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Democrats defend memo, FBI, Justice Department

February 25, 2018 GMT

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee continue arguing that a disputed surveillance warrant for a former Trump campaign associate in 2016 was not based only on the so-called anti-Trump Steele dossier.

“Carter Page [the aide] was of interest for his connections to the Russians for years before October 2016,” Rep. Jim Himes said on “Fox News Sunday. “He had all sorts of contact.”

That same argument surfaced Saturday night after the public release of a heavily redacted memo drafted by House Intelligence Committee Democrats to rebut a GOP memo the panel published earlier this month.

Partisan battle over the dueling memos has been especially intense. The GOP argues that the Justice Department and FBI improperly spied on Mr. Page during the presidential election by using the unverified, Democratic Party-funded anti-Trump dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele as justification for surveillance.

Democrats, who based their memo on the same classified material, say their document provides important context especially that the FBI had opened a counterinvestigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia even before it obtained the dossier.

On Sunday, Mr. Himes, a committee member, also pushed back against GOP claims that the FBI and DOJ were biased against the Trump campaign He noted that former FBI Director James Comey made multiple public statements about the bureau’s probe into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton which appeared to negatively impact her chances to win the 2016 race.

“If there was any bias within FBI and DOJ they had a very weird way of showing it during the campaign itself,” Mr. Himes said.

He also on disagreed with GOP claims that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe testified to the committee that the FBI wouldn’t have sought the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant against Mr. Page without the Steele dossier.

“I was in the room,” the Connecticut Democrat said. ”[Committee chairman] Devin Nunes was not in the room when Andrew McCabe was interviewed, and I will tell you that he did not say that. He did not say that a FISA warrant would not have been requested but for the Steele information.”

Late Saturday, Mr. Trump called into “Justice with Judge Jeanine” on Fox News and told host Jeanine Pirro, that the Democrats’ rebuttal memo “was nothing.”