Nunes memo: Congressman alleges 'serious violations of public trust' as controversial memo is released

The FBI has warned the memo leaves out information that could affect the memo's accuracy

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Friday 02 February 2018 18:57 GMT
Republican Representative Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, walks away from a meeting with House GOP members, on 30 January 2018
Republican Representative Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, walks away from a meeting with House GOP members, on 30 January 2018 (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Congressman Devin Nunes has alleged "serious violations of public trust" by the FBI over their conduct in the Russia investigation in the wake of the release of a controversial memo on the subject.

The statement was a response to the release of a controversial memo written by Mr Nunes' staff which had been previously classified, but released today on the President Donald Trump's authorisation.

The FBI has warned that the memo leaves out crucial information that could have an impact on its accuracy.

"The American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes," Mr Nunes wrote as Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

"Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another. It is my hope that the Committee’s actions will shine a light on this alarming series of events so we can make reforms that allow the American people to have full faith and confidence in their governing institutions," the statement read.

The memo's release is seen by many experts has another blow to the already fragile relationship between the FBI and Trump administration, which has been cause for public controversy since the firing of former FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.

Donald Trump says Nunes memo is declassified and Congress will "do whatever" with it

The FBI Agents Association also issued a statement to the memo release which said that agents "have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission."

"The American people should know that they continue to be well-served by the world's preeminent law enforcement agency," the statement read.

The memo claimed that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) only issued a warrant - called a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant - based on a dossier authored by former UK intelligence officer Christopher Steele.

The memo said there was "clear evidence of [Mr Steele's] bias" against Mr Trump and his "anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations."

It also argued that Mr Steele should have been terminated by the bureau from his role as a paid FBI source at least one month earlier than he was because of he violated confidentiality rules by speaking to the media and that senior officials within the Department of Justice (DOJ) were aware of Mr Steele's biases.

However Molly McKew, an analyst of Russian influence operations and frequent commenter on the Russia investigation, told The Independent that partisan politics was not the reason for Mr Steele's apparent anti-Trump bias.

"Extensive reporting, as well as accounts from sworn testimony from the Congressional investigations on Russian interference, have made it clear that [Mr Steele] came forward to present the information he gathered to the FBI because he believed there was an ongoing threat from a hostile foreign power against the US," Ms McKew explained.

"This had nothing to do with 'political views," she said, adding that Mr Steele felt a duty to report the intelligence because he was concerned Mr Trump could be manipulated or used by a foreign agent.

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The memo also appeared to stoke more partisanship by naming DOJ officials who were holdovers from the administration of Barack Obama and signed off on the FISA warrant applications - former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and Mr Comey.

However, it also named current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was promoted by Mr Trump and signed off on the warrant for Carter Page, a former campaign adviser on foreign policy.

The memo claimed the only reason the warrant on Mr Page was Mr Steele's dossier, despite the former MI-6 agent's anti-Trump bias.

However, CNN reported that two Democrats on the House intelligence committee said Mr McCabe had not cited the Steele dossier as a basis for the warrant during closed-door testimony.

Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff also disputed that central point of the memo in a statement.

"The Republican document mischaracterises highly sensitive classified information that few members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman Nunes himself chose not to review," Mr Schiff said.

He also said the memo was a "shameful effort to discredit" the FBI and DOJ, during the investigation into the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russian officials.

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