In his first comments since the House Intelligence Committee released a once-secret and controversial memo, President Donald Trump on Saturday said the Republican-penned document vindicates him, once again asserting that there was "no collusion" between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The memo, which was prepared under the direction of Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, a Trump ally, questions the Justice Department and the FBI over their investigation of possible collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government.
Democrats and intelligence officials objected to its release on the grounds that it provided a selective, politicized view of raw intelligence matter.
But in a tweet on Saturday, Trump said, "The memo totally vindicates 'Trump' in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on."
Hours later, the president again touted the importance of the memo, tweeting a quote from a Wall Street Journal editorial that argues the document "reports the disturbing fact about how the FBI and FISA appear to have been used to influence the 2016 election and its aftermath."
The FBI became "a tool of anti-Trump political actors," Trump continued, still quoting the Journal. "This is unacceptable in a democracy and ought to alarm anyone who wants the FBI to be a nonpartisan enforcer of the law."
The four-page memo does not take a broad look at the entire Russia probe, only its beginning, nor does it make any comment on any alleged obstruction of justice by Trump or his associates.
Instead, the memo states that top DOJ and FBI officials sought an application to surveil former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page using the dossier by former former British MI6 intelligence official Christopher Steele. The memo says that officials did not adequately explain to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that the dossier was funded in part by the Democrats. The dossier was first published by BuzzFeed News last January after security officials had briefed then-president Barack Obama and Trump about it.
The memo also says "information" on Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos "triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation" in July 2016. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with a professor who’d told him the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. Papadopoulos is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The memo also reveals that a federal judge renewed a surveillance warrant on Page three times after the initial approval in October 2016.
Warrants granted by a FISA court, such as the one approved for Page, are valid for only 90 days and can be renewed only if a judge is convinced the warrant has yielded valuable intelligence.
On Friday, Nunes admitted he did not personally review the applications for the surveillance warrants but that he relied on Rep. Trey Gowdy, a fellow Republican on the committee.
Nunes told Fox News that the committee made an agreement with the Justice Department to only allow one person to review the documents.
In a series of tweets on Friday, Gowdy said that the memo does not discredit Mueller’s investigation, adding that he has confidence in “the overwhelming majority of the men and women serving at the FBI and DOJ."
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, earlier this week slammed Nunes for not having read the raw intelligence like he had.
"The chairman never bothered to go read these underlying materials," Schiff told CNN on Monday. "After months and months of making this argument that the FBI and DOJ are involved in some sort of conspiracy, he didn't even bother to read the materials himself."
A Democratic counter-memo — prepared as a rebuttal to the Republican memo — disputes that the dossier played a critical role in the Carter FISA application, a person familiar with that memo told BuzzFeed News.
The Democratic memo also says the FBI informed the FISA court in its initial warrant application that the dossier came from a politically motivated source, though it did not say that the Democratic National Committee had funded the research.
The House Intelligence Committee initially voted not to release the Democratic memo, but it may be made public in the coming weeks.
In a statement following the release of the memo, House Speaker Paul Ryan called the concern raised in the Republican memo “a specific legitimate one,” and he said he also supported the released of the Democratic memo.
“I reiterate my support for the similar release of the minority’s memo once it is properly scrubbed of all intelligence sources and methods. It is critical that we focus on specific actions and specific actors and not use this memo to impugn the integrity of the justice system and FBI,” he said.
Ryan also told Republicans that the “memo does not impugn the Mueller investigation.”
Thomas Frank contributed to this report.
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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