Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the rebuttal should "put to rest" concerns about conduct by intel agencies. (AP)
The House Intelligence Committee on Saturday released a long-awaited Democratic rebuttal to a GOP memo that outlined alleged government surveillance abuses during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The rebuttal claims that officials at the FBI and Justice Department “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 Democratic memo was voted out of committee earlier this month but was ordered to be redrafted after the White House demanded that sensitive information be stripped out before the document be made public. The Justice Department and FBI claimed the initial draft would reveal information about sources and methods, ongoing investigations, and other sensitive information.
Democrats used the memo to undermine claims in the GOP memo released this month that the FBI and DOJ relied on a Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a warrant to monitor Trump adviser Carter Page.
Democratic rebuttal to GOP FISA memo by Fox News on Scribd
That Republican memo also claimed that agencies left out the Democratic National Committee’s and Hillary Clinton's campaign's funding of the dossier, as well as the anti-Trump motivations of author Christopher Steele in its request for a warrant.
Republicans have pointed to the revelations as proof that intelligence agencies had abused surveillance powers.
But the Democratic rebuttal backed the FBI and DOJ in its seeking of the FISA warrant.
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“In fact, DOJ and the FBI would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government,” the rebuttal said, adding that the DOJ met the “rigor, transparency, and evidentiary basis” needed to meet FISA’s probable cause requirement.
The Democratic rebuttal finds that the FBI had an "independent basis" for investigating Page's motivations, and that he had been targeted for recruitment by the Russians. It also claims that the DOJ "repeatedly informed the Court about Steele's background, credibility, and potential bias." It also claims that the Justice Department infomed the FISA court that Stelle was hired by "politically-motivated U.S. persons and entities and that his research appeared intended for use "to discredit" Trump's campaign.
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The rebuttal adds that in later FISA renewals, the DOJ provided "additional information obtained through multiple independent sources" that backed up Steele's reporting in the anti-Trump dossier. It also challenges the Republican assertion that the FBI authorized payment to Steele, saying that it neglected that the payment was cancelled.
The memo, however, does not directly challenge the Republican assertion that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified to the House Committee that they would not have sought the Page surveillance warrant if it hadn’t been for the dossier.
Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the minority's memo should "put to rest" any concerns about conduct by the intelligence agencies.
"Our extensive review of the initial FISA application and three subsequent renewals failed to uncover any evidence of illegal, unethical, or unprofessional behavior by law enforcement and instead revealed that both the FBI and DOJ made extensive showings to justify all four requests," Schiff said in a statement.
The Democratic rebuttal seemed unlikely to mark an end to the ongoing fight over the FISA application and the role of that dossier. Republicans on the committee immediately responded to the memo's release with a series of its own rebuttals to the Democratic claims. For instance, while the Democrats say that the court was given information about the political motivations of Steele, Republicans say that such a statement is "buried in a footnote" that obscures rather than clarifies his motives.
The White House called the rebuttal a "politically driven document" that fails to answer the concerns raised by the Republican memo.
"As the Majority’s memorandum stated, the FISA judge was never informed that Hillary Clinton and the DNC funded the dossier that was a basis for the Department of Justice’s FISA application," Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
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"In addition, the Minority’s memo fails to even address the fact that the Deputy FBI Director told the Committee that had it not been for the dossier, no surveillance order would have been sought," she added.
A Republican source dismissed the rebuttal, saying that the Democrats “want the public to look at the trees, and not the forest, the big picture that DOJ and Justice relied heavily on the dossier to surveil an American citizen, and withheld from the court that the research was funded by the DNC and Clinton campaign.”
Democrats have claimed that the Republican memo was an effort to attack FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in 2016. Trump had said that the memo "totally vindicates" him in the investigation.
Fox News’ Catherine Herridge, Jennifer Bowman and Jason Donner contributed to this report.