The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on Monday to approve the release of the Democratic minority rebuttal to the GOP authored memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI and DOJ during the 2016 campaign.
"Republicans have endeavored to put the FBI on trial, put the Department of Justice on trial, impeach and impugn the hard work of these dedicated public servants at the FBI and the Department of Justice," California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the panel, told reporters after Monday's committee vote. "We think this very ill-serves the public and we hope that they will stop."
JUST IN: Rep. Schiff says House Intel Committee has voted to release the Democratic response to GOP memo. "We think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies in the majority memo." https://t.co/fIZ6eYoSQK pic.twitter.com/3BzZHTk0Wz— ABC News (@ABC) February 5, 2018
The vote follows the Friday release of the "FISA memo" created by staffers from the office of House Intel Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), which claims that the FBI and DOJ used the infamous "Trump-Russia" dossier in order to spy on one-time Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
The White House responded to the release by saying that the memo "raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions made at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI to use the government’s most intrusive surveillance tools against American citizens.”
President Trump has five days to consider whether or not to block the release of the Democrat authored response over reasons of national security. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders suggested on Friday that President Trump would not oppose its release.
“The administration stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods,” said Sanders of the Democrat response.
President Trump tweeted over the weekend that the GOP authored memo "totally vindicates" him in the Russia probe.
This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 3, 2018
House Intel Committee Minority leader Adam Schiff (D-CA) disagreed:
Quite the opposite, Mr. President. The most important fact disclosed in this otherwise shoddy memo was that FBI investigation began July 2016 with your advisor, Papadopoulos, who was secretly discussing stolen Clinton emails with the Russians. https://t.co/2rGOE1jGg2— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 3, 2018
The 10-page Democrat response is said to correct "mischaracterizations" contained within the Republican memo, adding "crucial context" to actions by the FBI and DOJ regarding the application for a FISA court order to wiretap Mr. Page in October, 2016.
Talking points circulated last week by top House Judiciary Committee Democrat Jerry Nadler (D-NY) call the GOP-authored memo "deeply misleading," according to Bloomberg, and claims that Republicans are now "part and parcel to an organized effort to obstruct" Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Until now, we could only really accuse House Republicans of ignoring the President’s open attempts to block the Russia investigation,” Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee said in the four-page letter released on Saturday. The document provided a point-by-point rebuttal to the Republican memo alleging bias in Mueller’s probe of possible links between Russia and Trump’s campaign, according to Bloomberg's summary.
“With the release of the Nunes memo -- a backhanded attempt to cast doubt on the origins of the Special Counsel’s investigation -- we can only conclude that House Republicans are complicit in the effort to help the President avoid accountability for his actions and for the actions of his campaign,” reads the talking points.
The "Nunes memo," as Democrats call it, claims that the FBI obtained a FISA warrant against one-time low-level Trump advisor, Carter Page.
“Carter Page was, more likely than not, an agent of a foreign power. The Department of Justice thought so. A federal judge agreed. The consensus, supported by the facts, forms the basis of the warrant issued,” Nadler writes in the rebuttal.
As we wrote last week:
According to the New York Times, the FBI investigation into Russian collusion began after drunken Trump campaign volunteer, George Papadopoulos, reportedly told Australian diplomat Alexander Downer at a London bar in May, 2016 that “Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.” When DNC emails began to leak, Australia apparently contacted US intelligence to report the drunken admission by Papadopoulos – igniting the Russia probe.
WASHINGTON — During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians’ role. -NYT
This is in stark contrast to GOP leaders who say that the salacious and unverified 34-page opposition research dossier triggered the probe.
For the New York Times – much like CNN’s botched "Bombshell" report from a few weeks ago that Donald Trump Jr. was told about the WikiLeaks emails before their release, only to issue a major correction because Trump Jr. was told after they were made public (by a random person), this “startling revelation” by the NYT that Papadopoulos spilled the beans about Russia having dirt on Clinton was already public information.
The Washington Examiner's Byron York tore into the NYT report:
NYT reports George Papadopoulos was a 'driving factor' that led FBI to start Trump-Russia probe in July 2016. Dossier played no role. 1/4 https://t.co/ryMPMDEU8r— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 30, 2017
So: 1) If Papadopoulos actions drove FBI probe, why wait til nearly Feb 2017 to interview him? If done to keep probe quiet before election, why wait more than two months after vote? 2/4— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 30, 2017
2) When did officials brief Congress about Papadopoulos? They briefed Congress about Carter Page in late summer 2016. 3/4— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 30, 2017
3) Did officials seek a surveillance warrant on Papadopoulos? They reportedly got one on Carter Page in summer 2016. Did they try to get one on Papadopoulos? If not, why not? 4/4— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 30, 2017
One add: Not saying Papadopoulos played no role. But questions about whether his part was so central in starting FBI probe in July 2016.— Byron York (@ByronYork) December 30, 2017
With both the House and Senate now setting their sights on the State Department's alleged involvement with distributing anti-Trump intelligence, and new memos on tap according to House Intel Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA), it will be interesting to see how deep into "memogate" we will get before something resembling a second special counsel is appointed.