Nunes memo: Timeline of events that led to FBI allegations' release

Democrats have argued that the dossier is a rough attempt to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation

Clark Mindock
New York
Friday 02 February 2018 18:09
Mr Nunes' staff authored the controversial memo last year
Mr Nunes' staff authored the controversial memo last year

The so-called Nunes memo has been released, documenting what Republicans in the House say are abuses by the Department of Justice and FBI during the Russia investigation.

The memo — written by Rep Devin Nunes — revolves around Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that were issued to monitor former Trump campaign aid Carter Page, who reportedly had ties with Russian recruiters and sources prior to joining the campaign. FISA warrants allow for electronic surveillance of individuals, including American citizens.

Republicans and allies of President Donald Trump have argued that the 2016 warrant against Mr Page, because of the way it was approved, amount to political targeting, and prove that the Russia investigation itself is biased.

Democrats have argued that the memo is a rough-shod effort to discredit an otherwise independent investigation overseen by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Here is how things went down in Mr Nunes' efforts to release the document.

April 6, 2017: Mr Nunes announces that he will temporarily step aside from the House Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign after the House Ethics Committee says they are “determined to investigate” allegations that he had made unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

Mr Nunes had come under fire for speaking publicly about classified foreign surveillance reports — which he said suggested members of the Trump campaign were under surveillance — he had seen at the White House. The congressman dismissed the suggestion that he had violated ethics laws as false and politically motivated attacks from “left-wing activist groups”.

Sept 1, 2017: Despite his recusal, Mr Nunes sends a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on behalf of the House Intelligence Committee, saying that the Department of Justice has been slow responding to their subpoena requests.

Dec 7, 2017: Mr Nunes is cleared of wrongdoing by the Ethics Committee. Mr Nunes then resumed his work with the House Intelligence Committee's investigation.

Jan 4, 2018: Mr Nunes sends a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who is overseeing the Russia investigation after Mr Sessions recused himself from the matter — suggesting that his committee is expanding its investigation to include the Justice Department’s handling of the Russia investigation. Mr Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to lead the investigation into Russian meddling last year.

Mid-January 2018: A four-page document is compiled by Mr Nunes’ staff summarising classified information. The memo makes the argument that the FBI has abused its power in its investigation of Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The document is not made public, however reports indicate that it argues investigators used a dossier compiled by Christopher Steele that indicated Russia might have compromising information on Mr Trump to get a FISA warrant to monitor Mr Trump’s former foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

The memo, according to reports, argues that using the Steele dossier as a basis for the warrant shows the warrant was politically motivated. It also argues that the importance of the dossier proves that the warrant should not have been issued at all.

Democrats have said that the details in the memo are cherry-picked and reliant on classified information that people still would not have available to them, even if the memo were declassified. They also note that FISA warrants require approval from a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and that there are other layers of oversight before a warrant can be issued.

While Mr Nunes compiled his memo, Democrats on the committee compiled their own memo, which runs 10 pages. The memo reportedly includes criticism of Mr Nunes.

Jan 18, 2018: Republicans and conservative media begin to rally around the memo, saying that the public has a right to see its contents. Sean Hannity, a top Fox News anchor, declares that the “witch hunt is now over” — parroting Mr Trump’s description of Mr Mueller’s investigation — even though the memo is still classified, and he theoretically should not have been able to access it.

The President is among those who wants the memo to be released.

Jan 24, 2018: The Justice Department warns the House Intelligence Committee against releasing the memo. Although the department had not seen the memo, they say that releasing it before allowing the FBI and Department of Justice to review its contents would be “extraordinarily reckless”, and that it could risk sources and methods used to collect information.

Jan 30, 2018: The House Intelligence Committee votes along party lines to publicly release the Nunes memo. In a separate party line vote, the committee votes against making the Democrat version of the memo available to the public.

Feb 2, 2018: Mr Trump approves the release of the Nunes memo, and the memo is released by the House committee.

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