Compliance Management, Network Security

Justice, FBI reviewing Dem rebuttal to Nunes memo alleging FISA abuse

As President Trump considers whether to release a memo penned by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes's staff alleging that the FBI abused its surveillance authority when it targeted one of his campaign advisors, a memo generated by committee Democrats refuting the Nunes memo's conclusions is being vetted by the FBI and the Justice Department. 

"I think that what we see in the Republican memo is a terrible mischaracterization of the events. So, we sent out the proper events in their context in our own memoranda," Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., author of the Democrats' memo, told CNN. "Even when their memo is made public, we can point out, OK, this is wrong. And this is misleading. And this is distorting."

Schiff said the Committee Democrats don't have plans to read the memo, which the committee voted on Monday to block, on the House floor to get its contents into the record. "That's not an option. Our memo is classified just as theirs is -- the only difference is we are vetting ours through the FBI and the Justice Department," Schiff said, who believes that Nunes and his supporters are attempting to derail or undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the U.S. presidential election and potential collusion with members of Trump's team.

The Committee did agree to let the whole of the House review Schiff's memo.

The Nunes memo is now on the president's desk – he has five days to decide whether to reveal the contents, something the Boston Globe reported Trump was overheard telling Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., after the State of the Union address Tuesday that he was “100 percent” behind. The report cited White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as saying Wednesday that the memo would be released “pretty quick.”

The Justice Department, which had already referred to the release of the Nunes memo without proper vetting as “extreme recklessness,” and the FBI renewed their calls for Trump and the House committee to reconsider making public the contents of the document.

"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," an FBI statement said, noting that "as expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

The memo reportedly may contend that investigators used the contents of the controversial Steele dossier to renew a warrant to conduct surveillance on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

“I doubt they based it on a single source of information,” former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers told CNN.

“I can't imagine that the dossier was the centerpiece of a FISA application,” Talking Points Memo quoted Robert Litt, a former Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel and a former Justice Department employee, as saying.

“Number one, I don't think the Department of Justice would have allowed that to go forward as the sole basis. Number two, I don't think a judge would have approved probable cause on that basis alone,” he said. “And number three, everything I read has suggested that there was considerable other information about Page before this dossier came in.”

Calling on colleagues not to "let the politics of the moment cloud our judgment," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., told CNN's "New Day" that “if there's classified information in that memo, it shouldn't be released. If they release it anyway, to be fair, the Democrats ought to be allowed to release their memo."

While Committee Democrats may have been blocked from sharing their memo publicly, they potentially could release a non-classified version. "My strong preference would be not to have either side put spin on it, go through the original material and try to take out all the classified information," Kennedy said. 

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