Capitol Report: Schiff memo released challenging Republican allegations of government overreach related to Mueller probe
The White House on Saturday agreed to let the House Intelligence Committee release a redacted version of a Democratic memo that rebuts Republican efforts to rein in the Mueller investigation into Russian election meddling.
This version, known as the Schiff memo for Rep. Adam Schiff of California, serves as a Democratic response to the Nunes memo, crafted under the direction of Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican. The latter alleged that the FBI and Department of Justice abused its power while surveilling Carter Page, a former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, among other concerns. But Schiff contends his memo proves warrants were properly obtained.
The 10-page Schiff document released Saturday reads: “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”
The Nunes memo had charged that surveillance against Page—approved by top officials at the Justice Department and FBI—used information from an-ex British spy. The memo added that top law-enforcement officials knew the spy, Christopher Steele, was being paid through intermediaries by the Democratic Party when they sought the warrant and the renewals. Steele’s information was an essential basis for the warrant, the memo said.
Read: Mueller’s Russia indictment should push Trump and Congress to protect 2018 election
“The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the FISC,” Schiff said in a statement.
“Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests,” Schiff said.
Schiff and other Democrats charge that the Republican memo led by Nunes is misleading and omits key facts, including that the FISA application did state that Steele, the author of the dossier, was paid by a political entity.
The parties still see vast differences in the approach. For instance, the Republican memo accuses the Justice Department of basing the application to the FISA court entirely on Steele’s unverified dossier. The Democratic memo argues that the Justice Department gave the court a host of additional information to consider beyond the dossier.
And, the Nunes memo accused the Justice Department of misleading the FISA court by failing to mention Steele’s political connections to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The Schiff memo says the department gave all of the necessary political context to the FISA court, but followed longstanding practice and did not identify the Americans involved by name.
The White House said in a statement that nothing in the Democratic memo counters Trump’s statements that neither he nor his campaign colluded with Russia.
“While the Democrats’ memorandum attempts to undercut the President politically, the President supported its release in the interest of transparency,” the statement read. “Nevertheless, 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.”
Trump, on Fox News, targeted Schiff: “He’ll leak all sorts of information. You know, he’s a bad guy. Certainly the memo was a nothing.”
Speaking Saturday afternoon at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Nunes said that he wanted the Democratic memo released “because we think it is clear evidence that the Democrats are not only trying to cover this up, but they’re also colluding with parts of the government to help cover this up.”
“So what you basically will read in the Democratic memo is that they are advocating that it’s okay for the FBI and DOJ to use political dirt paid for by one campaign and use it against the other campaign,” Nunes said.
“The Democrats’ memo is careful and comprehensive and places much that has happened in context,” said Carl Tobias, the Williams Chair in Law at the University of Richmond. “The memo persuasively refutes the contention that the FBI and DOJ somehow misled the FISA court. All of this means that the memo is important in the court of public opinion.”
With the release of the Schiff memo, the Intelligence Committee has now voted to release two classified documents using an obscure rule that had never been invoked in the panel’s history.