Dems restore reputation of FBI in Russian probe

If there’s one big difference between the partisan classified memos released by the House Intelligence Committee, it’s this:

The Republican majority pulled no punches in accusing the FBI and the Justice Department of abusing their surveillance powers to monitor communications of a Trump campaign associate.

By contrast, Democrats on the committee not only rebutted the underlying premise of the GOP’s memo, but illustrated why the attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department were unfair and without foundation.

And there’s another aspect to the dueling memos from the intelligence committee that demand the attention of the American people.

While committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Republican President Donald J. Trump joined forces in releasing the GOP document without any changes, they applied a very different standard to the one prepared by the Democrats.

Trump objected to its release, citing national security concerns Feb. 9. That sent the Democrats back to negotiations with the FBI, which approved a redacted version Saturday. It was then declassified and released.

Trump voiced no such concerns about the GOP memo, which he declassified in full on Feb. 2. It is significant and noteworthy that the FBI strongly objected to the release because it contained inaccurate information.

As we noted in an editorial early last month, the Republican attack on the credibility of the nation’s top law-enforcement agencies was prompted by the president’s belief that the “deep state” – an alleged shadowy network of powerful entrenched federal and military interests – is conspiring to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency.

The ongoing investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians has angered the president.

President’s contention

It was not surprising, therefore, that he latched onto the GOP memo, saying it “totally vindicates” him in the probe.

But even Republicans on the intelligence committee who did all they could to delegitimize the Democratic memo, conceded that Trump was not vindicated.

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are of the opinion that Special Counsel Robert Mueller must be allowed to continue his investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election without hinderance.

As the Democrats in the House Intelligence Committee have persuasively shown, the FBI and Justice Department did not conspire against Trump as they investigated his ties to Russia.

Republicans are clinging to the narrative that the investigative agencies used information compiled by British spy Christopher Steele to obtain a secret warrant to monitor communications of former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

The GOP memo included the assertion that the FBI obtained a surveillance warrant without disclosing that Steele’s anti-Trump research was funded by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic memo counters that the Justice Department disclosed “the assessed political motivation of those who hired him” and that Steele was likely hired by someone “looking for information that could be used to discredit” then-candidate Trump’s campaign.

The Democratic memo asserts that the FBI’s concerns about Page long predate the compilation of memos drafted by Steele, now known as the Trump-Russia “dossier,” and that the government’s application to monitor Page’s communications details suspicious activities he undertook during the 2016 presidential campaign. That includes a July 2016 trip to Moscow in which he gave a university commencement address.

At the end of the day, the declassified information emanating from the House Intelligence Committee via the Republican and Democratic memos centers on one question: Did the FBI and the Justice Department obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court under false pretenses?

The answer is a resounding no. The agencies broke no laws nor lied on the applications.

Republicans are on a slippery slope if they continue denigrating the nation’s leading law enforcement agencies.

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