Democrats have released their long-awaited memo that rebuts allegations made in a previously released Republican memo that the FBI and the Department of Justice abused regulations in obtaining FISA warrants to spy on members of the Trump campaign, namely foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Here are the biggest takeaways from the allegations the Democratic document makes.
- The DOJ started surveilling Carter Page in October 2016 – and renewed the warrants three times
The Department of Justice’s first FISA application to spy on Page was submitted on October 21, 2016 and was renewed three times after that: in early January 2017, early April 2017 and late June 2017. The warrants permitted the FBI to conduct electronic surveillance of Page, as well as physical searches, for 90 days each, which is consistent with FISA requirements. The last warrant allowed surveillance of Page to continue until late September 2017 by which time surveillance of Page presumably ended.
- The FBI first became suspicious of Page in 2016
“The FBI had an independent basis for investigating Page’s motivations and actions during the campaign, transition, and following the inauguration,” the memo states.
The FBI’s interest in Page stemmed from meetings he reportedly had with Russian officials, in Russia, at various points during 2016. While in Russia Page met with a Russian official who, among other things, allegedly disclosed to Page that the Kremlin possessed compromising information on Clinton and noted the “the possibility of its being released to Candidate #1’s campaign,” the memo states, referring to Trump.
Russian officials also allegedly offered this information in exchange for U.S. sanctions on Russian businesses being dropped should Donald Trump become President.
In the FISA renewals, the DOJ provided additional information about this coordination between Page and Russian officials that corroborated information in the dossier put together by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. The exact information is redacted by the FBI and remains classified.
The memo alleges that the Court-approved surveillance of Page has yielded “valuable intelligence.” Examples of the valuable intelligence is also redacted and remains classified.
- The FBI’s interest in the Trump campaign started with another campaign staffer
This section of memo is heavily redacted but what can be ascertained is that the FBI’s interest in the Trump campaign began with another staffer, also a foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos. It has been reported by numerous media outlets that Papadopoulos had been approached by individuals who claimed to be associated with the Russian government that told him that the Russian government was in possession of incriminating evidence on Donald Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, which was in the form of “thousands of emails.”
Papadopoulos allegedly disclosed that information to an Australian diplomat who in turn informed American officials. The Democrats’ memo states that the information the FBI gleaned from Papadopoulos occurred against the backdrop of Russia’s covert operations to influence the U.S. election which the FBI was already monitoring.
This section of the memo is also heavily redacted, but Papadopoulos’ role is confirmed.
- The Steele dossier played no role in obtaining warrants
The now famous Steele Dossier played no role in launching the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. The FBI investigation into the Trump campaign began on July 31, 2016 – more than seven weeks before the FBI’s closely-held investigative team received reporting that was conducted by British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
- More than one Trump campaign official was under investigation
By mid-September 2016, the memo states, the FBI had already opened “sub-inquiries” into members of the Trump campaign besides Page. The memo redacts the exact number as well as the identities.
- Neither Trump nor his campaign were the subjects of surveillance warrants
The FISA warrants were not obtained nor used to spy on Donald Trump or the Trump campaign, according to the memo. The DOJ applied for the first warrant months after Page ended his affiliation with the Trump campaign and less than three weeks before the election.
- The DOJ was transparent about Christopher Steele’s reporting and disclosed that it might be politically motivated.
The memo quotes from a FISA application in which the DOJ writes that when hiring Christopher Steele to conduct research on Donald Trump, “The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.”
“U.S. Person” refers to Glen Simpson, co-founder of political research firm Fusion GPS, the firm that hired Steele, and “Candidate #1” refers to Donald Trump.
- The FBI believes Steele’s reporting, but did terminate its relationship with him
“Senior FBI and DOJ officials have repeatedly affirmed to the [House Intelligence] Committee the reliability and credibility of Steele’s reporting, an assessment also reflected in the FBI’s underlying source documents. The FBI has undertaken a rigorous process to vet allegations from Steele’s reporting, including with regard to Page,” the memo states.
The FBI notified FISC, the FISA Court, that it terminated its relationship with Steele after it was found that he made unauthorized disclosures to the press about his research.
Steele reportedly made those disclosures out of frustration with former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement in October 2016, that he essentially reopened the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server after the discovery of a trove of new emails.
- The DOJ never paid Steele for his work on the dossier
The DOJ never paid Steele for any dossier-related information. Instead the DOJ informed the FISC that Steele had been a confidential human source for the FBI in the past for which he was compensated. The start-year of that cooperation was redacted by the FBI and remains confidential.
- DOJ used news coverage appropriately
The Republican memo alleges that the FBI used circular sourcing in obtaining FISA warrants to spy on Page in that the FBI based the allegations in their warrants on a Yahoo! News article written by journalist Michael Isikoff, which in turn based its findings on uncorroborated and unsubstantiated claims found in the Steele dossier.
The Democratic memo says that the FBI did in fact cite Isikoff’s Yahoo! News article along with another unidentified article, not to corroborate Steel’s reporting but to cite Page’s public denials about the claims made therein.
President Trump in responding to the release of the Democrats’ memo suggested that an investigation into the actions of Democratic officials ought to be investigated.
“A lot of bad things happened on the other side, not on this side, but the other side. And somebody should look into it because what they did was really fraudulent,” he said during an interview late tonight.