The Democrats memo confirmed the Nunes memo that the FBI started the investigation on July 31, 2016, and the Papadopoulos information was the trigger.
Also, the memo mentioned that “FBI was already monitoring” “Russia’s aggressive covert campaign to influence our elections” when the Papadopoulos info was obtained. However, we don’t know if this was the same operation that was disclosed by Mueller’s indictment.
Rationale for surveilling Page
The Democrats memo said that “DOJ cited multiple sources to support the case for surveilling Page”.
DOJ detailed Page’s past relationships with Russian spies and interaction with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, [redacted]. DOJ cited multiple sources to support the case for surveilling Page — But made only narrow use of information from Steele’s sources about Page’s specific activities in 2016, chiefly his suspected July 2016 meetings in Moscow with Russian officials. [redacted]. In fact, the FBI interviewed Page in March 2016 about his contact with Russian intelligence, the very month candidate Donald Trump named him a foreign policy advisor.
According to the memo, the reason to apply the initial FISA warrant was his previous relationships with Russians, including his residence in Moscow from 2004-2007 when he “pursued business deals with Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom – [redacted]”.
Also, Russian spies’ failed attempt to recruit him in 2013 was also a reason to justify the FISA warrant.
However, FBI never charged him of any wrongdoings, and to apply for a FISA warrant against a US citizen, DOJ has to show that his clandestine activities on behalf of a foreign power might have involved federal crimes.
To me, the only way to justify the FISA warrant was the Steele dossier, which talked about his trip to Moscow in July 2016 in Russia. The dossier claimed that Page separately met Igor Sechin, a close associate of Putin and executive chairman of Rosneft, and also Igor Divyekin, a senior Kremlin official.
Additional information was also provided in FISA renewals. However, they’re heavily redacted, except “Page’s [redacted] in Moscow with [redacted] senior Russian officials [redacted] as well as meetings with Russian officials [redacted].” The information collected by the FISA warrants is also heavily redacted.
One thing to notice is that, the memo didn’t dispute the claim about McCabe’s testimony in Nunes memo:
Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.
DOJ didn’t disclose who’s behind the dossier
The memo confirmed that DOJ only said FBI “speculates” the dossier has political motification, but didn’t disclose who was behind.
[Steele] was approached by an identified U.S. Person, who indicated to Source #1 [Steele] that a U.S.-based law firm had hired the identified U.S. Person to conduct research regarding Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. (The identified U.S. Person and Source #1 have a long-standing business relationship.) The identified U.S. Person hired Source #1 to conduct this research. The identified U.S. Person never advised Source #1 as to the motivation behind the research into Candidate #1’s ties to Russia. The FBI speculates that the identified U.S. Person was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign.
This was exactly what the Nunes memo stated:
Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.
The initial FISA application notes Steele was working for a named U.S. person, but does not name Fusion GPS and principal Glenn Simpson, who was paid by a U.S. law firm (Perkins Coie) representing the DNC (even though it was known by DOJ at the time that political actors were involved with the Steele dossier). The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of – and paid by – the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information.
Note that the Democrats memo didn’t dispute the claim that FBI knew the origin of the Steele origin when applying for the warrant.
The Democrats memo said that the arranged payment by FBI was eventually cancelled and never made.
Corroboration of the dossier
DOJ explained the FBI’s reasonable basis for finding Steele credible: The applications correctly described Steele as [redacted]. The applications also reviewed Steele’s multi-year history of credible reporting on Russia and other matters, including information DOJ used in criminal proceedings. Senior FBI and DOJ officials have repeatedly affirmed to the Committee the reliability and credibility of Steele’s reporting, an assessment also reflected in the FBI’s underlying source document. The FBI has undertaken a rigorous process to vet allegations from Steele’s reporting, including with regard to Page.
However, in Comey’s written statement to Senate last year, he wrote:
The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified.
Another news article was also used
The Democrats memo said that, in addition to the Yahoo News article, DOJ referenced another article in the initial FISA application. However, it didn’t mention what the other article was. The purpose of referencing the articles was to “inform the Court of Page’s public denial of his suspected meetings in Moscow, which Page also echoed in a September 26, 2016 letter to FBI Director Comey.”
However, the memo didn’t dispute that DOJ didn’t import FISA court that the dossier was the source of the Yahoo News article.
Other Trump campaign officials also under investigation
The memo said that other Trump campaign officials were also under investigation when the Steele dossier reached the FBI team that was investigating the Russian thing in mid-September 2016:
By then, the FBI had already opened sub-inquiries into [redacted] individuals linked to the Trump campaign: [redacted] and former campaign foreign policy advisor Carter Page.
As Committee testimony bears out, the FBI would have continued its investigation, including against [redacted] individuals, even if it had never received information from Steele, never applied for a FISA warrant against Page, or if the FISC had rejected the application.
However, we don’t know who are the other Trump campaign officials under investigation. Could it be Rick Gates and Paul Manafort? Was Flynn also under investigation then?
Bruce Ohr, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page
The Democrats memo confirmed that Bruce Ohr didn’t inform FBI about his wife’s role in Fusion GPS, nor Steele’s feeling about Trump until late November 2016. The memo also downplayed his role in the Russian investigation, however, it didn’t dispute that Steele maintained contact with DOJ through Bruce Ohr.
It also said that McCabe testified that he didn’t know what Page and Strzok were referring to in the “insurance policy” texts. It also seemed to admit that it was Strzok who changed the term to describe Clinton’s behavior as “extreme carelessness” from “grossly negligent”.