Democrats release redacted memo pushing back on GOP claims of DOJ abuse

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have released a redacted memo meant to push back on Republicans’ claims of DOJ and FBI abuse of government surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign adviser.

President Donald Trump objected to the release of the memo two weeks ago, citing national security concerns.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesPresident Donald Trump speaks during the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 23, 2018.

In a letter to the committee at the time, White House counsel Don McGahn said the 10-page document contained “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages” and asked the panel to work with the Justice Department to revise the document.

Democrats spent a week negotiating redactions to the memo with the FBI ahead of its release Saturday. The negotiations wrapped up last week, according to a committee official, and the panel received the memo from the DOJ on Saturday afternoon.

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Democrats say the document is a rebuttal to claims made in a Republican-authored memo released by the committee.

“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,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the top Democrat on the committee, said in a statement Saturday.

The White House appeared to claim Saturday that the Democrats’ document vindicated Trump in the ongoing Russia investigation.

“As the President has long stated, neither he nor his campaign ever colluded with a foreign power during the 2016 election, and nothing in today’s memo counters that fact,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

President Trump also took to Twitter Saturday to call the Democratic memo “a total political and legal bust” that “confirms all of the terrible things that were done. So Illegal!”

Joshua Roberts/ReutersHouse Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., Feb. 24, 2018.

The heavily redacted document said the FBI and the Justice Department “did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” and added that the FBI “would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought” surveillance of Carter Page, the former advisor.

Republicans alleged that the DOJ and FBI relied too heavily on unverified intelligence in a dossier prepared by former British spy, Christopher Steele, in their surveillance applications –- and that law enforcement officials did not inform the court that the research was funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign.

In their memo, Democrats said law enforcement “cited multiple sources” of reasons to be interested in Page, and properly disclosed them to the FISA court while only making “narrow” use of the information from the so-called Steele dossier.

Democrats also claimed that the DOJ, in subsequent FISA renewal applications, “provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting” about Page’s meetings with Russian officials in Moscow in 2016.

The Democratic memo said the dossier “did not inform the FBI’s decision to initiate its counterintelligence investigation” and also said FISA court was told there was evidence the Russians “took interest” in Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos.

Democrats revealed in their memo that the FBI had already opened “sub-inquiries into…individuals linked to the Trump campaign” by the time the Steele dossier made its way to the agents conducting the Russia counterintelligence probe in September 2016. The names of those other individuals are redacted in the memo.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP, FILERep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, leaves a secure area where the panel meets at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., Feb. 5, 2018.

Democrats also claimed that the DOJ “provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated” Steele’s information.

Page called the memo a “smear campaign” against him and called for the “immediate disclosure of all my FISA applications and other relevant documents,” in a statement Saturday evening.

“This latest smear campaign by DNC loyalists is going to turn out the same way as their original multi-million dollar attack of 2016,” Page said in the statement. “As we’ve seen many times before with the felonious news leaks of the past year, this new round of misinformation surrounding efforts by Washington to illegally influence the 2016 election inflicts even more damages on the instigating perpetrators from the swamp.”

The release of the Democratic memo ends the latest chapter of the House Intelligence Committee’s divisive Russia investigation. The traditionally bipartisan panel has struggled to conduct its work amid partisan sniping over its investigation into Russian election interference and allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The situation has become so unworkable that the committee is planning to build a physical barrier between Republican and Democratic staff in their shared secure office space in the basement of the Capitol, according to sources familiar with the situation.

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