Nunes memo: Release of FBI surveillance abuse claims 'will damage intelligence community and law enforcement', say Democrats

The document is a 'shameful effort to discredit' the FBI and Justice Department, they added 

Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Friday 02 February 2018 19:38 GMT
Democratic Representative Adam Schiff is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Democratic Representative Adam Schiff is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. (Getty Images )

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have said the release of a Republican-authored memo alleging surveillance abuses by FBI officials “will do long-term damage to the intelligence community and our law enforcement agencies”.

The four-page document is a “shameful effort to discredit” the FBI, the Justice Department and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, they added.

President Donald Trump approved the release of the controversial memo despite objections from the FBI. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes, and his staff reportedly spent months compiling the so-called Nunes memo, which accuses federal law enforcement officials of abusing their power when they sought permission to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

Following the memo’s release, Mr Page said he would update a pending legal action in opposition to the Justice Department.

In response to the Nunes memo, the Democrats on the House Intelligence committee issued their own memo, which they say the Republicans are refusing to make public.

“The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process,” the Democrats said in a statement. “As the Minority memo makes clear, none of this is true. The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant.”

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted on Monday to release the memo, giving the President five days to approve or object to the declassification of the document.

The FBI and its director, Christopher Wray, raised issues over the memo, with the bureau issuing a rare public statement on Wednesday declaring it had “grave concerns” about the accuracy of the classified document.

“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI statement read. Mr Wray is reportedly preparing a rebuttal to the Nunes memo, although the White House is said to have tried to have accommodate concerns raised by the FBI in reviewing the document.

But Mr Trump has suggested the document shows political bias at the FBI that tainted the investigation into his campaign. The President has repeatedly said there was no collusion between his campaign advisers and the Russian government.

“A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that,” Mr Trump told reporters on Friday in the Oval Office.

The White House later said in statement that “the memorandum 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.”

“This decision was made with input from the President’s national security team — including law enforcement officials and members of the intelligence community, for whom the President has great respect,” the White House added.

It also said it was ready to work with Congress to accommodate “oversight requests” on the second memo drafted by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

Democrats from the House and Senate sent a letter to Mr Trump on Friday warning him against using the Nunes memo as a “pretext” to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or Mr Mueller.

Mr Rosenstein appointed Mr Mueller to the special counsel position and has been overseeing the Russia investigation.

“Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ (Department of Justice) leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday night massacre,” the Democrats wrote, referring to President Richard Nixon’s firing of the Watergate scandal special prosecutor in the 1970s.

Asked on Friday if he still has confidence in Mr Rosenstein, the President told reporters: “You figure that one out.”

Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, also criticised the release of the Nunes memo. The Senate intelligence panel is also conducting its own investigation into Russian election meddling.

“The release of this memo by House Intelligence Committee Republicans and the White House, over the objections of the FBI and the Department of Justice, is reckless and demonstrates an astonishing disregard for the truth,” Mr Warner said in a statement.

Former FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the Russia probe before being fired by Mr Trump in May, also gave his two-cents on the declassification of the memo. The President suggested that he dismissed Mr Comey because “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia” was a “made-up story”.

“That’s it?” Mr Comey wrote on Twitter. “Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”

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