Rep. Devin Nunes’ just-released surveillance memo claims that one of its central points about surveillance abuse at the FBI was affirmed by a senior FBI official. But two knowledgeable sources say the memo fundamentally mischaracterizes the official’s still-secret testimony.
Andrew McCabe, a frequent Donald Trump target, announced this week that he has relinquished his duties as deputy FBI director, accelerating his timetable for departure. The White House says Trump played no role in McCabe’s decision, though Trump’s son has tweeted that McCabe was fired.
The memo, released on Friday against FBI objections and with Trump’s approval, makes a particular claim against McCabe. In its attempt to claim that ex-British spy Christopher Steele’s salacious dossier played a central role in the surveillance of Trump aides—a claim the memo’s own admissions undermine—the memo claims that McCabe told the House intelligence committee that Steele was a pillar of information for a surveillance warrant application.
“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,” the memo claims, referring to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Asked if that was a true representation, a source familiar with McCabe’s testimony responded: “100% not.”
A senior Democratic House intelligence committee official agreed.
“The Majority purposefully mischaracterizes both what is actually contained in the FISA applications and the testimony of former FBI Deputy McCabe before our committee in December 2017—the Minority’s memo lays out the full facts,” the official said.
The Democratic minority memo remains classified. Democrats lost an internal committee vote on Monday to declassify it, prompting ranking Democrat Adam Schiff to blast committee Republicans for hypocrisy in citing the need for transparency as motivating release of the Nunes memo.
The FBI declined comment on McCabe’s testimony.
The bureau on Wednesday attacked the memo as fundamentally misleading, saying Nunes’ document reflected “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” After the memo’s release, the FBI said its criticism stands.
McCabe became a GOP target owing to his wife’s unsuccessful bid as a Democrat for Virginia state senate in 2015. She received money from close Hillary Clinton ally Terry McAuliffe, then Virginia’s governor. McCabe, according to FBI documents, took steps to minimize conflicts of interest when he later came to oversee the Clinton email server probe. It was reported this week that McCabe’s departure was partially prompted by criticisms contained within an unreleased Justice Department inspector general’s probe of the FBI’s Clinton investigation.
Representatives for Nunes and Mike Conaway, the top Republican on the committee’s Russia probe before which McCabe testified, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.