Published: Sun, February 25, 2018
Culture | By Stewart Greene

House releases Democrats' rebuttal to GOP memo on alleged government surveillance abuses

House releases Democrats' rebuttal to GOP memo on alleged government surveillance abuses

Democrats on the U.S. House Intelligence Committee defended official investigations into claims of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election in the party memo.

Republicans said this shows the surveillance of Page was partisan in nature, and some say it taints the ongoing Russian Federation investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The latest memo disputed claims the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained surveillance warrants based completely on intelligence from the Russian dossier, compiled by British spy Christopher Steele and funded by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

President Donald Trump quickly agreed to declassify the Republican memo, but he initially blocked the Democratic version by saying its contents were too sensitive. It also redacts the details of a Russian intelligence officer's alleged targeting of Page for recruitment.

Democrats say there was adequate disclosure in the lengthy application - and no reason to think the judges would have rejected it had they known of Steele's funding.

But the Democratic memo contends that the Justice Department disclosed "the assessed political motivation of those who hired him".

"The Democrat memo ignores the fact that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign paid for the Steele dossier, which- as confirmed by the Graham-Grassley referral -formed "a significant portion of the Carter Page FISA application", the Republican rebuttal states".

Partisan disagreements on the intelligence committee have escalated over the past year as Democrats have charged that Republicans aren't taking the panel's investigation into Russian election meddling seriously enough.

The Democrats' document however was condemned by President Trump as a "total political and legal bust". "It's clear evidence that the Democrats are not only covering this up, but they're also colluding with parts of the government to cover this up".

The new memo alleges that Page was targeted for recruitment in 2013 by two Russians who had been indicted by the USA government.

"This is a pretty thorough demolition", Julian Sanchez, an expert on surveillance at the libertarian Cato Institute, wrote on Twitter after reading Schiff's memo. The FBI didn't get Steele's memo until mid-September, 7 weeks AFTER the probe was begun. The information that law enforcement officials did use from Steele was "narrow" and concerned Page's suspected July 2016 meetings in Moscow with Russian officials. The surveillance started in October 2016, shortly after Page left the campaign in the wake of questions about his Russian contacts. The memo then goes into an extensively detailed point-by-point rebuttal of Nunes's memo terming it "a profoundly misleading memorandum. drafted in secret on behalf of Chairman Devin Nunes" and "rushed to a party-line vote without prior notice".

"The FBI speculates that the identified USA person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump's] campaign", reads the memo, quoting from the FISA application.

There's more in the Schiff memo that's important than just that one devastating point. The accusation center on the use of intelligence provided by ex-British spy Christopher Steele to obtain a warrant to monitor Page.

"The identified USA person (Simpson) never advised source #1 (Steele) as to the motivation behind the research into candidate #1's ties to Russian Federation", the FISA application states, according to Schiff's memo. But congressional Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Trey Gowdy of SC, who helped draft the GOP memo, have said it shouldn't be used to undermine the special counsel.

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