On Friday, February 2, 2018, House Republicans, with the approval of the Trump administration, released the four-page Nunes memo. The controversial memo, written by Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, alleges Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses by the DOJ and the FBI during the 2016 election.
The memo focuses almost entirely on the government’s electronic surveillance of a Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. According to the memo, on October 21, 2016, the DOJ and FBI received a probable cause order under FISA to conduct surveillance on Page. The agencies also received three FISA renewals from the FISC – under 50 U.S.C. §1805(d)(1), a FISA order targeting a U.S. citizen must be renewed by the FISC every 90 days, with each renewal requiring an independent finding of probable cause.
The memo does not explicitly accuse either the DOJ or the FBI of violating the FISA application process. Rather, its primary allegation is that the agencies failed to disclose “material and relevant” information, purportedly because the information in question was “potentially favorable” to the target of the application. In particular, the memo denounces the following omissions:
- The DNC’s and the Clinton campaign’s alleged role in funding Christopher Steele’s efforts to compile a dossier with “derogatory information” on the Trump campaign’s Russia ties;
- The extent of Steele’s direct contact with media outlets – mainly Yahoo News. The memo claims such contact “violated the cardinal rule of source handling – maintain confidentiality;”
- Steele’s alleged “anti-Trump bias,” which the memo claims was documented by senior DOJ official Bruce Ohr as well as in official FBI materials, but not reflected in the FISA application;
- A source validation report by the FBI that assed the Steele dossier as “only minimally corroborated;” and
- The lack of evidence of cooperation between Page and fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.
For its part, Democratic leadership has vehemently denounced the memo’s findings as misleading. In a press release, Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, stated the following:
The authors of the GOP memo would like the country to believe that the investigation began with Christopher Steele and the dossier, and if they can just discredit Mr. Steele, they can make the whole investigation go away regardless of the Russians’ interference in our election or the role of the Trump campaign in that interference. This ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.
In response to the release of the Nunes memo, Schiff on behalf of the Democrats had written a 10-pagerebuttal memo. On Monday, when the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the Nunes memo, it also rejected a motion from Schiff to release the Democratic response at the same time. Schiff has told the media that the Democrats will attempt to force another vote on the release of the response.
For the full text of the Nunes memo, see here.