Washington, United States | AFP | Republican legislators released Friday a highly contentious memo alleging that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice abused their powers to spy on President Donald Trump’s election campaign.
– Key findings –
Based on classified materials, the four-page memo claims that the FBI and DOJ in 2016 used an unsubstantiated, Democratic-funded research report to obtain a FISA national security warrant to surveil Trump advisor Carter Page, who had extensive Russian contacts.
Several former and current top FBI and DOJ officials, it said, signed off on the FISA application and three renewals, in what the memo’s authors says amounted to accepting an unacceptably weak basis for a warrant.
The findings of the report “raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions” with the court that issued the warrant, said the memo, produced by the Republican leadership of the House Intelligence Committee.
They “represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses,” it said.
– Who is singled out? –
Those named in the Nunes memo as responsible for the alleged abuse of the FISA warrant process include:
— Former FBI director James Comey, who was fired last May over the agency’s investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election
— Comey’s top aide, FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who stepped down last Monday after coming under strong pressure from Trump
— Justice Department Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the work of special counsel Robert Mueller, now investigating Trump’s campaign for alleged collusion with Russians
— Former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, former acting deputy attorney general and current FBI general counsel Dana Boente, and former associate deputy attorney general Bruce Ohr, all associated with the previous administration of president Barack Obama
– What has been the reaction? –
— Trump, who approved the memo’s release, said it shows pro-Democratic bias at the top levels of the Justice Department and FBI.
“I think it’s terrible. I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on in this country,” Trump said of the memo’s contents. “A lot of people should be ashamed.”
— House Republican leader Paul Ryan said the memo’s release was an effort to protect Americans’ civil liberties.
“I also have serious concerns with the practice of using political documents funded by a candidate’s political opponents to make law enforcement and counter-intelligence decisions,” Ryan said.
— Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who wrote and released the memo.
“The American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes,” Nunes said.
— Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Nunes’ memo excludes and distorts a lot of key information about the FISA application.
“The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the president,” Schiff said.
— Senior Democrats in Congress warned Trump about firing any of those named in the memo.
“We would consider such an unwarranted action as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Nancy Pelosi, and eight other key Democrats in a statement.
“Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis.”