Secret memo critical of FBI’s Russia probe made public after Trump clears path
At the heart of the case made out in the memo is a dossier prepared about Trump’s alleged Russian contacts by a former British spy Christopher Steele that is now called the Steele Dossier.Updated: Feb 02, 2018 23:52 IST
A committee of the US House of Representatives on Friday released a previously secret memo — after President Donald Trump refused to block it — that accuses FBI of launching a Russia probe against a Trump campaign operative using questionable methods and evidence.
The four-page memo, written by Republicans on the committee, said: “Our findings raises concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ (department of justice) and FBI interaction with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (that must clear surveillance requests)” of the permission sought by the FBI to surveil Carter Page, the operative.
It found “a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA (the Act establishing these special courts) process”.
At the heart of the case made out in the memo is a dossier prepared about Trump’s alleged Russian contacts by a former British spy Christopher Steele that is now called the Steele Dossier.
It was an “essential part” of the request for surveillance of Page, but the court was not told, the memo argued, that the dossier had been made on behalf of the Democratic party and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Steele’s contacts with media, and leaks, and his contacts with an official of the justice department have also been mentioned to question the surveillance requests as well.
Earlier in the day, President Trump announced he was not blocking the release of the memo, saying, “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.”
The FBI and the justice department had opposed the release of the memo that was prepared by Republicans on the intelligence committee. The FBI had said it had “grave concerns” about the accuracy of the information in the document and that its release could compromise intelligence gathering.
The president who has long complained about the Russia investigation supported its release as— though he didn’t say that— it discredited the probe.
Escalating his war on his own department of justice and the FBI that it oversees, Trump earlier in the day accused their “top leadership” — all of whom were appointed by him — of having “politicised the sacred investigative process” and harbouring an anti-Republican party bias.
The president lashed out in a tweet: “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans - something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!”
Department of justice is headed by Jeff Sessions, a long-time senator who became an early supporter of Candidate Trump but who has since his appointment been in the president’s cross-hairs. His deputy Rob Rosenstein was also appointed by the president, who has however felt unsure of his choice later.
FBI director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump after he had fired James Comey, who had refused to back down on the Russia probe. The reason cited, incredulously, was Comey’s handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Wray could have invited the president’s wrath over a statement issued by the FBI earlier in the week, publicly expressing “grave concerns” about “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy”. There have also been concerns that the release could compromise intelligence gathering.