On Monday afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines to release a memo that supposedly accuses the FBI and the Justice Department of abusing their authority when they obtained a warrant on former Donald Trump campaign staffer Carter Page under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act.
The memo, drafted by Republican committee chairman Devin Nunes and the committee’s majority staff, had become a cause célèbre among Republican congressman and on conservative media. Some suggested that it could potentially spell finis to the investigation into Russia’s effort to hack the presidential election.
The memo’s release was pilloried on numerous quarters. The DOJ claimed that it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to even bring the release up for a vote without proper review. Democrats condemned it as an out-of-context hatchet job, especially when the Republicans kiboshed an effort to release a rebuttal memo drafted by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff.
In a blistering op-ed for The Washington Post, Schiff claimed that Nunes and other Republicans know that Mueller is on to something, so they decided to effectively “put the government on trial” and peddle a “conspiracy theory” that the Mueller investigating is tainted by anti-Trump bias. Any doubt in Schiff’s mind that this was the case disappeared when Nunes announced that he was also investigating the Justice Department and the FBI.
Despite these concerns and objections, Trump reportedly plans to formally declassify the memo by next week. But he’ll be doing so against the advice of the FBI. Apparently the FBI believes that the memo may not be accurate.
In a strongly worded statement, the FBI made its position loud and clear.
“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. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz and Jim Sciutto revealed what some of those concerns were soon after news of the FBI’s objections broke. Watch here.
Prokupecz said that FBI Director Christopher Wray believes the memo is “misleading” and contains “inaccuracies.” That view is backed up by a number of Prokupecz’ sources. They believe that the memo “does not paint a full picture” of the Page investigation, and fear that if Trump does declassify it, the public will see “something that is not complete.”
Sciutto said that he’d heard similar concerns. Reportedly, the memo doesn’t contain details of the “background intelligence” that the FBI obtained to justify getting a warrant from the FISA court. Prokupecz added that in order to get a renewal on a FISA warrant, you have to prove that you were already getting valuable information from the earlier monitoring.
A number of current and former intelligence agents told CNN that releasing the memo will reveal details about how intelligence agencies decide to monitor targets, which could potentially cause targets to stay under the radar. Echoing this, Schiff said the memo’s release will break a longstanding agreement between Congress and the intelligence community, which calls for the intelligence committees to use their access to intelligence information “responsibly and without regard to politics.”
Wray was undoubtedly aware of this, as a former federal prosecutor and a former head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. That was probably why he went forward with publicly rebuking Nunes and friends even as DOJ officials urged him not to do so for fear of angering Trump. He’s taking a calculated risk. Remember, the last time an FBI Director publicly called Trump out, he was gone within a matter of weeks.
The response from those who spent the last week screaming “Release the memo!” was predictable. Nunes accused the FBI and DOJ of “having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year” and called their objections “spurious.”
Meanwhile, Alex Griswold of the Washington Free Beacon noticed that a number of deplorables are already whining that the FBI statement is fake news manufactured by HuffPost.
HuffPost's Ryan Reilly is currently being attacked/ratio'd by Trump supporters who seriously think he just made up the FBI statement on the Nunes memo pic.twitter.com/hw8fYtF48t
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) January 31, 2018
You really can’t make this stuff up. Looks like somebody can’t handle the truth.
Wray may very well be putting his job on the line by publicly opposing Trump. But this is a clash that needed to happen. It’s past time that someone stood up to defend Mueller.
(featured image courtesy Matthew Nichols for Department of Justice, part of public domain)