House Intelligence Committee Democrats on Saturday released their memo defending the Justice Department (DOJ) and FBI against allegations of surveillance abuses made in a memo by committee Republicans.
The 10-page Democratic memo charges that the Republican memo was wrong to assert that the FBI’s investigation of Russian election meddling resulted from the creation of the so-called Steele dossier — an unverified private intelligence document detailing Trump’s ties to Russia.
The Democratic memo claims that the FBI had been investigating Trump associates for seven weeks before the dossier, authored by former British spy Christopher Steele, was handed over to them. This, according to the memo, means that the FBI did not rely on the dossier to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Meanwhile, House conservatives have been touting the memo’s revelations as “worse than Watergate” and hinted that it could prove the undoing of the federal investigation into Trump’s campaign.
The White House responded to the release of the Democrats’ memo Saturday, saying it fails to answer questions raised by the original GOP document made public earlier this month.
“This politically driven document fails to answer serious concerns raised by the Majority’s memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate, loaded with uncorroborated allegations, as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate, at the height of a presidential campaign,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Trump later tweeted on the memo, saying: “The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST. Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!”
Nunes said on Saturday that the Democrat rebuttal will not affect the substance of the GOP’s document.
“What you’re not going to see is anything that actually rejects what was actually in our memo,” Nunes said while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “What you’re not going to see is anything that actually rejects what was actually in our memo.”
“What you basically will read in the Democratic memo is they are advocating that it is okay for the FBI and DOJ to use for political dirt paid for by one campaign and use it against the other campaign,” he said.
Nunes said earlier this month that he wanted the Democrat’s memo out. – The Hill
The release of the Democrat memo appears to be another attempt by Democrat lawmakers to dig themselves out of a gigantic “Trumped-up” Russian collusion hole. The problem is, the more they dig, the deeper the hole gets. It won’t be long before the Democrats have completely buried themselves in what many are calling the dirtiest political scandal in American history. The big question now is, will the final nail in the dirty Dems coffin be pounded into place just before the 2018 elections?
Andrew McCarthy wrote a great piece in the National Review that breaks down how the Democrats have actually caused themselves more harm by releasing their “Schiff memo” to the public. – The House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat begins his long-awaited memo — the minority response to the Nunes memo that was penned by staffers of the committee’s Republican majority — by slamming Chairman Devin Nunes’s unconscionable “risk of public exposure of sensitive sources and methods for no legitimate purpose.” The Schiff memo, which has been delayed for weeks because the FBI objected to its gratuitous effort to publicize highly classified intelligence, including methods and sources, then proceeds to tell its tale through what appear to be scores of blacked-out redactions of information Schiff pushed to expose.
It confirms that the FBI and the DOJ relied heavily on uncorroborated, third-hand, anonymous sources in their FISA application.
Heavy Reliance on Steele Dossier Confirmed
The FBI and the Justice Department heavily relied on the Steele dossier’s uncorroborated allegations. You know this is true because, notwithstanding the claim that “only narrow use” was made “of information from Steele’s sources,” the Democrats end up acknowledging that “only narrow use” actually means significant use — as in, the dossier was the sine qua non of the warrant application. The memo concedes that the FISA-warrant application relied on allegations by Steele’s anonymous Russian hearsay sources that:
Page met separately while in Russia with Igor Sechin, a close associate of Vladimir Putin and executive chairman of Roseneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company, and Igor Divyekin, a senior Kremlin official. Sechin allegedly discussed the prospect of future U.S.-Russia energy cooperation and “an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia.” Divyekin allegedly disclosed to Page that the Kremlin possessed compromising information on Clinton (“kompromat”) and noted the possibility of its being released to Candidate #1’s [i.e., Donald Trump’s] campaign. . . . This closely tracks what other Russian contacts were informing another Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos.
This passage puts the lie to two of the main Democratic talking points:
1) This was obviously the most critical allegation against Page. The Democrats attempt to make much of Page’s trip to Moscow in July 2016, but the uncorroborated Sechin and Divyekin meetings, which Page credibly denies, are the aspect of the Moscow trip that suggested a nefarious Trump–Russia conspiracy. That’s what the investigation was about. Far from clandestine, the rest of Page’s trip was well publicized and apparently anodyne. And saliently — for reasons we’ll get to in due course — Page was clearly prepared to talk to the FBI about the trip if the Bureau wanted to know what he was up to.
Moreover, because Page was an American citizen, FISA law required that the FBI and the DOJ show not only that he was acting as an agent of a foreign power (Russia), but also that his “clandestine” activities on behalf of Russia were a likely violation of federal criminal law. (See FISA, Section 1801(b)(2)(A) through (E), Title 50, U.S. Code.) It is the Steele dossier that alleges Page was engaged in arguably criminal activity. The Democrats point to nothing else that does.
2) Democrats implausibly insist that what “launched” the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation was not Steele’s allegations but intelligence from Australia about George Papadopoulos’s contact with what Democrats elusively describe as “individuals linked to Russia.” As we learned when Papadopoulos pled guilty, though, it is anything but clear that these “individuals linked to Russia” had much in the way of links to Putin’s regime: London-based academic Joseph Mifsud, who is from Malta and apparently does not speak Russian; an unidentified woman who falsely pretended to be Putin’s niece; and Ivan Timofeev, a program director at a Russian-government-funded think tank.
Even if we assume for argument’s sake that these characters had solid regime connections — rather than that they were boasting to impress the credulous young Papadopoulos — they were patently not in the same league as Sechin, a Putin crony, and Divyekin, a highly placed regime official. And that, manifestly, is how the FBI and the DOJ saw the matter: They sought a FISA warrant on Page, not Papadopoulos. And, as the above-excerpted passage shows, they highlighted the Steele dossier’s sensational allegations about Page and then feebly tried to corroborate those allegations with some Papadopoulos information, not the other way around. (More on that when we get to Schiff’s notion of “corroboration.”)
Concealing the Dossier’s Clinton-Campaign Origins
Another major takeaway from the Schiff memo is that the FBI and the DOJ withheld from the FISA court the fact that Steele’s work was a project of the Clinton campaign. Naturally, the reader must ferret this admission out of a couple of dense paragraphs, in which Democrats risibly claim that the “DOJ was transparent with the Court about Steele’s sourcing.”
How’s this for transparency? The FISA warrant application says that Steele, referred to as “Source #1,” was “approached by” Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, referred to as “an identified U.S. person,” who
indicated to Source #1 that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. Person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s [i.e., Trump’s] ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. Person and Source #1 have a longstanding business relationship.) The identified U.S. Person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. Person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign. [Emphasis in Schiff memo, p. 5]
The first thing to notice here is the epistemological contortions by which the DOJ rationalized concealing that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for Steele’s reporting. They ooze consciousness of guilt. If you have to go through these kinds of mental gymnastics to avoid disclosing something, it’s because you know that being “transparent” demands disclosing it.
Schiff’s memo struggles mightily, and futilely, to demonstrate that Steele’s credibility issues were sufficiently disclosed. But that is a side issue. The question is whether Steele’s informants were credible. To the limited extent that committee Democrats grapple with this problem, they tell us that, after the first FISA application, the FBI and the DOJ provided additional information that corroborated Steele’s informants. There are four problems with this:
1) It would not justify using uncorroborated allegations in the first warrant.
2) The supposedly corroborative information is blacked out; while that may be an appropriate protection of sensitive intelligence, we are still left having to take Schiff’s word for it.
3) Taking Schiff’s word for it would be unwise given his memo’s warped conception of “corroboration.” Recall the Schiff memo passage excerpted in the first section above. In the last part, the Democrats argue that the dossier claim that Page met with Kremlin official Divyekin was somehow corroborated because it “closely tracked” what Papadopoulos was hearing from his dubious “Russian contacts.” But the supposed “Russian contacts” were telling Papadopoulos that the Kremlin had thousands of Clinton-related emails. That did nothing to confirm Steele’s claim that Page had met with Divyekin, a top regime official; nor did it corroborate that the “kompromat” Divyekin referred to was the same thing as the emails that Papadopoulos’s “Russian contacts” were talking about. (Of course, it may well be that Page never actually met with Divyekin and that Papadopoulos’s sources were wrong about emails; if so, committee Democrats are in the strange position of contending that the non-existent can corroborate the non-existent.)
4) Most significantly, Democrats seem not to grasp that the flaw here lies not merely in the failure to corroborate the information from Steele’s sources. There appears not even to be corroboration that these sources existed — i.e., that they are real people whose claims are accurately reported. Indeed, it is worse than that. Even if we stipulate for argument’s sake that Steele’s anonymous Russian informants are authentic, they are generally hearsay witnesses, one or more steps removed from the events they relate. The real question, then, is whether the informants’ sources are real, identifiable, reliable informants. Based on what has been disclosed, we must assume that the FBI did not know. That is why the DOJ inappropriately tried to rely on Steele’s credibility.
For the entire article, go to National Review.