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Meanwhile, a judge has denied the release of Comey’s own classified memos.
Former FBI Director James Comey publicly slammed the “dishonest and misleading memo” released by House Republicans on Friday, after it was finally declassified by President Donald Trump amid objections, asking his Twitter followers: “That’s it?”
The memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had been hyped by several House Republicans, conservative media, and far-right conspiracy theorists as proof of surveillance abuses committed by the FBI and Obama-era Department of Justice against the Trump campaign and pushed to have it released.
That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 2, 2018
“Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs,” Comey wrote.
Now available to the public, the memo alleges that in the initial stages of the investigation the FBI and DOJ used information from the unsubstantiated and controversial dossier, compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, in order to obtain surveillance warrants against former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Some on the right have since claimed that the memo illustrates a bias in ongoing investigation led by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. For one GOP lawmaker, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), the FBI’s surveillance of Page “constitutes treason” and promised in a statement to write a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and request a “criminal prosecution against these traitors to our nation.”
My full statement on the declassified memo: pic.twitter.com/eRo6ugpWQ9
— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) February 2, 2018
In his Friday tweet, however, Comey muses that the document offers nothing by way of the proof it purported to and reflects that, instead, it’s release only served to damage the public’s trust in the intelligence community. He urges those leading the federal investigations to “keep doing their jobs.”
The tweet is only the latest in a series published this week by Comey weighing in on the overhyped memo, which had been at the center of nearly all political debate in the past week. On Thursday, as reports of his former agency’s opposition to the then-potential declassification broke, the former FBI head told Americans to take “take heart” saying that “weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up.”
All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 1, 2018
Democrat and Republican lawmakers, alongside the FBI, had lobbied the White House to stop the release saying that it was “rife with factual inaccuracies”—namely Nunes’ interpretation of other classified documents.
Meanwhile, a legal campaign by several major news organizations to have Comey’s own memos about his conversations with Trump released to the public ended, after a judge for the District of Columbia Circuit Court denied the case. The DOJ had argued against their release, saying that it would interfere with Mueller’s investigation.
The campaign to sue the FBI for access to the memos started after Freedom of Information Act requests attempting to obtain them were repeatedly denied.
Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017, officially over his handling of a 2016 FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Trump, however, had previously been vocally supportive of Comey’s handling of the Clinton probe and political opponents believe that the former FBI director was dismissed for his refusal to drop the Russia investigation—which they claim is obstruction of justice.
David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.