Here are nine things to know about the Nunes memo, written by Republican House staffers:
- The central claim of the memo is factually inaccurate. The memo alleges surveillance abuses around a FISA warrant issued against Carter Page that was based on the Steele dossier, but the warrant included material beyond the dossier and counterintelligence officials had been watching Page since at least 2013.
Wall Street Journal: “The Wall Street Journal has previously reported that the warrant included material beyond research compiled by Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence official. What is known from court documents and testimony by Mr. Page before Congress is that the former Trump aide has been known to U.S. counterintelligence officials dating back to at least 2013, nearly three years before he joined the Trump campaign.”
CNN: “These intelligence officials emphasize that applications for FISA warrants would need to be based on law enforcement information as well as intelligence gathered independently by US intelligence agencies. That would include intercepted communications and would not meet the standard for approval if the applications were based largely or entirely on outside information, such as the dossier compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.”
- The memo is aimed at discrediting the special counsel’s investigation. As Trump himself has reportedly said, the purpose of releasing this memo is to tarnish and discredit the FBI and the special counsel’s investigation.
CNN: “President Donald Trump continues to tell his associates he believed the highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools could help discredit the Russia investigation, multiple sources familiar with White House discussions said.”
- Trump’s own Department of Justice and the FBI director he appointed oppose releasing the memo. Trump’s Department of Justice warned that releasing the memo would be “extraordinarily reckless,” and the FBI director Trump appointed said he had “grave concerns” about the memo, and that it has “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
FBI: “With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
CBS News: “Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes in a letter Wednesday that releasing a memo prepared by the committee's staff alleging abuses at the Department of Justice and FBI would be ‘extraordinarily reckless.’”
- Republicans agreed that releasing the memo would pose an unnecessary risk to national security. Lawmakers cautioned against politicizing Congress’s oversight role, warning that Trump’s and House Republicans’ decision risked undermining intelligence-gathering and showed disregard for our national security.
Sen. John Thune: “They need to pay careful attention to what our folks who protect us have to say about what this, you know, how this bears on our national security.”
Sen. Jeff Flake: “The President’s apparent willingness to release this memo risks undermining U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts, politicizing congress’ oversight role, and eroding confidence in our institutions of government.”
Sen. John Kennedy: “We can’t let the politics of the moment cloud our judgment. If there’s classified information in that memo, it shouldn’t be released.”
- Trump wants to selectively and misleadingly release classified information in order to attack the FBI. Remember when mishandling classified information was a big deal? Trump is now purposefully releasing classified information in order to undermine an investigation against him.
Washington Post: “Law enforcement and intelligence officials have expressed ‘grave concerns’ about the memo’s release, saying it contains classified information and inaccuracies.”
USA Today: “Democrats said the memo omits other evidence – still classified – that allowed the government to secure the warrant on a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser and that Trump and Nunes are seeking to undermine the Russia investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”
- Nunes has not clearly answered the question of whether he or his staff conspired with the White House on the memo. In a closed-door committee meeting last week, Nunes only said “not that I’m aware of” when asked whether he worked with the White House to produce the memo, and he did not answer when asked whether his staff had worked on it with the White House.
Daily Beast: “The transcript of the meeting, released the day after this story was initially published, shows Quigley asking ‘with the greatest respect’ if the White House aided Nunes in any way, including consulting with him on the memo. Nunes initially replied: ‘I would just answer, as far as I know, no.’ He continued, ‘And I would just also say that we are well aware the minority has not wanted to conduct this investigation by the public opposition to the subpoenas that we issued back in August that were clearly looking into matters of FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] abuse and other matters.’ Quigley asked Nunes if that meant ‘none of the staff members that worked for the majority had any consultation, communication at all with the White House?’ Nunes shut Quigley down: ‘The chair is not going to entertain–’ after which Quigley yielded.
- Yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the memo did not impugn the FBI, Department of Justice, the Mueller investigation or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein. While it’s clear that is all precisely the reason Trump wants this memo out, Republicans should be put on record stating whether they agree with their leader that the memo is no justification to go after Mueller, Rosenstein or the Russia investigation.
RYAN: “What this is not is an indictment on our institutions of our justice system. This memo is not an indictment of the FBI or the Department of Justice. It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the Deputy Attorney General.” […] QUESTION: “Mr. Speaker, do you really believe that this memo has nothing at all to do and no impact on the special counsel’s investigation?” RYAN: “What I’m trying to say is people should not draw lines, people should not implicate – well, that’s what I’m suggesting, people should not be drawing lines, people should not be implicating independent issues. This does not implicate the Mueller investigation, this does not implicate the DAG.”
- Trump and Nunes have been working overtime to try and discredit the Russia investigation. Nunes admitted to making changes to his memo after it was voted on by his committee, and before sending it to the White House. Nunes was previously forced to recuse himself after a dramatic announcement of supposed Obama administration unmasking, that turned out to be planted by the White House and not improper.
Schiff: “BREAKING: Discovered late tonight that Chairman Nunes made material changes to the memo he sent to White House – changes not approved by the Committee. White House therefore reviewing a document the Committee has not approved for release.”
New York Times: “Mr. Nunes also has earned a reputation of being a staunch Trump loyalist — or ‘Trump’s stooge,’ as his hometown newspaper, The Fresno Bee, called him last week. Last year, he dramatically announced that a whistle-blower had shown him materials revealing that Obama administration officials had improperly ‘unmasked’ the identities of Mr. Trump’s associates in intelligence reports based on surveillance, and that he intended to inform the White House about what he had learned. But it later emerged that Mr. Trump’s aides at the White House had shown him those materials, and other Republicans who later examined them concluded no one had been improperly unmasked.”
- As with other Republican conspiracy theories, this memo will likely crumble under scrutiny. Another conspiracy designed to show bias at the FBI quickly crumbled this week. The FBI agent accused by Republicans of interfering to help Hillary Clinton has been revealed to have played a key role in the effort to re-open the Clinton email investigation in 2016.
CNN: “Emails obtained by CNN show the FBI agent at the center of a Capitol Hill storm played a key role in a controversial FBI decision that upended Hillary Clinton's campaign just days before the 2016 election: the letter to Congress by then-FBI Director James Comey announcing the bureau was investigating newly discovered Clinton emails. The new revelation about FBI agent Peter Strzok comes as Republicans accuse him of being sympathetic to Clinton while seeking to undermine Donald Trump during the heat of the 2016 campaign season.”