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Memos released by both Democratic and Republican members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) tell two versions of the same story.

Both memos outline Department of Justice and FBI conduct of surveillance on Carter Page, a US citizen and volunteer adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, but have cherry-picked facts resulting in two partisan documents.

The DOJ and FBI sought and received a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) probable cause order October 21, 2016, authorizing electronic surveillance on Page from the foreign intelligence surveillance court (FISC). Three FISA renewals were subsequently obtained from the FISC.



 The GOP memo, declassified by President Trump Feb. 2 of this year raises concerns with the legitimacy and legality of the FISA surveillance warrant, accusing the FBI of improperly using information funded in part by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Convention. The Clinton campaign and the DNC paid more than $160,000 to Christopher Steele, a British intelligence officer, to obtain derogatory information on, then presidential candidate, Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.

The GOP memo also says the FBI’s FISA application relied heavily on information from the Steele dossier but failed to disclose the unverified nature and credibility of that information.

For a little backstory: FISA submissions and renewals before the FISC are classified due to the sensitive nature of the foreign intelligence activity. As such, the integrity of the FISA process rests on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard. This aims to be accomplished through the government’s full disclosure of relevant materials and facts relating to the FISA application, including information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application.

In the case of the surveillance warrant on Page, Republicans say, the political motivations of Clinton and the DNC to upend the Trump presidential campaign, and the unverified nature of the Steele dossier were omitted from the initial application and following renewals. Many argue that this omission is what led to the renewals being approved instead of, as they would say, rightfully denied. 


In response to the declassification of the GOP memo, HPSIC Democrats released their own memo, Feb. 24, 2018, challenging the Republican’s claims. The rebuttal memo calls the GOP memo a transparent effort to undermine the DOJ and FBI, and says officials from the agencies “did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

The rebuttal memo states that the FBI initiated an investigation into Page after receiving intelligence in late July 2016 on George Papadopoulos, Trump campaign foreign policy advisor, and from preexisting FBI surveillance on Russian election interference. The FBI did not receive information from the Steele dossier until mid-September 2016, and, according to the memo, had no role in launching the investigation into Russian interference and its links to the Trump campaign. The memo also states that the Steele dossier did not play a major role as evidence in the FISA application.

The rebuttal memo further states that the FBI’s FISA application disclosed Steele’s prior relationship with the FBI, the reason for his termination as a source, the assessed political motivation of those who hired him, and repeatedly informed the FISC about Steele’s background, credibility and potential bias. “[The] warrant request was based on compelling evidence and probable cause to believe Page was knowingly assisting clandestine Russian intelligence activities in the U.S.”

The same day Democrats released their rebuttal memo, HPSIC Republicans released a response to the countering claims. The rebuttal-rebuttal memo (hello, “Inception”) said, “the Democratic memo represents a lengthy but wholly unpersuasive attempt to distract from the Committee’s key findings on FISA abuse.” The Republican response says the Democrat memo does not contain a single reference to the Clinton campaign or the DNC’s funding of the Steele dossier. It also challenges the claim by Democrats that Steele was found to be a credible source.

So far, Page has not been indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, nor do any of the charges brought against Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Flynn appear to relate to Page or to information learned through the surveillance of Page.

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Betsy is a junior journalism and psychology double major from Orange County, California. She is pretty well-read, as untamed as a shrew, and her dependence on Redbull is something we won't get into.