The early verdict on a recently-released memo from the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican staff is that it falls well short of casting doubt on Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s hacking of the presidential election. That’s no surprise, considering that Donald Trump declassified it even though the FBI claimed it was inaccurate and incomplete.
The Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee wanted the nation to know just what some of those inaccuracies were. They even prepared a rebuttal to the memo crafted by committee chairman Devin Nunes–but the Republican majority refused to release it along with the Nunes memo. That hasn’t stopped ranking Democrat Adam Schiff and his colleagues from hammering on what they claim are three erroneous statements in the memo.
First and foremost, the Democrats claim that the memo’s central contention–that former Trump aide Carter Page was the target of surveillance primarily based on Christopher Steele’s “golden shower’s dossier–is incorrect.
New: Two Democratic members of House Intel tell me McCabe did not say dossier was basis of FISA warrant, disputing central claim of #NunesMemo
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) February 2, 2018
Schiff told reporters that while the dossier was referenced in the affidavit for the warrant, it was not the sole basis of the affidavit presented to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
MEMO UPDATE: SCHIFF tells reporters that only portions of the Steele Dossier — the ones about Page — were presented to the FISA Court.
"Some of those things were already subject to corroboration."
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) February 2, 2018
That alone would be enough to discredit the memo. However, the Intelligence Committee Democrats dispute the memo’s claim that the FBI didn’t tell the FISA Court that Steele was “working on behalf of–and paid for–by the Clinton campaign.” In a statement, the Democrats say that claim is “not accurate,” but don’t elaborate. Hopefully this is because that evidence is–for now–classified. They also dispute claims that the FBI used a Yahoo! News story to corroborate the dossier.
Just after the Nunes memo was released, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Ryan supported the release of the Democrats’ memo. Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Schiff said he was decidedly unimpressed.
Schiff believes that the Republicans wanted all along to let their memo get out first in order to “solidify the narrative” that the FBI and Justice Department engaged in rampant abuse. Instead, Schiff said, it presented “cherry-picked information” about the warrant for surveillance on Carter Page. He added that normal oversight hearings would have involved testimony from the FBI. Instead, Nunes and friends intended from the outset to “impeach the credibility of the FBI.”
Judging by the reception this memo has gotten so far, it doesn’t look like that gambit is working. One can hope that if and when Schiff’s rebuttal is released, it will prove what we already knew–this memo was a hatchet job.
(featured image courtesy Schiff’s Facebook)