‘Political and legal BUST’: Trump comes out swinging against Schiff’s Democratic rebuttal memo

  • President Donald Trump and the White House struck back at Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee after they released their rebuttal memo to the so-called Nunes memo.
  • Trump said the rebuttal was “a total political and legal BUST” and described actions by the Department of Justice that were “SO ILLEGAL.”
  • He also suggested the FBI purposefully concealed facts about the Steele dossier’s funding from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court while seeking a warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
  • There is no evidence that the DOJ or the FBI did anything illegal. Material evidence contained in the Democratic memo also indicates that the DOJ acted according to protocol by informing the court that the dossier was funded by a political entity.

President Donald Trump railed against the declassified memo that Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released on Saturday.

The memo was written by ranking member Adam Schiff and was drafted as a rebuttal to a Republican memo released earlier this month.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes spearheaded the first memo, which alleged that the FBI and Department of Justice abused their surveillance authority when applying for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant targeting former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in October 2016.

“The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST,” Trump tweeted. “Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!”

He tacked on: “Dem Memo: FBI did not disclose who the clients were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”

There is no indication that any of the actions outlined in the Republican or Democratic memos were illegal.

Trump continued his attacks on Schiff and the new memo on Saturday night, calling in to Fox News’ “Justice with Judge Jeanine” to tell host Jeanine Pirro the Democratic memo “really verifies the Nunes memo.”

“There is no collusion. No phone calls – I had no phone calls, no meetings, no nothing. There is no collusion. I say it all the time. Anybody that asks. There is no collusion. I was – you know – I don’t want sound braggadocious, I was a far better candidate, she was not a good candidate,” Trump said, referring to his Democratic presidential opponent Hillary Clinton.

What really happened

The DOJ first applied for a warrant on October 21, 2016. The application was subsequently renewed – after being signed off on by multiple judges and senior DOJ officials – on three separate occasions, in early January 2017, early April 2017, and late June 2017. The renewed warrant allowed the FBI to continue monitoring Page until September 2017.

That the FISA court and multiple senior officials – including those who had been appointed by Trump – approved multiple renewals of the Page application indicates the FBI had substantial evidence to justify extending its surveillance of the former campaign adviser.

Meanwhile, Trump’s second tweet appeared to suggest that the DOJ deliberately misled the FISA court by concealing the politically motivated funding behind the so-called Steele dossier. But information contained in the Democratic memo indicates that the agency took appropriate precautions to follow protocol.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin

The Steele dossier is an explosive and unverified set of memos alleging Trump-Russia collusion that was compiled by former MI6 officer Christopher Steele.

It was originally funded by a group of Republicans who opposed Trump during the Republican primaries.

After Trump became the party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee hired the Perkins Coie law firm, which in turn retained the opposition-research firm Fusion GPS to fund the dossier’s production.

According to both the Schiff memo and previous news reports, the DOJ gave the FISA court enough information which made clear that the dossier was produced as opposition-research against a candidate in the 2016 campaign. Moreover, the Democratic memo contains specific portions of the DOJ’s explanation to the court regarding the dossier’s funding which make clear that it was commissioned as opposition-research.

The reason the DOJ did not outline specific names and identities was that it wanted avoid “unmasking” individuals and entities unless they were the subject of a counterintelligence investigation, the Democratic memo said.

White House comes out swinging

The White House released a statement slamming the rebuttal memo following its release, saying the document “fails to answer” why the DOJ used the Steele dossier “as a basis” for the Page FISA warrant application.

The Steele dossier was not the basis for the application.

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-CA) speaks during a presser in Capitol Hill, Washington, U.S

Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes (R-CA) speaks during a presser in Capitol Hill, Washington, U.S
Thomson Reuters

The DOJ provided ample evidence to the court to support its warrant request, much of which related to Page’s ties to Russian officials that stretch back to the early 2000s and the Russians’ repeated attempts to recruit Page as an unwitting agent, per the Democratic memo. The document also contained redacted sections which outlined additional evidence the agency handed over to the court regarding Page.

Its reliance on the dossier was limited to a narrow portion of the document that contained allegations regarding Page’s trip to Moscow in July 2016.

“While the Democrats’ memorandum attempts to undercut the president politically, the president supported its release in the interest of transparency,” the White House said in its statement.

It added: “In addition, the Minority’s memo fails to even address the fact that the Deputy FBI Director told the Committee that had it not been for the dossier, no surveillance order would have been sought.”

The statement was in reference to the Nunes memo’s claim that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe said in his congressional testimony last year that the Page warrant would not have been sought without information in the dossier.

But multiple Democrats on the panel alleged Nunes’ characterization of McCabe’s testimony was misleading. Sources also told Business Insider and other media outlets, including CNN and The Daily Beast, that the memo fundamentally mischaracterized McCabe’s comments, which have not been publicly released.

The Democratic rebuttal did not contain information regarding McCabe’s testimony. But the minority addressed the matter in a “fact sheet” released outlining their key concerns with the Nunes memo.

The minority said, quoting from the Nunes memo, that McCabe did not testify that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele Dossier information.” Rather, McCabe “defended the FBI and DOJ’s assessment that every component of the application – to include the specific reporting about Page – was necessary and appropriate to present to the Court.”

Schiff, Trump go toe-to-toe

House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Schiff shot back at Trump on Saturday.

House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Schiff shot back at Trump on Saturday.
Thomson Reuters

Trump later tweeted: “‘Russians had no compromising information on Donald Trump’ @FoxNews Of course not, because there is none, and never was. This whole Witch Hunt is an illegal disgrace…and Obama did nothing about Russia!”

Schiff replied to Trump’s tweets, telling the president he was “wrong again.”

“It confirms the FBI acted appropriately and that Russian agents approached two of your advisors, and informed your campaign that Russia was prepared to help you by disseminating stolen Clinton emails,” Schiff tweeted.

The California Democrat continued: “Wait a minute, Mr. President. Am I a phony, or sleazy, a monster or little? Surely you know the key to a good playground nickname is consistency,” tweeted. “I thought you were supposed to be good at this.”

When Pirro asked Trump about Schiff’s tweet on-air, the president said Schiff was “sort of all of those,” and blamed former President Barack Obama for the Russian meddling happening under his watch.

“We shouldn’t be fighting like this. We should all be on the same team. That includes Adam Schiff – we should all be on the same team. They shouldn’t have two sides fighting, all the time, fighting. We should all come together as a nation,” Trump said.

The president added: “With that being said, I have to add one thing. Congressman Nunes, if this continues to go forward, I think some day he’s going to be greatly honored for his service and for what he’s done. He has been very, very brave in the face of a lot of obstacles. What he found out has been incredible. I give him tremendous credit.”