WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines this week to release a classified memo that those who’ve read it say shows anti-Trump bias by the FBI and the Justice Department in seeking a warrant to conduct an intelligence eavesdropping operation. The memo reportedly casts former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe as part of an FBI effort using the FISA surveillance law to undermine newly elected President Donald Trump.
Fox News reports that FBI Director Christopher Wray read the memo on Sunday, the day before McCabe announced he would take “terminal leave,” which means he has accrued enough leave to depart his post now but not officially retire until March with full benefits.
The memo was commissioned by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee’s Republican chairman, who says the memo shows that the FBI and the Justice Department abused their authority in asking a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge to approve a request to extend an eavesdropping operation on Carter Page, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The memo charges that the FBI and the Justice Department based the request on a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired to dig up negative information on Trump by a research firm partially financed by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, a source close to the committee said. McCabe was at the center of developments in the subsequent investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into allegations of Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
Adding to the criticism of McCabe, his wife, Dr. Barbara Jill McCabe, ran for Virginia state senate in 2016 and accepted a $500,000 campaign donation from a PAC run by Clinton ally, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Dr. McCabe lost the election, and according to campaign finance reports filed with the state of Virginia, donated the balance of her campaign account to charity. However, it is permissible in Virginia for a candidate to keep the balance of the account for personal expenses.
Lawmakers who’ve read the memo called for transparency and its public release. Monday’s House vote gives Trump five days to release the memo to the public, including possibly reading it into the congressional record, but if he does not act it becomes public automatically. The House committee also agreed to give all House members time to read another memo produced by Democrats countering the Republican report.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) argued that the Democrats’ memo should go public without House members reading it first, calling it “a sad day” for the intelligence committee.
“Today this committee voted to put the president’s personal interest, perhaps their own political interests, above the national interest,” Schiff said.
The memo’s release and McCabe’s resignation come amid a congressional investigation that recently found the FBI “lost” five months-worth of texts between two staffers, one of whom worked directly for McCabe. The staffers exchanged thousands of anti-Trump comments alluding to a “secret society” within the bureau, should Trump win the White House.
“I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s office — that there’s no way [Trump] gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk,” agent Peter Strzok wrote to FBI lawyer Lisa Page, who wrote that they needed an insurance policy against Trump.
Asked about McCabe’s departure, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters, “I can tell you the president wasn’t part of this decision-making process.” Sanders also said Trump continues to have “full confidence” in Wray, the current FBI director.