The Battle of the Memos: Devin Nunes vs Adam Schiff

The Battle of the Memos: Devin Nunes vs Adam Schiff

Have you read the OIG FISA report yet? It’s damning. Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported “17 significant errors or omissions in the Carter Page FISA applications, and many additional errors in the Woods Procedures. These errors and omissions resulted from case agents providing wrong or incomplete information to the Office of Inspector General and failing to flag important issues for discussion.” As a result of this malfeasance Horowitz has “initiated an OIG audit that will further examine the FBI’s compliance with the Woods Procedures in FISA applications that target U.S. persons in both counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations.” This audit will review the past 15 years of every Department of Justice and FBI use of national security and surveillance authorities, including authorities under FISA.

What are the 17 significant errors or omissions in FISA applications? It is important to note that errors 1-7 occurred during the first FISA application and in addition to repeating the errors contained in the first FISA application they identified similarly significant errors in the remaining three renewal applications based upon information known to the FBI after the first application was filed and before one or more of the renewals was filed.

  1. Omitted information from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an operational contact for the other agency from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior contacts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application; 
  2. Included a source characterization statement asserting that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings,” which overstated the significance of Steele’s past reporting and was not approved by Steele’s FBI handling agent, as required by the Woods Procedures; 
  3. Omitted information relevant to the reliability of Person 1, a key Steele sub-source (who, as previously noted, was attributed with providing the information in Report 95 and some of the information in Reports 80 and 102 relied upon in the application), namely that (1) Steele himself told members of the Crossfire Hurricane team that Person 1 was a “boaster” and an “embellishment” and 2 <Redacted info>
  4. Asserted that the FBI had assessed that Steele did not directly provide to the press information in the September 23 Yahoo News article, based on the premise that Steele had told the FBI that he only shared his election-related research with the FBI and Simpson; this premise was factually incorrect (Steele had provided direct information to Yahoo News) and also contradicted by documentation in the Woods File-Steele had told the FBI that he also gave his information to the State Department; 
  5. Omitted Papadopoulos’s statements to an FBI CHS in September 2016 denying that anyone associated with the Trump campaign was collaborating with Russia or with outside groups like WikiLeaks in the release of emails; 
  6. Omitted Page’s statements to an FBI CHS in August 2016 that Page had “literally never met” or “said one word to” Paul Manafort and that Manafort had not responded to any of Page’s emails; if true, those statements were in tension with claims in Steele’s Report 95 that Page was participating in a “conspiracy” with Russia by acting as an intermediary for Manafort on behalf of the Trump campaign; and 
  7. Selectively included Page’s statements to an FBI CHS in October 2016 that the FBI believed supported its theory that Page was an agent of Russia but omitted other statements Page made, including denying having met with Sechin and Divyekin, or even knowing who Divyekin was; if true, those statements contradicted the claims in Steele’s Report 94 that Page had met secretly with Sechin and Divyekin about 364 future cooperation with Russia and shared derogatory information about candidate Clinton.
  8. Omitted the fact that Steele’s Primary Sub-source, who the FBI found credible, had made statements in January 2017 raising significant questions about the reliability of allegations included in the FISA applications, including, for example, that he/she had no discussion with Person 1 concerning WikiLeaks and there was “nothing bad” about the communications between the Kremlin and the Trump team, and that he/she did not report to Steele in July 2016 that Page had met with Sechin; 
  9. Omitted Page’s prior relationship with another U.S. government agency, despite being reminded by the other agency in June 2017, prior to the filing of the final renewal application, about Page’s past status with that other agency; instead of including this information in the final renewal application, the FBI OGC Attorney altered an email from the other agency so that the email stated that Page was “not a source” for the other agency, which the FBI affiant relied upon in signing the final renewal application; 
  10. Omitted information provided by persons with direct knowledge of Steele’s work-related performance in a prior position about Steele’s professional judgment, including statements that Steele had held a “moderately senior” position (not “high-ranking” as noted in the applications), had no history of reporting in bad faith but demonstrated “poor judgment,” “pursued people with political risk but no intelligence value,” “didn’t always exercise great judgment,” and it was “not clear what he would have done to validate” his reporting; 368 
  11. Omitted information from Department attorney Bruce Ohr about Steele and his election reporting, including that (1) Steele’s reporting was going to Clinton’s presidential campaign and others, (2) Simpson was paying Steele to discuss his reporting with the media, and (3) Steele was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being the U.S. President”; 
  12. Failed to update the description of Steele after information became known to the Crossfire Hurricane team, not only from Ohr but from others, that provided greater clarity on the political origins and connections of Steele’s reporting, including that Simpson was hired by someone associated with the Democratic Party and/or the DNC; 
  13. Failed to correct the assertion in the first FISA application that the FBI did not believe that Steele directly provided information to the reporter who wrote the September 23 Yahoo News article, even though there was no information in the Woods File to support this claim and even after certain FBI officials involved in Crossfire Hurricane learned in 2017, before the third renewal application, of an admission that Steele made in a court filing about his interactions with the news media in the late summer and early fall of 2016; 
  14. Omitted the finding from a formal FBI source validation report that Steele was suitable for continued operation but that his past contributions to the FBI’s criminal program had been “minimally corroborated,” and instead continued to assert in the source characterization statement that Steele’s prior reporting had been “corroborated and used in criminal proceedings”; 
  15. Omitted Papadopoulos’s statements to an FBI CHS in late October 2016 (after the first application was filed) denying that the Trump campaign was involved in the circumstances of the DNC email hack; 
  16. Omitted Joseph Mifsud’s denials to the FBI that he supplied Papadopoulos with the information Papadopoulos shared with the FFG (suggesting that the campaign received an offer or suggestion of assistance from Russia) ; 494 and 
  17. Omitted evidence indicating that Page played no role in the Republican platform change on Russia’s annexation of Ukraine as alleged in Steele Report 95, which was inconsistent with a factual assertion relied upon to support probable cause in all four FISA applications.

With this fundamental understanding of the IG Report findings let’s review and compare the Devin Nunes and Adam Schiff memos on the surveillance abuses by the FBI to see who was right and who was wrong. At the time both Nunes and Schiff were members of the House Intelligence Committee, they both saw the same classified documents and evidence of the FBI surveillance procedures but had diametrically opposite conclusions. 

On January 18, 2018 Devin Nunes released this memo that discussed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses at the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The purpose of this memo was to explain to the public and raise concerns about the “legitimacy and legality of certain DOJ and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and to represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process.” There are five main points to his memo:

1.The Steele dossier was compiled and paid for by the DNC and the Clinton Foundation to obtain derogatory information on Donald Trump’s ties to Russia and although senior DOJ and FBI officials knew this information they never notified the FISA Court (FISC) when applying for the FISA applications. 

2. The first FISA application was based on “evidence” that was derived from a September 2016 Yahoo news story which in reality the information for this particular story was provided by Christopher Steele himself (circular reporting). Also, Steele was suspended then fired as an FBI informant for disclosing his relationship with the FBI in an October 2016 Mother Jones article. 

3. The FBI files shows Steele was politicially biased and not only anti-Trump but had admitted to Brue Ohr that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president.” In addition during this same time period, Bruce Ohr’s wife was employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump. Yet this conflict of interest information was never presented to the FISC. 

4. After Steele was terminated, a source validation report conducted by an independent unit within FBI assessed Steele’s reporting as only minimally corroborated. Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.

5. The Page FISA application also mentions information regarding fellow Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, but there is no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos. In addition the Strzok/Lisa Page text messages show a clear bias against Trump and in favor of Clinton and also reflects extensive discussions about the investigation, orchestrating leaks to the media, and include a meeting with Deputy Director McCabe to discuss an “insurance” policy against President Trump’s election.

On January 29, 2018 Adam Schiff responded with a 10-page memo to “correct the record” you can read it here. He claims the following:

  • “FBI and DOJ officials did not ‘abuse’ the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Campaign”
  • Christopher Steele’s dossier was not the reason why they started the FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016
  • DOJ’s applications for the first and subsequent renewal applications did not otherwise rely on Steele’s reporting, including any salacious allegations about Trump, and the FBI never paid Steele for this reporting. Explaining why the FBI viewed Steele’s reporting and sources as reliable and credible, DOJ as disclosed:
  • Steele’s prior relationship with the FBI
  • The fact of and reason for his termination as a source and
  • The assessed political motivation of those who hired him
  • The Devin Nunes memo was profoundly misleading


Adam Schiff goes on to explain the DOJ FISA application and renewal process and claims:

  • FISA was not used to spy on Trump or his campaign
  • The investigation and first FISA application for Carter Page was justified because the “DOJ had enough compelling and probable cause to believe Page was knowingly assisting clandestine Russian intelligence activities in the U.S.”
  • In subsequent FISA renewals, DOJ provided additional information obtained through multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting
  • The FISA renewals demonstrate that the FBI collected important investigative information and leads by conducting Court-approved surveillance


When discussing the DOJ’s transparency with Christopher Steele, Schiff claims:

  • Far from “omitting” material facts about Steele, as the Majority (Nunes) claims, DOJ repeatedly informed the Court about Steele’s background, credibility, and potential bias. The DOJ was transparent with Court about Steele’s sourcing.
  • DOJ in fact informed the Court accurately and Steele was hired by politically-motivated U.S. persons and entities that his research appeared intended for use “to discredit” Trump’s campaign
  • DOJ explained the FBI’s reasonable basis for find Steele credible
  • The FBI properly notified the FISC after it terminated Steele as a source for making unauthorized disclosures to the media
  • DOJ never paid Steele for the dossier
  • DOJ appropriately provided the Court with a comprehensive explanation of Russian election interference, including evidence that Russia courted another Trump campaign advisor, Papadopoulos, and that Russian agents previewed their hack and dissemination of stolen emails
  • In its Court filings, DOJ made proper use of news coverage
  • The Majority’s reference to Bruce Ohr is misleading.
  • Finally, Peter Strzok’s and Lisa Page’s text messages are irrelevant to the FISA application


Now that you have reviewed highlights of the IG report and compared it to Devin Nunes & Adam Schiff memos, who was telling the truth and who was misleading? 

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