WASHINGTON (NBC) — The House Intelligence Committee made public on Friday a Republican memo that raises questions about the FBI surveillance of one of Donald Trump’s campaign aides, acting after the president declassified the entire document, which he says shows the law enforcement agency was biased against him.
The disclosure came despite the opposition of the FBI, which feared it would reveal investigative methods.
The three-and-a-half-page memo was prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and is a critique of the FBI’s application for surveillance authority that was presented to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.
That application granted the FBI the ability to conduct secret surveillance on the Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.
“Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses to the FISA process,” the memo says.
The memo says that a dossier compiled on Trump by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, was a key part of the information presented to the FISA court for the surveillance of Page. The GOP memo, however, also says that information given to the court did not reveal that the dossier was financed by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.
The memo also notes that the information presented to the court did not reveal that Steele was working for Fusion GPS, a political opposition research firm of former journalists.
“While the FISA application relied on Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters, it ignored or concealed his anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations,” the memo stated.
The memo also stated that the FISA application for Page extensively cited a September 2016 Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff that had focused on a trip by Page to Moscow in July 2016. But that article, the memo noted, was derived from information that had been leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News, and therefore, did not independently corroborate the Steele dossier.
The Page application “incorrectly” stated that Steele did not provide info to Yahoo News, the memo claimed, citing the fact that Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo and other media outlets at the direction of Fusion GPS. Perkins Coie, the firm that retained Fusion, hosted one meeting with Steele present.
Page issued a statement praising the release of the memo.
“The brave and assiduous oversight by Congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America’s democracy,” Page said, adding “that a few of the misdeeds against the Trump Movement have been partially revealed.”
The memo states that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who resigned from the FBI earlier this week, testified in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought without the information contained in the Steele dossier.
The memo also references previously reported texts exchanged between FBI lawyer, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok, the FBI agent with whom she was romantically linked – which Republicans had seized upon as evidence of a coordinated anti-Trump effort within the FBI.
Moments before the memo’s release, Trump responded to questions from reporters about the memo’s finding that, “a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.”
“I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on in this country. I think it’s a disgrace,” the president added.
The memo further charged that Steele was politically biased and had admitted to an associate that he was “desperate” for Trump to not win the 2016 election.
In September 2016, Steele told then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr – a senior agency official who worked closely with Deputy Attorneys General Sally Yates and Rod Rosenstein – that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” The memo also noted that Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS, during the same time period “to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump.”
“The Ohrs’ relationship with Steele and Fusion GPS was inexplicably concealed from the FISC,” the memo stated, referring to the FISA court.
Hours before the memo’s release, Trump accused top law enforcement officials at the DOJ and FBI of politicizing “the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago.” He clarified, however, that the “Rank & File” at these organizations “are great people.”
Prior to the memo’s release, the FBI warned that it had “grave concerns” about the memo, arguing in an unusual statement earlier this week that the memo could be inaccurate and misleading because of “material omissions” within it.
FBI Director Chris Wray and Rosenstein also appealed directly to Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, on Monday asking him not to make the memo public, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News at the time.