Memo’s Release Escalates Clash Over Russia Probe; Trump Says It ‘Totally Vindicates’ Him

Release comes after the FBI expressed ‘grave concerns’ over the accuracy of the document

Mr. Trump, who had to sign off on the memo’s release, has been at odds for much of the past year with several Justice Department leaders having to do with the Russia probe. He fired FBI Director James Comey and publicly criticized his own appointees, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, over his recusal from the Russia matter, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who now oversees the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.

.. A person who has reviewed the surveillance-warrant application said Mr. Steele’s research formed only a part of the application. The other information included in the application hasn’t been declassified, though Mr. Trump has that authority.

.. “This was about telling a political story that’s helpful to the president. It’s about telling a political story that’s designed to injure the work of the special counsel and to discredit it,” said Mr. Schiff.
.. Democrats on the committee have compiled their own memo on the matter, which addresses the information that prosecutors used beyond Mr. Steele’s research, but the GOP-controlled committee has so far blocked its release.
.. Mr. Page has been on the radar of U.S. intelligence since 2013, when Russian spies made an attempt to recruit him. 
.. He left Mr. Trump’s campaign in September 2016 after reports that a July 2016 trip he took to Moscow was of interest to investigators.
.. At least two of those renewals occurred while Mr. Trump was president and at least one was authorized by a Justice Department official he appointed. A person familiar with the matter said that four separate federal judges approved the surveillance of Mr. Page, and all of those judges were appointed by Republican presidents.
.. The memo is critical of Mr. Steele and notes that prosecutors in their application for the warrant didn’t explicitly state that he was working for a firm funded by Democrats. But the FISA application did disclose Mr. Steele was being paid by a law firm working for a major political party ..
.. The bureau considered Mr. Steele a reliable source from previous investigations, having helped provide information during a federal probe into alleged corruption at FIFA, the world soccer organization
.. The memo alleges that Mr. McCabe testified before the House Intelligence Committee in December that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought…without the Steele dossier information.”
.. Officials in Congress and the Justice Department familiar with Mr. McCabe’s testimony said the memo mischaracterized what he told lawmakers. He was asked what percentage of information in the FISA application was provided by Mr. Steele, and he demurred, saying the FBI didn’t evaluate such applications in such a way. Mr. McCabe was asked if it might have accounted for half of the warrant application, and he said he didn’t know, one person familiar with the matter said.
.. Mr. Trump and other Republicans cheered the buildup to the document’s release, fueled by social-media campaigns, saying it would expose law-enforcement wrongdoing in prosecuting the president.
.. One person close to Mr. Trump said this week that the president believes the memo undermines the credibility of Mr. Rosenstein
Asked Friday if he had confidence in Mr. Rosenstein, Mr. Trump said: “You figure that one out.”

Loudest GOP voices ignore Ryan’s lead on Nunes memo, attacking FBI and Justice Dept.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan tried to walk an impossibly narrow tightrope

.. The memo was merely about the oversight of a very few potentially bad actors in the FBI and Justice Department, the Wisconsin Republican assured reporters Thursday, before its release. “It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general.”

.. Less than 24 hours later, the memo was out, and many rank-and-file Republicans disregarded Ryan’s narrow approach. Instead, they directly assailed the reputations of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III along with the overall direction of the federal investigative agencies.

.. “My heart sank,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a statement alleging a sweeping conspiracy against President Trump. “Not only did it lay bare a systemic pattern of abuse within the FBI and the DOJ, it confirmed my worst fear: America’s free and fair elections were being threatened from within.”

.. A super PAC with ties to the president launched online advertising calling for Rosenstein’s ouster. One Republican suggested that the deputy attorney general should be prosecuted as a traitor.

.. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee chairman, declined to say whether Rosenstein should be fired and instead accused top FBI and Justice officials of sweeping violations of the law

.. “That’s the type of stuff that happens in banana republics,” Nunes said.

.. To hear Meadows and Jordan, that decision undermined every aspect of the FBI investigation into Trump’s ties to Moscow. “When you look at the facts, everything revolves around a single source. A single source that continued to put it out with multiple people to appear that there were multiple sources,” Meadows told Todd.

.. “This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice,” Ryan said.

.. Ryan’s much more narrow approach to the memo stands at odds with how it is viewed by many Republicans. They very much see the memo as a bid to undermine Rosenstein — who signed off on later warrant requests after Trump appointed him last year — and, by extension, to undermine Mueller.

.. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) took an entirely different approach, suggesting the existence of a vast conspiracy because the FBI was trying to thwart the release of the Nunes memo.

“The FBI is right to have ‘grave concerns’ — as it will shake the organization down to its core — showing Americans just how the agency was weaponized by the Obama officials/DNC/HRC to target political adversaries,” Duncan said in a tweet.