House Republicans and Donald Trump released the infamous “memo” on Friday afternoon that purports to show corruption and malfeasance by the FBI. It mostly focuses on the process used to obtain a surveillance warrant on Carter Page, a former Trump adviser, arguing the process was flawed and partisan. It was written by staffers for House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA).
The document, while rehashing a lot of known facts about the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, is more notable for what it does not say.
The memo does not say that counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign started with the Steele dossier
The memo, in fact, confirms the investigation was started in July 2016 based on information about another Trump advisor, George Papadopolous. While it is not included in the memo, the New York Times reported that the FBI was alerted after Papadopolous bragged about his contacts with Russian operatives and their offers to provide emails to an Australian diplomat.
The memo does not discuss surveillance of a member of the Trump campaign
The memo all relates to issues with the surveillance of Carter Page beginning in October 2016. Page stepped down from the Trump campaign in September because of controversy regarding his continuing contacts with Russians.
The memo does not say that surveillance of Carter Page was based exclusively on the Steele dossier
The memo does not present the Steele dossier as the exclusive basis for FISA warrant. The FBI, in an extraordinary statement, said the memo was incomplete and presented a false narrative. This suggests there is additional information about Page that is not disclosed in the memo. From publicly available sources we know that Page was traveling to Russia during the campaign and visiting with Russian government officials. In 2013, Page had been recruited by a man charged with being a Russian spy.
The memo paraphrases former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe in saying that the surveillance warrant against Page would not have been sought without “the Steele dossier information.” But it does not quote McCabe directly, nor does it claim there was no other legal basis for the surveillance.
The memo does not establish that the Steele dossier was unreliable
Much of the memo is spent discussing the financing of the Steele dossier and the political preferences of its author, Christopher Steele. But it does not dispute that Steele was an experienced intelligence professional with a reputation for producing reliable work. Nor does the memo address the fact that many parts of the Steele dossier have been corroborated.
The memo does not include anything that implicates Robert Mueller or his investigation
None of the information in the Republican memo involves actions undertaken by Robert Mueller, who is now overseeing the investigation, and Mueller’s name does not appear in the memo. The memo fails to establish that the surveillance of Page is of any particular importance to Mueller’s investigation. It does say that Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General whom Trump appointed, approved one of the orders to surveil Page. But that only underscores the fact that the decision to conduct surveillance of Page, which five other people also authorized, was not political.