In what seems like an eternity since Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes released a memo accusing the Department of Justice and the FBI of abusive surveillance of the Trump campaign, the Democrats’ rebuttal finally has been made public. And it mostly tells us what we already knew: Nunes is a fraud.
On Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST—three weeks after the Nunes memo was released—a redacted version of the so–called Schiff memo, named after House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff, was released. The 10–page document noted that “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.
“In fact,” the memo added, “DOJ and the FBI would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.”
The Schiff memo highlights that the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of Page, and subsequent FISA warrant applications, were not prompted by the infamous “Steele dossier,” as Nunes claimed, but rather from other details including knowledge of Russia’s efforts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election and the behavior of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, among others.
The FBI’s investigators received the dossier from former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele in September 2016, seven weeks after the bureau launched its formal counterintelligence operation targeting Page the previous July. Also, FBI agents, aware that Russian spies were attempting to recruit Page, had interviewed him in March, before he even joined the Trump campaign that same month.
Nunes had accused the FBI and DOJ of misleading the FISA court and duping it into approving surveillance warrants based on intelligence paid for by Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, and Democratic operators. But as the Schiff memo points out, the initial FISA warrant application in October 2016, and three subsequent renewal applications in January, April, and June 2017, “received independent scrutiny and approval by four different federal judges, two of whom were appointed by President George W. Bush, one by George H.W. Bush, and one by President Ronald Reagan.”
Almost immediately, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is in South Korea where it was 6:30 a.m., released a statement saying, “While the Democrats’ memorandum attempts to undercut the President politically, the President supported its release in the interest of transparency. 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.”
At the same time, Nunes issued another statement and a “point by point refutation” of the Schiff memo on the House Intelligence Committee’s website. In that statement, Nunes said, “The American people now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt paid for by the Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party.”
Schiff replied on Twitter, saying, “Some time ago, Republicans on our committee released a declassified memo that omitted and distorted key facts in order to mislead the public and impugn the integrity of the FBI. We can now tell you what they left out.”