Monday 10 December 2018

Trump accuses FBI of bias as memo released

British spy key to Russia-link claims

US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump.

Nick Allen

The FBI secured a warrant to wiretap an official on Donald Trump's presidential campaign by repeatedly concealing from a special court that they were relying on information paid for by Democrats, according to an explosive declassified memo.

It suggested the bureau and department of justice relied heavily on a dossier provided by Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer, without revealing to the court that he had ultimately been funded by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

The three-and-a-half page memo was written by Republicans on the House intelligence committee based on what they have learnt in an investigation. It was released after being declassified by Mr Trump.

Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the committee, said it showed "serious violations of the public trust" by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. According to the memo on October 21, 2016, a warrant was sought and obtained for electronic surveillance of Carter Page, a volunteer adviser to the Trump campaign who had travelled to Russia. The warrant was sought under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Such warrants have to be renewed in a secret court every 90 days.

FBI Director Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray

Each time there has to be a "probable cause" shown, and submissions to the court are classified. The memo said the integrity of the process, and public trust in it, was "necessarily dependent on the government's production to the court of all material and relevant facts".

But it said: "In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISA court" but "material and relevant information was omitted".

It said the dossier provided by Mr Steele had formed an "essential part" of the warrant application. But Mr Steele, a longtime FBI source, "had been paid over $160,000 (€128,000) by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign".

Payments were via Perkins Coie, the law firm, and Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm, "to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump's ties to Russia", the memo said.

It said neither the original application, nor any of the 90-day renewals, disclosed the role of the DNC or Clinton campaign "even though the origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior justice department and FBI officials".

The memo said: "The application does not mention Steele was ultimately working on behalf of - and paid by - the DNC and Clinton campaign."

Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes
Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes

In its application to the FISA court, the FBI had also cited extensively from a Yahoo News article dated September 23, 2016, about Mr Page's trip to Moscow.

The memo said: "This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News. Steele has admitted in British court filings that he met with Yahoo News - and several other outlets."

The memo said Mr Steele was "suspended and then terminated" as an FBI source for "the most serious of violations" - unauthorised disclosure of his relationship with the FBI to the media.

This demonstrated Mr Steele had "become a less than reliable source for the FBI" but the department of justice had still maintained contact with him.

Earlier yesterday Mr Trump tweeted: "The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicised the sacred investigative process".

Democrats on the House intelligence committee called the release of the memo a "shameful effort to discredit" the FBI, the justice department and the ongoing investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, into Russian alleged meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page
Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page

Christopher Wray, the FBI director, was said to have "raised hell" ahead the release of the memo, amid speculation he might quit.

Former MI6 officer Christopher Steele
Former MI6 officer Christopher Steele

Irish Independent

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