The House Intelligence Committee released on Friday a controversial GOP memo alleging that the FBI and Department of Justice did not provide adequate information to a judge when they sought to renew a court warrant for surveillance of Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign.
The memo claims that the FBI and Justice Department failed to mention that they were relying heavily on research by a former British intelligence officer, Christopher Steele, when they sought to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) warrant.
The Steele dossier, also known as the Russia dossier, is highly controversial because it alleges that Trump was being cultivated by Russia for years. Some aspects of the dossier, especially those regarding Page, have been verified. But many of the dossier's allegations have not been proved.
The Steele dossier formed an essential part of the FISA applications regarding Page.
The memo released by the House was drafted by the staff of Representative Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes, a Republican from California, stepped aside from the House investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election after it was revealed that the House Ethics Committee was investigating whether he made unauthorized disclosures of classified information to the White House.
The White House had to sign off on the memo’s release. According to House rules, the president had five days to decide whether to object to the memo’s publication on national security grounds.
Applications for FISA warrants are based on information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies, and the FBI and Justice Department had strenuously objected to the memo's release. The process by which the FBI determines who should be under surveillance is meant to remain secret, as is information about how communications are targeted and what type of information is intercepted.
California Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told Newsweek he is concerned classified information is being released for partisan reasons.
“We’re concerned that sources for the FBI will dry up because they’ll have to be concerned about being exposed if the political winds change. The FBI will be concerned about sharing information with the committee. The consequences are very serious,” Schiff said.
What’s more, the FBI has said it has “grave concerns” about the accuracy of the memo, and Democrats say the information was cherry-picked to paint a false picture.
“The FBI takes seriously its obligation to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI,” a public statement from the FBI released Wednesday said.
“The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about the material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the statement noted.
It will be difficult for the FBI to prove that information in the memo is misleading without revealing classified information, Schiff told Newsweek. “They [Republicans] want it to be out there, as misleading as it is, without the FBI being able to clarify,” he said of the memo.
Schiff wants to release a memo to the public prepared by the Democratic minority that would provide context for information included in the GOP memo.