Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence used their own “dirty dossier” to defend another “dirty dossier” — by releasing their rebuttal to a four-page Republican summary of classified information in the Russia collusion scandal, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Sunday.
Nunes, chairman of the intelligence panel, said, “The American people now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt paid for by the Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party.”
Democrats “knew what they had to redact” and they “didn’t want this out,” Nunes said. “That’s why we wanted it out and they didn’t because it bolsters the case that we made … that the court wasn’t notified that the Clinton campaign and the Democrats paid for this dirt that ended up being phony. Just to sum up, this is almost like you have people defending the dirty dossier with their own dirty dossier.”
Nunes was referring to a controversial compilation of unfounded allegations about President Donald Trump and his relationships with Russian business interests that was compiled by former British spy and FBI asset Christopher Steele. The compilation is more popularly known as the Steele dossier.
Steele did his work for the Fusion GPS opposition research group and was funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee, which she controlled as the party’s 2016 presidential nominee.
Department of Justice and FBI officials used the Steele dossier to justify seeking approval from the secret U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court of official spying on a volunteer Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. They did not specifically tell the court that both Clinton and the DNC paid for the document.
Nunes and other intelligence panel Republicans contended in their summary that the FISA court was purposely not told who paid for the Steele dossier. That’s because Clinton supporters in the government were using it to justify spying on Trump and his associates in their efforts to ensure Clinton would be elected in November 2016.
Democrats, led by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the intelligence panel’s ranking Democrat, composed a response to the GOP summary. But its release in a redacted version was delayed until Saturday because it revealed U.S. intelligence “sources and methods” that could compromise U.S. national security interests.
The Democrats’ document sought to justify the government’s actions in seeking the FISA court approval and to provide a wider context without fully denying the GOP allegations.
“In fact, DOJ and the FBI would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government,” the Democrats’ memo said.
Because surveillance warrant requests must be renewed every 90 days, the Democrats argued that the Steele dossier provided a justifiable basis in the FBI’s renewal requests.
“The Democratic response memo released today should put to rest any concerns that the American people might have as to the conduct of the FBI, the Justice Department and the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court],” Schiff said Sunday.
“Our extensive review of the initial [surveillance] application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests,” Schiff added.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump supported the release of the Democrat memo even though they used it “to undercut the president politically.”
“This politically driven document fails to answer serious concerns raised by the majority’s memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate, loaded with uncorroborated allegations, as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate, at the height of a presidential campaign,” Sanders said.
Trump himself took to Twitter Saturday to blast the memo, saying, “The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST. Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!”
Trump added, “Dem Memo: FBI did not disclose who the clients were — the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”