The House Intelligence Committee, investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, fell into further partisan divide after the release of a memo that alleged federal surveillance abuses in the spying of a Trump campaign associate.
The memo, released by Republicans on the committee, detailed purported improper surveillance by FBI and Justice Department officials to spy on Carter Page, a foreign adviser for Donald Trump before he became president.
Democrats have assailed the memo, saying it was selectively edited and incomplete and pushes a Republican narrative that the Russia probe is biased against the president. They have submitted their own memo to the White House and hope to have it declassified and released as well.
As the memo clash continues, here are the names you should know.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, serving in that role since 2015.
Nunes, 44, was one of the authors of the GOP memo released last week that detailed the alleged surveillance abuses. He told Fox News that he had an “obligation to the American people” to make public FISA abuses.
“I think the American people understand that the FBI should not go to secret courts using information that was paid for by the Democrats to open up investigations, get warrants on people of the other political party. That’s the type of stuff that happens in banana republics,” Nunes said.
Before the memo was released, Congress voted to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA. While that particular section wasn’t used to obtain the warrant detailed in the memo, lawmakers have still pointed to it as a “dangerous” example of how FISA can lead to violations against Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Nunes voted to reauthorize that section earlier this year.
Trump has said Nunes “may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure.”
As the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has come out swinging at the GOP’s memo, calling it “misleading.”
Schiff, 57, and other Democrats on the committee have created their own rebuttal memo, which is under review by the White House. Should Trump choose to release it, Schiff said it will “help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies in the majority memo.”
Of the GOP memo, Schiff said, “The goal here is to undermine the FBI, discredit the FBI, discredit the Mueller investigation, do the president’s bidding.”
Schiff is a former assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute the first FBI agent to be convicted of espionage for leaking secret documents to the Soviets.
Trump has lambasted the lawmaker, whom he called “Little Adam Schiff,” claiming that he is “desperate for higher office” and “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington.”
Schiff, hitting back, criticized Trump for his penchant for tweeting.
At the heart of the GOP memo’s surveillance abuse claims is the now-infamous dossier compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele.
The memo alleged that the dossier was key to the FBI’s FISA warrant in targeting Page. It also said the political origins of the dossier were not disclosed to the FISA court in the application or renewal process – something critics of the memo have denied.
Steele was hired by political firm Fusion GPS to compile opposition research on Trump, leading to the colorful but unverified dossier. The Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton hired Fusion GPS through law firm Perkins Coie.
However, Clinton reportedly was unaware of the dossier until BuzzFeed News published it in January 2017.
Prior to the dossier dustup, Steele was an intelligence officer with Britain’s MI6 agency, serving in various countries, including Russia and France. Eventually he co-founded Orbis Business Intelligence, an intelligence consulting agency.
FBI and Justice Department officials were able to obtain a FISA surveillance warrant on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, due to the controversial dossier, according to the GOP memo.
Page served as a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, although White House officials have sought to downplay the role he played. He was only with the campaign for a few months.
He told Fox News that he “became a liability pretty quick” for the campaign because of his Russian connections.
Page spent several years in Moscow, where he opened a Merrill Lynch office, according to the biography on the company’s website. He bragged in a 2013 letter that he was an “informal adviser” to the Kremlin, Time reported.
And Russian intelligence agents once unsuccessfully tried to recruit Page as a spy in 2013, Foreign Policy has reported.
Page has told Fox News that he did “nothing that could even possibly be viewed in helping [Russians] in any way.”
Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley sent a criminal referral in early January for Steele, which was recently released. The pair’s referral appears to support some of the claims made in the GOP memo.
In their criminal referral, Graham and Grassley said the surveillance applications “relied heavily on Mr. Steele’s dossier claims.” They also said the applications “failed to disclose that the identities of Mr. Simpson’s ultimate clients were the Clinton campaign and the DNC.”
Grassley, the 84-year-old who represents Iowa, is the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman. Graham is a member of the committee as well.
“The American people now have some context for what they have been reading in the press for months, including some of which served as the basis of the criminal referral of Mr. Steele made by Senator Grassley and me,” Graham, from South Carolina, said in a statement. “Through my service on the Senate Judiciary Committee, I have been investigating this matter for months, and will continue to do so.”
Graham, 62, also said he “expected” the Democrats’ response to “likely provide further context.”
He said the GOP memo shouldn’t undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian misconduct in the election.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.