11

Just recently, a memo created by Adam Schiff was released to the public, as a sort of rebuttal to another memo released earlier in the year by Devin Nunes.

My interpretation of the Nunes memo alleges that the FBI and the DoJ unlawfully or unethically obtained a FISA warrant, in order to perform surveillance on Carter Page. Likewise, it appears to me that the Schiff memo directly refutes Nunes' claims, and instead states that the FBI/DoJ obtained the warrant lawfully and in line with the FISC process.

If my understanding is correct, there are serious accusations put forth by Nunes, which if true would have dire legal and operational consequences. So why is this matter open for public debate, and not being settled in something like the Supreme Court?

A lot of the actual evidence and the supposed "smoking gun" such as the entire FISA process or the redacted sections of both memos aren't even available to the public. This results in a "he said, she said" situation, where the public is alerted to unlawful activity, with zero access to the evidence and are just expected to trust the memo writer without verifying anything.

I think that transparency is key. The general public should be kept in the loop, and I do not oppose the publishing of the redacted memos. But to me it just ends up looking like smear campaigns trying to sway the public's opinion, when the public does not have enough information to make an informed decision.

What was the purpose of publishing either memo to the public?

  • 2
    Not really a he said she said situation for anyone who cares to look even a little bit at the details. One can trust pundits and parties and believe what one is told to believe, or one can look up the known facts, and see how the portrayed reality matches with the actual reality. Or you can just look at the past record of the people involved in the memos. – Peter Feb 25 '18 at 21:50
  • 3
    Releasing a majority and minority report at the same time is the norm. That didn't happen here b/c the majority voted not to allow the minority opinion to be released at the time, which wad unusual. – rougon Feb 26 '18 at 4:25
  • 1
    @AlLongley Plenty of facts are known to the public, such as the timeline of events. Also, the memos cannot lie outright, they can merely misrepresent facts and contain highly flawed conjectures - things that are easy to spot by any mildly interested reader. Some of the implied claims, specifically the one you brought up - the court not informed about Steele looking for dirt - are directly contradicted by a now public excerpt from the original documents the memos are about: The FBI speculates that [Steele] was likely looking for information that could be used to discredit [Trump]'s campaign. – Peter Feb 26 '18 at 9:34
  • 2
    @AlLongley Nobody has broken the law, and neither memo is about the DNC's funding of Steele being unlaful. In short: Nunes implied the FBI didn't disclose the partisan nature of one of their informants, implying bias or a hidden agenda by FBI leadership; Schiff provided proof that the FBI did disclose the partisan nature of one of their informants. – Peter Feb 26 '18 at 13:28
  • 4
    On the GOP side, to rally their voter base for midterms. On the dem side, to refute the GOP memo. – Gramatik Feb 26 '18 at 16:10
4

TL;DR It's likely that the memos were released once the public was aware of them to avoid "coverup" accusations from both sides. The public only became aware because the committee decided to share the Nunes memo with the House. I have no information as to why they did that.


This is somewhat speculative, but it is likely that the memos were released to the public in response to the #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag campaign and related pressure.

Based on this google search, there was no mention of the memo in any form of press before January 18th. 1

Some time on January 18th (per the timeline implied here) Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release this memo to the rest of the House. I am not aware of what the decision-making process within the Committee for this was. However, it is worth noting that members of the Committee are prohibited from discussing any information they receive, and take an oath to that effect. However, general members of the House do not take such an oath and are not so bound, and the Committee may vote to disclose anything they want to a the House as a whole (page 17 of that link). These un-restricted House members then went on the public record saying that the memo existed and should be released, although they still were bound not to provide details: (quoted from the Washington Examiner article linked above, emphasis mine)

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he read the memo and implied there was some sort of bias in favor of Trump's 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

"I have read the memo," he tweeted. "The sickening reality has set in. I no longer hold out hope there is an innocent explanation for the information the public has seen. I have long said it is worse than Watergate. It was #neverTrump & #alwaysHillary. #releasethememo."

“You think about, ‘Is this happening in America or is this the KGB?’ That's how alarming it is,” Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., said, according to Fox News.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., called for the public release of the memo's information "to preserve our democracy."

“The House must immediately make public the memo prepared by the Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice," Gaetz said in a statement. "The facts contained in this memo are jaw-dropping and demand full transparency. There is no higher priority than the release of this information to preserve our democracy."

...

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, called the memo a "profoundly misleading set of talking points."

“[T]he Majority voted today on a party-line basis to grant House Members access to a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation,” Schiff, D-Calif., in a statement. “Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI.”

As soon as the public heard about this memo, both sides immediately wanted to know what was in it: Republicans because it supports the "Obama spied on Trump" narrative, and Democrats because they want the opportunity to try and disprove it. This section of the Wikipedia page has more information on the social media pressure.

Facing that public pressure and (presumably) the internal pressure to release2 the Nunes memo from alarmed Republican Representatives, it would have seemed like a good political decision to release it, rather than taking fire for "covering up Obama abuses" 3. On the flip side, if they were to release this memo and not the Democratic rebuttal memo, they could be accused of "suppressing the rebuttal because it totally disproved the Nunes memo" 3 - in other words, deliberately spreading fake information for political purposes. Whether or not that accusation would make a difference won't ever be seen, but by releasing the rebuttal, Republicans are being even-handed about releasing the information to the public.


1 When viewing that link, watch out for articles which show up only because they've picked up a link to later news about the memo.
2 Technically, they vote to ask the President to release it, but the same political pressure arguments could apply to a President who chose to "suppress" either or both memos.
3 Exaggerated paraphrases mine - not actually quotes

  • Some will speculate that the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign, the creation of the initial Memo, the release of the initial memo, and the attempt to block the rebuttal all came from the same source. If that were the case, the initial memo was not released due the ReleaseTheMemo campaign, but to raise accusations against the FBI. – Peter Feb 26 '18 at 9:10
  • 1
    You answer is excellent, just wanted to mention that the Congressional Committee you mention votes on asking the President to release it, they cannot release it by themselves. – Frank Cedeno Feb 26 '18 at 20:23
  • @FrankCedeno - A good point. I've added a footnote to that effect. – Bobson Feb 26 '18 at 20:48
4

AS to your last question on purpose

The purpose of the Nunes memo is:

"This memorandum provides Members an update on significant facts relating to the Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle" <

The Nunes memo was addressed to: "HPSCI Majority Members"

As to the purpose of releasing this memo beyond the committee members, we can only speculate. (Something I've been admonished not to do on this site)

The Schiff memo has no paragraph titled "Purpose", but the subject line states: "RE: Correcting the Record - The Russia Investigation" and was addressed to "All Members of the House of Representatives"

I believe that Adam Schiff has said numerous times that the purpose was to "correct the record".

IMO the public is not in a position to evaluate the FISA court procedures or the quality of FISA applications. The Justice Dept and the Supreme Court are more suited to make those evaluations.

.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.