5 Takeaways From the Release of the Democratic Memo
It also discussed Moscow’s apparent overtures to another Trump campaign official and its general meddling during that period, which prompted the F.B.I. to open the Trump-Russia investigation in late July — before the bureau’s investigative team received Mr. Steele’s information.
Some of that material remains redacted in the version of the memo made public on Saturday.
By contrast, Republicans have portrayed Mr. Steele’s information as the central focus of the application, filed to the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Republican memo said it formed “an essential part” of the application, and in a separate memo, Senators Charles E. Grassley and Lindsey Graham, Republicans of Iowa and South Carolina, stated that “the bulk” of the application was Mr. Steele’s information.
The Democratic memo also says that what the F.B.I. did use from Mr. Steele did not include the salacious parts of his dossier. Instead, it says, the bureau chiefly relied on the dossier’s claims that Mr. Page had met with a Kremlin official as well as a close associate of President Vladimir V. Putin during a July 2016 trip to Moscow, during which the official offered to provide compromising information about Mrs. Clinton to the Trump campaign.
Notably, the Democratic memo also said that in subsequent renewals of the wiretap application, the Justice Department “provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting.”
The surveillance court knew that Mr. Steele’s clients had a political motive.
The Republican memo complained that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was not told that the Clinton campaign and the D.N.C. had financed Mr. Steele’s research, suggesting that the judges were misled about the credibility of his information. Democrats have called that claim misleading because the judges were told of a political motive, just without specific names.
The Democratic memo provides a verbatim excerpt from the application, which stated that the F.B.I. believed that Mr. Steele had been commissioned by someone “likely looking for information that could be used to discredit Candidate #1’s campaign,” referring to Mr. Trump.
The Yahoo News article was not used to corroborate Mr. Steele.
The wiretap application included a Yahoo News article from September 2016 that discussed the investigation into Mr. Page’s Russian ties. The Republican memo portrayed the application as having improperly used that article as corroboration of Mr. Steele’s claims, even though it later emerged — in a spring 2017 court filing — that Mr. Steele had been a source for it.
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The Democratic memo calls that a false claim by the Republicans. Instead, it says, the Justice Department referred to the Yahoo News article — as well as another one the Republican memo failed to mention — “not to provide separate corroboration for Steele’s reporting, but instead to inform the court of Page’s public denial of his suspected meetings in Moscow.”
Republican-appointed judges approved the surveillance of Mr. Page.
The Republican memo portrayed the wiretapping of Mr. Page as a partisan conspiracy. Notably, the Democratic memo reveals that all four judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court who approved the initial surveillance — which began in October 2016 — as well as three 90-day renewals were appointed by Republican presidents.
To approve such a wiretap of an American, a judge must decide that there is sufficient evidence that the target is probably an agent of a foreign power, or knowingly aiding foreign agents.
The wiretap of Mr. Page generated useful intelligence.
When the Justice Department repeatedly sought the court’s permission to renew the surveillance of Mr. Page, the Democratic memo said, it cited new information it was gathering through the wiretap.
“The court-approved surveillance of Page allowed F.B.I. to collect valuable intelligence,” the Democratic memo said. It asserted that the repeated renewals “demonstrate that the F.B.I. collected important investigative information and leads by conducting court-approved surveillance.”
What that intelligence was, however, was redacted.
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