FISA Memo: Five Questions FBI, Justice Department Need to Answer Next

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend a ceremony at the Pentagon's

The House Intelligence Committee memo exposes what the FBI included — and did not include — in its application to surveil a former Trump campaign member during an election.

The biggest bombshell was that the FBI included the dossier in its application to get the warrant but did not tell the court granting the warrant that the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded the dossier.

But the revelations in the memo raise more questions to which lawmakers should also find the answers. Five big questions are:

1. What Is Actually in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Application?

There are a lot of unknowns about what is actually in the FISA warrant application, and memo critics are downplaying the dossier’s inclusion as justification for the warrant.

But according to the House Intelligence Committee memo, the dossier formed an “essential part” of the application. The memo also said then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee in December a warrant would not have been sought without the dossier.

Some memo critics argue the dossier only played a role in the FISA application and not the three subsequent renewals, but on Sunday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) — who has seen the FISA application and three subsequent renewals — said the dossier was part of all four.

The memo also revealed that a Yahoo! News article was also used as justification for the warrant even though it was citing information from the dossier itself.

Democrats argue it was really other intelligence on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page that justified the warrant. They also argue that new information had to be included for the warrant to be renewed.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has also told CNN that the FISA application was 50 pages — which memo critics argue shows there was plenty of other evidence to get a warrant on Page — but it is not known how much of that was comprised of the 35-page memo or the Yahoo! News article.

Democrats are pushing to release a counter-memo to refute the House Intelligence Committee memo, which the Justice Department and the FBI will reportedly vet.

However, the only way to know what is actually in the FISA warrant is if they release it, perhaps with redactions to protect sources and methods that would hurt national security.

2. Did FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Really Say That?

The memo alleges that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.”

Unnamed sources told the Daily Beast that McCabe never said that. (Unnamed sources also told the Daily Beast that House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) “refused” to answer whether the committee coordinated with the White House on the memo, but a transcript that was released later showed that was not true, and the Daily Beast added a correction to its story).

Gowdy — who is a member of the committee and has seen all underlying intelligence cited in the memo — said Sunday that the warrant would have never been authorized without the dossier:

In addition, FBI Director Christopher Wray and other FBI officials had reviewed the memo before it was released and did not refute what McCabe said though given the opportunity.

And according to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), “McCabe did in fact testify under oath that there would not have been a FISA warrant if not for the dossier. It was recorded”:

While those on-the-record comments outweigh unnamed sources and point to McCabe’s having made the comment, the only way to prove it may be to release the transcript of McCabe’s interview in December.

3. Did Yates and Rosenstein Know Ohr’s Wife Worked on the Memo? If So, Why Didn’t They Tell the Court?

The memo also reveals that then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, and current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein all signed off on the FISA application or renewals at least once.

The memo also confirms that then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, actually worked on the dossier. Ohr’s office was reportedly four doors from the deputy attorney general’s, making it difficult to believe they did not know Ohr’s wife had worked on the dossier.

The memo also noted that Ohr worked “closely” with Yates and Rosenstein. This raises the question of whether Yates and Rosenstein knew their colleague’s wife had worked on the dossier and whether they signed off on the FISA warrant application anyway without making that fact known.

There would be an obvious conflict of interest in putting forth evidence to a court that had paid a senior Justice Department official’s wife.

4. Why Was Information About George Papadopoulos Included?

The memo confirmed that it was information related to George Papadopoulos that prompted FBI official Peter Strzok to launch an investigation into Russian meddling and potential Trump campaign collusion in July 2016.

This raises the question of what that information was and why it was included in a FISA warrant application for Carter Page. They both were volunteer advisers who joined the campaign as foreign policy advisers at the same time, but according to the memo, “There is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos.”

Page testified in front of the House Intelligence Committee last year that the two had no direct email communications — that they were both included in group emails, and that they saw each other at a June 2016 dinner hosted by then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-GA), who was the campaign’s national security adviser.

Page told lawmakers under oath that he had “very limited” interaction with Papadopoulos.

“Very limited. Very limited. … The last time I saw him was somewhere in the range of June 2016, you know. And, again, he was on some email chains at the very beginning,” he said.

5. What Did Dossier Author Christopher Steele Lie About?

The memo reveals that Steele was suspended and then terminated by the FBI as a source for discussing his relationship with the FBI with media outlets. It also revealed that Steele did not disclose to the FBI his previous undisclosed contacts with Yahoo and other outlets.

This begs the question of whether Steele lied to the FBI about those contacts. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Subcommittee chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have recommended that Steele be referred for a criminal investigation for lying to authorities. Grassley and Graham also intend to release a memo detailing their concerns, once it is vetted by the Justice Department.

In addition, the memo said the FISA application included the Yahoo! News article citing Steele’s work but “incorrectly assesses” that Steele did not provide information to the outlet.

Did Steele lie to the FBI about his contacts with Yahoo! News, or did the FBI know and submit the Yahoo! News article as proof anyway, and did the FBI ever try to verify that the article was correct? The article’s author, Michael Isikoff, said recently he was shocked that his article was used as justification, suggesting that the FBI did not contact him about it.

These big questions that the memo raises warrant further investigation.


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