February 6, 2023
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National Recap: Memo details alleged FBI abuses

The Nunes memo, a four-page report written by Congressional Republicans detailing the FBI’s alleged abuses of power while investigating President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, was released to the public on Feb. 2.

The memo, which was prepared by Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, claims that the FBI surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, was politically motivated and based on incorrect information.

Page has been on the FBI’s radar since 2013 when recordings from a Russian national mentioned Page as someone who might be easily targeted by Russian intelligence agencies. Page joined the Trump campaign in 2016 and went to Moscow to give a lecture. While in Moscow, Page admitted that he met with a deputy Prime Minister of Russia. In testimony before Congress, Page said that the meeting was just a cursory one, but later told campaign officials that he met with a Russian official who supported Trump.

While Page was in Russia, a firm called Fusion GPS was hired by a law firm working for the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton Campaign to do background research on Trump. British Intelligence Officer Christopher Steele was hired by Fusion GPS to do this research, and found that Page may have met with someone connected to the Kremlin. During his investigations, Steele compiled a number of his reports into a dossier; now referred to as the Steele dossier.

Nunes’ memo alleges that the FBI used unverified material from the Steele dossier to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, also known as FISC, for authorization to surveil Page. However, many of Nunes’ opponents have pointed out that Nunes himself has not read the classified documents he wrote about.

The public reaction to the Nunes memo has been widely partisan. Former CIA Director John Brennan called the release of the memo “exceptionally partisan,” especially because Nunes did not allow the Democrats of the House Intelligence Committee to make their rebuttal document public.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in an opinion piece for The Washington Post that Nunes’ actions “[furthered] a conspiracy theory that a cabal of senior officials within the FBI and the Justice Department were so tainted by bias against President Trump that they irredeemably poisoned the investigation.”

On the other hand, Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said the memo brought to light concerns that the U.S. should have with the way the FBI used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“For me, this is about making sure that we’re protecting the civil liberties of Americans,” Hurd said on ABC’s This Week. “Should unverified information be able to be used to spy on an American?”

Trump tweeted in response to the release of the Nunes memo, saying it is proof that the investigative process has been politicized.

“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump tweeted. “Rank & File are great people!”

Meaghan McElroy can be reached at mmcelroy@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @meaghan_mcelroy