FBI and Justice Department officials who prepared an application for surveillance on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, did not disclose the relationship between the opposition research dossier used as a basis for that request, and the Hillary Clinton campaign, according to a controversial Republican-authored memo.
Justice Department officials never told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that the dossier was funded by Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee when applying for a warrant to spy on Page, despite knowing about the dossier's political nature, the memo said.
"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," the memo said.
Republicans have long accused the FBI of relying on the dossier to open an investigation into alleged collusion between Russians and the Trump campaign. But the memo, written and released by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., disputed that contention and said the original counterintelligence investigation was triggered independently by a conversation between George Papadopoulos, another former Trump campaign adviser, and an Australian diplomat.
However, the memo accused the FBI and Justice Department of relying almost exclusively on the dossier to obtain and renew surveillance warrants on Page.
Some of the information the Justice Department "extensively" used to corroborate the dossier, according to the memo, came from a single news article that itself was based entirely on the dossier. The news article, however, was presented to a judge as independent verification of the dossier. Christopher Steele, the former British spy who received $160,000 from Democrats to write the dossier, has since admitted that he provided the information to the news outlet whose article was used as a corroborating source for the dossier.
"This article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo News," it said.
House Intelligence Committee Republicans said in their memo that Steele should not have been used as a credible informant for the FBI in its quest to spy on Page in part because of his known relationship to Clinton and in part because he harbored open anti-Trump bias.
According to the memo, Steele told Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, that he "was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected."
The role of the Steele dossier in starting or deepening the Russia investigation has remained a central question surrounding the politicized probe.
Former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who was forced out of his role at the bureau this month due to an unrelated allegation, told the House Intelligence Committee in December that "no surveillance warrant would have been sought" on Page "without the Steele dossier information."
The FBI has said the Republican memo omits information that would change the document's main contentions. Democrats have accused Republicans of twisting the underlying intelligence in order to paint a picture of a corrupt FBI.