Democrats’ FISA Memo: When Will Schiff’s Counter Memo Be Released?

Getty Devin Nunes, author of the GOP memo.

The highly anticipated FISA memo has finally been released, and now many people are renewing their call to see the Democrats’ counter memo too. Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) authored the FISA memo, which Democrats say lacks the full context. So Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff wrote a counter memo that attempts to explain the context. But while the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the Republicans’ memo, they also voted to not release the Democrats’ memo. Will we ever see the Democrats’ memo?

The Democrats’ counter memo alleges that the Republicans didn’t provide the right context when writing the FISA memo that was just released. But the House Intelligence Committee chose to not release that memo. However, Schiff did say that Republicans might consider releasing the Democrat’s memo next week and they’re going to try to force another vote about it. But with how highly partisan things in Congress have been lately, with most people seemingly taking actions strongly within party lines, it doesn’t seem likely that this will happen. But it’s still a possibility, especially considering that House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said he’s open to releasing the Democrats’ memo, as long as it’s scrubbed to make sure it doesn’t reveal sources and “methods of our intelligence gathering.”

The Democrats’ memo is 10 pages long compared with Nunes’ 4 1/2-page memo. If it were to be released, the House Intelligence Committee would first have to vote to make it public (which it voted against earlier this week) and then Trump would have five days to prevent its release. So the absolute earliest it could be released, if everything moved quickly and the committee voted to release it on Monday, is likely next Friday.

Although their memo hasn’t been released, the Democrats did release a statement about the FISA memo. The Republican document mischaracterizes highly sensitive classified information that few members of Congress have seen, and which Chairman [Devin] Nunes himself chose not to review. It fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign.”

Nunes’ FISA memo that was just released alleges that the FBI and the Department of Justice used the Steele dossier, funded by the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to get a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to surveil Carter Page, a U.S. citizen and an adviser on President Donald Trump’s campaign. The FISA memo alleges that when seeking the FISC warrant to surveil Page, the FBI omitted to share that their allegations came from the dossier. The memo reads, in part: “The ‘dossier’ compiled by Christopher Steele (Steele dossier) on behalf of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application… Neither the initial application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign or any party/campaign in funding Steele’s efforts…”

Even if the Democrats’ memo is released, it’s important to remember that partisan politics is likely playing a role on both sides of the fence here. The FISA memo just released was authored by Republicans, alleging misconduct by Democrats. The counter memo, if released, will be authored by Democrats, alleging that Democrats followed procedures correctly and Republicans are trying to stop the Russian investigation. The Democrats, who were against the FBI near the end of the presidential campaign, alleging that Comey had hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances, are now strongly supporting the FBI. Neither side in the memo battle is completely objective, and both memos (once available) should be read through that lens. A co-founder of The Intercept pointed out something similar when he reviewed the FISA memo by Nunes today:


However, this can also be a good jumping off point for exploring transparency and the surveillance of U.S. citizens. Sen. Rand Paul seemed to step a bit away from the main party line when he tweeted this message earlier today:

In his full statement he wrote: “While I applaud the release of this memo, I also call for Congress to take immediate action to help prevent such behavior in the future. It is imperative it start by listening to Americans who have expressed outrage over its disregard for the Fourth Amendment and reexamining the powers it reauthorized right before we learned of the memo. Continuing to ignore the Constitution will only guarantee that others fall victim to government abusing its domestic surveillance powers.”