House Intelligence Democrats said in their statement that the Russia investigation “did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier,” adding that “the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.”
The Nunes memo itself appears to corroborate this, stating that information the FBI acquired about George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, in late July 2016 “triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation” by former FBI agent Peter Strzok.
“The DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia’s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents courted another Trump campaign foreign adviser, George Papadopoulos,” the minority said.
“As we know from Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Russian agents disclosed to Papadopoulos their possession of stolen Clinton emails and interest in a relationship with the campaign.”
The president appeared defiant on Friday morning, accusing Justice Department and FBI leaders of politicizing “the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans.”
“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans - something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” he wrote. “Rank & File are great people!”
A joint letter from the House and Senate Democratic leadership on Friday called the memo’s release “a transparent attempt to discredit the hard-working men and women of law enforcement who are investigating Russia’s interference with our Presidential election and that nation’s ties to your campaign.” They added that they would regard firing Rosenstein as “an attempt to obstruct justice.”
Trump has been telling his friends and allies that the memo would undermine the Mueller investigation, CNN reported.
The dispute over the memo escalated sharply on Wednesday, when the FBI released a rare public statement condemning the Republicans’ efforts to make the memo public.
“The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the bureau said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Tensions grew further when Schiff published a letter on Wednesday night claiming that the memo the House voted on Monday to release was not the same document that Nunes had given to the White House.
Schiff claimed in the letter that Nunes had made material changes to the document that Democrats had not been given a chance to review. Pushing back, Nunes said the only changes that had been made were cosmetic and included two edits that were requested by the FBI and by the Democrats.
Democrats denied that—Representative Eric Swalwell, who sits on the intelligence committee, told me it was ridiculous to think that the Democrats had requested changes to a document they didn’t even want released in the first place. The DOJ declined to comment.