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Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Russia Memo

The Russia memo has certainly become a highly discussed topic, but it’s hard to keep track of what is going on. So what exactly does it all mean?

From there actually being multiple memos to certain Congress members and the FBI not wanting the memo to be released Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi calling on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to have the chairman step down from the House Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee actually releasing it, here’s everything you need to know about the Russia memo.

What is the Russia Memo?

There are technically three memos, but the one that started it all is the original memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). The second memo that is talked about it the rebuttal that Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) wrote against Nunes’ claims. The third memo is an altered version of the first memo that was sent to the White House for review.

According to a report published by The New York Times, Nunes’ memo focused on the surveillance of Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, who, according to Vox, had business ties to Russia and was sympathetic to the Kremlin’s foreign policy. When Page went to Russia while working on the Trump campaign, it caused some concern with the FBI, especially since the FBI was investigating possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The FBI and the Justice Department went to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, which approves warrants for surveillance pertaining to national security and foreign intelligence, to seek a warrant to keep tabs on Page, and the court permitted it, Vox reports.

Nunes’ memo looks, however, claims that the surveillance was not properly vetted by the court. In its report, the Times writes, “The memo’s primary contention is that FBI and Justice Department officials failed to adequately explain to an intelligence court judge in initially seeking a warrant for surveillance of Mr. Page that they were relying in part on research by [Steele].” The Steele dossier that the memo refers to was a document composed by former British spy Christopher Steele who claimed that there was a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Nunes’ also claims that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved the continuance of surveillance on Page last year, Vox reports. Basically this means that the memo alleges that Rosenstein overlooked the reliance on the Steele dossier or just simply let it bypass.

Either way, experts on foreign surveillance have said that the allegations in the memo are questionable, but most Republicans have been calling for the release of the memo, Vox reports. When put to a vote on the House Intelligence Committee, all Republican on the committee voted to release the memo, and all Democrats voted not to.

The counter-memo written by Schiff basically refutes the claims made in Nunes’ memo. In a press conference on Monday, Schiff said that Nunes is trying to “politicize the intelligence process.” According to Vox, in Schiff’s memo, he defends the FBI’s actions. Schiff has also called for the release of his memo alongside Nunes’, but Republicans on the committee have voted against it.

Rep. Schiff Accused Nunes’ of Altering the Memo

On Wednesday night, Schiff accused Nunes of altering the memo before he sent it to the White House for approval, CNN reports.

According to CNN, Schiff wrote that his staff noticed that the memo sent to the White House was “materially different” than the memo the committee had voted on.

“It is now imperative that the Committee Majority immediately withdraw the document that it sent to the White House,” Schiff wrote. “If the Majority remains intent on releasing its document to the public, despite repeated warnings from DOJ and the FBI, it must hold a new vote to release to the public its modified document.”

A spokesperson from Nunes’ office responded to Schiff’s claims, saying that the edits were nothing more than simple fixes for grammatical errors, as well as edits requested by the FBI and Democrats, CNN reports.

“The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound, and in accordance with House and Committee rules. To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves,” Nunes spokesperson Jack Langer said.

President Trump Was Expected to Approve the Memo’s Release After Reviewing it, But The FBI Urged Him Not to

President Trump had reviewed the House Intelligence Committee’s memo and was expected to approve its release, ABC News reports.

“Right now, I think it will be that we tell the Congress, probably tomorrow, that the president is okay with it,” a senior White House official told reporters on Air Force One.

“I think you all know that the process is a House process, it is a congressional process. They sent over the memo. We have had over the last couple days to look at it to make sure it doesn’t give away too much in terms of classification. I doubt there will be any redactions. Then it is in Congress’ hands after that,” the official added.

However, the FBI urged Trump to not release the memo. According to NBC News, the FBI released a statement, saying, “We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

The Washington Post reported that FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein visited the White House last Monday to request that the memo not be made public.

The FBI Agents Association, which represents current and retired agents, released a statement supporting the FBI’s push to keep the memo classified. “The FBI Agents Association appreciates FBI Director Chris Wray standing shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the FBI as we work together to protect our country from criminal and national security threats,” the statement said.

According to NBC News, Republicans had said that the memo shows corruption in the FBI that is “worse than Watergate,” and that the FBI relied on the dossier, which was allegedly paid for by Democrats; on the other hand, Democrats argued that the memo is an attack on the Russia investigation lead by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Justice Department officials told NBC News that the issues discussed in the memo are highly classified, and if it was released, it would not be able to correct any information without further compromising classified information.

White House officials, according to ABC News, did say at the time that it would make redactions based on recommendations from the FBI, but ultimately determined that there were few redactions needed, if there were any needed at all.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Called on Speaker Paul Ryan to Have Nunes Resign as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Thursday, calling for Nunes to step down as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and saying that Ryan must “put an end to this charade,” The Huffington Post reports.

In her letter, Pelosi criticized Nunes, saying that the lawmaker has “disgraced the House Intelligence Committee.”

“It has now come to our attention that Congressman Nunes deliberately and materially altered the contents of the memo since it was voted on by the House Republicans,” Pelosi wrote. “This action is not only dangerous, it is illegitimate, and violates House rules.”

“Congressman Nunes’ deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as Chairman, and he must be removed immediately from his position,” she said.

However, at the GOP retreat in West Virginia, Ryan said that the memo was “not an indictment” of the Justice Department or the FBI, ABC News reports.

“If mistakes were made, it’s our job to conduct oversight over executive branch,” Ryan said.

“If there are individuals who abuse power, it’s our job to shed light and transparency to the process,” Ryan added.

Trump Approved the Release of the Memo, Without Redactions

Despite objections from the FBI and the Justice Department, Trump authorized the release of the memo by the House Intelligence Committee on Friday, without any redactions, ABC News reports. 

According to ABC News, the White House sent a letter detailing Trump’s opinion and approval of its release to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday morning, paving the way for the memo to be released that same afternoon. 

During a photo op at the White House, Trump said of what the memo was to reveal, “I think it’s a disgrace.” 

“A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves,” Trump added. 

In a statement released by Devin Nunes’ office, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said, “The Committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes.” 

Before the memo’s release, Trump took to Twitter to criticize the leadership at the FBI and the Justice Department. 

“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump wrote. “Rank & File are great people!” 

What Does the Memo Say?

The three-and-a-half-page memo, which was written by Nunes, criticized the FBI’s application to the FISA court for surveillance on Page, Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, NBC News reports.  

“Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses to the FISA process,” the memo says.

The memo outlines that the Steele dossier was a key component to the FBI’s application for surveillance on Page, but it was not disclosed to the court that the dossier was financed by the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, even though, according to the memo, FBI and the Justice Department officials were aware of this, NBC News reports. The memo, according to NBC News, also points out that the FISA application did not state that Steele was working for opposition research firm Fusion GPS who was paid by the Clinton campaign and the DNC for opposition research.

The FBI’s FISA application referenced a Yahoo News article by Michael Isikoff, which discussed Page’s trip to Moscow in July 2016. However, according to the memo, the article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because the source for the Yahoo News article was Steele himself, but the FISA application says that Steele did not provide this information to Yahoo News, or any other media outlet. It was also reported in the memo that Steele was fired as a source from the FBI due to Steele disclosing his relationship with the FBI in a Mother Jones article by David Corn in October 2016. According to the memo, this made Steele a “less than reliable source for the FBI.” 

Steele was also accused of being politically biased in the memo. In September 2016, Steele told then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” During this time, Ohr’s wife was working for Fusion GPS to assist with the gathering of opposition research on Trump. According to the memo, Ohr later shared his wife’s findings with the FBI. 

When the FBI was filing its initial FISA application, the Steele dossier was only in its “infancy” of being corroborated, and in the end, according to the memo, Steele’s reporting was only minimally corroborated. In addition, the memo states that FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee in his testimony that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.” 

Lastly, the memo refers to text messages between FBI lawyer, Lisa Page (no known relation to Carter Page), and Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who Lisa Page was romantically involved with, in which there was a clear bias against Trump, NBC News reports. The text messages shows “extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an insurance policy against President Trump’s election.” 

On Saturday, after the memo was released, Trump took to Twitter, writing that the memo has vindicated him. 

“This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead),” Trump wrote. “This is an American disgrace!”

Emily Veith was previously the Branded Content Copywriter at Her Campus, where she works to create fun and engaging native editorial and social content. Emily has also authored political articles for Restless Magazine and numerous inspirational and empowering pieces for Project Wednesday. When she isn't writing, she can be found flying off to her next adventure, attempting new recipes, listening to one of her infinite playlists on Spotify, or cuddling with her dogs. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter @emilycveith.
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