Just a day after the release of an underwhelming Republican-authored House Intelligence Committee memo alleging inappropriate law enforcement spying on Donald Trump’s campaign, President Donald Trump is already using it to cast aspersions on the investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump’s pronouncement, issued in a Saturday morning tweet, supports the widely held view that the four-page partisan memo was designed to help Trump scuttle special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference and to cover up Trump campaign officials’ potential collusion with Russia.
“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” Trump tweeted. “But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their [sic] was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction.”
“This is an American disgrace!” he added.
The so-called Nunes memo, written by the GOP staff of House Intelligence Committee chairman and Trump transition team member Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), notes that the FBI and the Department of Justice relied in part on the infamous Steele dossier to pursue a secret warrant to surveil former Trump aide Carter Page. The FBI and DOJ obtained a warrant from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA Court, which authorizes the surveillances of suspected foreign spies inside the United States.
The Steele dossier is a file former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele compiled about Trump’s involvement with the Russian government. The veracity of some of the more fantastical aspects of the dossier is highly disputed.
By failing to notify the FISA judge that a Democratic-backed firm seeking dirt on Trump commissioned Steele’s work and that the agent himself was opposed to Trump’s election, FBI and DOJ officials had obtained the warrant improperly, according to the memo.
It is common for high-level informants to have ulterior motives, but that rarely precludes their information from being used.
And federal law enforcement officials would likely have been able to get authorization to surveil Page without the Steele dossier, since Page had long been on the federal government’s radar as someone that Russian intelligence was trying to cultivate.
Rather than reveal pivotal new information about the compromised nature of the FBI, Trump’s tweet suggests that the memo’s release was merely a pretext to sow doubts about the validity of Mueller’s Russia probe.
Although Mueller shows no signs of letting up and maintains the support of senior members of Congress in both parties, only some congressional Republicans are getting behind legislation that would formally protect Mueller from being fired.
The memo has also already prompted the departure of a senior FBI official concerned about the president using the power of his office to disparage the agency’s integrity.
Josh Campbell, a former supervisory special agent who worked as an assistant for former FBI director James Comey, publicly announced his resignation in the New York Times on Friday. (Trump’s firing of Comey, who bucked entreaties to soft-pedal the Russia investigation, led to Mueller’s appointment.)
“After more than a decade of service, which included investigating terrorism, working to rescue kidnapping victims overseas and being special assistant to the director, I am reluctantly turning in my badge and leaving an organization I love,” Campbell wrote in the Times. “Why? So I can join the growing chorus of people who believe that the relentless attacks on the bureau undermine not just America’s premier law enforcement agency but also the nation’s security. My resignation is painful, but the alternative of remaining quiet while the bureau is tarnished for political gain is impossible.”