HOUSTON (FOX 26) - This week's panel: Bob Price - associate editor Breitbart Texas, Tomaro Bell - psuper-neighborhood leader, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Marcus Davis - host of "Sunday Morning Live", Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor, and Jessica Colon - Republican strategist., join Greg Groogan in a lively conversation about the contents and the release of the GOP house intelligence memo.
WASHINGTON (AP) - After more than a week of partisan bickering and social media-fueled buildup, the #releasethememo crowd got their wish.
President Donald Trump declassified it. The GOP majority of the House intelligence committee released it. And the public dissection of the four-page, GOP-authored document began.
Here are a few key takeaways:
WHAT'S THE GIST?
The memo makes a series of allegations of misconduct on the part of the FBI and the Justice Department in obtaining a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Specifically, it takes aim at the FBI's use of information from a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled a collection of memos containing several allegations of ties between Trump, his associates and Russia.
The memo says the FBI and the Justice Department didn't tell the FISA court enough about Steele's role in an opposition research effort. The research was funded by Democrat Hillary Clinton through a Washington law firm.
The document also takes aim at several senior FBI and Justice Department officials. Among them is former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who it says knew of Steele's anti-Trump leanings and whose wife worked at the firm behind the opposition research effort.
The memo provides the first formal government confirmation of the secret FISA warrant and that Page was the person being monitored.
Information like that is ordinarily considered among the most tightly held national security information, and it almost never gets released to the public.
Though the memo takes issue with the FBI's methods, it also confirms that the FBI and Justice Department believed there was probable cause that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power and a judge agreed - four times over.
The memo fills in the timeline of the Russia investigation, showing that Page was under surveillance for months.
According to the memo, the Justice Department and FBI obtained the FISA warrant on Page on Oct. 21, 2016, and then had it reauthorized three additional times.
Given that FISA warrants must be renewed every 90 days, the memo indicates that the government monitored Page's communications for nearly a year.
IT STARTED WITH PAPADOPOULOS
The whole Russia investigation, that is.
According to the memo, information about former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos "triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016."
That's significant because Trump and his allies in the GOP have tried to undermine the Russia investigation by saying it all stems from the Steele dossier.
The memo doesn't provide further details about the information the FBI received about Papadopoulos. But it appears to confirm in part reporting by The New York Times late last year that FBI concerns about Papadopoulos started the investigation.
Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year. Court papers show he had several contacts with people representing themselves as being tied to the Russian government starting in the spring of 2016.
Court papers show that Papadopoulos learned the Russians had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of "thousands of emails" prior to that information becoming public.
THE FBI DID USE INFORMATION FROM STEELE, THOUGH
The memo says Steele's collection of reports "formed an essential part" of the FISA application for Page, but it doesn't specify exactly what information was used or how much.
It also says that the FISA application relied on a September 2016 Yahoo News article, and claims that the information in the article also came from Steele.
The document quotes former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as telling the House intelligence committee in December that "no surveillance warrant would have been sought" from the FISA court "without the Steele dossier information."
According to the memo, the application also included "Steele's past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters."
NO UNDERLYING INFORMATION RELEASED
The accuracy of the memo is hard to assess because the majority of the underlying contents are classified or confidential.
The memo cites an initial FISA warrant application - a document which usually has dozens of pages - as well as three additional renewals by the court. None of those documents are public.
The same is true of the transcripts of the committee's closed-door interviews with McCabe and other senior FBI officials who had contact with Steele.
On Friday, the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, took issue with the memo's characterization of McCabe's comments, saying the former FBI deputy director was speaking generally about how any FISA application relies on "each and every component" included.
But the committee's chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, said late Friday on Fox News the description of McCabe's comments is "a summation of a long interview and that's definitely what he said." He noted that other witnesses have said "similar things."
It's been a burning question ever since the dossier was published by Buzzfeed News last year: How much did the FBI corroborate?
According to the memo, not much at the time the FBI obtained the FISA warrant on Page. The memo cites FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap as saying FBI corroboration of the dossier was in its "infancy" when the court authorized the first FISA warrant.
It also says an "independent unit" in the FBI conducted a "source validation report" on Steele's reporting and found it "only minimally corroborated."
But without the underlying documents or transcripts of Priestap's testimony, it's hard to judge the accuracy of the memo's description.
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed complete vindication from a congressional memo that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance powers during the investigation into his campaign's possible Russia ties. But the memo also includes revelations that might complicate efforts by Trump and his allies to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry.
The four-page document released Friday contends that the FBI, when it applied for a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate, relied excessively on an ex-British spy whose opposition research was funded by Democrats. At the same time, the memo confirms that the investigation into potential Trump links to Russia actually began several months earlier, and was "triggered" by information involving a different campaign aide.
Christopher Steele, the former spy who compiled the allegations, acknowledged having strong anti-Trump sentiments. But he also was a "longtime FBI source" with a credible track record, according to the memo from the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and his staff.
The warrant authorizing the FBI to monitor the communications of former campaign adviser Carter Page was not a one-time request, but was approved by a judge on four occasions, the memo says, and even signed off on by the second-ranking official at the Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general.
Trump, however, tweeted from Florida, where he was spending the weekend, that the memo puts him in the clear.
"This memo totally vindicates 'Trump' in probe," he said. "But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their (sic) 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). This is an American disgrace!"
The underlying materials that served as the basis for the warrant application were not made public in the memo. As a result, the document only further intensified a partisan battle over how to interpret the actions of the FBI and Justice Department during the early stages of the counterintelligence investigation that Mueller later inherited. Even as Democrats described it as inaccurate, some Republicans quickly cited the memo - released over the objections of the FBI and Justice Department - in their arguments that Mueller's investigation is politically tainted.
A closer read presents a far more nuanced picture.
"Having decided to cherry-pick, the Nunes team picked a bunch of the wrong cherries for its own narrative," Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and former Bush administration official, wrote in an email.
The memo's central allegation is that agents and prosecutors, in applying in October 2016 to monitor Page's communications, failed to tell a judge that the opposition research that provided grounds for the FBI's suspicion received funding from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Page had stopped advising the campaign sometime around the end of that summer.
Steele's research, according to the memo, "formed an essential part" of the warrant application. But it's unclear how much or what information Steele collected made it into the application, or how much has been corroborated. Steele was working for Fusion GPS, a firm initially hired by the conservative Washington Free Beacon to do opposition research on Trump. Steele didn't begin work on the project until after Democratic groups took over the funding.
Republicans say a judge should have known that "political actors" were involved in allegations that led the Justice Department to believe Page might be an agent of a foreign power - an accusation he has consistently and strenuously denied.
The FBI this week expressed "grave concerns" about the memo and called it inaccurate and incomplete. Democrats said it was a set of cherry-picked claims aimed at smearing law enforcement and that releasing the memo would damage law enforcement and intelligence work.
For one, Democrats said it was misleading and incorrect to say a judge was not told of the potential political motivations of the people paying for Steele's research.
Beyond that, though, the memo confirms the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign began in July 2016, months before the surveillance warrant was sought, and was "triggered" by information concerning campaign aide George Papadopoulos. He pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI.
The confirmation about Papadopoulos is "the most important fact disclosed in this otherwise shoddy memo," California Rep. Adam Schiff, the House committee's top Democrat, said in a tweet Saturday in response to Trump's assertion that the document vindicated him.
The timing makes clear that other Trump associates beyond Page, who was part of the election effort for only a short period and was not in Trump's inner circle, had generated law enforcement scrutiny. The memo also omits that Page had been on the FBI's radar a few years earlier as part of a separate counterintelligence investigation into Russian influence.
The memo focuses on Page, but Democrats on the House committee said "this ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture."
Other details in the memo could also challenge Republican claims of bias. The warrant requested was renewed on three additional occasions, meaning that judges approved it four times.
The memo had been classified because it deals with warrants obtained from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The White House declassified it Friday and sent it to Nunes for immediate release.
That disclosure is extraordinary because it involves details about surveillance of Americans, national security information the government regards as among its most highly classified. The release is likely to further escalate the conflict between the White House and Trump's law enforcement leaders. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray had personally lobbied against the memo's disclosure, arguing it could set a dangerous precedent.
The memo's release also comes amid an effort by Trump and congressional Republicans to discredit Mueller's investigation. His probe focuses not only on whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia but also on whether the president sought to obstruct justice.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who has been deeply involved in hotly debated Republican issues such as the Benghazi hearings, says the GOP memo has no impact on Mueller's Russia probe and that the significance of the dossier has been overstated.
"There is a Russia investigation without a dossier. So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower," Gowdy said in an interview to air Sunday on CBS' "Face The Nation."
Gowdy, who announced recently that he is not running for re-election, said: "The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos' meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice. So there's going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier."
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin, Catherine Lucey, Matthew Daly, Desmond Butler and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.