Justice Department and the FBI “sought and received” a FISA probable cause order authorizing “electronic surveillance” on Page from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. At the time, Page was a volunteer adviser on the Trump campaign.
The memo stated that information on the dossier compiled by Steele was “omitted” when seeking a FISA warrant for Page.
“Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the 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 memo said.
According to the memo, Page’s FISA application “cited extensively” a September 23, 2016 Yahoo News article, which focused on Page’s trip to Moscow. The memo read that the “article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News.”
According to the memo, the FBI and DOJ obtained “one initial FISA warrant” targeting Page, and three FISA renewals from the FISA court. The statute required that every 90 days, a FISA order on an American citizen “must be renewed.”
The memo stated that then-FBI Director James Comey signed three FISA applications for Page and McCabe signed one. Trump’s current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also signed at least one FISA application for Page –along with former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente.
In a statement to Fox News, Page said the memo reveals an “unprecedented abuse of process.”
“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,” Page said.
He added: “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.”
The White House sent a letter to Nunes accompanying the unredacted, declassified memo Friday.
“The president understands that the protection of our national security represents his highest obligation,” White House Counsel to the president Don McGhan wrote in a letter to Nunes Friday.
McGahn said the White House review process included input from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice, along with direction from lawyers and national security staff.
“Consistent with this review and these standards, the president has determined that declassification of the Memorandum is appropriate,” McGahn wrote, clarifying that the memo “reflects the judgement of its congressional authors.
“Though the circumstances leading to the declassification through this process are extraordinary, the Executive Branch stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards and processes, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods,” McGahn wrote.
The release of the four-page memo comes after the House Intelligence Committee voted earlier this week, over Democratic objections, to make the document public. This led to a rare and stunning rebuke from the bureau, which said Wednesday they had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
In a last-ditch objection, the top Democrat on the House committee claimed overnight that Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had made “material changes” to the memo that was sent to the White House for review.
But Nunes’ office described the changes as minor and blasted the complaint as a “bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo.”
The White House has backed the memo’s release, calling for “transparency.”
Earlier Friday, Trump unleashed an early-morning tweet at a Justice Department he said has been “politicized” by Democrats.
“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump wrote. “Rank & File are great people!”
Just more than two weeks, Republican lawmakers first drew attention to the memo, with some calling it “shocking,” “troubling” and “alarming” and one likening the details to KGB activity in Russia. They argued the memo should be immediately made public, leading to a social media #ReleaseTheMemo campaign.