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Republicans charge bias, legal ‘breakdown’ in contentious memo on Russia probe

The so-called Nunes memo, written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, charges that the FBI and DOJ got permission to spy on a former campaign adviser based on flawed sources that were biased against then-candidate Donald Trump -- and that the agencies hid it. Democrats say the memo is misleading, and are working to clear the release of a separate document. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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    Tonight's other major story is the release of a highly contentious congressional memo on the Russia investigation. It is named for Congressman Devin Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee, and Republicans say that it shows abuses and bias.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage of that.


    President Trump personally announced the decision to release the Nunes memo.


    The memo was sent to Congress. It was declassified. Congress will do whatever they're going to do. But I think it's a disgrace, what's happening in our country. And when you look at that, and you see that and so many other things, what is going on, a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves, and much worse than that.


    The memo, written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, begins with some stunning language. It speaks of concerns with the legitimacy and legality of how the Department of Justice and FBI have worked with the FISA, or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and says, "There is a troubling breakdown of legal processes."

    What is that based on? The memo centers on secret surveillance of Carter Page, an adviser to then candidate Donald Trump for some six months in 2016. Republicans charge that the FBI and DOJ, including top officials James Comey, Rod Rosenstein and Andrew McCabe, got permission to spy on Page based on flawed sources that were biased against Trump, and that the agencies knew that and hid it.

    Specifically, the memo says that officials didn't disclose that the Trump opposition research dossier put together by Christopher Steele was funded at one point by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

    Another charge, that Christopher Steele himself was biased, telling a Justice official in September of 2016 he was — quote — "desperate" that Donald Trump not be elected. One more, that the Justice official he told, a man named Bruce Ohr, himself had conflicts, that his wife worked for the company behind the dossier.

    This all matters far beyond Carter Page, because Republicans say this information sparked the much wider Russia investigation by the FBI, now led by special counsel Robert Mueller. Some are using that to question that investigation.

    Democrats say that is the real and political objective here, to undermine Mueller's investigation.

    President Trump was asked today if he is now more likely to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man overseeing the Russia investigation.


    You figure that one out.


    Meanwhile, Democrats argued the Republican memo is wholly misleading.

    For example, it shows the date of the surveillance request, October 21, 2016, but that was nearly a month after the Trump campaign had said Carter Page was no longer with them.

    Another example — Democrats insist the Steele dossier was only one factor in the surveillance, and Republicans have left out the others.

    The FBI said today it takes its obligations in this area very seriously, and that it was given only a limited opportunity to respond to this material.

    What's next? The ranking Democrat on House intelligence, Adam Schiff, is working to clear the release of a separate Democratic memo.


    This evening, FBI Director Christopher Wray told his employees in a letter — quote — "Talk is cheap. The work you do is what will endure."

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