7 Nunes Memo Quotes That Will Surprise You
Written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, the so-called "Nunes memo" was rumored to claim the FBI acted outside its legal bounds, especially concerning a requested FISA warrant to investigate a Trump campaign official, Carter Page. The four-page memo was released on Friday morning, after President Trump declassified the highly publicized document in full. The now publicly available Nunes memo does contain some new allegations, though none really reach the level of "shocking."
Antagonism from the executive office and various elected Republicans towards the FBI has been growing in recent months, as special counsel Robert Mueller ramps up his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Trump has tweeted critical remarks about the intelligence agency on numerous occasions, and it recently came to light that the president had ordered Mueller fired in June. After his top lawyer threatened to resign over the issue, Trump backed down.
Several Republicans and right-wing commentators had hyped the "shocking" content of Nunes' memo prior to its release, but for anyone expecting a bombshell revelation, the memo will be a disappointment. Much of its contents repackage information already known or rumored, and reported on by the media.
Nevertheless, the Nunes memo does contain some surprising claims. Here are some of them.
1. That FBI Informant Christopher Steele Was "Desperate" To Stop Trump From Becoming President
Much of the memo's point seems to attack the credibility of Christopher Steele, a British foreign intelligence officer who brought the notorious "Steele dossier" — full of criminal and salacious allegations against Trump, all of which he's denied — to the attention of the FBI.
While some aspects of the dossier have been corroborated by subsequent reporting, its most salacious elements have made it an easy target for Republicans looking to undermine the Russia investigation. Claims in the memo portray Steele's work as opposition research, and is therefore untrustworthy.
The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of—and paid by—the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.
2. The Memo Revolves Around Carter Page
Trump's former campaign adviser hasn't exactly inspired confidence in recent months. Last year, in fact, he frequently appeared as a cable news guest discussing his own case in-depth and without the presence of a lawyer, leading many media observers to wonder what exactly he was thinking. Now, it's been revealed that he's basically the central figure in the memo, not people like Trump, Michael Flynn, or Paul Manafort.
On October 21, 2016, DOJ and FBI sought and received a FISA probable cause order (not under Title VII) authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page from the FISC. Page is a U.S. citizen who served as a volunteer advisor to the Trump presidential campaign.
3. Rod Rosenstein Allegedly Signed Off On One Of The FISA Applications About Page
According to the memo, former FBI director Comey and outgoing deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, as well as former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente, and current deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein have all signed off on FISA applications targeting Page at various times.
Then-Director James Comey signed three FISA applications in question on behalf of the FBI, and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one. Then-DAG Sally Yates, then-Acting DAG Dana Boente, and DAG Rod Rosenstein each signed one or more FISA applications on behalf of DOJ.
4. The Steele Dossier Was Allegedly An "Essential Part" Of The Warrant
While the memo does not conclusively state that the FISA warrant against Page would not have been authorized without the Steele dossier ― as University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck told Vox, "only the application materials" can definitively prove that one way or the other ― it does claim that the document was an "essential" component of the application.
The “dossier” compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.
It's worth remembering that Page and his relationship with Russian intelligence operatives was a subject of investigatory scrutiny by the FBI back 2013, years before Trump entered politics and the dossier was compiled.
The bureau did not accuse Page of wrongdoing at that time, however, determining he was unaware he was communicating with Russian spies.
5. Steele Allegedly Leaked Details Of His Dossier To Yahoo News
Nunes' memo claims that a FISA application against Page cited a Yahoo News article that was in fact sourced by Steele himself, who leaked details of his dossier to the outlet.
The Carter Page FISA application also cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which focuses on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow. This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News.
Democratic representative and House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff has specifically criticized this claim, calling it a "serious mischaracterization," and saying the Yahoo News article was not cited to corroborate Steele's dossier as the memo claims.
The Majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate. The GOP memo also claims that a Yahoo News article was used to corroborate Steele, but this is not at all why the article was referenced. These are but a few of the serious mischaracterizations of the FISA application.
6. Steele's Cooperation With The FBI Was Allegedly "Terminated"
The Nunes memo specifically claims that Steele's relationship with the bureau was "suspended and terminated" over his alleged leaking to media outlets.
Steele was suspended and then terminated as an FBI source for what the FBI defines as the most serious of violations—an unauthorized disclosure to the media of his relationship with the FBI in an October 30, 2016, Mother Jones article by David Corn.
However, according to Matthew Rosenberg of The New York Times, Steele was reportedly never working with the FBI in an official role, and thus there was no role from which he could be "suspended or terminated."
7. McCabe Allegedly Testified The FISA Warrant Wouldn't Have Been Sought Without The Dossier
Perhaps the most pointed and politically charged accusation included in the memo is that McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in Dec. 2017 that the Page FISA warrant would not have been sought if not for the existence of the Steele dossier.
Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.
This is very different, however, from saying that the warrant's approval was based on the dossier. And furthermore, The Daily Beast cites "knowledgeable sources," including a Democratic House intelligence committee official, who claim the memo is "100 percent not" true with regards to McCabe's testimony.
In short, the memo basically failed to provide any of the bombshell content that elected Republicans have been teasing for days, and its credibility has already been called into severe question on multiple fronts.
It's also important to note that the very fact that it was authored by Nunes raises questions as to its veracity. Last year, Nunes presented information reportedly obtained from the White House to the media as if he were providing it to the White House, in what was widely perceived as an attempt to distract from the substance of the Russia inquiry. Nunes subsequently seemed to recuse himself from the matter, although months later he denied having done so, and he clearly hasn't shied away from re-inserting himself into this story.
Chris Tognotti contributed to this report.