House Intel Dems: Nunes memo 'mischaracterizes, fails to provide vital context'

House Intel Dems: Nunes memo 'mischaracterizes, fails to provide vital context'
© Greg Nash

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee ripped the Republican decision to release a controversial memo alleging surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday, saying the memo mischaracterizes sensitive information and fails to provide important context. 

“The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman [Devin] Nunes himself chose not to review," the minority said in a statement. 

"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 statement continued.  

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The memo accuses top DOJ officials of inappropriately using a piece of opposition research, known as the "Steele dossier," on then-candidate Trump to obtain multiple Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance warrants on Carter Page, a former Trump adviser. 

It also claims that the FBI as part of that process provided information on former Trump aide George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosUS attorney recommends moving forward with charges against McCabe after DOJ rejects his appeal 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Flynn, Papadopoulos to speak at event preparing 'social media warriors' for 'digital civil war' MORE that triggered the federal probe into Russia's possible attempts to influence the U.S. presidential election — an investigation that led to the ongoing probe by special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE into possible Trump campaign collusion.

Democrats say the claims made in the memo ignore dissenting facts in the underlying classified materials that specifically includes additional reasons why the FBI was interested in Page. 

House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and committee staff compiled the memo from classified documents provided by the DOJ. Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Schiff says Trump intel chief won't comply with subpoena over whistleblower Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has alleged Nunes did not read the full underlying materials.

Conservatives say the document is "worse than Watergate," and that the evidence it contains could undermine Mueller's probe.

"The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the president," the minority said. "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 White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she was not "aware" of the White House working with Nunes to compile the memo.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE on Friday signed off on the memo's release despite strong pushback from the intelligence community.

Nunes used an obscure House rule never before used by the committee to override the classification of the document, saying the public deserved to know about its contents.

The memo was publicly released on Friday at noon.