House Intel Memo with Concerning Omissions to FISA Court Released

Earlier today, President Trump declassified a House Intelligence Committee memorandum regarding "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation" that has been the subject of the recently trending social media hashtag #ReleasetheMemo.  Key parts of the memo include:

This memorandum provides Members an update on significant facts relating to the Committee's ongoing investigation into the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and their use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 presidential election cycle.  Our findings, which are detailed below, 1) raise concerns with the legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and 2) represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process. . . . 

Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA submissions (including renewals) before the FISC are classified.  As such, the public's confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court's ability to hold the government to the highest standard--protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government's production to the court of all material and relevant facts.  This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government.  In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts.  However, our findings indicate that . . . material and relevant information was omitted. 

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 though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials.

RNLA Co-Chair Joanne Young stated in response: “This memo contains disturbing details from both a political and a legal perspective. According to the memo, attorneys from the Department of Justice misrepresented facts to the FISA court, which is especially troubling as filings with it are classified and ex parte, so there is no opportunity to defend against the charges."

While there are many legal issues involved in the subject of the memo and it will be hotly debated in the coming weeks, one thing is certain (as noted by Dan McLaughlin of National Review):

[W]ithin those narrow confines, it does make a persuasive case – pending any detailed rebuttal by its partisan Democratic critics – that flimsily-corroborated Democratic Party campaign opposition research succeeded in influencing law enforcement to spy on a U.S. citizen involved in the political process at the height of a presidential campaign. That may not be an enormous scandal in size, but it is, if true, a scandal.

To his credit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement in response to the memo that took the actions outlined in the memo seriously and indicated that DOJ takes its responsibility to the American people seriously and will determine what happened.