Now that the bombshell "FISA memo" has been released to the White House for review - and President Trump said he will allow its public release "100 percent" - despite protests from the DOJ and FBI Director Christopher Wray, efforts are underway to attack the report's credibility by hinting at collusion between Rep. Devin Nunes, whose office authored the memo, and the White House.
Except then the transcript of Monday's closed-door session came out... .
The Daily Beast published an inaccurate account of Monday's closed door House Intel Committee meeting in which the four-page memo was released - suggesting that Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) was backed into a corner and refused to answer a direct question from Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) over whether he had coordinated with the White House while his office compiled the memo which is said to reveal extensive political bias and abuse of the FISA surveillance court against the Trump team by the FBI and DOJ - implying that Nunes worked with the White House on the document.
During Monday’s contentious closed-door committee meeting, Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat, asked Nunes point-blank if his staffers had been talking with the White House as they compiled a four-page memo alleging FBI and Justice Department abuses over surveillance of President Trump’s allies in the Russia probe.
According to sources familiar with the exchange, Nunes made a few comments that didn’t answer the question before finally responding, “I’m not answering.” -Daily Beast
Except the 51-page transcript of that meeting came out hours later, revealing Daily Beast (or their House Intel Committee source) to have mischaracterized the exchange.
Here's the ACTUAL conversation:
MR. QUIGLEY: Let me ask you another question with the greatest respect. When you, as the majority, conceived of doing this memo for release to the body and to the public, the preparation, the thought of doing it, the consultation of it, was any of this done after/during conversations or consultations with anyone in the White House? Did they have any idea you were doing this? Did they talk about doing this with you? Did they suggest it? Did you suggest it to them? Did you consult in deciding how to go forward with this before, during , and after this point right now?
THE CHAIRMAN (Nunes): I would just answer, as far as I know, no. And I would also say that we are well aware that 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 abuse and other matters.
MR. QUIGLEY: Mr. Chairman, does that mean that none of the staff members that worked for the majority had any consultation, communication at all with the White House.
THE CHAIRMAN (Nunes): The chair is not going to entertain --
MR. QUIGLEY: I yield.
Quigley's line of questioning alludes to an early 2017 controversy over whether or not Chairman Nunes revealed classified information when he disclosed revelations of major surveillance abuse in March. Nunes temporarily stepped aside from leading the House Intel Committee's Russia probe last April while the House Ethics Committee investigated the matter. Of note, Nunes did not recuse himself from the probe and remained Chairman of the Committee while under investigation.
Democrats cried foul when it emerged that Nunes had been at the White House the day before announcing that President Trump's team had been "unmasked" by the Obama administration.
While Nunes denied coordinating with the White House, the Washington Post reported that "at least three senior White House officials, including the top lawyer for the National Security Council, were involved in the handling of intelligence files that were shared with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and showed that Trump campaign officials were swept up in US surveillance of foreign nationals, according to US officials."
The House Ethics Committee cleared Nunes in December, following consultation with experts in the classification process.
“While I appreciate the Ethics Committee’s work, I need to reiterate that the allegations against me were obviously frivolous and were rooted in politically motivated complaints filed against me by left-wing activist groups” -Devin Nunes
Deep State In Deep Trouble?
The four-page memo authored by staffers from Nunes' office is said to name several high ranking FBI and DOJ officials, including former FBI Director James Comey, retiring Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
With over 60 GOP lawmakers calling for its release, the top Democrat on the House Intel Committee believes the FISA memo could lead to the firings of special counsel Robert Mueller and the DOJ's Rosenstein.
The FBI isn't taking this whole "calling us out for illegal behavior" thing sitting down - issuing a statement on Wednesday pointing to "grave concerns" over the release of the memo:
Earlier Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that FBI Director Christopher Wray told the White House he opposes release of a classified Republican memo alleging bias at the FBI and Justice Department because it contains inaccurate information and paints a false narrative, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In response, Nunes hit back - twice, issuing statements via the House Intel Committee website:
“Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies. The FBI is intimately familiar with ‘material omissions’ with respect to their presentations to both Congress and the courts, and they are welcome to make public, to the greatest extent possible, all the information they have on these abuses. Regardless, it’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
In a second statement, Nunes says "After fighting our demands for these documents for months, the FBI and DOJ now seem to be going through a series of ridiculous, increasingly desperate excuses to avoid transparency."
New: second statement from Devin Nunes, specifically addressing FBI charge that 'FISA abuse' memo contains 'material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy': pic.twitter.com/GQaNihNflr— Byron York (@ByronYork) January 31, 2018
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal's editorial board has called on the Trump administration to release the memo.
The same progressives who demanded accountability for FISA courts after Edward Snowden exposed federal snooping now want President Trump to shut down the House’s limited attempt at transparency. Don’t buy it, Mr. President. Let it all out—the two House Intelligence memos, Senator Chuck Grassley’s referral letter for a criminal investigation of Mr. Steele, and all other relevant FBI or Justice documents that won’t undermine U.S. security. Our democracy can take the transparency, and after the 2016 fiasco it deserves it. -WSJ
And as we reported earlier, Chief of Staff John Kelly revealed in a Fox radio interview on Wednesday that he had seen the memo, and that it will be released "pretty quick."
Lastly - it has come to light that outgoing Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe is under active investigation by the DOJ's internal watchdog for sitting on emails related to the Hillary Clinton investigation for several weeks before the FBI reopened its probe right before the election.
"[F]or a period of at least three weeks, according to people involved at the time, nothing much happened, a lag that has sparked the inspector generals questions," reports the Washington Post.
With the release of the bombshell FISA memo imminent, and its contents set to rock the FBI and the DOJ, it's only natural that the cornered agencies of the so-called "deep state" and their Democrat supporters in Congress would lash out with claims of collusion in an effort to minimize its impact.