GOP Document Alleging Surveillance Abuses by FBI is Released: Read Full Memo

The controversial four-page memo created by Republican staffers on the House Intelligence Committee alleging abuse of surveillance authority by the Justice Department and FBI has been released Friday after being declassified by the president. The memo is unredacted.

What does the memo say?

  • The gist of it: CBS News’ Jeff Pegues reports that the memo focuses in part on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that authorized the surveillance of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Federal law enforcement sources as well as congressional sources briefed on the intelligence during the 2016 campaign have said that well before Page joined the Trump campaign, there were concerns about his contacts with Russian spies. The memo connects information gathered for the Trump “dossier” to the obtaining of those FISA warrants.
  • The details: The memo claims that on Oct. 21, 2016 the DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order authorizing electronic surveillance on Page. The FBI and DOJ obtained three FISA warrants targeting Page and three FISA renewals, according to the memo. Then-FBI Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one, according to the memo. The memo says then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of the DOJ.
  • That’s where the “dossier” — information compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of Democrats — comes in. The memo says neither the initial application for the warrant in October 2016 or any of the renewals reference the roles of the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton’s campaign in funding of Steele’s efforts — even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.”
  • “The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier.) The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and the Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information,” the memo claims.
  • The memo also claims that, before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he kept in contact with the DOJ through then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr. Ohr, who worked closely with Yates then Rosenstein, eventually spoke with the FBI about his communications with Steele. In September 2016, Steele apparently told Ohr he was “‘desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,'” according to the memo. The memo also notes Ohr’s wife worked for Fusion GPS to help with the opposition research against Trump, something the memo claims was not disclosed.
  • The memo also claims that McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought without the Steele dossier information.
  • The memo also claims information about George Papadopoulos — who has since leaded guilty to lying to the FBI — triggered the opening of a counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Peter Strzok. (Strzok was removed from Mueller’s probe after anti-Trump texts between him and former FBI agent Lisa Page were discovered.)

What does the memo not say?

  • The memo does not appear to allege any violation of federal law. The memo also does not claim the Russia investigation was started with the dossier.
  • The memo also does not immediately appear to disclose information that seriously compromises national security, or law enforcement methods, as Democrats had feared. There could be longer-term concerns about faith in the FBI, or the willingness of the intelligence community to share information with congressional committees.

How are people reacting to the memo’s release?

  • Page gave this response to the release of the memo to the media: “The brave and assiduous oversight by congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America’s democracy. Now that a few of the misdeeds against the Trump movement have been partially revealed, I look forward to updating my pending legal action in opposition to DOJ this weekend in preparation for Monday’s next small step on the long, potholed road toward helping to restore law and order in our great country.”

What were the objections to its release?

The release came against strong objections from the intelligence community. On Wednesday, the FBI issued a rare statement warning against the memo’s release, saying incompletely information in the memo raised “grave concerns.” FBI Director Christopher Wray also objected to the memo’s release, and, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asked White House chief of staff John Kelly not to allow its release.

Democrats have expressed concern that Republicans are using the memo to undermine the credibility of the FBI and DOJ as Mueller investigates Russian election meddling and any ties to Russia.

The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday night to release the memo, allowing the White House five days to object to its release. But Kelly had indicated Wednesday morning in an interview with Fox News Radio that the memo would be released, and President Trump, after his first State of the Union address Tuesday night, said he agreed “100 percent” that the memo should be released.

SOURCE: CBS News


A GOP memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI has been released, intensifying a fight between the White House and Republican lawmakers, on one side, and the nation’s top law enforcement agency over claims the FBI hid the political motivations of a key figure supplying them information in the case.

President Trump had approved release of the memo without redactions Friday morning, telling reporters in the Oval Office, “I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country. . . . A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”

The FBI has said it has “grave concerns” that the contents of the memo leave out important details and create an inaccurate portrait of their work.

The four-page, newly declassified memo written by the Republican staffers for the House Intelligence Committee said the findings “raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain (Justice Department) and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC),’’ calling it “a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.’’

The memo alleges that a surveillance warrant was obtained and renewed on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page, with information from an individual with an anti-Trump agenda.

It accuses former officials who approved the surveillance applications – a group that includes former FBI Director James B. Comey, his former deputy Andrew McCabe, former deputy attorney general Sally Yates and current Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — of signing off on court surveillance requests that omitted key facts about the political motivations of the person supplying some of the information, Christopher Steele, a former intelligence officer in Britain.

The memo says Steele “was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI.’’ The memo argues that Steele’s contacts with reporters in the fall of 2016 “violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality – and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.”

The government website housing the memo, docs.house.gov, crashed soon after it was posted, apparently overwhelmed by users clamoring to read the document.

The memo is not an intelligence document and reflects information the committee has gathered, which Democrats, the FBI and Justice Department have criticized as incomplete and misleading. Law enforcement officials have said they often rely on information from people with grudges or agendas but investigators are expected to check the accuracy of any claims before seeking a warrant.

Current and former law enforcement officials said a major concern inside the FBI is that the rules governing classified information will impede their ability to respond to the memo’s accusations when it becomes public.

The Justice Department and the FBI did not immediately comment after the memo’s release Friday.

In September 2016, according to the memo, Steele admitted that he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president” in a conversation with Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official.

At the time, Steele was researching possible Trump ties to Russia on behalf of Fusion GPS, a Washington, D.C. firm that also hired Ohr’s wife to do Russia-related research. Fusion GPS was initially hired in late 2015 by a conservative website funded by a major GOP donor who wanted research done on Trump’s business history.

Then, in the spring of 2016, Fusion GPS was hired by a lawyer representing the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee to continue researching Trump. After the Democrats starting paying Fusion GPS, the firm hired Steele.

The memo charges law enforcement officials vouched for Steele as someone who had provided valuable information in an earlier corruption probe involving FIFA, the world soccer organization, but did not tell the court about his political views regarding Trump.

“While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations,’’ the memo states.

Bill Priestap, an FBI executive, said the work of corroborating Steele’s allegations against Page was in its “infancy’’ at the time of the first FISA application, and McCabe told the committee in December that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] without the Steele dossier information,’’ according to the memo.

After the FBI terminated Steele as a source, an internal FBI report assessed Steele’s information had been “only minimally corroborated,” the memo said.

Friday morning, the president tweeted in anticipation of the memo’s release, saying: “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago.’’ He added: “Rank & File are great people!”

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted in response, “No, Mr. President it’s worse than that. The country’s top elected leader has agreed to selectively and misleadingly release classified info to attack the FBI — that’s what would have been unthinkable a short time ago.”

The memo has been the subject of intense debate in Congress, but the fightratcheted up this week when the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to make the document public under a process that gives the president up to five days to block its release. The committee Republicans also voted not to release a Democratic rebuttal memo, saying they would allow that document to be made public in the future.

It is highly unusual for the White House and the FBI to be publicly at odds over a matter of national security, and it is unclear what impact the disagreement might have on the standing of FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Rosenstein, two Trump appointees who went to the White House on Monday in an unsuccessful bid to urge that the memo not be released.

Law enforcement officials have expressed fear that Trump may try to use the memo’s release as justification to fire Rosenstein, who is overseeing Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the Russia interference probe.

SOURCE: Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Josh Dawsey
The Washington Post

Complete Memo Below

THE WHITE HOUSE
WASHINGTON
February 2, 2018

The Honorable Devin Nunes
Chairman, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
United States Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

On January 29, 2018, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (hereinafter “the Committee”) voted to disclose publicly a memorandum containing classified information provided to the Committee in connection with its oversight activities (the “Memorandum,” which is attached to this letter). As provided by clause 11(g) of Rule of the House of Representatives, the Committee has forwarded this Memorandum to the President based on its determination that the release of the Memorandum would serve the public interest.

The Constitution vests the President with the authority to protect national security secrets from it disclosure. As the Supreme Court has recognized, it is the President’s responsibility to classify, declassify, and control access to information bearing on our intelligence sources and methods and national defense. See, Dep of Navy v. Egan, 484 US. 518, 527 (1988). In order to facilitate appropriate congressional oversight, the Executive Branch may entrust classified information to the appropriate committees of Congress, as it has done in connection with the Committee’s oversight activities here. The Executive Branch does so on the assumption that the Committee will responsibly protect such classified information, consistent with the laws of the United States.

The Committee has now determined that the release of the Memorandum would be appropriate. The Executive Branch, across Administrations of both parties, has worked to accommodate congressional requests to declassify specific materials in the public interest. However, public release of classified information by unilateral action of the Legislative Branch is extremely rare and raises significant separation of powers concerns. Accordingly, the Committee’s request to release the Memorandum is interpreted as a request for declassification pursuant to the President’s authority.

The President understands that the protection of our national security represents his highest obligation. Accordingly, he has directed lawyers and national security staff to assess the declassification request, consistent with established standards governing the handling of classified information, including those under Section 3.1(d) of Executive Order 13526. Those standards permit declassification when the public interest in disclosure outweighs any need to protect the information. The White House review process also included input from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice. Consistent with this review and these standards, the President has determined that declassification of the Memorandum is appropriate.

Based on this assessment and in light of the significant public interest in the memorandum, the President has authorized the declassification of the Memorandum. To be clear, the Memorandum reflects the judgments of its congressional authors. The President understands that oversight concerning matters related to the Memorandum may be continuing. Though the circumstances leading to the declassification through this process are extraordinary, the Executive Branch stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards and processes, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods.

Sincerely,
Donald F. McGahn II
Counsel to the President

cc: The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House of Representatives

The Honorable Adam Schiff
Ranking Member, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence


Declassified by order of the President
February 2, 2018

January 18, 2018

To: HPSCI Majority Members
From: HPSCI Majority Staff
Subject: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Purpose

This memorandum provides Members an update on significant facts relating to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle. Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the ISA process.

Investigation Update

On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a ISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a US citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign. Consistent with requirements under FISA, the application had to be first certified by the Director or Deputy  Director of the FBI. It then required the approval of the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General (DAG), or the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division.

The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute (50 U.S.C. a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the ISC every 90 days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one.  Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the ISC are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard — particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

1) The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source who was paid over $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton campaign, via the law firm Perkins Coie and research firm Fusion GPS, to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

a) Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or. any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior and FBI officials.

b) The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named US. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a US. Law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOI at the, time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of — and paid by — the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.

2) The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo NewsThe Page FISA application incorrectly assesses that Steele did not directly provide information to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News — and several other outlets – in September 2016 at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie was aware of Steele’s initial media contacts because they hosted at least one meeting in Washington DC. in 2016 with Steele and Fusion GPS where this matter was discussed.”

a) Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations — an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn. Steele should have been terminated for his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets in September — before the Page application was submitted to the FISC in October — but Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts.

b) Steele’s numerous encounters with the media violated the cardinal rule of source handling — maintaining confidentiality — and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.

3) Before and after Steele was terminated as a source, he maintained contact with DOJ via then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce 0hr, a senior DOJ official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Yates and later Rosenstein. Shortly after the election, the FBI began interviewing 0hr, documenting his communications with Steele. For example, in September 2016, Steele admitted to 0hr his feelings against then-candidate Trump when Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not, being president.” This clear evidence of Steele’s bias was recorded by Ohr at the time and subsequently in official FBI files – but not reflected in any of the Page FISA applications.

a) During this same time period, Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research, paid for by the DNC and Clinton campaign via Fusion GPS. The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC.

4) According to the head of the counterintelligence division, Assistant Director Bill Priestap, corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its “infancy” at the time of the initial Page FISA application. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Yet, in early January 2017, Director Comey briefed President-elect Trump on a summary of the Steele dossier, even though it was — according to his June 2017 testimony – “salacious and unverified.” While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his
anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations. Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

5) The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok. Strzok was reassigned by the Special Counsel’s Office to FBI Human Resources for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), where they both demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, Whom Strzok had also investigated. The Strzok/Lisa Page texts also reflect extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.