WASHINGTON (CN) - The much vaunted House memo on supposed FBI bias in the Russia investigation met with lukewarm reception Friday, but contains an odd disclosure about how the probe began.
Prefaced by a brief introduction by presidential counsel Donald McGahn, the 4-page memo accuses the FBI of omitting material information in its application for a warrant to surveil Carter Page when the former energy consultant was working on Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
As part of their investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election,
federal investigators obtained the warrant from the U.S. Foreign Surveillance Court.
The secret court handles warrant applications for individuals suspected of being agents of foreign powers, and Page’s surveillance began after he was forced to quit the Trump campaign over reports of his contacts with the Russian government.
Indeed Page’s contacts with Russia raised red flags at the FBI as early as 2013, three years before he joined the Trump campaign, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
But the memo accuses the FBI of taking undue influence from the still-unsubstantiated Trump dossier, which was compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy hired by the firm Fusion GPS.
Though it was Republicans that initially hired Fusion GPS to investigate Trump for opposition research, they backed out when Trump won the party nomination, leaving the door open for the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton to step in.
House Republicans say the FBI’s surveillance application failed to disclose the funding that the DNC and Clinton committed to the project.
"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," the memo says.
That firm was Perkins Coie, which represented the DNC.
"The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of - and paid by - the DNC and Clinton campaign, or that the FBI had separately authorized payment to Steele for the same information," the memo continues.
There is no mention in the memo meanwhile of the funding initially provided by Republicans for Steele's research.
Steele’s name appears in four of the memo’s five points, but the final bullet focuses on George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign staffer who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials.
After asserting that there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos, the memo appears to undercut the claim by Republicans that Steele’s dossier spurred the Russia investigation.
“The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok,” it states.
Republicans built up their memo as a scorching takedown, but former FBI director James Comey scoffed Friday at the final product.
“That’s it?” Comey tweeted. “Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”