Grassley Memo: Sen. Feinstein Refutes Criminal Referral of Christopher Steele

Analysis Refutes Criminal Referral of Christopher Steele

Washington—Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released a minority view analysis on behalf of all Judiciary Committee Democrats of the Christopher Steele criminal referral sent last month by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). A classified memo that accompanied the criminal referral was declassified this week.

“The criminal referral of Christopher Steele has nothing to do with accountability,” Feinstein said. “Clearly its goals included undermining the FBI and Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, attacking Christopher Steele and deflecting attention from collusion and obstruction of justice investigations.”

 “Not a single revelation in the Steele dossier has been refuted. Unfortunately, the claims in the criminal referral rely on classified information, so it’s difficult to fully repudiate them here. However, as much as possible using unclassified information, the following points lay out the flaws in the criminal referral.”

The following analysis rebuts a series of claims in the Grassley-Graham criminal referral:

1. The criminal referral is not based on any allegation that Steele lied or misrepresented facts about Carter Page or what is included in the Steele dossier. In fact, neither provide any evidence that any of the information in Steele’s dossier is wrong. Instead, the referral is limited to a single baseless allegation: that Steele lied about his contacts with the press.

2. The criminal referral omits key facts. The Department of Justice has provided documents regarding its interactions with Mr. Steele to the Judiciary Committee both before and afterthe criminal referral was made. Despite this, the Majority did not modify the criminal referral and pressed forward with its original claims, which do not take into account the additional information provided after the initial January 4 referral.

Instead of providing a comprehensive analysis, the criminal referral selectively focuses on some facts while omitting others.

For example, the criminal referral includes incomplete and misleading allegations regarding an October 19, 2016, report that Mr. Steele received from a “friend of the Clintons.”[1]

The criminal referral alleges that Mr. Steele was using this additional reporting from “the Clinton friend” as the basis for his own work – implying there was no independent investigative work done by Steele. The criminal referral fails to address the fact that 14 of the 17 memos in the Steele dossier published by Buzzfeed were created by Mr. Steele before this October 19 report. It would have been impossible for Mr. Steele to include information that he received in an October 19 report from “a friend of the Clintons” in his 14 earlier reports, which date back to June 20, 2016.

3. The criminal referral fails to make a case that Christopher Steele lied to the FBI. The referral states that “it appears that either Mr. Steele lied to the FBI or the British court, or that the classified documents reviewed by the Committee contain materially false statements.”[2] These allegations are made regarding Mr. Steele’s interactions with the pressand whether he lied about those interactions to the FBI.
18 U.S.C. § 1001, the legal authority cited by the criminal referral, provides that: “[W]hoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation” shall be punished accordingly.

  • Importantly, the criminal referral fails to identify when, if ever, Mr. Steele was asked about and provided a materially false statement about his press contacts.
  • Tellingly, it also fails to explain any circumstances which would have required Mr. Steele to seek the FBI’s permission to speak to the press or to disclose if he had done so.

Grassley Memo: After House GOP Memo, FBI OKs Release of Unclassified Steele Referral

Rather, the criminal referral cites occasions where Mr. Steele spoke to the press at the end of September 2016. Specifically, it focuses on a Yahoo News article written by Michael Isikoff.

If Mr. Steele had been asked by the FBI about his contacts with Mr. Isikoff for this September article, and if he had spoken with this reporter, then he should have disclosed that fact.[3] But the criminal referral provides no evidence that Steele was ever asked about the Isikoff article, or if asked that he lied.

It is also important to note, that in October 2016, the FBI learned that Mr. Steele had disclosed “his relationship with the FBI” to a reporter, David Corn.[4] Because of this, the FBI then suspended its relationship with Mr. Steele and informed the FISA court of these developments in its renewal requests.[5]

  • The FBI made clear, however, that it still considered Steele’s reporting to be reliable regardless of his contacts with the press.[6]
  • The FISA court granted three renewals after having been informed of Steele’s contacts with the press.[7]

4. Christopher Steele is a respected and reliable expert on Russia. He served more than 20 years as an intelligence officer with the British intelligence service MI6, and worked in Moscow under diplomatic cover from 1990 to 1993.[8] Mr. Steele has a history of providing useful information that has assisted law enforcement in criminal investigations.
For example, in 2010, Mr. Steele gave information to the FBI that led to indictments of several officials from the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and the termination of the organization’s president, Sepp Blatter.[9] Citing U.S. officials, Reuters noted that Steele’s work on the FIFA matter “lent credence to his reporting on Trump’s entanglements in Russia.”[10]

Reports also indicate that between 2013 and 2016, Steele collaborated successfully with the FBI’s Eurasian Joint Organized Crime Squad on Russia- and Ukraine-related matters.[11]According to the Washington Post, “Steele was known for the quality of his past work and for the knowledge he had developed over nearly 20 years working on Russia-related issues for British intelligence.”[12]

5. Mr. Steele came forward voluntarily out of concern for U.S. national security. In early July 2016, Mr. Steele shared with the FBI what he viewed as alarming information about Russian interference in the 2016 election and a potentially compromised candidate. [13]

Specifically, Mr. Simpson testified under oath to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that Mr. Steele said, “I’m a former intelligence officer, and we’re your closest ally. You know, I have obligations, professional obligations. If there’s a national security emergency or possible national security issue, I should report it.” … “And I [Simpson] said: ‘So you’re telling me that you think this is serious enough that it needs to be reported to law enforcement, and that you’re confident enough in your sources, it’s your professional judgment and your professional obligation, that you should report this to the FBI?’ And he [Steele] said, ‘Yes.’”[14]

6. The criminal referral contains no new information. All the information in the criminal referral was already available to the FBI and the Department of Justice.

  • In fact, the referral relies on publicly available information and information that was provided to Congress from DOJ and the FBI.

7. The facts about Carter Page are not disputed. As has been widely reported, the FBI was aware of Page’s extensive connections to Russia several years before he joined the Trump campaign. In fact, the FBI determined in 2013 that Russian intelligence operatives had been attempting to recruit him and warned Mr. Page about this.[15] That same year, Mr. Page reportedly described himself as an “informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”[16] Page continued to cultivate Russian investments and business[17] – something that the FBI believed could be used by Russia to cultivate him as a source.[18]
On March 21, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump named Page to his foreign policy team.[19] In July 2016, and with the approval of Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Page traveled to Moscow to speak at the New Economic School.[20] During his trip, Mr. Page emailed the Trump campaign about “some incredible insights and outreach I’ve received from a few Russian legislators and senior members of the Presidential Administration here.” [21]

That same month, Mr. Steele reported that Russia and the Trump campaign “had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate HILLARY CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared.” Mr. Steele reported that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was using “foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries” between the campaign and Russia and that Mr. Page had meetings with Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Presidential Administration official Igor Divyekin.[22]

During his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Page denied meeting with Mr. Sechin or Mr. Divyekin. He did admit, however, that he met with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dvorkovich.[23] He also admitted meeting with Andrey Baranov – a close associate of Mr. Sechin.[24] And, in December 2016, after the election, Mr. Page went back to Moscow and again met with high-ranking Russian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and Rosneft executive Andrey Baranov.[25]

None of these facts are disputed in the Grassley-Graham criminal referral.

CONCLUSION

In June 2016, Mr. Steele began uncovering information indicating that Russia was interfering in the U.S. presidential election, and that the Trump campaign might be assisting Russia in its efforts.[26] Under any circumstances, the right thing to do would be to go to law enforcement and turn over this information. And that is exactly what Mr. Steele did.

Steele’s reporting was deemed reliable by the FBI. The FISA court granted three renewals of the FISA warrant on Carter Page after learning of Mr. Steele’s contacts with the press, a fact that did not cause the FBI to question the reliability of his underlying reporting.

The President’s decision to declassify and release the Nunes memo has confirmed that the Russia investigation started because of another Trump campaign foreign policy advisor – George Papadopoulos – who was told in April that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.[27] Unlike Mr. Steele, Mr. Papadopoulos did not affirmatively share what he had learned with the FBI.

This Committee should dedicate its resources and attention to getting to the bottom of exactly what Russia did during the 2016 election and who was involved – not attacking voluntary sources and the nation’s leading law enforcement agencies.

###

 


[1] Memorandum from Hon. Charles E. Grassley and Hon. Lindsey O. Graham to Hon. Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, Jan. 4, 2018, at 6 (hereinafter “Grassley/Graham Memo”).

[2] Grassley/Graham Memo, at 1.

[3]United States v. Worthington, 822 F.2d 315, 310 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 944 (1987) (A false or fictitious statement or representation is an assertion that is untrue when made or when used, and that is known by the person making it to be untrue); see also United States v. Anderson, 579 F.2d 455 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 980 (1978); United States v. Race, 632 F.2d 1114 (4th Cir. 1980) (If a defendant’s statement, or the government’s question requiring an answer, is ambiguous, it is incumbent on the government to negate any reasonable interpretation that could make the defendant’s statement factually correct).

[4]Memorandum from HPSCI Majority Staff to HPSCI Majority Members, “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Jan. 18, 2018, at 2 (hereinafter “Nunes Memo”).

[5] Nunes Memo, Jan. 18, 2018, at 2-3; Grassley/Graham Memo, at 4.

[6] Grassley/Graham Memo, at 4.

[7] Grassley/Graham Memo, at 4; Nunes Memo, Jan. 18, 2018, at 1.

[8] Vanity Fair, “How Ex-Spy Christopher Steele Compiled His Explosive Trump-Russia Dossier,” Apr. 2017; see also The Guardian, “How Trump walked into Putin’s web,” Nov. 15, 2017.

[9] Washington Post, “The British spy behind the Trump dossier helped the FBI bust FIFA,” Jan. 13, 2017.

[10] Reuters, “Former MI6 spy known to U.S. agencies is author of reports on Trump in Russia,” Jan. 12, 2017.

[11] Business Insider, “Congressional and FBI investigators are homing in on the Trump-Russia dossier,” Oct. 5, 2017.

[12] Washington Post, “FBI once planned to pay former British spy who authored controversial Trump dossier,” Feb. 28, 2017.

[13] Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of Glenn Simpson, Aug. 22, 2017, at 159, 164-65, 167.

[14] HPSCI Interview of Glenn Simpson, Nov. 14, 2017, at 60-61.

[15] New York Times, “Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump,” Apr. 4, 2017.

[16] Time, “Carter Page Touted Kremlin Contacts in 2013 Letter,” Feb. 4, 2018.

[17] Bloomberg, “Trump’s New Russia Adviser Has Deep Ties to Kremlin’s Gazprom,” Mar. 30, 2016.

[18] Complaint at 13, U.S. v. Evgeny Buryakov, CA No. 15-cr-00073 (filed Jan. 23, 2015).

[19] Washington Post, “A transcript of Donald Trump’s meeting with the Washington Post editorial board,” Mar. 21, 2016.

[20] HPSCI Interview of Carter Page, Nov. 2, 2017, at 19; see also Politico, “Trump campaign approved adviser’s trip to Moscow,” Mar. 7, 2017.

[21] HPSCI Interview of Carter Page, Nov. 2, 2017, at 40.

[22] Company Intelligence Reports, 2016/094 and 2016/095, July 2016; Senate Judiciary Committee Interview of Glenn Simpson, at 235-36.

[23] HPSCI Interview of Carter Page, Nov. 2, 2017, at 12.

[24] Id. at 105.

[25] Id. at 119.

[26] Company Intelligence Reports, June 20, 2016 through Dec. 13, 2016.

[27] Nunes Memo, Jan. 18, 2018, at 4.

Nunes Releases Statement on Democratic Memo

Nunes Statement on Democrat Memo
Washington, February 9, 2018

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes issued the following statement today:

“Along with other Intelligence Committee Republicans, I had warned that the Democratic memo contains many sources and methods. Ranking Member Schiff pledged to seek the input of the Department of Justice and FBI regarding the memo’s public release, and it’s no surprise that these agencies recommended against publishing the memo without redactions. Intelligence Committee Republicans encourage the minority to accept the DOJ’s recommendations and make the appropriate technical changes and redactions so that no sources and methods are disclosed and their memo can be declassified as soon as possible.”

The letter sent to the Committee outlining the Intelligence Community’s concerns with the memo is here.

No Democratic Memo; Wikileaks Offers Up Another Million Dollar Reward

No Democratic Memo; Wikileaks Offers Up Another Million Dollar Reward

Nunes Releases Statement on Democratic Memo

A statement from the White House on the memo:

This afternoon, the President met with the Director of the FBI, the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, and the White House Counsels Office to discuss the memorandum from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and receive their input. The President is weighing his options and will respond soon. Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah

Jonathan Easley

National political reporter

The Hill

Nunes Memo Critically Analyzed by Representative Jerrold Nadler, NY (D)

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Nadler Shares Analysis of Nunes Memo

Feb 5, 2018
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Saturday, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) sent a legal analysis of the “Nunes memo” to his Democratic colleagues. You can view it here and below.

To Democratic Subscribers

House Judiciary Committee Analysis of the Nunes Memo

Sending Office: Committee on the Judiciary – Minority Staff

February 3, 2018

Dear Democratic Colleague:

On Friday, House Republicans released the so-called “Nunes memo,” a set of deeply misleading talking points drafted by the Republican staff of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.  House Republicans did so over the objections of the Department of Justice, the Director of the FBI, the Director of National Intelligence, and several Senate Republicans, among others.

You may have heard President Trump describe the allegations in the Nunes memo as a “disgrace.”  He thinks “a lot of people should be ashamed.”  President Trump is right, in his way.  This embarrassingly flawed memo is a disgrace.  House Republicans should be ashamed.

Although I have had the benefit of reading the materials that form the basis for the Nunes memo, most members have not—including, reportedly, Chairman Nunes.  Accordingly, I am forwarding the legal analysis below for use by your office based on my review the Nunes memo and on outside sources.

Please let my staff know if we can provide your office with any additional guidance.

Sincerely,
Jerrold Nadler
Ranking Member
House Committee on the                                                                              Judiciary

 

I.          The FISA court found probable cause to believe that Carter Page is an agent of a foreign power.  Nothing in the Nunes memo rules out the possibility that considerable evidence beyond the Steele dossier helped the court reach that conclusion.

We should not lose sight of a critical and undisputed fact: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found probable cause to believe that Carter Page—a member of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team—was an agent of the Russian government.

The Nunes memo states that, “[o]n October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order . . . authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page.”  To obtain an order to conduct surveillance under Title I of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the government must provide “a statement of the facts and circumstances” demonstrating probable cause that “the target of the electronic surveillance is . . . an agent of a foreign power.”

The central allegation of the Nunes memo is that the government committed a fraud when it obtained an order to conduct surveillance of Carter Page, a member of President Trump’s foreign policy team during the campaign.  The memo claims that “[t]he ‘dossier’ compiled by Christopher Steele . . . formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application,” but that the government failed to disclose “the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts.”

If not for this misrepresentation to the court, the story goes, there never would have been a Russia investigation.  This claim is deliberately misleading and deeply wrong on the law.

First, the Nunes memo appears to concede that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government was well underway before the government applied for an order to conduct surveillance of Carter Page.  In its final paragraph, the Nunes memo states: “[t]he Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.”  The statement refers to George Papadopoulos, another member of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team.  There is no reason to dispute the Nunes memo’s assertion that the FBI was actively investigating the Trump campaign months before they approached the court about Carter Page.

Second, there is already a well-established body of law dealing with allegations that “material and relevant information was omitted” from the application to the court—and, in the case of Carter Page, that law appears to fall almost entirely on the side of the government.  In Franks v. Delaware (1978), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a court may only void a search warrant if the government “knowingly and intentionally, or with reckless disregard for the truth,” included false information or excluded true information that was or would have been critical to the court’s determination of probable cause.  The Nunes memo alleges nothing that would even come close to meeting this standard.  Indeed, we have every indication that the government made its application to the court in good faith.

So, to be clear: Carter Page was, more likely than not, an agent of a foreign power.  The Department of Justice thought so.  A federal judge agreed.  That consensus, supported by the facts, forms the basis for the warrant issued by the FISA court.  The Russian government waged a massive campaign to discredit our election.  Carter Page appears to have played a role in that effort.  The FBI has a responsibility to follow these facts where they lead.  The Nunes memo would have us sweep this all under the rug.  And for what, exactly?

II.        Christopher Steele is a recognized expert on Russia and organized crime.

Through several acts of willful omission, the Nunes memo alleges the FISA application is tainted because Christopher Steele “was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and the Clinton campaign . . . to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.”  The Nunes memo would have us believe the Russia investigation was a Democratic plot from the outset.  That is simply ridiculous.

The Nunes memo does not show that the government relied solely, or even substantially, on the information provided to the FBI by Christopher Steele when it made its application to the court.  It does not show that Steele’s work was compromised by the source of funding.  It does not show that Fusion GPS—the firm that hired Steele to do this work—was any more or less diligent when it worked for Democratic clients than when it worked for Republicans.  And, amazingly, the Nunes memo does not provide a single shred of evidence that any aspect of the Steele dossier is false or inaccurate in any way.

We have no idea if Christopher Steele even knew the source of his funding when Fusion GPS first hired him to research Donald Trump’s connections to the Russian government.  In fact, Fusion GPS initiated the project on behalf of the conservative Washington Free Beacon, not the DNC.  The firm’s task was to provide credible research, and they hired an expert for the job—a retired British intelligence officer, experienced in Russian affairs and well-known to the FBI as a useful source of valuable intelligence in earlier investigations.

Nothing about the source of Steele’s funding or his later opinions about Donald Trump speak to the credibility of his work, or its inclusion in the FISA application.  The Nunes memo gives us no reason to doubt the court’s determination of probable cause to believe that Carter Page was an agent of the Russian government—particularly given Page’s later admissions to the press about his interactions with Russian officials.

And nothing about the payment from the DNC is unethical or improper.  Christopher Steele is one of the world’s leading experts on Russian organized crime.  His job was to uncover the facts.  Many feared during the election that the Trump campaign had been compromised by the Russian government.  Two guilty pleas and two indictments later, those fears seem well justified.

III.       The Nunes memo provides no credible basis whatsoever for removing Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General.

The Nunes memo makes a point of stating that a number of officials, including Deputy Attorney General, “signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.”  Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions is recused from any investigation related to the 2016 campaigns, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein directly oversees the Special Counsel’s investigation.  The Deputy Attorney General has become a target for those attempting to interfere with that investigation.  President Trump has refused to rule out using the Nunes Memo as pretext for dismissing the DAG.  “You figure that one out,” he said when asked about the Deputy Attorney General on Friday.

Whatever one thinks of the merits of the Nunes memo—and it is clearly not a serious document—the memo provides no basis whatsoever to justify the removal of Rod Rosenstein as Deputy Attorney General from his critical and trusted position.   The Nunes memo focuses largely on process that transpired before the Deputy Attorney General took office.  There is no reason to believe that he reviewed or approved any FISA application for submission to the court except according to normal process and procedures.

The Nunes memo leaves out a critical point in this area as well.  Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, when seeking a renewal of a surveillance order, the government is required to provide the court “a statement of the facts concerning all previous applications . . . involving any of the persons, facilities, or places specified in the application.”  That requirement includes a description of the intelligence received so far and its value to the underlying case.  Although he was not involved in the initial application, the Deputy Attorney General could not have signed an application to renew surveillance on Carter Page if the government was unable to show that it had already gathered valuable evidence under existing orders and expected that collection to continue.  Under these circumstances, any decision not to approve the renewal would have appeared to have been politically motivated.

If the President is looking to fire Mr. Rosenstein, he will have to look outside the Nunes memo for his pretext.

IV.       The Nunes memo shows that House Republicans are now part and parcel to an organized effort to obstruct the Special Counsel’s investigation.

On January 24, 2018, the Department of Justice wrote to warn the House Intelligence Committee that releasing the memo would be “extraordinarily reckless.”  On January 29, the FBI issued a statement citing “grave concerns” with inaccuracies and omissions in that document.  On January 30, the Majority twice blocked our request to move the House Judiciary Committee into closed session, where we would have been free to discuss our own concerns with the plan to make this information public without context, without meaningful input from the FBI, and without providing Members with access to the source materials.  On February 1, I wrote to Chairman Goodlatte asking for him to call the FBI Director and other officials from the Department of Justice to brief us on an emergency basis—before the Nunes memo was made public—but my request was again ignored.

House Republicans do not speak up when President Trump attacks the press, smears career investigators by name, or demands loyalty from the leadership of the Department of Justice and the FBI.  They have taken no significant steps to understand how the Russian government worked to undermine our last election.  They show little interest in protecting our next election from foreign attack—even though President Trump’s hand-picked intelligence chiefs warn us that the threat is very real.

Until now, we could only really accuse House Republicans of ignoring the President’s open attempts to block the Russia investigation.

But with the release of the Nunes memo—a backhanded attempt to cast doubt on the origins of the Special Counsel’s investigation—we can only conclude that House Republicans are complicit in the effort to help the President avoid accountability for his actions and for the actions of his campaign.

In the end, who could possibly benefit from the release of this shoddy work?

Only Donald Trump, who will use these half-truths to further interfere with the Special Counsel, and Vladimir Putin, who now has a clear view of how our intelligence community attempted to interrupt his operations in the United States.

 

Additional Background

            Christopher Steele served as an intelligence officer with British intelligence service MI6 from 1987 until his retirement in 2009.  From 1990 to 1992, he worked under diplomatic cover as an MI6 agent in the Embassy of the United Kingdom to Russia.  By 2006, Steele headed the Russia Desk at MI6.  He remains one of the world’s foremost experts on Russia—and, in particular, connections between the Russian government and organized crime.

In September 2015, the conservative Washington Free Beacon retained the services of Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Donald Trump.  When President Trump emerged as the Republican candidate, the Clinton Campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired Fusion GPS for the same services.  As part of this project, Christopher Steel produced what became known as the Steele dossier.

            Carter Page was known to the United States government for his involvement with the Russian government long before he joined the Trump campaign.  Court documents show that Russian intelligence operatives attempted to recruit Page in 2013.  One spy thought that Page was “an idiot” who wants to “rise up” and “earn lots of money.”

Then-candidate Donald Trump named Page a part of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team on March 21, 2016.  In July 2016, with the explicit approval of the Trump campaign, Page traveled to Moscow to give a speech on “the future of the world economy” and to meet with Russian officials.  Despite several public accounts of these meetings, Page would later deny any contact with the Russian government.  By August 2016—when it had become apparent that the Russian government was working to undermine the election—the Trump campaign began to distance itself from Carter Page.

Later reports show that, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Page admitted to meeting with Russian officials and to briefing at least one “senior person” on the Trump campaign about those meetings.

None of this information relies upon the Steele dossier.

The relevant legal standard for evaluating the FISA application is laid out in Franks v. Delaware.  “[t]here is, of course, a presumption of validity with respect to the affidavit supporting the search warrant.”  438 U.S. 154, 171.

 

House Intelligence Committee Minority Response to Release of “Misleading Memo”

Washington, February 2, 2018 

Washington, DC – Today, the Minority of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence responded to the release of HPSCI Chairman Nunes’ memo:

“Chairman Nunes’ decision, supported by House Speaker Ryan and Republican Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to publicly release misleading allegations against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation is a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, and undercut congressional probes. Furthermore, their refusal to allow release of a comprehensive response memorandum prepared by Committee Democrats is a transparent effort to suppress the full truth.

“As the DOJ emphasized to Chairman Nunes, the decision to employ an obscure and never before used House rule to release classified information without DOJ and FBI vetting was ‘extraordinarily reckless.’ The selective release and politicization of classified information sets a terrible precedent and will do long-term damage to the Intelligence Community and our law enforcement agencies. If potential intelligence sources know that their identities might be compromised when political winds arise, those sources of vital information will simply dry up, at great cost to our national security.

“The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few Members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman Nunes himself chose not to review. It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign. The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President. Tellingly, when asked whether the Republican staff who wrote the memo had coordinated its drafting with the White House, the Chairman refused to answer.

“The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process. As the Minority memo makes clear, none of this is true. The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant.

“In order to understand the context in which the FBI sought a FISA warrant for Carter Page, it is necessary to understand how the investigation began, what other information the FBI had about Russia’s efforts to interfere with our election, and what the FBI knew about Carter Page prior to making application to the court – including Carter Page’s previous interactions with Russian intelligence operatives. This is set out in the Democratic response which the GOP so far refuses to make public.

“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.

“The DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia’s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents courted another Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos. As we know from Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Russian agents disclosed to Papadopoulos their possession of stolen Clinton emails and interest in a relationship with the campaign. In claiming that there is ‘no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos,’ the Majority deliberately misstates the reason why DOJ specifically explained Russia’s role in courting Papadopoulos and the context in which to evaluate Russian approaches to Page.

“The Majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate. The GOP memo also claims that a Yahoo News article was used to corroborate Steele, but this is not at all why the article was referenced. These are but a few of the serious mischaracterizations of the FISA application. There are many more set out in the Democratic response, which we will again be seeking a vote to release publicly on Monday, February 5th. Unlike Committee Republicans, however, we will ask the relevant agencies to propose any necessary redactions to protect any sources and methods not already disclosed by Chairman Nunes’ document.

“It is telling that Chairman Nunes put out this memo without bothering to read the underlying materials, and that he ordered changes to the document without informing his own committee members. It is a terrible lapse in leadership that Speaker Ryan failed to intervene and prevent the abuse of classified materials in this way. It is tragic, if all too predictable, that this President would allow the release of the memo despite FBI and DOJ’s expressions of ‘grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the [Republicans’] memo’s accuracy’. But most destructive of all may be the announcement by Chairman Nunes that he has placed the FBI and DOJ under investigation, impugning and impairing the work of the dedicated professionals trying to keep our country safe.”

The memo and letter from the White House can be found here.

Judicial Watch Sues for Russia Collusion FISA Documents

(Washington, DC) — Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Justice Department for FBI documents regarding the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrant application submitted to – and responses from – the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court related to alleged collusion between Russia and Trump campaign associates (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:18-cv-00245)).

Judicial Watch filed suit in the United States District Court of the District of Columbia after the agency rejected a July 19, 2017, FOIA request seeking:

Copies of all proposed and all final signed FISA applications submitted to the FISC relating to Russian interference in the 2016 election, allegations of collusion between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russia, and any known Trump associates regardless of context;

Copies of all FISC responses to the above-mentioned applications in which the Court notified the FBI or Justice Department that it would not grant the proposed applications or recommended changes. If any such FISC responses were provided orally, rather than in writing, please provide copies of FBI or Justice Department records memorializing or otherwise referencing the relevant FISC responses;

Copies of all FISC orders relating to the above mentioned applications, whether denying the applications and certifications, denying the orders, modifying the orders, granting the orders, or other types of orders.

“Today’s House Russia FISA memo makes a compelling case that the FISA court was misled and severely abused by top officials in the Justice Department and FBI,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The American people should be able to see for themselves the details of how the Obama administration officials (and Rod Rosenstein of the Trump administration) justified spying on the Trump team. From what we know publicly, this may be the worst government abuse scandal in a generation – which makes it urgent the Justice Department stop stonewalling the release of the alleged Trump-Russia collusion FISA documents.”

Nunes Must Go: #RemoveNunes: Twitter Funnies

FullofSchiff Jokes Occupy Twitter Users While Waiting for ReleaseTheMemo: Twitter Funnies

FullofSchiff Jokes Occupy Twitter Users While Waiting for ReleaseTheMemo: Twitter Funnies

#SchiffAboutToHitTheFan

#SchiffForBrains

#SmellsLikeBullSchiff

#FullOfSchiff

#InDeepSchiff

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#Schiffhole

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Nunes Must Go: #RemoveNunes: Twitter Funnies

ReleaseTheMemo: Another Delay Looms as Schiff Claims Memo Has Been Altered

Chuck Schumer reacts:

Earlier, Eric Holder chimed in, calling the memo nonsense:

Meanwhile, the full transcript of the meeting of the Intelligence Committee that voted to release the memo has been published online:

BUSINESS MEETING
Monday, January 29, 201’8
U.S. House.of Representatives,
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence,
Washington, D.C.

http://docs.house.gov/meetings/IG/IG00/20180129/106822/HMTG-115-IG00-Transcript-20180129.pdf