January 20, 2019

Five Key Facts About the Newly Released Nunes Memo

For the past couple of weeks, there has been all sorts of hype around a memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, alleging abuse by the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) in the investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in the 2016 election. The memo has finally been released; here are five things to know about it.

1. A dossier funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign seems to be a key part in surveillance against Carter Page, who worked for the Trump campaign. Per the memo, the dossier was compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele who was being paid by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee through the research firm Fusion GPS and law firm Perkins Cole to find dirt on Trump. The DOJ and FBI both knew of Steele’s connections, yet the application to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant did not mention that Steele was working at the behest  of the Clinton campaign and DNC. The memo also notes that outgoing FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified in December that they wouldn’t have attempted to obtain a FISA warrant against Page if not for the Steele dossier.

Additionally, the memo highlights the fact that the FBI had barely started their corroboration of the Steele dossier when the FISA application was submitted and that in June then-FBI Director James Comey described the dossier as “salacious” and “unverified” allegations, although this characterization of Comey’s comments on the dossier doesn’t seem to be entirely accurate. Others have noted that there has yet to be anything to corroborate the main allegations in the dossier.

However, USA Today points out that Page had first appeared on the FBI’s radar in 2013 for possible Russia connections. It’s unclear how much of a role that played in obtaining the FISA warrant against Page, but the memo seems to suggest that the Steele dossier played a significant role in obtaining the warrant.

The Democrats are disputing that the dossier played a major role in obtaining the warrant:

2.  Steele really, really did not want Trump to be president. According to the memo, Steele told then-Associate DOJ official Bruce Ohr in September 2016 he “was desperate” and “passionate” about ensuring that Trump would never be elected to the presidency. Ohr was recently demoted for not disclosing his meeting with people behind the Steele dossier; his wife also worked for Fusion GPS in 2016 but it is not known if she had any involvement with the dossier. The FISA application against Page, which was sought a month after Steele made his alleged comments to Ohr, did not mention Steele’s stated feelings about Trump nor did it mention any possible conflict of interest with the Ohrs and Fusion GPS.

The memo also points out that Ohr worked closely with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller to investigate possible Trump-Russia collusion.

3. Steele leaked his dossier to members of the media in order to pressure the FISA court to approve the application to spy on Page. The memo alleges that Steele leaked contents from the dossier to Michael Isikoff of Yahoo News and other media outlets in September; he also provided information about the dossier to David Corn of Mother Jones the following month. The information that Steele provided to Isikoff in his Yahoo article was used in the FISA application against Page to justify a warrant, but did not disclose that Steele had provided the information used in Isikoff’s article. Steele was eventually dismissed as an FBI source for failing to disclose his leaking to the media to the bureau.

4. The memo claims that certain members of the FBI were biased against Trump. The memo specifically singles out FBI Agent Peter Strzok, who was one of the key figures in opening the FBI investigation on Trump-Russia collusion, and his paramour, FBI Attorney Lisa Page, for sending text messages stating their desire to see Clinton elected president over Trump and that they discussed an “insurance policy” against Trump’s election with McCabe. This has all been reported elsewhere.

5. However, the Steele dossier did not trigger the investigation against Trump; George Papadopoulos was the trigger. The memo points to the FBI investigation starting in July 2016 due to Papadopoulos, who used to work for the Trump campaign, bragging about the Russians having opposition research on Clinton to an Australian diplomat.

There has been a wide variety of reactions to the Nunes memo:

The full memo can be read below: