Op-Ed: A Tale of Two Memos

On Saturday, the much-anticipated Democratic rebuttal to the “Nunes” memo was finally released. As suspected, the memo contradicts some of the claims made in the majority memo, agrees with others, and completely leaves out important details.

For example, the democratic memo starts off by claiming that, “Christopher Steele’s raw intelligence reporting did not inform the FBI’s decision to initiate its counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.”

However, the “Nunes” memo never refutes this point, and, in fact, even states on page 4 that: “The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok.” The memo further alleges that the FBI did not rely on the Steele Dossier for its FISA Court application.

More specifically the memo alleges that: “DOJ cited multiple sources to support the case for surveilling Page – but made only narrow use of information from Steele’s sources about Page’s specific activities in 2016, chiefly his suspected July 2016 meetings in Moscow with Russian officials.”

However, problems arise with this allegation when viewed in light of other evidence. On February 6, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, released a less-redacted copy of their letter to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray. In the letter, both Senators requested there be an investigation opened into Christopher Steele for “potential violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, for statements the Committee has reason to believe Mr. Steele made regarding his distribution of information contained in the dossier.”

According to the letter, on March 17, 2017, after reviewing copies of two FISA applications, it was found that in both applications, the FBI relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims, and “both applications were granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).”

Then, in December of 2017, both chairmen reviewed four total FISA applications, all relying on the dossier. The letter states that on October 21, 2016, when the first FISA warrant application was filed for Carter Page, the bulk of the application consisted of, “allegations against Page that were disclosed to the FBI by Mr. Steele and are also outlined in the dossier.”

The letter states that the application appeared to contain “no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations against Mr. Page.” The letter notes that this application did include a citation to a news article, but the article appeared to be “sourced to Mr. Steele’s dossier as well.”

As Disobedient Media has previously reported, FISA is an adversarial process, in which only one side (the government) can present evidence. Due to its adversarial nature, the government is required to produce all material and relevant facts to the court, including any information which may be potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application.

However, when the DOJ sought a FISA warrant to monitor Carter Page, they failed to present all relevant facts. For example, while the DOJ made sure to detail Page’s work history and relationships with Russian officials, the DOJ failed to inform the court that in 2013, Page cooperated with the FBI and provided them with information that led to the prosecution of Russian spy Evgeny Buryakov.

This raises an important point: Why would Russian Intelligence have trusted Page enough to recruit him as an agent of Russia, after he had cooperated with the FBI as a testifying witness in their prosecution of Buryakov? Why would the DOJ, knowing this information, not only fail to disclose it to the FISA court, but then argue that Page is an agent of Russia?

The memo alleges that the DOJ was sufficiently transparent with the court regarding Steele’s sourcing. The memo argues that the DOJ adequately informed the FISA court about the political motivations of Steele, in its defense of an extremely complicated yet vague explanation contained in a footnote of the original FISA application. The explanation states that the DOJ disclosed that Steele:

“… Was approached by an identified U.S. Person, who indicated to Source #1 that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. Person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. Person and Source #1 have a longstanding business relationship.) The identified U.S. person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. Person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.”

The Democrats’ memo alleges that this explanation, contained in a footnote, is an adequate disclosure of the possible political bias behind the nature of the dossier. Stating that Steele was hired by the DNC and the Clinton campaign, paid through the DNC’s law firm (Perkins Coie), to compile a dossier for opposition research full of unverified accusations alleging that the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to subvert the U.S. Presidential election, would be much too honest and forthright for the Obama Justice Department.

In fact, nowhere in the Democratic memo is there mention that the Clinton campaign and the DNC paid for the Steele dossier. This extremely important fact is completely left out, providing a perfect example of a lie by omission.

Furthermore, in September 2016, before the initial FISA warrant was granted in October, the FBI interviewed then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr. During that interview, Ohr informed the FBI of Steele’s political bias, stating that he: “Was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.”

As can be seen, the FBI clearly knew about Steele’s political bias, but decided to withhold that information from the FISA court, and instead, offered a ridiculous, convoluted explanation. This is the crap we are wasting our tax dollars on. Is this not incredibly disappointing?

The memo further argues that the “Nunes” memo failed to “cite evidence that Steele disclosed to Yahoo! details included in the FISA warrant, since the British Court filings to which they refer do not address what Steele may have said to Yahoo!.”

However, this allegation completely ignores the fact that since the release of the “Nunes” memo, the author of the Yahoo! article, Isikoff, has since stated that Steele was in fact the source for his article, and has stated that: “This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from the information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo! News.”

Yet, the most interesting aspect of the democratic memo, at least in this authors’ opinion, is the fact that the memo does not challenge or even mention the allegation from the Nunes memo which claims that “Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.”

It seems incredibly strange that the democratic memo would leave out this key detail alleged in the previous memo by Republicans. As Byron York of the Washington Examiner correctly points out:

“Now, however, the Democratic memo makes no statement one way or the other about McCabe’s assertion. Does that mean, then, that the Republican memo accurately characterized what McCabe said? Without the interview transcript, it’s impossible to say. But it does mean that in their official, considered rebuttal, Democrats are not challenging it.”

While both memos seek to public support under the guise of transparency, the only thing that has been completely transparent throughout this entire process, aside from the obvious corruption of the American Justice System and intelligence community, is the ever-deepening rift between the two establishment parties.

At the end of the day, until a physical copy of the application to the FISA court is released, the only people who will truly suffer from this mess are the American taxpayers, who are forced to pay into a system that not only rejects transparency, but acts in a completely adversarial manner to their personal interests.