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'Potential Political Bias' Info in FISA Applications was Masked Per Process, Says Schiff

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Committee on Intelligence, speaks after a closed-door meeting of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill on Feb. 5, 2018 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee contends that the FBI did include masked political background information in its FISA applications to watch Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, while a House Republican suggested that there could be infinite back-and-forth rebuttals on the contents of Friday’s memo from Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-Calif.) staff.

The memo states that October 2016 FISA application to the court, as well as “any of the renewals,” the memo continues, didn’t “disclose or reference the role of the DNC” or “any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.”

The New York Times has filed a motion for the FISA court to release the FBI’s applications; for the court to do so would be unprecedented.

Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has viewed the classified documents behind the memo along with Intelligence Committee member Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), told CNN this morning that “the FBI did include information about a potential political bias” and “did set out information about who had provided the support for Christopher Steele.”

“It’s not true the FISA court didn’t know of a political bias. They don’t mention specific names. Even when they refer to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the FISA court application, they refer to them as candidate one and candidate two. This is how the masking process works, and it’s deeply ironic that the same people who have been complaining of improper unmasking are suggesting that names should have been unmasked in the FISA application,” he said.

“I’m going to allow you to see exactly what they said when our release is declassified so you can see precisely what was represented to the FISA court. I think the FISA court was made well aware of the potential political bias of those that were supporting Christopher Steele’s work. And at that point of course there was only one other candidate in the race. But I don’t want to characterize it. I’d rather have you seen exactly what was said in the FISA application.”

The House Intelligence Committee unanimously voted Monday to release a memo from committee Democrats rebutting the GOP document. That memo was sent to the White House for a five-day review.

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), a Trump ally, told CNN this morning that President Trump should “absolutely” allow release of the Democratic memo because “we’re all about transparency.”

“We can have disagreements on some of the minutia, if you will, that may come out,” he said. “And my guess is that after the Democrat rebuttal is released, and I’m confident it will be, you’ll probably see a Republican rebuttal to the rebuttal.”

Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) asserted on the network this morning that the Dems’ memo “is very political” while the Nunes memo was “careful not to be political.”

“I mean, the first paragraph in his memo is political and it just goes on to be like that,” Taylor said. “…And you could argue on both sides and say it’s political or it’s not, whatever.”

CNN reported that a White House source said Trump will “accept the recommendations of the FBI” on whether to release the Democrats’ memo. The Nunes memo was released over reported objections from FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Schiff acknowledged Dems “have limited recourse” if Trump says no.

“We could try to force a vote in the House of Representatives, or we can seek a declassification review with the FBI and the Department of Justice, but that takes time,” he said. “So there aren’t a lot of options, but it will certainly appear that the White House is trying to stonewall again if, in fact, they make these political redactions that we fear.”