5 Key Takeaways From the Democratic Rebuttal Memo

Three weeks ago, House Republicans publicly released a much-hyped memoranda written by representative Devin Nunes of California. It alleged, through a series of allusions, tangential realities, and seeming misdirections, that law enforcement officers had abused their power in obtaining a surveillance warrant against former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page. Now, in a 10 -page memo of their own, House Democrats are attempting to set the record straight.

The Democratic memo, though redacted in part, fills out the partial portrait Nunes had painted. And while it’s worth reading in full–especially for any fans of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s inner workings–a few sections stand out as particularly illuminating. It doesn’t tell us much, if anything, about the inquiry into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. But it says everything you need to know about the Nunes memo’s sophistry. Here are the key points.

The Carter Page Timeline Comes Into Focus

While redactions hide a few specific, the Democratic memo demonstrates clearly that the FBI had interest in Carter Page long before he joined Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Russian agents “ve been trying to” recruit Page at some phase prior to 2013. And then, per the new memoranda: “In 2013, lawyers indicted three other Russian spies, two of whom targeted page for recruitment.”

The FBI also apparently interviewed Page about its communications with Russian intelligence agents “multiple times, ” including in March 2016, the month Page joined the Trump campaign. In fact, the FISA application includes information about Page’s activity prior to joining the Trump campaign at all. All of that previous interest and activity helps dispel the idea that the focus on Page amounted to a “witch hunt” targeting Trump; “its been” surveillance into an individual with business ties to Russia whom the two countries had also spent times trying to recruit.

Steele’s Dossier Wasn’t a Determining Factor

Republicans claimed in the Nunes memo that the FBI sought to surveil Trump campaign foreign policy consultant Carter Page in large proportion because of information from former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele. “The’ dossier’, ” according to the Nunes memo, “formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application. Steele was a longtime FBI source.”

The Schiff memo controverts this interpretation. “Christopher Steele’s raw intelligence reporting did not inform the FBI’s decision to initiate its counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016, ” Democrat write. “In fact, the FBI’s closely-held investigation team only received Steele’s reporting in mid-September.” The memo likewise emphasizes that the Steele dossier was extensively vetted and largely contained information that the FBI had either already obtained during its investigation or that it later corroborated. And contrary to the Nunes memo’s asserts, the Schiff memo notes further that the FBI never actually paid Steele for the dossier.

The Court Knew Who Paid For Steele’s Research

The Nunes memo claimed that law enforcement officers presenting to the FISA court did not provide context that Steele’s research and the dossier he rendered were funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. “Neither the initial application in October 2016 , nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the responsibilities of the the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/ campaign in funding Steele’s tries, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials, ” the memo said. This would have meant that key US law enforcement bureaucrats illegally misrepresented realities and crucial context to the court.

‘This memo recants a key allegation that was made in the Nunes memo: that the FBI and DOJ were untruthful to the FISC.’

Former FISA Lawyer Carrie Cordero

The Schiff memo contradicts these affirmations, though: “Far from’ omitting’ material facts about Steele, as the Majority asserts, DOJ repeatedly advised the Court about Steele’s background, credibility, and potential bias.” In reality, the FISA warrant application even explicitly stated that Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” the Trump campaign. DOJ likewise let the FISA court know why it trusted Steele nonetheless–and informed them when the FBI plummeted Steele as information sources, for talking to the media.

Though the Nunes memo’s original declaration had always been in doubt, because of the pure impropriety and partisan manipulation it would have represented, analysts were alleviated to see the Democratic rebuttal.

“This memo disowns a key allegation that was constructed in the Nunes memo: that the FBI and DOJ were untruthful to the FISC, ” says Carrie Cordero, an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School who has worked directly on FISA process issues. “That allegation went to the heart of the integrity of the FISA process, and as a former FISA practitioner, I’m glad to see it debunked.”

Neither Memo Exonerates Trump

When Republicans released the Nunes memo, President Donald Trump argued that it exposed problematic political bias within the FBI and “the worlds largest” intelligence community. And Republican asserted that the FBI use the Page warrant as a backdoor into spying on the Trump campaign.

This prejudice, Trump concluded, defiles the larger ongoing Russia investigation and negates accusations of misconduct. “This memo entirely upholds’ Trump’ in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion, ” Trump tweeted after the Nunes memo was released.

It says everything you need to know about the Nunes memo’s sophistry.

Democrats contradict all of the Nunes memo’s crucial allegations that would indicate partisan bias within the FBI, though. And the memo challenges the idea that the Trump campaign was subject to an indiscriminate dragnet. Page was, after all, on the FBI’s radar prior to his Trump campaign grapples. And the surveillance itself took place after he left the campaign. If anything, at least as far as the FISA process moves, both memos show just how little Trump has to do with any of it.

“FISA was not are applied to spy on Trump or his campaign, ” Schiff writes. “As the Trump campaign and Page have acknowledged, Page terminated his formal affiliation with the campaign months before DOJ applied for a warrant. DOJ’s warrant request was based on obliging indication and probable cause.”

Still, Trump railed against the Democratic memoranda on Twitter Saturday evening, claiming that it “confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL! ” Trump also grumbled that the “FBI did not disclose who the clients were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow! ” This manages to miss a few degrees at once. The core objection of the Nunes memo wasn’t specificity, but partisan funding, which the FISA warrant application did in fact disclose. It’s also curious to see Trump suddenly arguing that US individuals and institutions should be named in the FISA process, given the extent to which he has condemned the “unmasking” process through which that happens. Eventually, at least as of press period, Trump tweeted “Russians had no compromising information on Donald Trump, ” apparently quoting a Fox News headline, though it’s unclear how anyone could conclude that from either the Nunes or Democratic memo.

Peter Strzok and Lisa Page Were a Red Herring

In the weeks prior to the Nunes memo’s liberate, FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page were under intense media and political scrutiny for a text message exchange, dating as far back as January 2016, that included discrediting statements about Donald Trump. In an apparent attempt to capitalize on the passion, the Nunes memo invokes Strzok and Page in its final segment 😛 TAGEND

“The Page FISA application likewise 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 Resource for improper text messages with his mistress, FBI Attorney Lisa Page( no known relation to Carter Page ), where they both demonstrated a clearly defined bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton, whom Strzok had also investigated.”

Setting aside issues of propriety all over the text messages, the Democratic memoranda demonstrates clearly that in fact, Strzok and Page did not serve as affiants in the Page warrant applications. The mention turns out to be gratuitous. Quoting “no evidence of cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos” as some kind of malfeasance is likewise a sleight of hand; the FISA application stimulated no attempt to draw that connection, but rather employed the Papadopoulos case to offer broader context about Russia’s tries at interfering in such elections. As a possibly helpful reminder: Last fall, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to inducing false statements to the FBI about his linked with Russians who had offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

Leggo My Memo

The rebuttal doesn’t come just as much of a astonish, in part because the original Nunes memo was transparently misinforming

The Democratic memoranda does dispel the Nunes memo’s most compelling original claim, that the court never knew who paid for the Steele dossier

And let’s not forget that this isn’t Nunes’ first time running interference for the White House by besmirching FISA

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