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Memo Released: Synopsis of the HPSCI Memo on Abuses in the Intelligence Agencies and Events leading up to its Release

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By Karen O’Connor Rubsam

The much anticipated Memo from the House Permanent Special Committee on Intelligence (“HPSCI”) has just been released.  What follows is a brief review of events leading up to its release as well as a synopsis of the memo itself.

Timeline of Events leading up to the Release of the HPSCI Memo

December 7, 2017 – As reported in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee press release, its chairman, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.),  “sent a letter to the Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Wednesday after allegations surfaced of potential political bias among FBI employees involved in the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the ongoing special counsel probe of potential Russian interference in the 2016 election. Chairman Johnson is seeking information about when and how Deputy AG Rosenstein became aware of the text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI attorney Lisa Page and is requesting the DOJ to produce the communications between Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page to the committee.”

January 3, 2018 – FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein met with House Speaker Paul Ryan to discuss matters related to the HPSCI  August 24, 2017 subpoenas.  As Chairman Nunes’ letter to Attorney Session stated:

As of the date of this meeting, the DOJ and FBI had not yet responded to the HPSCI subpoenas.  In a letter dated December 28, 2017 Chairman Nunes had imposed January 3, 2018 as the deadline for turning over this information.  That evening he issued a statement saying: “After speaking to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein this evening, I believe the House Intelligence Committee has reached an agreement with the Department of Justice that will provide the committee with access to all the documents and witnesses we have requested. The committee looks forward to receiving access to the documents over the coming days.”

January 12, 2018 Fox News reports that, “House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes told Republican colleagues in two closed-door meetings this week he has seen evidence that shows clear “abuse” of government surveillance programs by FBI and Justice Department officials, according to three sources familiar with the conversations, raising more questions about whether the controversial anti-Trump dossier was used by the Obama administration to authorize surveillance of advisers to President Trump.”

January 18, 2018 – In a HPSCI meeting, the document (generally being referred to as “The Memo”) was presumably discussed.  Representative Peter King requested that the HPSCI release the memo to the “oversight and attention of the entire House of Representatives.”   The HPSCI also publishes the November 8 and November 14 transcript of testimony provided to the committee by Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson.  Under questioning, Simpson disclosed that they were hired in October 2015 by the Free Beacon to do research into then-candidate Donald Trump “we stopped doing work for Beacon sometime in the Spring of 2016”  In the Summer of 2016 they were hired by Perkins Cole, a law firm representing the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Simpson said the committee was paid a “flat fee” of $50,000 per month for this research.

January 29, 2018 – Andrew McCabe, steps down from his role as FBI Deputy Director.  McCabe had been involved in both the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and the investigation regarding possible Russian interference with the 2016 election.

January 29, 2018 – The HPSCI meets and votes on four matters:  (1) releasing “The Memo” to the public (the vote passed along party lines), (2) releasing the Democrat 10-page “rebuttal” memo to the entire House of Representative (such vote passes unanimously), (3) to allowing the Department of Justice and FBI to review both memoranda and provide a classified briefing to the entire House (this is voted down along party lines), and (4) releasing both memoranda to the public concurrently (also voted down along party lines).  This vote set into motion a 5 day period during which President Trump could object to the release of the memo.

January  31, 2018 – FBI issues a public statement  expressing “grave concerns regarding the release of “The Memo” and Nunes responds , stating that the release is necessary “to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused again.”

February 2, 2018The Memo is released by the HPSCI

Synopsis of the HPSCI Memo

Opening Statement – The findings in The Memo, “ 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.”

Investigation Update

  • On October 21, 2016 DOJ and FBI received a FISA probably cause order authorizing electronic surveillance on Carter Page.
  • The Steele dossier formed an essential part of the initial and all three renewal FISA applications against Carter Page.
  • Neither the initial applications nor renewals disclosed the political origins of the Steele dossier even though it was known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.
  • The FISA application “cited extensively a September 23, 2016, Yahoo News article by Micheal Isikoff.” The Memo states that “Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News – and several other outlets – at the direction of Fusion GPS.”  These media encounters “violated the cardinal rule of source handling – maintain confidentiality – and demonstrated that Steele had become a less than reliable source for the FBI.”
  • Before and after Steele was terminated, DOJ official Bruce Ohr (who’s “wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump”) met with Steele beginning in the summer of 2016 and relayed to DOJ information about Steele’s bias. Steele told Ohr that he, Steele, “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected president and was passionate about him not becoming president.”
  • Andrew McCabe confirmed that no FISA warrant would have been sought from the FISA Court without the Steele dossier information.
  • The FISA application mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopulos. Information on Papadopoulos triggered on the opening of the FBI investigation of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

See Democratic Response

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