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Schiff: Dems' FISA Memo Undercuts Trump 'Deep State' Claims

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) speaks to the media after interviewing former White House strategist Steve Bannon on Feb. 15, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said a day after the weekend drop of the Dems’ memo countering Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-Calif.) staff that his document underscores that the FBI is “not part of some deep state, as the president apparently would like the public to believe.”

The memo prepared by aides for Nunes stated that October 2016 FISA application to the court to monitor campaign advisor Carter Page, as well as “any of the renewals,” 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.”

After President Trump initially blocked the document, the memo was cleared for release after House Intelligence Democrats and the FBI agreed to certain redactions in a classification review instead of a declassification request.

The Democrats’ memo states that FBI and DOJ officials “did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

“Christopher Steele’s raw intelligence reporting did not inform the FBI’s decision to initiate its counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016. In fact, the FBI’s closely held investigative team only received Steele’s reporting in mid-September — more than seven weeks later. The FBI — and, subsequently, the Special Counsel’s — investigation into links between the Russian government and Trump campaign associates has been based on troubling law enforcement and intelligence information unrelated to the ‘dossier,'” says the Dems’ memo.

The FISA applications laid out “a multi-pronged rationale” for surveilling Page based on his “past relationships with Russian spies and interaction with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign” and “made only narrow use of information from Steele’s sources about Page’s specific activities in 2016, chiefly his suspected July 2016 meetings in Moscow with Russian officials.” Page was interviewed in March 2016, the same month Trump named Page a foreign policy advisor, about Page’s “contact with Russian intelligence.”

The DOJ’s FISA applications did not include the Steele dossier’s “salacious” allegations and “the FBI never paid Steele for this reporting” but paid him for earlier work as a confidential human source unrelated to the Russia investigation, the memo continues. DOJ disclosed Steele’s prior relationship with the FBI, “the fact of and reason for his termination as a source, and the assessed political motivation of those who hired him,” the memo adds, quoting a DOJ disclosure to the court that said “the FBI speculates” the person who hired Steele “was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.”

“The Committee Majority’s memorandum, which draws selectively on highly sensitive classified information, includes other distortions and misrepresentations that are contradicted by the underlying classified documents, which the vast majority of members of the committee and the House have not had the opportunity to review — and which Chairman Nunes chose not to read himself,” says the Dems’ memo.

At the time of the GOP memo release, Nunes said he had not viewed the classified documents behind the memo. Schiff had viewed them along with Intelligence Committee member Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

The Dems’ memo said the FBI counterintelligence investigation began after receiving information from George Papadopoulos “that individuals linked to Russia, who took interest in Papadopoulos as a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, informed him in late April 2016 that Russia” — the rest is redacted. “Papadopoulos’s disclosure, moreover, occurred against the backdrop of Russia’s aggressive covert campaign to influence our elections, which the FBI was already monitoring.”

Steele’s first disclosures to the FBI happened more than seven weeks after the FBI opened its investigation, when “the FBI had already opened sub-inquiries into [redacted] individuals linked to the Trump campaign.” Name(s) in addition to Page are redacted from the memo. “As Committee testimony bears out, the FBI would have continued its investigation, including against [redacted] individuals, even if it had never received information from Steele, never applied for a FISA warrant against Page, or if the FISC had rejected the application.” The memo adds that “FISA was not used to spy on Trump or his campaign.”

The Dems’ documents stresses that the FBI “had an independent basis for investigating Page’s motivations and actions during the campaign, transition, and following the inauguration”; many of the details on Page’s activities are redacted.

The Nunes staff memo said Steele told then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr in September 2016 that the former MI6 spy “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” That memo claimed the FISA applications left out “clear evidence of Steele’s bias … recorded by Ohr” in the conversation a few months after Steele told Simpson potential evidence of Trump campaign wrongdoing led him to disclose his investigation’s findings to the FBI. Ohr’s wife, the Nunes staff memo adds, worked for Fusion GPS at the time, and “Ohr later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research.” The GOP memo says that was not included in the FISA application.

The Dems’ memo said Ohr, “whose portfolio is drugs and organized crime, not counterintelligence” with “no evidence that he would have known about the Page FISA applications and their contents,” told the FBI about his interactions with Steele in late November 2016 — “including Steele’s concern about Trump being compromised by Russia” — and described his wife’s contract work with Fusion GPS “weeks after the election and more than a month after the court approved the initial FISA application,” when the FBI “had already terminated Steele as a source and was independently corroborating Steele’s reporting about Page’s activities.”

On CNN today, Schiff said he was “not surprised, frankly, that the White House tried to bury this memo response as long as they could.”

“But it’s important for the public to see the facts, that the FBI acted appropriately in seeking a warrant on Carter Page,” he added.

Nunes charged during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past week that there is “clear evidence that the Democrats are not only trying to cover this up, but they’re also colluding with parts of the government to cover this up.”

“What you basically will read in the Democratic memo is that they are advocating that it’s OK for the FBI and DOJ to use political dirt paid for by one campaign and use it against the other campaign,” he said.

Schiff said Sunday that “this is the first time the Republicans have ever taken an issue with any FISA application,” and “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it serves the president’s interests to do so here.”

“But the FBI acted appropriately,”the ranking Democrat said.