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Democratic rebuttal to GOP FISA memo sparks reactions from politicians

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The House Intelligence Committee on Saturday released a long-anticipated Democratic rebuttal that attempts to dismantle claims made in a GOP memo alleging the government used improper surveillance tactics during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The rebuttal claims that officials at the FBI and Justice Department “did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign.”

The Democratic rebuttal backed the FBI and DOJ in its pursuit of the FISA warrant, saying that the agencies “would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.”

They added that the DOJ met the “rigor, transparency, and evidentiary basis” needed to meet FISA’s probable cause requirement.

The GOP memo, released in early February, asserted that the FBI and DOJ relied on a Democrat-funded anti-Trump dossier to ask the FISA court for a warrant to monitor Page, a one-time adviser to President Donald Trump. They also claimed that the agencies left out the DNC’s funding of the dossier and the anti-Trump motivations of author Christopher Steele, a onetime British spy, in its request for a warrant.

The Democratic memo was voted out of committee earlier this month but a redrafting was ordered after the White House demanded that sensitive information be stripped out before the document be made public. The Justice Department and FBI claimed the initial draft would reveal information about sources and methods, ongoing investigations and other sensitive information.

President Trump tweeted following the rebuttal memo’s release, calling it “a total political and legal BUST.”

He added: “Dem Memo: FBI did no disclose who the client were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”

Here are some other reactions to the memo:

White House

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders calls the rebuttal a “politically driven document” which “fails to answer serious concerns raised by the Majority’s memorandum about the use of partisan opposition research from one candidate, loaded with uncorroborated allegations, as a basis to ask a court to approve surveillance of a former associate of another candidate, at the height of a presidential campaign.”

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.

Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, who spearheaded the rebuttal’s release, said it should “put to rest” any concerns about conduct by the intelligence agencies. Along with a copy of the memo, he tweeted Saturday: “Some time ago, Republicans on our committee released a declassified memo that omitted and distorted key facts in order to mislead the public and impugn the integrity of the FBI. We can now tell you what they left out.”

In a follow-up tweet, Schiff responded to Trump’s comment about the memo confirming “all of the terrible things that were done.”

“Wrong again, Mr. President,” Schiff said. “It confirms the FBI acted appropriately and that Russian agents approached two of your advisors, and informed your campaign that Russia was prepared to help you by disseminating stolen Clinton emails.”

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, D-Calif., who spearheaded the release of the GOP memo, said in a statement that Americans “now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt pair for the by Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party.”

“Furthermore, the FISA court was misled about Mr. Page’s past interactions with the FBI in which he helped build a case against Russian operatives in America who were brought to justice,” Nunes said. “It defies belief that the Department of Justice and the FBI failed to provide information to a secret court that they had provided to an open federal court regarding their past interactions with Mr. Page.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., tweeted that “the Schiff memo is a well-considered rebuttal to the misinformation in the Nunes memo,” which she added, “shouldn’t have seen the light of day.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Democratic memo indicated “that Chairman Nunes cherry-picked and distorted information from sensitive inteligence to sow discord and undermine” the FBI. 

“By initially delaying the release of hte memo, the president purposefully silenced any Democratic rebuttal to the fabricated conspiracy theories pushed by Chairman Nunes,” he added. “Obviously, there is something the president is afraid of.”

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in a statement said the Democratic response “helps set the record straight on Republicans’ attempts to obstruct the investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.”

She added that it was “imperative” for lawmakers on the other side of the aisle to “end their political charades” and said Congress needed to “take real action to investigate the Russian attacks on our democracy.”

Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA

Sen. Mark Warner, D-VA, called the FBI’s actions “fully appropriate and entirely lawful” and said it was “deeply unfortunate that House Republicans decided to the release classified information in order to mislead the American people for partisan political purposes.”

“Now that the Nunes memo has been thoroughly debunked, the White House and its allies in Congress must put a stop to the dangerous partisan sideshows that jeopardize classified sources and methods and focus on Russia’s unprecedented interference in our election.”

Fox News’ Adam Shaw, Madeline Farber and Kaitlyn Scallhorn contributed to this report.



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Florida asks Supreme Court to let cruise ships sail again

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WASHINGTON — Florida urged the Supreme Court on Friday to block federal Covid restrictions that have vastly cut back the number of cruise ships operating from the state’s ports.

In an emergency appeal, the state said restrictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control have made it very difficult for the industry to get going again, after it was shut down for nearly 16 months.

Federal rules now allow ships to board passengers if cruise lines meet such requirements as setting up Covid testing labs, running test voyages, maintaining social distancing, and establishing onshore housing for quarantining passengers.

The federal government said the rules were necessary with the United States in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that included several deadly outbreaks clustered on cruise ships. “These experiences demonstrated that cruise ships are uniquely suited to spread COVID-19, likely due to their close quarters for passengers and crew for prolonged periods.”

Now is not the time to put the rules on hold, the Justice Department argued, as the government works with the industry to get it going again — noting that the cruise industry did not join Florida’s lawsuit.

But the rules allow only a fraction of the normal number of ships to sail, the state said.

“The CDC’s order is manifestly beyond its authority,” Florida said. The federal law giving the CDC power to enact traditional quarantine measures “does not permit the agency to remake the entire cruise ship industry.”

The state said the restrictions have cost Florida tens of millions of dollars in lost tax and port revenue and required it to meet the additional expensive of paying unemployment benefits to cruise industry employees.

In June a federal court agreed with the state and blocked the CDC restrictions. U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday of Tampa, Florida, said the effort to impose the rules was “breathtaking, unprecedented, and acutely and singularly authoritarian.” He said he wondered whether the CDC would have argued that it could ban intercourse to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, put Merryday’s order on hold. Florida’s emergency motion asked the Supreme Court to lift that hold and allow the judge’s ruling to take effect.



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'This won't end well' Meghan and Harry warned of US backlash as Sussexes go against Queen

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PRINCE Harry and Meghan Markle cannot hope to win in a popularity contest against the Queen, even among Americans, a former MP who is now based in the US has said.

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Tom Barrack, former Trump inaugural chair, released on $250 million bond

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Former Trump inaugural committee chair Tom Barrack on Friday was released from federal lockup in California on a $250 million bond ahead of his scheduled arraignment in New York on charges he acted as an agent of the United Arab Emirates and obstructed justice.

As part of the terms of his release, Barrack, 74, is subject to electronic monitoring and will have to foot the bill for his GPS ankle bracelet, Judge Patricia Donahue ordered, signing off on an agreement that had been worked out between the government and Barrack’s attorneys.

Barrack, a private equity investor and founder of the investment firm Colony Capital, also had to surrender his passports and is barred from transferring funds overseas, the judge said. He cannot trade any securities without written permission from federal prosecutors and is not allowed to transfer more than $50,000 except for attorneys fees.

He’s scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn, New York on Monday. His spokesman said earlier this week that Barrack “is not guilty and will be pleading not guilty.”

A longtime friend of former President Donald Trump, Barrack had been behind bars since his arrest Tuesday on charges that he and two co-defendants were “acting and conspiring to act as agents” of the UAE between April 2016 and April 2018, but without registering as foreign agents.

Prosecutors said Barrack and the others acted “to advance the interests of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the United States at the direction of senior UAE officials by influencing the foreign policy positions of the campaign of a candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and, subsequently, the foreign policy positions of the U.S. government in the incoming administration.”

Barrack was also charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements to federal law enforcement agents.



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