Reax to the 'Memo': 'Headed Down a Dangerous Path'

Trump declassifies Nunes memorandum, frenetic spin on both sides ensues
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2018 1:40 PM CST
Trump on the 'Memo': 'A Lot of People Should Be Ashamed'
This Oct. 24, 2017, file photo shows House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes speaking on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Citing "extraordinary" circumstances, the much-anticipated GOP memo on alleged FBI surveillance abuse was given the all-clear Friday by the White House, which declassified the memo without redactions "in light of the significant public interest" in it, per a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes. At the center of the memo are dossier compiler Christopher Steele and former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who was the subject of FBI and DOJ surveillance under a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order issued in October 2016. The Nunes memo claims the surveillance was improper in part because the feds didn't disclose to the FISA court that their main rationale for the surveillance—the dossier—had been bankrolled by Democrats. More on the story:

  • The upshot: The Washington Examiner, which seems to have gotten an early look at the memo, offers up the memo's main points, including assertions that then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said no FISA warrant would have been sought without the dossier; that Steele had admitted in September 2016 to a senior DOJ official he "was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president"; and that the FISA applications on Page were sought without mentioning Steele's ostensible political motivations, despite senior DOJ and FBI officials knowing about them.
  • Where Papadapoulos fits in: Despite much of the focus being on the Steele dossier, however, info about former Trump campaign adviser George Papadapoulos is what appeared to be the initial trigger for the FBI "counterintelligence investigation," as cited in the memo, per the Hill—and that kicked off in late July 2016.

  • Trump reacts: The president spoke to reporters after he declassified the memo, and he called the allegations set forth in the memo a "disgrace," per Reuters and the Washington Post. "A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that," Trump said. The Post comments on this atypical development, calling it "highly unusual for the White House and the FBI to be publicly at odds over a matter of national security."
  • Trouble for Rosenstein?: Other names popping up in the controversial memo as having signed off on the various FISA applications: ex-FBI chief James Comey, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI general counsel Dana Boente, and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. It's the latter that CNN notes has especially "sparked Trump's ire," as Trump had "elevated" him within the DOJ. When Trump was asked Friday if he still felt good about Rosenstein in his current role or was going to give him the ax, Trump replied: "You figure that one out."
  • The Corn connection: The memo lashes out at Steele for talking to the media—including Yahoo! News and Mother Jones reporter David Corn—in September and October 2016, the latter of which allegedly led to Steele's suspension and termination as an FBI source. "Steele improperly concealed from and lied to the FBI about those contacts," the memo states.

  • Democrats push back: Among those criticizing the memo's release: Sen. Bernie Sanders, who calls it a "blatant attempt by House Republicans and the White House to disrupt the critically important [Russia] investigation," and Sen. Dick Durbin, who says "we are headed down a dangerous path" and sees the memo as a possible "pretext" to fire Rosenstein, special counsel Robert Mueller, or "other DOJ leadership." Durbin posted a letter from top-ranking Dems in both chambers addressing the memo's release.
  • What about the Dems' own memo?: A memo that purportedly rebuts much of the Nunes memo with further context has been prepared by Capitol Hill Democrats, but it's been stymied so far by the HIC. Adam Schiff, the leading Dem on the panel, says "we are going to try to force another vote on this," per CNN—a move that House Speaker Paul Ryan supports, with caveats related to national security, his spokeswoman notes.
  • Where Kelly stands: Interestingly, White House chief of staff John Kelly may not think the Nunes memo is the smoking gun that other GOPers do. Per the Washington Post, a White House official says Kelly headed into Trump's office Wednesday after Trump read the memo and "shared with the president his opinion: that releasing the memo would not risk national security but that the document was not as compelling as some of its advocates had promised Trump."
  • Reax from the rank and file: The FBI Agents Association also spoke on the memo's release Friday, per the Hill, releasing a statement from association President Tom O'Connor. "The men and women of the FBI put their lives on the line every day," he noted. "FBI Special Agents have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission."
(More FBI stories.)

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