Republicans vote to release the memo - and now Trump must decide on publishing highly-classified document which 'shows FBI and DoJ misconduct against him before election'
The House Intelligence Committee on Monday evening voted to release a classified memo circulating in Congress that purportedly reveals government surveillance abuses.
The vote was announced to reporters by California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, who called it a “very sad day, I think, in the history of this committee.” The motion passed on a party-line basis, he said.
President Trump now has five days to decide whether he has any objections before the memo can be publicly released.
GOP LAWMAKERS DEMAND THAT 'ALARMING' MEMO ON FISA ABUSES BE MADE PUBLIC
Last week, a top Justice Department official urged House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes not to release the memo, saying it would be “extraordinarily reckless” and could harm national security and ongoing investigations.
The four-page memo has being described by GOP lawmakers as “shocking,” “troubling” and “alarming,” with one congressman likening the details to KGB activity in Russia.
Those who have seen the document suggest it reveals what role the unverified anti-Trump "dossier" played in the application for a surveillance warrant on at least one Trump associate.
Schiff said the GOP-majority committee also voted against releasing a counter memo written by Democrats.
“Today this committee voted to put the president’s personal interests, perhaps their own political interests, above the national interests,” the Democrat said.
Another Democratic member, Mike Quiqley of Illinois, described the GOP memo as "a book report by a high school kid at 1 a.m. on two Red Bulls who hasn't read the book."
Tea Party Patriots CEO Jenny Beth Martin provides insight on 'Fox & Friends First.'
"It's a contravention of the facts," he added. "Today was a demonstration that there are no more rules."
The vote came the same day that it was reported that FBI official Andrew McCabe has left his post as deputy director.
The White House seems to favor the memo's release, but wouldn’t explicitly say whether the president will back the effort.
“We want full transparency,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday. “That's what we have said all along.”
Sarah Isgur Flores, Justice Department director of public affairs, on the controversy over Rep. Devin Nunes' push to release surveillance memo.
Department of Justice: Let us see 'the memo' first
Sanders said they were letting the process play out before officially weighing in.
FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR ANDREW MCCABE 'REMOVED' FROM THE BUREAU
On Sunday, FBI Director Christopher Wray went to the Capitol on Sunday to view the four-page memo, sources told Fox News.
According to one source, Wray was asked to point out inaccuracies or other issues with the wording -- and said he would need “his people to take a look at it.” The source said the review is ongoing.
South Carolina GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, who helped write the four-page memo, said Sunday he wants it made public.
He also suggested the memo indeed addresses whether the FBI relied at least in part on the dossier -- paid for partially by Democrats and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 presidential election -- to apply to a secret federal court to get a surveillance warrant, purportedly on then-Trump adviser Carter Page.
“If you … want to know whether or not the dossier was used in court proceedings, whether or not it was vetted before it was used. … If you are interested in who paid for the dossier … then, yes, you'll want the memo to come out,” Gowdy told “Fox News Sunday.”
The dossier was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and contained opposition research on Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Steele was hired by the U.S. firm Fusion GPS, which commissioned the research with funding from the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. At the same time, the firm was allegedly doing work to help the Russian government fight sanctions.
Requests for surveillance warrants are made through the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, and target suspected foreign spies inside the United States.
Responding to reports the U.S. extended surveillance on him last spring, Carter Page told Fox News that U.S.-Russia relations have been “dominated by misunderstandings throughout much of the past 70 years, since the original McCarthy era. I harbor no ill will towards anyone for past xenophobic biases and only hope that justice is eventually served.”
Republicans vote to release the memo - and now Trump must decide on publishing highly-classified document which 'shows FBI and DoJ misconduct against him before election'
House Intel committee votes on party line basis to release now notorious four-page classified memo which alleges FBI and DoJ election misconduct
President Trump must now decide himself on whether document is published
Highly sought after memo says that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved a request for extended surveillance on Carter Page
Page was an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign
Republicans are poised to argue that Rosenstein did not thoroughly review the request to spy on Carter through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Rosenstein is a Trump-appointed DOJ official.
They are in a power struggle with DOJ over the Russia investigation
Democrats overridden in series of party-line committee votes
Democrats thwarted in effort to release their own memo
A highly-classified memo said to lay bare the FBI and DoJ acting against President Donald Trump before the election should be published, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines on Monday night.
Trump himself must now decide on its publication and will have a window of five days to make his decision, a timeline he will adhere to, according to Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley, who spoke to CNN on Monday night.
The committee, which is majority Republican, voted down a proposal to release the Democratic-authored minority memo as well.
The memo is now on its way to the White House for the president to review, CNN later reported.
The move comes after a 'release the memo' campaign by Republicans, who believe it will show that the FBI and DoJ wrongly surveilled at least one member of the Trump campaign on the basis of the notorious 'golden showers' dossier, drawn up by British spy Christopher Steele.
The memo, drawn up by Republican committee chair Devin Nunes, represents another potentially explosive twist in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
The White House says President Donald Trump has not decided whether he'd authorize the release of a classified House Intelligence Committee memo, but says he favors 'full transparency.'
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday that 'no one' at the White House has seen the memo, so the president was not prepared to make a decision.
A number of conservatives favor releasing the memo, which they believe could discredit the findings of the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
White House aides have previously said Trump favored releasing the document, which is in contrast to the stance of the Justice Department.
The issue is also set to roil the Republicans.
Lindsey Graham of South Carolina vocally opposed its publication, saying the decision should be made by someone who does not stand to gain or lose politically by its publication.
The highly sought after memo says, according to the New York Times, that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved a request last spring for extended surveillance on Carter Page, an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign.
Republicans appear poised to argue that Rosenstein did not thoroughly review the request to spy on Carter through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), using the law enforcement official as a weapon in their power struggle with DOJ.
A highly sought after classified memo says that Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein approved a request last spring for extended surveillance on Carter Page (pictured), an unpaid foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign. Page is seen here during a December 2016 visit to Moscow
Page is under scrutiny for a 2016 trip he made to Moscow where he met with Russian officials.
It was a scholarly visit in which he says he made it clear he was not there representing the presidential candidate.
A report he provided to the campaign afterward with his insights and an offer to set up a trip to Russia for Trump has made him a person of interest in investigations into alleged collusion, though.
House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are now claiming, per the Times, in an unreleased memo that Carter was surveiled last year with a warrant that Rosenstein signed off on.
The memo is said to suggest that Rosenstein did not do his homework before he OK'd the warrant that followed on a previous request for surveillance that had been justified at the time by the so-called dirty dossier that ex-British spy Christopher Steele compiled on Trump.
Trump has denied the salacious findings in the dossier that law enforcement officials have not otherwise been able to verify.
Steele is known to have been contracted by a Republican candidate competing against Trump in the primary.
He was paid to finish the job by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party.
Republicans who have seen the Intelligence Committee's memo have been demanding the public release of the document that is said to reveal the Obama administration surveillance on the Trump campaign in 2016.
'It's troubling. It is shocking,' North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows said last week.'Part of me wishes that I didn't read it because I don't want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.'
House Intel made the four-page memo available to members of the House last week.
They are still keeping it at arm's length from their counterparts in the Senate and are refusing to provide a copy to the Department of Justice.
Rosenstein is a Trump-appointed DOJ official.
His opinion that FBI Director James Comey should be fired was used as the basis by Trump for the law enforcement official's canning.
It was Rosenstein who later angered Trump when he authorized a special counsel investigation into Russia's attempts to manipulate the 2016 election.
Trump is said to have considered firing Rosenstein as a result of the designation of Robert Mueller as special counsel before moving to get rid of Mueller himself before changing his mind on the advice of counsel.
Rosenstein is a Trump-appointed DOJ official. He angered Trump when he authorized a special counsel investigation into Russian attempts to manipulate the 2016 election
Rod Rosenstein assures 'full independence' from Robert Mueller
Republicans have been teeing up their memo on surveillance as a bombshell that will justify demands for an independent investigation of DOJ and the FBI, which had been conducting the Russia probe until Rosenstein brought in Mueller.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said last week in a statement that the GOP-authored memo was sensational and that the opposing party had 'selectively and misleadingly' characterized classified information 'in an effort to protect the President at any cost.'
As the Times article on Rosenstein was released, a debate was raging in Washington over whether the classified memo should be made public.
In a Sunday morning appearance on CBS, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short intimated the president's belief that it should.
'We haven't obviously read the memo. It's classified. So it's hard for me to speculate on what's in the memo,' he said. 'I do think that we typically prefer transparency. And so if there are concerns that I think it would be helpful for Americans to know about, we would be open for that being released.'
Republican Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday that she was concerned that classified information would be compromised, however.
'That's a really serious matter. So, to me, the preferable way to handle the allegations of wrongdoing by certain FBI agents and a lawyer there is to leave it in the hands of the inspector general, Michael Horowitz. I know him. He's aggressive. He will do a fair investigation,' she told CNN.
On CBS' 'Face the Nation' Short had argued 'there's plenty of ways you can redact a document to make sure that methods are not revealed' and assuage concerns like those outlined by Collins.
'But if there are serious concerns about unmasking that happened in the previous administration, then I think that the American people should know that,' he said.
Stephen Boyd, an assistant attorney general, told Chairman Nunes last week that it would be 'extraordinarily reckless' for the committee to do so.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican who's read the memo, indicated on Meet the Press that it may be time for Trump to step in.
'Having read this memo, I think it would be appropriate that the public has full view of it,' he said.
Democrats have repeatedly complained that the memo is an effort to undermine Mueller’s Russia investigation.
For weeks, Republicans have called for the release of the memo, which they claimed would bolster GOP members’ claims of bias in the FBI.
Under the rules, Trump now has five days to either review or turn down publication.
However recently following repeated reports about it, Trump began agitating for the release of the memo.
When traveling to Switzerland for the World Economic Forum last week, the president expressed frustration that his own Justice Department didn't want the memo released.
Schiff’s comments indicate that there has been yet another partisan breakdown on a panel that previously had a reputation for bipartisan cooperation.
Schiff said the new standard for the panel seems to be: 'If it’s good for the president, then fine, regardless of it’s impact' on the FBI or other government agencies.
He said the majority had ‘no intention’ of having the document vetted before its release.
‘The conclusion is pretty cooked,’ he said.
He ran through a series of votes where the majority got rolled, including losing an effort to allow a separate minority-drafted memo to ‘see the light of day.’
That Democratic-authored minority memo 'is more of a counter-argument for all the errors and inaccuracies in the majority memo, which at the end of the day is frankly one big propaganda piece,' Rep. Denny Heck, a Democrat from Washington, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee told CNN.
The Unlikely Martyrdom of Carter Page
In a more rational world, the fact that Trump’s Justice Department sought to surveil the former Trump aide would undermine his claim to political persecution.
The meta-fight over releasing a memo prepared by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee has at times obscured what exactly is in the memo, but its contents are slowly starting to come into view.
A New York Times story Monday provides one crucial element. According to that report, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed off on an application for a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a former Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser, that was based on information gathered by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who was paid in part by the Democratic National Committee. But when the Justice Department requested (and was granted) the warrant, the memo contends, it did not inform the judge of the source of the information underpinning the warrant.
The claim here is as complicated and convoluted as it sounds. The underlying theory seems to be this: If the warrant was obtained based on Steele’s own research and other materials he may have relayed, and if the judge was not informed, then the warrant might have been improper. Courts have ruled that even if evidence of criminal behavior is found using such a warrant, that evidence can’t be used in court—it is, as Justice Felix Frankfurter put it, “fruit of a poisonous tree.”
But there are many questions about this theory. In broad terms, the memo’s chief exponent, Representative Devin Nunes, has long since undermined any presumption of accuracy to which he may once have been entitled. Nunes has long insisted that the Obama administration was improperly surveilling Trump campaign members, and in spring of 2017 set off a strange cascade of events with a cloak-and-dagger late-night visit to the White House. Nunes, a former member of President Trump’s transition team, said he was going to deliver sensitive information to the president—a curious explanation, since he was heading the House Intelligence Committee’s ostensibly independent investigation into Russian interference in the election. It soon emerged that in fact Nunes was receiving information from the White House, which he used to make unsubstantiated claims about improper use of intelligence by Obama officials.
That means it’s hard to take any assertions in the memo at face value. Still, it’s known that Steele was passing information to the FBI, as Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, who hired Steele, testified to Congress. Fusion GPS had been hired by the law firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. It’s also known that Page has been under FBI surveillance. The question is whether the Steele information was used to obtain the warrant; what other information was used; and whether use of Steele-derived information would invalidate the warrant.
First, there’s no obvious reason why the Justice Department couldn’t use information obtained in opposition research in a warrant application, assuming, of course, that it was accurate. Simpson said Steele approached the FBI with information he had obtained not at the behest of the DNC, but because he worried that there was information important to American national security, and he had a duty to inform law enforcement. This is arguably in contrast to the behavior of the Trump campaign, which after being told that an agent of a foreign government wished to offer damaging information about the Hillary Clinton campaign ahead of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, chose not to inform law enforcement. Many political operatives have said they would have contacted the FBI under similar circumstances.
Second, it’s unclear what if any non-Steele information was referenced in the warrant application. Bradley Moss, a lawyer who works on national-security cases, said in an email that he expected any application would have used other sources.
“You don’t premise politically controversial and sensitive FISA warrants against a political candidate and/or his associates based exclusively upon a private opposition research document,” Moss said. “That would be professional malpractice. The fact that DOJ purportedly went forward with getting the FISA warrant(s) suggests that at least some of the information in the warrant application was independent of the dossier.”
The dossier has become a focus for Republicans seeking to discredit the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. Some critics have argued that the entire investigation was premised entirely on Steele’s work, which elicited a rebuttal laying out how the probe long predated the dossier.
Focusing on the Page warrant is a surprising strategy. It is not difficult to imagine that the American intelligence community had more information about Page than what was in the Steele dossier. As early as 2013, the U.S. government believed Russian intelligence was trying to recruit Page as an asset. The FBI was also surveilling him in 2016, prior to any warrant request that Rosenstein would have approved.
While illegally obtained evidence is indeed invalid, Page makes for an unlikely rallying point, both because of his history of questionable ties to Russia and because of his own statements in interviews and in congressional hearings. In jaw-dropping November 2 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee, Page offered confusing and often changing testimony about trips to Russia and Hungary and about who he had met with during those trips.
Page is a particularly unusual foil for Rosenstein, who until joining the Trump administration had a reputation as a meticulous, nonpartisan, and fair public servant but is also a lifelong Republican. But the deputy attorney general has found himself a medium for partisan warfare. After Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation, Rosenstein inherited it, and soon appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel.
Although Rosenstein is a Republican and was appointed to his post by Donald Trump, the president has suggested he is a Democrat and questioned whether he is trustworthy. The crux of Trump’s anger is the Mueller investigation: Trump is angry about Mueller’s appointment, and angry that Rosenstein has endorsed Mueller’s work so far. Trump has railed against Rosenstein in interviews, and according to a New York Times story last week considered firing him as a method of firing Mueller.
Attacking Rosenstein serves a dual purpose for Trump and his allies. If Rosenstein is forced to resign or fired, Trump would appoint a replacement who would become Mueller’s boss, and could fire the special counsel or move to limit his probe. The White House seems to recognize that firing Rosenstein merely to mess with the Mueller probe would be politically disastrous, but alleging misconduct in a warrant application could provide an excuse to push him out for other reasons. Even if Rosenstein doesn’t go, however, the current line of argument serves the purpose of undermining trust in the FBI and DOJ as they continue to investigate Trump.
Last week, it was revealed that Trump sought to fire Mueller in June, but was blocked by White House Counsel Don McGahn, who threatened to resign rather than order Mueller’s dismissal. Trump has at times threatened to fire Mueller, and a pivotal moment is approaching, as Mueller talks with Trump’s attorneys about the president testifying. Democrats and some Republicans have renewed warnings to the White House not to fire Mueller, but bills that would protect the probe have bogged down in Congress.
Page has long alleged that he was the target of politically motivated persecution by the Obama administration, which he has referred to in letters to congressional committees as the “Clinton/Obama regime” and the “Clinton-Obama-Comey” regime, after the former FBI director. In a more rational world, the fact that Trump’s Justice Department also thought the Page case required a FISA warrant would undermine Page’s claim to political persecution; instead, in the inverted logic of the present moment, it’s being used to argue that Rosenstein is some sort of partisan Democratic hack. (Page did not reply to requests for comment about the new report.)
In a rational world, the White House would also likely be defending the Justice Department and the president’s own deputy attorney general. Instead, the Justice Department and White House are on opposite sides of the debate over the Nunes memo. The Justice Department has said that releasing the memo, which contains classified information, would be “extraordinarily reckless,” but Trump—who seems to see vindication or at least political advantage from the memo’s release—has pushed for its release. This is the genius of the memo as political bludgeon: It forces the Justice Department into asymmetrical warfare, because the government would likely be unwilling to release classified information that would contextualize or even justify actions described in the memo.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah suggested Monday morning that the White House would allow release over the Justice Department’s objections. “The Department of Justice doesn’t have a role in this process,” he said.
The House Intelligence Committee authorized the circulation of the memo among members of Congress, but not its public release. It also refused to share it with the Justice Department. Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff has blasted the memo as “a hodgepodge of false statements and misleading representations” that cherry-picks facts and omits the underlying intelligence on which it is based, which he said most members have not reviewed. Last week, committee Democrats prepared their own rebuttal memo, which is also not public. The tug-of-war over releasing the Nunes memo, and speculation about what it contains, may be over soon, though. The House Intelligence Committee is slated to vote as soon as Monday night on a public release.