Politics of hysteria The muchanticipated Nunes memo left experts legal businessunderwhelmedSteele had improper contact with members of the media and was later 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 …
Moreover, experts said the ct that Ohr reported his conversations with Steele to the FBI undermines the claim that he was a partisan.
But as r as its material claims go, the memo was underwhelming to legal experts and former intelligence officials.
While Republicans say the document, which was compiled by embattled House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, is clear evidence of partisan bias at the DOJ and the FBI, Democrats say it contains significant omissions and inaccuracies that mischaracterize the intelligence communitys work.
Its primary allegation was that the DOJ and FBI bypassed proper procedure when seeking a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Nunes said Friday that he has not viewed the underlying intelligence that he based his memo on. Even so, he claimed in the document that the DOJ and FBI waived protocol by omitting material and relevant information from the FISA warrant, including that
The Steele dossier, which was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele and alleges several ties between Trump and Russia, was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee via the law firm Perkins Coie, which retained the opposition research firm Fusion GPS to produce the dossier.
A White House official walked back Trumps cryptic comment Friday night. The official said there had been no discussion or consideration about firing Rosenstein, Reuters and CNN reported.
Cramer also pointed out that Nunes, in the argument that the FBI and the DOJ omitted critical information when applying for a FISA warrant to surveil Page, appeared himself to leave important information out of the memo.
The Russia investigation was launched after early foreignpolicy adviser George Papadopoulos told a top Australian diplomat that he had been offered kompromat on then Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Experts also highlighted a paragraph in the beginning of the memo as proof that the nations top law enforcement and intelligence officials took the necessary steps to ensure proper protocol was followed when it came to targeting US citizens for surveillance
While many of the dossiers claims still remain uncorroborated, both the FBI and the Senate Intelligence Committee are using it as a roadmap to conduct their investigations into Russias election interference.
Even so, its likely Trump and his allies will characterize the memo as proof that the two agencies are politically biased against the president and therefore require a change in top leadership.
Deitz, the former general counsel at the NSA, said of the memo, You read this thing through and think about all the anticipation that went into its release and think, What am I missing?
Anyone whos thinking about whats going on here at a deeper level will be alarmed by this memo and what it could mean, he said. Were seeing the systematic undermining of our institutions of government and the functions of our democracy. This is a slowmotion push. This is Berlin in . Its really, really shocking.
Trump and his allies in Congress and in the media have pointed to those revelations topaintthe dossier as phony and evidence of what they characterize as Hillary Clintonscollusionwith the FBI and the DOJ.
The Papadopoulos information Nunes was referring to was an interaction the former aide had in May , during which Papadopoulos is said to have boasted to a top Australian diplomat about Russias kompromat on Clinton while he was drinking at a swanky London bar.
Moreover, he added, a quick glance will also show that except Boente who left on his own and [Rod Rosenstein] … the rest were fired or pushed out.
In July , the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks posted a trove of hacked emails from the DNC. Australian officials then informed their American counterparts of Papadopoulos conversation with the diplomat, Alexander Downer, which is what prompted the FBI to open its investigation, The New York Times reported last year.
The highlyanticipated release of Rep. Devin Nunes memo, which claims to show the Department of Justice and FBI abusing their surveillance power, seemed more like a list of Republican talking points, experts said Friday.
Nunes also went on to touch base on recent revelations that Mueller ousted an investigator on his team, Peter Strzok, after it emerged that Strzok was exchanging antiTrump messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was reportedly having an extramarital afir.
In particular, Cramer dismissed the memos claim that senior FBI official Bill Priestap said the dossiers corroboration was in its inncy at the time of the first FISA application targeting Page. It neglects to note that Carter Page was on the FBIs radar going back to or with respect to foreign agent relationships, he said. That is a HUGE omission.
Addressing the memos release on Friday, President Donald Trump said, I think its a disgrace whats happening in our country.
The information Nunes presented, he said, indicated that the DOJ and the FBI were following the rule of law and correct procedure to the very last step.Thats the job. Thats what they did.
Nunes memo claims that the StrzokPage s demonstrated a clear bias against Trump and in vor of Clinton, adding that they 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 Trumps election.
Indeed, when asked Monday whether he still had confidence in Rosenstein after reading the memo, and whether he would fire the deputy attorney general, Trump replied You figure that one out.
The memo did not alter the cts of the Russia investigation, they said, and it did not have any information indicating that law enforcement officials bypassed protocol at any point.
The information demonstrates that there were seven different instances when the FISA application had to be adjudicated, and each time it was renewed and by five different people from multiple agencies, said Carle, the former CIA operative. And all of that is prior to the deliberations and decisions, seven times over, by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is yet another branch of the government.
Corroboration of the Steele dossier was in its inncy at the time of the initial FISA application to monitor Page.
Cramer largely agreed and pointed out that the laundry list of people who have signed off on the various applications and renewals could be the attendance sheet at a Federalist Society meeting. These are all Republicans.
So Nunes is indirectly admitting here that the Steele dossier was not, in ct, the ctor that launched the Russia investigation, Carle said.
Robert Deitz, the former general counsel at the National Security Agency, put it bluntly This is a big nothingburger.
A vertical stack of three evenly spaced horizontal lines.
Carle made a similar point with respect to Steeles conversation with Bruce Ohr, a senior DOJ official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS during the election. Ohr, who oversees the organized crime task force at the DOJ, told the FBI that Steele told him in September that he was desperate Trump not be elected and was passionate about him not being president.
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Patrick Cotter, a longtime former federal prosecutor who has worked in the past with investigators on Muellers team, said of the s in an earlier interview, I guess Id ask how the existence or content of emails between two people at the FBI could possibly change any of the cts.
Politics of hysteria The muchanticipated Nunes memo left experts underwhelmed
House Intelligence Committee releases controversial Nunes memo after Trump authorizes its declassification
Nothing in the memo regardless of whether it turns out to be true or a lie by omission substantiates this politics of hysteria.
Steeles concern, Carle said, was natural given the extensive associations of the Trump entourage with Russian intelligence activites. But this is immaterial if two and two add to four, it does not matter that the person doing the math is lefthanded or righthanded.
But the memo will still likely be weaponized by allies of President Donald Trump, many of whom have urged him to clean house at the DOJ and the FBI.
This is a classic ersionary tactic, former CIA operative Glenn Carle said of the memos mention of the dossier. You dont like the message, you tar the messenger. But cts are cts, and point after point after point of the dossier has been verified.
Nunes memo also contained another section which observers immediately latched onto, because it undercut a main GOP talking point with respect to the Russia investigation. Specifically, that it was launched primarily based on the Clinton madekedossier containing salacious and uncorroborated information meant to undermine the Trump presidency.
Notice that the bulk of what is going on in this memo is an attack not on the veracity of the information, but an attack on the provider of the information, and thats crucial to understand, he said. These are Republican talking points dressed up as a classified memo.
The Steele dossier was originally funded by a group of Republicans who opposed Trump during the Republican primaries. After Trump became the partys nominee, Hillary Clintons campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired the Perkins Coie law firm, which in turn retained the oppositionresearch firm Fusion GPS to fund the dossiers production.
Former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer questioned Nunes decision to include the Papadopoulos reference in the memo as well. It seems like they ran out of things to say, he said. That part reads like a defense motion if Page was indicted and they relied upon Papadopoulos.
In September , Steele told a senior DOJ official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS that he was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.
Former FBI Director James Comey testifies on Capitol Hill.Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Republican talking points dressed up as a classified memo
According to the memo, the FISA application for Page 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 ct is, youre not missing anything, he said. Theres nothing new in here, and more importantly, theres nothing in here that indicates the FBI or the DOJ acted inappropriately or illegally.
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Jens David Ohlin, a vice dean at Cornell Law School and an expert on criminal law, echoed that point. Theres a colossal mismatch between the claims in the introduction and the main of the memo, he said, which ils to deliver on its promise to detail concerns that question the legitimacy and legality of the DOJ and FBI and that constitute a troubling breakdown of the legal process.
The FBI and DOJ obtained one initial FISA warrant targeting Carter Page and three FISA renewals from the FISC. As required by statute USC d, a FISA order on an American citizen must be renewed by the FISC every days and each renewal requires a separate finding of probable cause. ThenDirector James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. ThenDAG Sally Yates, thenActing DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.
It goes on to say, The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July by FBI agent Peter Strzok.
What [former national security adviser Michael Flynn] said matters; the circumstances of his resignation matter; [attorney general Jeff] Sessions actions, the cts surrounding Comeys firing and Muellers appointment; all those cts matter, he added. What two people at the FBI not directly involved in any of these events said to each other does not matter, and it hardly would be evidence that had any admissibility or relevance to the Mueller investigation or an eventual grand jurys decision regarding that evidence.
The release on Friday of a highly controversial memo that claims surveillance abuse on the part of the FBI and the Department of Justice has Republicans and Democrats at each others throats.
Of course Trump will use the memo to say this is all a witch hunt, Deitz said. You throw dirt on the wall, some amount of it sticks.