DOJ warns House Intel chairman about purported secret memo on FBI

ByABC News
January 24, 2018, 5:35 PM

— -- The Justice Department is urging the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, whose staff has compiled a secret memorandum purporting to show "shocking" political bias within the FBI, to give the department a chance to see the memo and warning that first sharing information from the memo with reporters would be "unprecedented" and dangerous.

Furthermore, the department said certain allegations of impropriety are completely unfounded.

"We believe it would be extraordinarily reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the Department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum and to advise the [committee] of the risk of harm to national security and to ongoing investigations that could come from the public release," a top Justice Department official wrote in a letter today to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California. "Indeed, we do not understand why the Committee would possibly seek to disclose classified and law enforcement sensitive information without first consulting with the relevant members of the Intelligence Community."

Last week, Nunes disclosed that his staff had drafted the memo, which was deemed classified but shared with other House members. It's not clear what the memorandum states or what information is contained within it, but the Justice Department letters suggests the Nunes memorandum ties alleged government surveillance of Trump associates to information first provided by the author of the infamous "dossier" alleging collusion between Trump aides and Russian operatives.

Republicans have complained that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- or FISA court -- approved such surveillance based on "fake" information and a "dossier that was all dressed up" by author Chris Steele, as Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, put it during a House hearing in December.

"Recent news reports indicate a classified memorandum prepared by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staff alleges abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the FISA process."

In the letter sent to Nunes today, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd noted recent media reports allege "abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the FISA process."

"Though we are currently unaware of any wrongdoing related to the FISA process, we agree that any abuse of that system cannot be tolerated," Boyd wrote.

Within weeks of the FBI launching its investigation in 2016, agents obtained approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor the communications of Trump adviser Carter Page, who was already on the FBI’s radar after being targeted for recruitment as an intelligence source by Russian spies in a previous case, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

The announcement of the Nunes memorandum has been followed by an online effort to reveal the memo publicly, pushed around the world with the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo, according to multiple data analysis firms.

The lead Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, called the memorandum a "profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation."

It "may help carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals,” Schiff said.

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York, said he has reviewed the classified source material Nunes' staff used to craft the memorandum, and "those materials tell a very different story than the conspiracy theory concocted by Chairman Nunes and being repeated in the press."

Nadler called on Nunes to make his memorandum available to the Justice Department.

--ABC News' Justin Fishel contributed to this report.

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