Washington set to explode when FISA memo released today

An administration official told Reuters that the FISA memo detailing abuses by the Justice Department and the FBI would be released today. The memo, prepared by Republican staff members of the House intelligence committee, will reportedly show that at least one FISA warrant issued by an intelligence court judge was based on the infamous "Trump Dossier," written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and paid for by the Clinton campaign working through the Democratic opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The FBI has been unable to corroborate most of the information in the dossier.

Democrats claim the memo is a partisan document, skewing facts to fit a pre-conceived narrative. They have written a "counter memo" to rebut what's in the GOP version. Democrats are demanding simultaneous release of both memos, but Republicans say that the Schiff memo must go through the same process of review as the Nunes memo.

In a bid to discredit the memo prior to its release, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intel committee, is claiming that the Republicans are not only spinning facts to suit their political agenda, but have actually altered the memo before sending it to the White House.

CNN:

In a letter to Nunes, Schiff said that his staff discovered Wednesday evening that the memo sent to the White House was "materially different" than the version on which the committee voted.

The White House is currently reviewing the four-page classified memo after the committee voted on Monday night to make it public.

"It is now imperative that the Committee Majority immediately withdraw the document that it sent to the White House," Schiff wrote. "If the Majority remains intent on releasing its document to the public, despite repeated warnings from DOJ and the FBI, it must hold a new vote to release to the public its modified document."

A spokesman for Nunes responded to Schiff's letter by calling it an "increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo," saying changes were made that were "minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves."

"The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound, and in accordance with House and Committee rules," Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said. "To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves."

This is a panic claim by Schiff and a desperate attempt to discredit the memo before its publication. The FBI, too, has set its PR operation in motion to discredit the memo.

USA Today

The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it," the bureau said in an unusual public statement. "As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy."

It will be next to impossible for Democrats to discredit this memo entirely if it contains documented proof of FISA warrants issued using scurrilous and partisan sources like the Steele Dossier. Democrats and the FBI have hinted that the FISA warrant issued to authorize spying on Trump campaign aide Carter Page was based on several other sources of intelligence besides the Dossier. But given the explosive allegations in the Dossier, it's hard to imagine a judge not basing his decision on what was in it, given that the FBI apparently didn't inform the FISA judge that the document was unsubstantiated.

This political fight could be resolved if the underlying intelligence documents upon which the FISA memo was based, were released as well. But according to this report in The Hill, only 7 members outside of the intelligence committees have seen the underlying documentation:

Flores told The Hill that “bipartisan viewing was done on a committee by committee basis.”

Those members are mostly lawmakers serving on the House and Senate Judiciary committees, which have jurisdiction over the Department of Justice.

This group includes Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Vice Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who sit on the panel.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) or their staff viewed the document as well, according the list provided by the Justice Department.

A GOP aide separately told The Hill that their boss also viewed the information this week — after the vote.  

According to a transcript of the closed-door meeting released Wednesday, ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that he and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) were the only people on the committee to have reviewed the supporting intelligence.

“When all of this information is made available, there will be an accounting for all of us based on what is true,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said Monday night during the vote meeting, according to a transcript released on Wednesday.

“If it turns out that the majority memo is wrong there will be hell to pay. If it turns out that the minority memo is wrong, there will be hell to pay,” he said.

If the abuses of power by the FBI and DoJ are as serious as the GOP has hinted, the intelligence and other documents that the memo is based on must be released. Given the stakes involved - the safety of our constitutional republic - the classified nature of the documentation should be set aside for the good of the country.

If even half of what the GOP is saying about the FBI is true, it represents one of the gravest crisis in our history. A small cabal of career law enforcement bureaucrats didn't like the way that the election for president turned out and consciously decided to take steps to rectify what they see as a mistake. Worse, they manipulated the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department to further their cause.

If those are the facts. 

Thomas Lifson adds:

Rick is commendably agnostic in reporting that we don’t yet have the underlying facts. But there are reasons for deep suspicion that the FBI is “terrified and frantic” to prevent exposure of misconduct by anyone. Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch yesterday used exactly those words to describe the Bureau’s efforts to keep the Nunes memo secret:

 

 

Angelo Codevilla points out the constitutional reality that the FBI (and other intelligence agencies) are implying an inverted view of control of the release of intelligence:

The Intelligence agencies’ pressures on President Trump to block the House of Representatives’ decision to release a summary of the FBI’s highly classified misdeeds are instructive comedy. The House’s decision shows what no one should ever have doubted: the FBI, CIA, etc. are not the source of authority over America’s secrets. They merely administer secrets and clearances on behalf of the one and only authority over the Executive Branch: The President of the United States. He clears them — not the other way around. Congress, as a co-equal, popularly elected branch of government, may hold or release such information as it chooses, and pay such attention as it chooses to the President’s opinions. Thus far, the Constitution.

With regard to Donald Trump, however, the Intelligence Agencies have been pretending that they are in charge of such matters.

Keep in mind that the FBI, like all bureaucracies, seeks to protect itself. Under J. Edgar Hoover, the Bureau was notorious for managing its public relations with a heavy hand. The prime directive reportedly was "Do nothing to relfect badly on the Bureau." It would not be surprising in the least if exposure of potential criminal behavior that could compromise its cherished status would be resisted fiercely, even by a Director personally uncompromised by the scandal, on the grounds of protecting the agency’s mission and standing.

The pending release (scheduled for March) of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report may provide all the sunlight we need. I have never come across any hint that he is other than a straight shooter, but we shall see.

Brit Hume notices that FBI can't keep its story straight

An administration official told Reuters that the FISA memo detailing abuses by the Justice Department and the FBI would be released today. The memo, prepared by Republican staff members of the House intelligence committee, will reportedly show that at least one FISA warrant issued by an intelligence court judge was based on the infamous "Trump Dossier," written by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele and paid for by the Clinton campaign working through the Democratic opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The FBI has been unable to corroborate most of the information in the dossier.

Democrats claim the memo is a partisan document, skewing facts to fit a pre-conceived narrative. They have written a "counter memo" to rebut what's in the GOP version. Democrats are demanding simultaneous release of both memos, but Republicans say that the Schiff memo must go through the same process of review as the Nunes memo.

In a bid to discredit the memo prior to its release, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House intel committee, is claiming that the Republicans are not only spinning facts to suit their political agenda, but have actually altered the memo before sending it to the White House.

CNN:

In a letter to Nunes, Schiff said that his staff discovered Wednesday evening that the memo sent to the White House was "materially different" than the version on which the committee voted.

The White House is currently reviewing the four-page classified memo after the committee voted on Monday night to make it public.

"It is now imperative that the Committee Majority immediately withdraw the document that it sent to the White House," Schiff wrote. "If the Majority remains intent on releasing its document to the public, despite repeated warnings from DOJ and the FBI, it must hold a new vote to release to the public its modified document."

A spokesman for Nunes responded to Schiff's letter by calling it an "increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo," saying changes were made that were "minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves."

"The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound, and in accordance with House and Committee rules," Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said. "To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves."

This is a panic claim by Schiff and a desperate attempt to discredit the memo before its publication. The FBI, too, has set its PR operation in motion to discredit the memo.

USA Today

The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it," the bureau said in an unusual public statement. "As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy."

It will be next to impossible for Democrats to discredit this memo entirely if it contains documented proof of FISA warrants issued using scurrilous and partisan sources like the Steele Dossier. Democrats and the FBI have hinted that the FISA warrant issued to authorize spying on Trump campaign aide Carter Page was based on several other sources of intelligence besides the Dossier. But given the explosive allegations in the Dossier, it's hard to imagine a judge not basing his decision on what was in it, given that the FBI apparently didn't inform the FISA judge that the document was unsubstantiated.

This political fight could be resolved if the underlying intelligence documents upon which the FISA memo was based, were released as well. But according to this report in The Hill, only 7 members outside of the intelligence committees have seen the underlying documentation:

Flores told The Hill that “bipartisan viewing was done on a committee by committee basis.”

Those members are mostly lawmakers serving on the House and Senate Judiciary committees, which have jurisdiction over the Department of Justice.

This group includes Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Vice Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), as well as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who sit on the panel.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) or their staff viewed the document as well, according the list provided by the Justice Department.

A GOP aide separately told The Hill that their boss also viewed the information this week — after the vote.  

According to a transcript of the closed-door meeting released Wednesday, ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that he and Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) were the only people on the committee to have reviewed the supporting intelligence.

“When all of this information is made available, there will be an accounting for all of us based on what is true,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said Monday night during the vote meeting, according to a transcript released on Wednesday.

“If it turns out that the majority memo is wrong there will be hell to pay. If it turns out that the minority memo is wrong, there will be hell to pay,” he said.

If the abuses of power by the FBI and DoJ are as serious as the GOP has hinted, the intelligence and other documents that the memo is based on must be released. Given the stakes involved - the safety of our constitutional republic - the classified nature of the documentation should be set aside for the good of the country.

If even half of what the GOP is saying about the FBI is true, it represents one of the gravest crisis in our history. A small cabal of career law enforcement bureaucrats didn't like the way that the election for president turned out and consciously decided to take steps to rectify what they see as a mistake. Worse, they manipulated the intelligence agencies and the Justice Department to further their cause.

If those are the facts. 

Thomas Lifson adds:

Rick is commendably agnostic in reporting that we don’t yet have the underlying facts. But there are reasons for deep suspicion that the FBI is “terrified and frantic” to prevent exposure of misconduct by anyone. Chris Farrell of Judicial Watch yesterday used exactly those words to describe the Bureau’s efforts to keep the Nunes memo secret:

 

 

Angelo Codevilla points out the constitutional reality that the FBI (and other intelligence agencies) are implying an inverted view of control of the release of intelligence:

The Intelligence agencies’ pressures on President Trump to block the House of Representatives’ decision to release a summary of the FBI’s highly classified misdeeds are instructive comedy. The House’s decision shows what no one should ever have doubted: the FBI, CIA, etc. are not the source of authority over America’s secrets. They merely administer secrets and clearances on behalf of the one and only authority over the Executive Branch: The President of the United States. He clears them — not the other way around. Congress, as a co-equal, popularly elected branch of government, may hold or release such information as it chooses, and pay such attention as it chooses to the President’s opinions. Thus far, the Constitution.

With regard to Donald Trump, however, the Intelligence Agencies have been pretending that they are in charge of such matters.

Keep in mind that the FBI, like all bureaucracies, seeks to protect itself. Under J. Edgar Hoover, the Bureau was notorious for managing its public relations with a heavy hand. The prime directive reportedly was "Do nothing to relfect badly on the Bureau." It would not be surprising in the least if exposure of potential criminal behavior that could compromise its cherished status would be resisted fiercely, even by a Director personally uncompromised by the scandal, on the grounds of protecting the agency’s mission and standing.

The pending release (scheduled for March) of Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s report may provide all the sunlight we need. I have never come across any hint that he is other than a straight shooter, but we shall see.

Brit Hume notices that FBI can't keep its story straight