Nunes memo release – as it happened: Attorney General Jeff Sessions to refer Trump-Russia document to Department of Justice watchdog

A controversial memo alleging abuse of authority by the FBI in its Russia investigation has been declassified and released to the public.

The memo, written by the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, raises concerns about the FBI’s use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in relation into the investigation into possible connections between officials in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia

Their findings “represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process”, the document states. 

Mr Trump allowed the House Intelligence Committee to release the report to the public on Friday without redactions. The president called the contents of the memo “a disgrace” and, in relation to the FBI, that “a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves”. He declined to say whether he still had faith in Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the federal investigation.

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Welcome to our coverage of the reaction to the release of the controversial memo detailing allegations of FBI abuses during their investigation into possible links between the campaign of President Donald trump and Russia.

Here is our first full report on the release:

The controversial Nunes memo has been released

The reaction is coming in thick and fast – not surprising given the political division it has caused between Republicans, who believe it shows FBI bias against President Trump, and Democrats who believe it has wrongly hurt the reputation of both the FBI and the Department of Justice.

Former FBI director James Comey – fired by Mr Trump last year – has weighed in:

The release of the memo is the end of a long wrangle over whether the document should see the light of day publicly.

Here is a timeline of events:

Timeline of events that led to the Nunes memo release

The American Civil Liberties Union has responded to the release of the Nunes memo with the following statement, from Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office:

“The completeness and accuracy of government representations to the FISA court are longstanding concerns. The Nunes memo makes serious charges of FBI and Justice Department misconduct in obtaining a warrant to surveil an American citizen, but on its own does not contain the facts needed to substantiate its charges.

“Rather than one side or the other cherry-picking facts, all Americans deserve to see all of the facts, including both the minority report and the underlying documents. The goal should be more transparency, not less, particularly when a congressional committee chairman makes serious charges of abuse but does not provide the facts to either prove the charges or allow Americans to make up our own minds.”

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is planning to refer the declassified memo alleging Justice Department bias against President Trump to the department’s internal watchdog office for investigation.

In a statement, Mr Sessions said he had received inquiries from Congress raising concerns “about the department’s performance” and that he would forward those issues to “the appropriate DOJ components.”

He also praised the rank and file staff of the department, saying he has “great confidence” in them.

Republican Senator John McCain, who is regarded as a heavyweight in Congress on foreign affairs, has strongly criticised his fellow Republicans and President Trump for attacking the FBI and the Justice Department.

“Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him,” Mr McCain said in a statement, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Following the release of the Nunes memo, some are wondering if there is a way to release the counter-memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

The memo, written by Rep Adam Schiff — the top Democrat on that committee — is 10 pages long, and says that the Nunes memo is an attempt to help the White House distance itself from the Russia investigation.

Democrats have repeatedly charged that the Nunes memo is motivated primarily to discredit the Russia probe.

That said, it appears likely that the Democrats would have to force another Intelligence Committee vote on their memo, and receive White House approval, to release their version of the document.

Carter Page, the former Trump campaign official who the FBI too out the surveillance warrant against, has had his say:

“The brave and assiduous oversight by Congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America’s democracy.”

If the Democrats wanted to release their counter-memo, they would have to follow this process:

  • First, the House Intelligence Committee would vote to have the memo released to the public.
  • If they vote for it, President Trump would have five days to object to its public release.

Republican Governor for Ohio John Kasich has also hit out the memo’s release. That comes after Mr Trump mocked Mr Kasich for being one of his most relentless critics during a speech on Friday. 

One of the major elements of the Nunes memo is that the FBI relied on the dossier compiled by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele to wrongly obtain the FISA warrant against Mr Page – with the memo accusing Mr Steele of anti-Trump bias.

However, leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, told CNN that it is “not accurate” that the secret court was NOT aware of Mr Steele’s political motivations. He said the court was aware that there was a “likely political motivation” behind Mr Steele’s actions.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has responded to the Nunes memo release:

“Let’s be absolutely clear. The release of this Republican staff memo is a blatant attempt by House Republicans and the White House to disrupt the critically important investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. 

“The fact that Congressional Republicans and the White House would release a memo the FBI itself says is misleading is a sad example of a political party putting partisanship above patriotism. That this memo was first released to right-wing news outlets like FOX News and the Washington Examiner speaks to the political nature of this effort.

“According to news reports President Trump himself has acknowledged that the release of the memo was designed to disrupt Robert Mueller’s investigation. It is critical that the American people learn the truth about what happened in 2016, and no political stunt should interfere with the special counsel’s work. What is the president afraid of?”

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has issued a stern warning to President Trump following the release of the Nunes memo.

“If the President uses this fake, horrible release of distorted intelligence as an excuse” to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or special counsel Robert Mueller, “it could lead to a constitutional crisis,” she said.

Earlier today, a group of 10 House and Senate Democrats — including Ms Pelosi — used similar language in a letter to President Trump.

“We write to inform you that we would consider such an unwarranted action as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre.”

Top Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have knocked the Nunes memo, and the way that it was released.

Following its release, ranking member Sen Mark Warner claimed that the release of the statement was biased, and ignored further truths surrounding the issue.

“The release of this memo by House Intelligence Committee Republicans and the White House, over the objections of the FBI and the Department of Justice, is reckless and demonstrates an astonishing disregard for the truth,” Mr Warner said.

Mr Warner was joined by his vice-chair on the committee, Sen Dianne Feinstein.

The release of the Nunes memo has some rumours spreading through Washington that potential firings or resignations among senior law enforcement officials are on the way, according to NPR.

That is because the release of the memo marks the latest escalation in tensions between the White House and the intelligence community. The FBI and Justice Department had warned that releasing the memo, saying that it could jeopardize intelligence gathering operations — or include inaccuracies — but those warnings were brushed aside by Mr Trump and Republicans in Congress.

Two White House officials say President Donald Trump is not considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. 

Earlier Friday, Mr Trump declined to express confidence in the Justice Department’s second-in-command. 

The officials told the Associated Press that there is no consideration or expectation for Rosenstein to leave the job. They were not authorised to discuss internal deliberations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. 

House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Devin Nunes, the chief architect of the memo, told Fox News host Bret Baier, “I didn’t want to have to do this”. 

“But the sad part is is that I have an obligation to the American people when we see FISA abuse,” Mr Nunes said.  

Just hours after the release of the memo, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has said the panel is now moving onto “phase two” of its investigation. 

“We are in the middle of what I call phase two of our investigation, which involves other departments, specifically the State Department and some of the involvement that they had in this,” Mr Nunes told Fox News. 

“That investigation is ongoing and we continue work towards finding answers and asking the right questions to try to get to the bottom of what exactly the State Department was up to in terms of this Russia investigation,” he added. 

Democrats claimed the release of the memo was an attempt to discredit this investigation – one which would set a dangerous precedent that would do “long-term damage” to the US intelligence community.

Much of the memo concerns the process by which the FBI obtained a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, claiming the warrant application was informed largely by a Democrat-funded opposition research dossier compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele.

Republicans and Democrats have fiercely debated the release of the memo since last month, when Mr Nunes made it available to members of the House. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, claimed the memo “mischaracterises highly sensitive classified information” in order to suit Republicans’ political aims.

“Chairman Nunes’ decision … to publicly release misleading allegations against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation is a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation, and undercut congressional probes,” Mr Schiff said.

The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation

The biggest names involved in the Trump-Russia investigation

    • Paul Manafort

      Mr Manafort is a Republican strategist and former Trump campaign manager. He resigned from that post over questions about his extensive lobbying overseas, including in Ukraine where he represented pro-Russian interests. Mr Manafort turned himself in at FBI headquarters to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team on Oct 30, 2017, after he was indicted under seal on charges that include conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading US Foreign Agents Registration Act statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.


    • Rick Gates

      Mr Gates joined the Trump team in spring 2016, and served as a top aide until he left to work at the Republican National Committee after the departure of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Mr Gates’ had previously worked on several presidential campaigns, on international political campaigns in Europe and Africa, and had 15 years of political or financial experience with multinational firms, according to his bio. Mr Gates was indicted alongside Mr Manafort by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team on charges that include conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading US Foreign Agents Registration Act statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.


    • George Papadopoulos

      George Papadopoulos was a former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, having joined around March 2016. Mr Papadopoulos plead guilty to federal charges for lying to the FBI as a part of a cooperation agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Mr Papadopoulos claimed in an interview with the FBI that he had made contacts with Russian sources before joining the Trump campaign, but he actually began working with them after joining the team. Mr Papadopoulos allegedly took a meeting with a professor in London who reportedly told him that Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. The professor also allegedly introduced Mr Papadopoulos to a Russian who was said to have close ties to officials at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr Papadopoulos also allegedly was in contact with a woman whom he incorrectly described in one email to others in the campaign as the “niece” to Russian President Vladimir Putin.


    • Donald Trump Jr

      The President’s eldest son met with a Russian lawyer – Natalia Veselnitskaya – on 9 June 2016 at Trump Tower in New York. He said in an initial statement that the meeting was about Russia halting adoptions of its children by US citizens. Then, he said it was regarding the Magnitsky Act, a US law blacklisting Russian human rights abusers. In a final statement, Mr Trump Jr released a chain of emails that revealed he took the meeting in hopes of getting information Ms Veselnitskaya had about Hillary Clinton’s alleged financial ties to Russia. He and the President called it standard “opposition research” in the course of campaigning and that no information came from the meeting. The meeting was set up by an intermediary, Rob Goldstone. Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort were also at the same meeting.

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    • Jared Kushner

      Mr Kushner is President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and a key adviser to the White House. He met with a Russian banker appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December. Mr Kushner has said he did so in his role as an adviser to Mr Trump while the bank says he did so as a private developer. Mr Kushner has also volunteered to testify in the Senate about his role helping to arrange meetings between Trump advisers and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.

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    • Rob Goldstone

      Former tabloid journalist and now music publicist Rob Goldstone is a contact of the Trump family through the previously Trump-owned 2013 Miss Universe pageant, which took place in Moscow. In June 2016, he wrote to Donald Trump Jr offering a meeting with a Russian lawyer, Natalya Veselnitskaya, who had information about Hillary Clinton. Mr Goldstone was the intermediary for Russian pop star Emin Agalaraov and his father, real estate magnate Aras, who played a role in putting on the 2013 pageant. In an email chain released by Mr Trump Jr, Mr Goldstone seemed to indicate Russian government’s support of Donald Trump’s campaign.

      AP images

    • Aras and Emin Agalarov

      Aras Agalarov (R) is a wealthy Moscow-based real estate magnate and son Emin (L) is a pop star. Both played a role in putting on the previously Trump-owned 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. They allegedly had information about Hillary Clinton and offered that information to the Trump campaign through a lawyer with whom they had worked with, Natalia Veselnitskaya, and music publicist Rob Goldstone.

      Getty Images

    • Natalia Veselnitskaya

      Natalia Veselnitskaya is a Russian lawyer with ties to the Kremlin. She has worked on real estate issues and reportedly counted the FSB as a client in the past. She has ties to a Trump family connection, real estate magnate Aras Agalarov, who had helped set up the Trump-owned 2013 Miss Universe pageant which took place in Moscow. Ms Veselnitskaya met with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort in Trump Tower on 9 June 2016 but denies the allegation that she went there promising information on Hillary Clinton’s alleged financial ties to Russia. She contends that the meeting was about the US adoptions of Russian children being stopped by Moscow as a reaction to the Magnitsky Act, a US law blacklisting Russian human rights abusers.

      Getty Images

    • Mike Flynn

      Mr Flynn was named as Trump’s national security adviser but was forced to resign from his post for inappropriate communication with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak. He had misrepresented a conversation he had with Mr Kislyak to Vice President Mike Pence, telling him wrongly that he had not discussed sanctions with the Russian.

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    • Sergey Kislyak

      Mr Kislyak, the former longtime Russian ambassador to the US, is at the centre of the web said to connect President Donald Trump’s campaign with Russia.


    • Roger Stone

      Mr Stone is a former Trump adviser who worked on the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, George HW Bush, and Ronald Reagan. Mr Stone claimed repeatedly in the final months of the campaign that he had backchannel communications with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and that he knew the group was going to dump damaging documents to the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton – which did happen. Mr Stone also had contacts with the hacker Guccier 2.0 on Twitter, who claimed to have hacked the DNC and is linked to Russian intelligence services.

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    • Jeff Sessions

      The US attorney general was forced to recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation after it was learned that he had lied about meeting with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak.

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    • Carter Page

      Mr Page is a former advisor to the Trump campaign and has a background working as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch. Mr Page met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Mr Page had invested in oil companies connected to Russia and had admitted that US Russia sanctions had hurt his bottom line.


    • Jeffrey “JD” Gorden

      Mr Gordon met with Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 Republian National Convention to discuss how the US and Russia could work together to combat Islamist extremism should then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election. The meeting came days before a massive leak of DNC emails that has been connected to Russia.

      Creative Commons

    • James Comey

      Mr Comey was fired from his post as head of the FBI by President Donald Trump. The timing of Mr Comey’s firing raised questions around whether or not the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign may have played a role in the decision.

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    • Preet Bharara

      Mr Bahara refused, alongside 46 other US district attorney’s across the country, to resign once President Donald Trump took office after previous assurances from Mr Trump that he would keep his job. Mr Bahara had been heading up several investigations including one into one of President Donald Trump’s favorite cable television channels Fox News. Several investigations would lead back to that district, too, including those into Mr Trump’s campaign ties to Russia, and Mr Trump’s assertion that Trump Tower was wiretapped on orders from his predecessor.

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    • Sally Yates

      Ms Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, was running the Justice Department while President Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general awaited confirmation. Ms Yates was later fired by Mr Trump from her temporary post over her refusal to implement Mr Trump’s first travel ban. She had also warned the White House about potential ties former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to Russia after discovering those ties during the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.

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    The congressman claimed the FISA warrant to surveil Mr Page had been properly obtained, and was not based entirely on the Steele dossier. He added that Democrats would seek a vote to release their response to the memo, which he claimed pointed out several other factual errors.

    The FBI cautioned against releasing the memo in a rare public statement this week, saying they had “grave concerns” about its accuracy. 

    Former FBI Director James Comey – fired by Mr Trump last year – tweeted that the newly released Republican-written memo doesn’t add up to much. Mr Comey asked on Twitter, “That’s it?” 

    He called the memo “dishonest and misleading” and not worth the damage it’s done to public trust in U.S. intelligence agencies. 

    Mr Trump did not signal what, if any, other steps he would take in response to the memo.

    “Congress will do whatever they’re going to do,” he said as he confirmed his support for the memo’s release

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