Being Right: The Release of the GOP-Nunes Intelligence Memo

Give Us the Facts

On February 2, the controversial House Intelligence Committee memo was declassified and released at the request of President Trump. This simultaneously granted the public insight into the Trump-Russia investigation and raised serious questions about the investigation’s integrity.

For Democrats, the release of the memo was a negligent and pointless action by President Trump that threatens national security. As for the memo itself, they have disregarded it as holding any significance because it allegedly presents misleading, flawed and cherry-picked information that is meant to discredit the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI.

For Republicans, the memo should have never been classified to begin with. It shows concerning evidence that members of the DOJ, FBI and Hillary Clinton campaign colluded in a politically biased investigation against the Trump campaign, possibly violating several federal laws and the fourth amendment in the process. 

In the aftermath of the memo’s release, it is remarkably easy for the actual content of the memo to get overlooked due to speculation by journalists, lawyers and politicians on both sides of the political aisle. Even more difficult is trying to piece together what the memo means in the context of the Trump-Russia investigation. Rather than trying to piece together what the memo means by listening to the hundreds of different voices and opinions circulating the media, it is much more productive to look at the memo itself. After all, it is only four pages.

In short, the memorandum is a secondary account of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) application submitted by the DOJ and FBI against Carter Page, an ex-advisor to the Trump campaign. It details the committee’s “concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)” and was supposedly read by FBI officials to ensure that the memo contained no factual errors. 

The memo reveals that the DOJ and FBI knowingly omitted relevant information from the FISA warrant application that would have affected the FISC decision in one or more of the FISA requests.

Most omitted information mentioned in the memo involved Christopher Steele, an ex-British intelligence officer whose dossier “formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.” The memo reveals that Steele was paid over $160,000 by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton campaign “to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia” and compile the dossier. This indicates strong personal bias against Trump, causing his reporting in the dossier to be deemed as “only minimally corroborated” by an independent unit within the FBI.

If the memo is accurate and presents all there is on the FISA application, then there is strong evidence that the Page investigation could be based on a lie paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign and knowingly preserved by members of the DOJ and FBI. If the memo is not accurate and represents only a minor part of the FISA application, then it certainly calls into question why information was omitted, but does not accomplish much else or significantly affect the Page or Trump-Russia investigations. In either case, the status of the Trump-Russia investigation is likely to remain unaffected, as the investigation did not start with the Page investigation nor is Page the sole piece of evidence for the alleged collusion.

Regardless, the memo has put members of the DOJ, FBI and DNC on the defensive in a back and forth battle of political speculation between Democrats and Republicans. It has become evident that the only way the truth behind the memo will be revealed is if more information concerning the investigation, like the actual FISA application, is made public. Risk to national security has proven to be a poor argument against the release of information, as all the warnings from Democrats and members of the FBI that the memo would be a threat to national security have fallen strikingly short of their claims.

If the DOJ and FBI acted appropriately, then it will be reflected in the documents relating to the Page investigation and the FISA application itself. Until those documents are released, we will remain trapped in news cycles of constant political speculation on the memo with no end in sight.

Contact Connor Madalo at [email protected].