“The document’s release opens a new partisan front in a battle that has consumed the House Intelligence Committee and has all but derailed its efforts to probe Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.”
The FBI team investigating the 2016 Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians had already opened inquiries into multiple people connected to the campaign when it received a controversial dossier alleging illicit ties between then-candidate Trump and the Kremlin, a Democratic memo released by the House Intelligence Committee revealed Saturday.
The dossier, compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, wasn’t provided to the FBI’s counterintelligence team until mid-September 2016, according to the memo. By then, the counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s campaign was seven weeks old. “The FBI had already opened sub-inquiries into … individuals linked to the Trump campaign,” according to the findings of the committee’s nine Democrats.
The committee posted the heavily redacted 10-page document Saturday after weeks of wrangling between the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, and Justice Department officials over the contours of classified material he hoped to release. […]
The Democratic memorandum was meant as a counterweight to a GOP memo that Trump declassified three weeks earlier, claiming that FBI officials misled a secret court to obtain a warrant to spy on Trump camp foreign policy adviser Carter Page. The Republican memo argued that the so-called Steele Dossier was at the heart of the FBI’s request for a surveillance warrant on Page — and that the agents who sought it failed to disclose to a federal judge that Steele’s work was financed by the campaign of Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
The Democratic memo, though, reveals that the FBI did inform the judge of Steele’s political intentions — that he was “likely looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump. And FBI officials indicated that Steele himself was not advised that the work he was doing was on behalf of the Clinton campaign. […]
The memo also reveals that the FBI’s application to spy on Page — and three subsequent renewals — were approved by four different judges, all appointed by Republican presidents.
In addition, the memo suggests the FBI corroborated elements of Steele’s dossier pertaining to Page when it sought renewals. It also emphasizes that the bureau didn’t rely on the dossier’s most salacious allegations to obtain a warrant to spy on Page.
The Democratic memo indicates that the FBI’s fact-finding contradicted Page’s testimony to the House Intelligence committee in November about his meetings with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. The passage on elements of the dossier that may have been corroborated is heavily redacted, but alludes to Page’s contacts with Russian officials on his 2016 trips to Moscow.
In a statement, Schiff said: “The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].”
“Our extensive review of the initial [surveillance] application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests,” he said.