House Committee Releases Controversial FBI Memo

By Ross Ketschke 2/3/2018

The House Intelligence Committee released a declassified memo detailing FBI surveillance of Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.

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Courtesy of Creative Commons

The 4 page document, written by committee chair Devin Nunes (R-California) suggests the FBI improperly obtained permission to spy on Page through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

President Donald Trump and other high-ranking Republicans have called for the memos release over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, top democrats have condemned the release, claiming it undermines Special Council Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. 

According to the memo, investigators relied heavily on the controversial dossier compiled by Christopher Steele to obtain and renew warrants from the FISC. Mr. Steele  was a private investigator for Fusion GPS, a commercial intelligence company, and a known informant to the FBI. Steel and Fusion GPS were hired by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to investigate possible connections between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government. Steel was hired by Perkins Coie, the shared law firm of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. 

The memo alleges that Mr. Steele was vocally biased against then-candidate Trump, citing several text messages in which the private investigator refers said he was ” desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not, being president.” The memo also details several instances of Steele leaking information privy only to his FBI contacts to the press. He was reportedly terminated as an informant to the agency as a result of those leaks.

Before his termination, Steele maintained contact with the Department of Justice through then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Ohr’s wife was also an employee of Fusion GPS. He later reported to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. Mr. Rosensetein is the DOJ official overseeing the Mueller probe, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation. 

The publication of the declassified memo has raised tensions in Washington. Dozens of politicians from both sides of the aisle shared their thoughts on the release. The Democrats have portrayed the memo as an attempt to undermine the Special Council’s investigation. In a tweet, Massachusetts senator Ed Markey called the document a “Nothingburger” and wrote it is time for President Trump “to stop placing his personal interest above the national interest, and undermining the Special Counsel.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (D – Wisconsin) supported the release of the memo following the house committee vote on Monday. ““What this is not is an indictment on our institutions, of our justice system. This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn [Mueller’s] investigation or the deputy attorney general,” Ryan said.