While the controversial FISA memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) is being lauded as a “smoking gun” by the likes of Fox News pundit Sean Hannity, it instead confirms a report from the New York Times last year that the investigation into Russian interference in the election was triggered by George Papadopolous.
The much-hyped memo was released on Friday, and in it, Nunes alleges that the FBI and Department of Justice excluded information about the so-called Steele dossier and notes that its author, Christopher Steele, was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected.”
However, the very last item in the memo seems to undercut the argument that the dossier was an important part to starting the Russia investigation.
The memo reads:
“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. The Papadopoulos information triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 by FBI agent Pete Strzok.”
This appears to confirm a New York Times report from December that detailed how Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser for Trump’s campaign, told an Australian diplomat that Russia had political information that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton.
So Team Nunes is admitting that Papadopoulos triggered the FBI's Russia investigation — not the Steele dossier? pic.twitter.com/2A3Mf4P1Of— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) February 2, 2018
Australian officials reportedly passed information about Papadopoulos’ admission to American counterparts after Democratic National Committee emails began appearing online, sparking an FBI investigation into Russia’s election meddling and possible ties between Trump’s campaign and the country in July 2016.
The counterintelligence investigation into Papadopoulos started in July 2016, months before the FISA application was made against Page in October 2016.
The confirmation that Papadopoulos was more important to starting the Russia investigation than the dossier has not stopped conservative personalities from calling the memo evidence of an “unprecedented government abuse of power,” among other things.
4 Times!!! Honestly, what would the media be doing right now if Bush did this to Obama? Heads would roll. https://t.co/wjRAf4XJTS— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 2, 2018
Memo proves everything we've been saying. The Obama administration conspired with the Clinton campaign to abuse the power of government in an effort to to sabotage Trump's campaign.— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) February 2, 2018
The entire "Russian collusion" narrative is a hoax based on this hyper-partisan scheme. #MemoDay
However, that argument is being challenged from the other side. In a statement, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said “unlike almost every House member who voted in favor of this memo’s release, I have actually read the underlying documents on which the memo was based. They simply do not support its conclusion.”