The infamous memo that has consumed Washington for the past two weeks has finally been released.
The four-page memo is a partisan document written by California Republican Rep. Devin Nunes and pushed by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee. The previously classified memo outlines some, but perhaps not all, details of how the Department of Justice secured a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in 2016. Page, however, had been under watch by counterintelligence officials since at least 2013 for his contact with a Russian spy who tried to recruit him as a source.
To secure the warrant, the DOJ used information from a salacious dossier, which was funded by political opponents of Trump, including the Clinton campaign. Nunes, head of the House Intelligence Committee, created the memo based on classified documents subpoenaed from the DOJ to expose what he calls anti-Trump bias within the intelligence community.
The declassified copy contains some new evidence of the dossier's use, although not much. Here are the main points:
- The memo claims that the dossier was an “essential” part of the surveillance application.
- The memo claims that Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified to the House Intelligence Committee that the FBI would not have gone to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as the FISA court, which grants these types of warrants, without the dossier. There's no quote of his testimony though.
- The memo also says that the FBI and the Justice Department did not disclose to the FISA court that the dossier had been paid for by Trump’s political opponents, including Hillary Clinton.
- The initial surveillance application for Page cited a Yahoo News article with information about Page's July 2016 trip to Moscow, when he may have met with the CEO of Russia's leading oil company who's also a longtime associate to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The memo claims that rather than corroborating the dossier, the Yahoo story was actually a product of a leak from Christopher Steele, a former spy who created the dossier and was meeting with journalists. It's unclear, however, what evidence Nunes has.
- In 2016, Steele told Deputy Attorney General Brad Ohr that he was "desperate" for Trump not to be elected.
- The Department of Justice and the FBI sought and received authorization for electronic surveillance of Page on Oct. 21, 2016.
- The FISA court renewed its surveillance authorization for Page three times.
- Current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who’s overseeing special counsel Bob Mueller’s Russia investigation, applied for permission to continue surveillance of Page at least once.
- The memo also confirms that information about George Papadopoulos — who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in October about his communications with Russian officials — spurred the FBI to open a counterintelligence investigation into Russian ties to Trump advisors in July of 2016. That information was first reported by the New York Times.
In a statement after the memo's release, Page said the "unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America’s democracy."
Former FBI Director James Comey, however, shrugged off the memo's contents.
The FBI and Department of Justice had said the memo leaves out key facts. “We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy,” the FBI said in a statement on Wednesday. Former spies also say that by revealing U.S. intelligence operations, the document risks harming key intelligence-sharing operations with other countries.
Republicans on the committee voted unanimously to release the memo to the public Monday; the White House had five days to consider whether to release it. Immediately after Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday, a hot mic caught him saying that he would “100 percent” release it. At that point, Trump hadn’t even read the document, White House officials later told the Washington Post.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, however, said the memo contains information cherry-picked to mislead the public. California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the committee, even accused Nunes of altering the memo before sending it to the White House. Nunes said the changes were only minor.
Still, Trump followed through on his promise. Here’s the memo, in full: