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 PapadopoulosFree Roger Stone A tale of two lies: Stone, McCabe and the danger of a double standard for justice California Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat 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 MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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 SchiffThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders steamrolls to South Carolina primary, Super Tuesday Schiff blasts Trump for making 'false claims' about Russia intel: 'You've betrayed America. Again' Trump: Nevada a 'great win' for Sanders 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 TrumpAdvisor: Sanders could beat Trump in Texas Bloomberg rips Sanders over Castro comments What coronavirus teaches us for preventing the next big bio threat 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.