Dems release memo defending FBI surveillance

Document attempts to undercut and add context to GOP’s doc

WASHINGTON — Two weeks after President Donald Trump blocked its full release, the House Intelligence Committee published a partially blacked-out version of a classified Democratic memo aiming to counter a GOP narrative that the FBI and Justice Department conspired against Trump as they investigated his ties to Russia.

The document’s release Saturday was the latest development in an extraordinary back and forth between Republicans and Democrats about the credibility of multiple inquiries into links between the Trump campaign and Russia, and the integrity of the top U.S. law enforcement agencies.

The document attempts to undercut and add context to some of the main points from a declassified Republican memo made public earlier this month. In that memo, Republicans went after the FBI and the Justice Department over the use of information compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele in obtaining a secret warrant to monitor the communications of onetime Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

The GOP memo included the assertion that the FBI obtained a surveillance warrant without disclosing that Steele’s anti-Trump research was paid for by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic memo said the Justice Department disclosed “the assessed political motivation of those who hired him” and that Steele was likely hired by someone “looking for information that could be used to discredit” then-candidate Trump’s campaign.

Republicans said that is not enough because the Clinton campaign and the DNC were not named. Trump seized on this point in a tweet Saturday evening: “Dem Memo: FBI did not disclose who the clients were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”

The White House on Feb. 9 had objected to the Democratic memo’s release, citing national security concerns. That sent the Democrats back to negotiations with the FBI, which approved a version with parts of it blacked out. It was then declassified and released.

Trump had no such concerns about the GOP memo, which he declassified in full on Feb. 2 over strong objections from the FBI about the memo’s accuracy.

The Democratic memo asserts that the FBI’s concerns about Page long predate the compilation of memos drafted by Steele, now known as the Trump-Russia “dossier,” and that the government’s application to monitor Page’s communications details suspicious activities he undertook during the 2016 presidential campaign. That includes a July 2016 trip to Moscow in which he gave a university commencement address.