The Russia Connection

Notable Reactions to the Nunes Memo

By Quinta Jurecic
Friday, February 2, 2018, 3:25 PM

At long last, the memo prepared by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has been #released. Below, we are collecting notable responses to the document, which alleges surveillance abuses by the Justice Department and FBI. We will continue to update this post as more responses come in.

 

The White House

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

FBI Director Christopher Wray 

 

FBI Agents Association

“Chairman Nunes’ decision, supported by House Speaker Ryan and Republican Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, to publicly release misleading allegations against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation is a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, and undercut congressional probes. Furthermore, their refusal to allow release of a comprehensive response memorandum prepared by Committee Democrats is a transparent effort to suppress the full truth.

“As the DOJ emphasized to Chairman Nunes, the decision to employ an obscure and never before used House rule to release classified information without DOJ and FBI vetting was ‘extraordinarily reckless.’ The selective release and politicization of classified information sets a terrible precedent and will do long-term damage to the Intelligence Community and our law enforcement agencies. If potential intelligence sources know that their identities might be compromised when political winds arise, those sources of vital information will simply dry up, at great cost to our national security.

“The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few Members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman Nunes himself chose not to review. It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign. The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the President. Tellingly, when asked whether the Republican staff who wrote the memo had coordinated its drafting with the White House, the Chairman refused to answer.

“The premise of the Nunes memo is that the FBI and DOJ corruptly sought a FISA warrant on a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, and deliberately misled the court as part of a systematic abuse of the FISA process. As the Minority memo makes clear, none of this is true. The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant.

“In order to understand the context in which the FBI sought a FISA warrant for Carter Page, it is necessary to understand how the investigation began, what other information the FBI had about Russia’s efforts to interfere with our election, and what the FBI knew about Carter Page prior to making application to the court – including Carter Page’s previous interactions with Russian intelligence operatives. This is set out in the Democratic response which the GOP so far refuses to make public.

“The authors of the GOP memo would like the country to believe that the investigation began with Christopher Steele and the dossier, and if they can just discredit Mr. Steele, they can make the whole investigation go away regardless of the Russians’ interference in our election or the role of the Trump campaign in that interference. This ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.

“The DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia’s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents courted another Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos. As we know from Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Russian agents disclosed to Papadopoulos their possession of stolen Clinton emails and interest in a relationship with the campaign. In claiming that there is ‘no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos,’ the Majority deliberately misstates the reason why DOJ specifically explained Russia’s role in courting Papadopoulos and the context in which to evaluate Russian approaches to Page.

“The Majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate. The GOP memo also claims that a Yahoo News article was used to corroborate Steele, but this is not at all why the article was referenced. These are but a few of the serious mischaracterizations of the FISA application. There are many more set out in the Democratic response, which we will again be seeking a vote to release publicly on Monday, February 5th. Unlike Committee Republicans, however, we will ask the relevant agencies to propose any necessary redactions to protect any sources and methods not already disclosed by Chairman Nunes’ document.

“It is telling that Chairman Nunes put out this memo without bothering to read the underlying materials, and that he ordered changes to the document without informing his own committee members. It is a terrible lapse in leadership that Speaker Ryan failed to intervene and prevent the abuse of classified materials in this way. It is tragic, if all too predictable, that this President would allow the release of the memo despite FBI and DOJ’s expressions of ‘grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the [Republicans’] memo’s accuracy’. But most destructive of all may be the announcement by Chairman Nunes that he has placed the FBI and DOJ under investigation, impugning and impairing the work of the dedicated professionals trying to keep our country safe.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), House Intelligence Committee member 

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.)

“I am stunned and dismayed by today’s release of the Nunes memo. One thing becomes immediately clear after reading the Nunes memo: It’s so poorly sourced and so clearly biased that it’s difficult to come up with any rational reason for its release.

“The manner in which this memo was put together and released should cause everyone to question what is being presented as fact. It’s the height of hypocrisy to release a classified memo in the name of transparency while at the same time blocking Democrats from releasing their contrary views.

“Even worse, the FBI and Justice Department were denied the opportunity to brief members on the classified information that supposedly underpins this selective and misleading memo, even after they voiced their strong objections to its release.

“This document is everything that is improper for any credible investigation into a set of facts and circumstances, and in my opinion puts an end to the majority’s ability to do any credible, fact-based intelligence assessments.

“The refusal to allow contrary evidence to be put forward is unprecedented. In my 17 years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know of no instance where additional views were refused, particularly in a situation where the underlying facts remain classified and unavailable for review.

“The Nunes memo is clearly intended to impugn the Steele dossier – of which no significant fact has been disproved – and to discredit the FBI, thereby creating an atmosphere in which the president can replace large numbers of individuals in law enforcement and the intelligence community and replace them with his own people.

“If any leader of the FBI or intelligence community is dismissed due to prejudicial information from this memo, with no opportunity to bring forward contradictory facts, that would raise serious questions of legality, not to mention abuse of power.”

Senator James Lankford (R-Ok.), Senate Intelligence Committee Member

"The matter of concern outlined in this memo is a specific, legitimate one. Our FISA system is critical to keeping America safe from real and evolving threats. It is a unique system with broad discretion and a real impact on Americans’ civil liberties. Unlike most judicial proceedings, the FISA system depends not on an adversarial process, but instead on the government providing a complete presentation of the facts and circumstances underlying its warrant applications. It is clear from this memo that didn’t happen in this case, and as a consequence an American’s civil liberties may have been violated. 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. Amid all the political rancor, we must be able to work together to ensure the FISA system works as intended and Americans' rights are properly safeguarded. I am glad that this memo helps to provide greater transparency, and I reiterate my support for the similar release of the minority’s memo once it is properly scrubbed of all intelligence sources and methods. It is critical that we focus on specific actions and specific actors and not use this memo to impugn the integrity of the justice system and FBI, which continue to serve the American people with honor."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

“President Trump has surrendered his constitutional responsibility as Commander-in-Chief by releasing highly classified and distorted intelligence.  By not protecting intelligence sources and methods, he just sent his friend Putin a bouquet.

“As the Department of Justice warned, the public release of the memo would be an ‘unprecedented action’ and ‘extraordinarily reckless.’  The FBI also expressed ‘grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.’

“Nunes’ partisan spin memo distorts highly classified intelligence in a cynical attempt to discredit our national intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the Special Counsel investigation.  Releasing the memo is a desperate attempt to distract the American people from the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal.

“One year ago, the intelligence community concluded that the Russians interfered in our elections and plan to do so again.  Yet, the President refuses to hold Putin accountable, making us all ask: what do the Russians have on Trump, politically, financially and personally?

“As the Speaker and former Vice Presidential candidate, Speaker Ryan knows how dangerous it is to jeopardize our intelligence and national security.  Why is he enabling this recklessness and not taking action to remove Chairman Nunes?”

“In 2016, the Russian government engaged in an elaborate plot to interfere in an American election and undermine our democracy. Russia employed the same tactics it has used to influence elections around the world, from France and Germany to Ukraine, Montenegro, and beyond. Putin’s regime launched cyberattacks and spread disinformation with the goal of sowing chaos and weakening faith in our institutions. And while we have no evidence that these efforts affected the outcome of our election, I fear they succeeded in fueling political discord and dividing us from one another.

“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”

, Senate Intelligence Committee Member

“Prior to the release of this memo by the House Intelligence Committee, the Justice Department and the FBI raised serious and genuine concerns about the implications for our national security and stated that the memo omits key facts that ‘fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.’  It does not appear that any redactions or revisions were made to satisfy these legitimate concerns.

“Oversight of the intelligence community, the FISA process, and this investigation are far too important to be tarnished by partisanship.  When the Senate Intelligence Committee released a controversial report some years ago, we spent months meeting with the intelligence community to redact sensitive information.  We also simultaneously voted on a bipartisan basis to release a rebuttal from the CIA and minority views, which were Republican views at that time.  This model of bipartisanship and careful vetting would have been a far better way to proceed."