Tag Archives: FISA Court

Democratic Memo rebutting Nunes Memo released, Trump suggests his AG investigate his political opponents in retaliation

The House Intelligence Committee released a heavily redacted Democratic memorandum (.pdf) on Saturday rebutting Republican claims that top F.B.I. and Justice Department officials had abused their powers in spying on a former Trump campaign aide.

The New York Times reports, 2 Weeks After Trump Blocked It, Democrats’ Rebuttal of G.O.P. Memo Is Released (paragraphs reordered for greater clarity):

The Democratic memo amounted to a forceful rebuttal to the president’s portrayal of the Russia inquiry as a “witch hunt” being perpetrated by politically biased leaders of the F.B.I. and the Justice Department.

The Democratic memo underwent days of review by top law enforcement officials after the president blocked its outright release two weeks ago, with the White House counsel warning that the document “contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” On Saturday afternoon, after weeks of haggling over redactions, the department returned the document to the committee so it could make it public.

The release was expected to be the final volley, at least for now, in a bitter partisan fight over surveillance that has driven deep fissures through the once-bipartisan Intelligence Committee.

For weeks, instead of focusing its full energy on investigating an attack on the American democratic system, the committee has been pulled into a furious effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to sow doubts about the integrity of the special counsel inquiry and the agencies conducting it.

The newfound animosity toward the F.B.I. among ostensibly law-and-order Republicans was reflected this past week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where speakers like Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, attacked what they called its “rogue leadership.”

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President Trump withholds Democratic rebuttal memo to Nunes memo

I told you not to hold your breath on President Trump authorizing the release of the Democratic rebuttal memo to the Nunes memo. Trump will not release Democrats’ memo on FBI surveillance:

President Trump will not immediately agree to release a Democratic memo rebutting GOP claims that the FBI abused its surveillance authority as it probed Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but he has directed the Justice Department to work with lawmakers so some form of the document could be made public, the White House counsel said Friday night.

In a letter to the House Intelligence Committee, White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote that the Justice Department had identified portions of the Democrats’ memo that it believed “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” if disclosed. McGahn included in his note a letter from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray supporting that claim.

McGahn wrote in his letter that Trump was “inclined to declassify” the Democrats’ memo, but given its sensitive passages, he was “unable to do so.” McGahn wrote that the president had instructed the Justice Department to work with Congress to mitigate those risks.

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Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement: “The President’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling. The rationale for releasing the Nunes memo, transparency, vanishes when it could show information that’s harmful to him. Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?” He was referring to the GOP memo, which was produced by the staff of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

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(Update) Analysis by former FBI agent of Nunes Memo

In an earlier post, House Intelligence Committee releases controversial Nunes Memo – and an analysis that destroys it, I included a link to an analysis by Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent who has been through the process of obtaining these kinds of warrants under the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), written before the release of the Nunes Memo. Five Questions the Nunes Memo Better Answer.

Asha Rangappa has updated her analysis in an op-ed at the Washington Post after the Nunes Memo has been released. Devin Nunes tried to discredit the FBI. Instead, he proved it’s onto something.

The point of the memo written by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and released Friday afternoon was supposed to be to expose corruption at the highest levels of the FBI. But what the memo actually did — albeit surely not intentionally — was exactly the opposite. In a brief 3½ pages, Nunes managed to confirm that the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia has a very solid basis and that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III must keep looking into the case.

As a former special agent for the FBI working on counterintelligence, I used to obtain Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, so I’m familiar with the procedures Nunes implies the FBI abused in this case. To initiate surveillance on former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page in October 2016, the government would have had to demonstrate that Page was “knowingly engaging in clandestine intelligence gathering activities for or on behalf of” Russia. Importantly, the “knowingly” requirement applies only to “U.S. persons” such as Page, not to foreign nationals — which means the government had a slightly higher burden in his case. It takes months and even years to obtain enough relevant evidence for a FISA application, which can include details from physical surveillance, phone and financial records, items recovered from the target’s trash and intelligence obtained from other sources. So the FISA application would probably have outlined the bureau’s efforts going all the way back to 2013, when Page was approached by the FBI, which warned him, based on recordings of Russian intelligence officers, that he was being targeted for recruitment as a Russian spy. (That same year, Page also reportedly wrote in a letter to an academic publisher that he was an “informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin.”) In counterintelligence investigations, this kind of interview would have been intended to “neutralize” the Russians: The idea is that anyone who was being unwittingly developed as a spy, as Page appeared to be, would be dismayed to realize what was happening and would immediately cease further contact with their intelligence contacts.

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House Intelligence Committee approves release of Democratic Memo rebutting Nunes Memo; NY Times asks FISA Court for Carter Page warrant info

The House Intelligence Committee on Monday voted unanimously to release a memo drafted by Democrats to rebut a GOP-crafted document alleging surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice (DOJ). Intelligence Committee Republicans last week voted down a measure that would have made the Democratic memo public at the same time as the Nunes memo. House Intel votes to release Dem countermemo:

The 10-page classified document now goes to President Trump, who has five days to block its release if he so chooses. It remains an open question whether he will do so.

Don’t hold your breath.

The Democratic memo is expected to lay out a point-by-point rebuttal of the assertions in the Nunes memo and make the case that the FBI had good reason to spy on Page as part of the counterintelligence probe into the Trump campaign.

A decision by the Trump White House to block its publication would almost certainly set off a firestorm of accusations from Democrats that he is attempting to obstruct justice.

The White House has signaled that it is open to allowing the release of the Democratic memo, but included a caveat for national security protections.

There were no redactions made by the White House to the Nunes Memo for national security reasons.

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‘That’s it?’ The Nunes Memo big reveal is a dud, but the actions of Republicans have damaged our national security and federal law enforcement agencies

If you have not listened to the legal experts discuss the Nunes Memo on The Lawfare Podcast: Special Edition: Memo #Released, here is a post By Quinta Jurecic, Shannon Togawa Mercer, and Benjamin Wittes that summarizes the points made. Thoughts on the Nunes Memo: We Need to Talk About Devin:

After more than two weeks of mounting anticipation and hype, the on alleged surveillance abuses prepared by Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has finally been #released. So does the memo document surveillance abuses “,” as Rep. Steve King tweeted last month? Or is it nothing more than disingenuous spin, as House intelligence committee Vice Chairman Adam Schiff —“a burn-the-house down strategy to protect the president”?

Former FBI director James Comey came down strongly on Schiff’s side Friday afternoon—suggesting as well that the memo didn’t pack much of a punch:

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Note: Zack Beauchamp at Vox.com captures the consensus reaction to the Nunes Memo, The Nunes memo is a dud: After reading it, “there is only one conclusion a fair reader could draw: There is absolutely nothing here.”

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Arizona’s insane dentist charges FBI with ‘treason’ (Updated)

Now that Arizona’s most embarrassing member of Congress, Rep. Trent Franks, has resigned in disgrace after soliciting his female staff members to be his sex surrogate (Eeew!), we have a new challenger for the title of Arizona’s most embarrassing member of Congress: Arizona’s insane dentist, Rep. Paul Gosar.

If you follow Rep. Gosar’s Twitter feed — and if you do, I have to ask “what in God’s name compels you to do this?” — you will have noticed that the insane dentist has been completely off the rails of late. Paul Gosar calls for ‘dreamers’ to be arrested, deported at State of the Union speech.

But with the release of the Nunes Memo today, the insane dentist really has topped his insane Twitter rants.

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