Nearly a month after a Republican memo was released detailing what was allegedly FBI abuses of their domestic surveillance capabilities, the Democratic response was finally released. The Russia investigation in the House has recently focused on how the FBI received permission to listen in on Carter Page's communications. The Republican memo alleged it was obtained improperly, but the Democratic memo claims the FBI correctly obtained permission under a FISA warrant.
The Democrats quoted from the warrant application itself to prove that the main Republican claim — that the Department of Justice didn't acknowledge the politically motivated source of some of the intelligence that led to the FISA warrant application — was wrong. In fact the FBI did note that the Page intel was from political opposition research. They just left out the names of the Americans in question due to longstanding practices.
Even more importantly, the Democratic memo explains that the eavesdropping did not stem solely from the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, a British former intelligence operative whose work was funded first by Republicans during the primary race and then by a law firm connected to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Instead it reportedly had to do with evidence gained from another Trump aide, George Papadopoulos.
The memo went so far as to say that the Steele dossier had nothing to do with the FBI probe. "Steele’s reporting did not reach the counterintelligence team investigating Russia at FBI headquarters until mid-September 2016, more than seven weeks after the FBI opened its investigation,” the Democratic memo reads. “By then, the FBI had already opened sub-inquiries into [redacted] individuals linked to the Trump campaign."
None of this has kept President Trump from attacking the memo, however. "The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST," Trump tweeted Saturday. "Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!"
Trump did not quote any evidence, or the Republican memo. Instead he continued to say that the disclosure of who the political clients were was important. "Dem Memo: FBI did not disclose who the clients were — the Clinton Campaign and the DNC," Trump tweeted. "Wow!"
Trump continued his counteroffensive on Fox News. "A lot of bad things happened on the other side, not on this side, but the other side. And somebody should look into it because what they did was really fraudulent," Trump told Fox News on Sunday.
The head Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, defended the memo. "I'm not surprised the president doesn't like it," Schiff told Politico. "I'm not surprised, frankly, that the White House tried to bury this memo response as long as they could." President Trump blocked the memo from being released earlier in February.
The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.
With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.
Trump emphasized how the Republican memo vindicated him when it was first released. Anything that could undercut that argument could lead to even more counter arguments.