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Why are Congress, President Trump, the DOJ and the FBI fighting about the Nunes memo?

The controversial memo could be released on Friday, but what's in it?
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Update Noon: The memo has been released, you can find it here.

Original story

The dumpster fire that is Washington D.C. is burning with greater intensity today as players on various sides argue about the "Nunes memo."

President Donald Trump is not expected to block the release of the four-page document compiled by the House Intelligence Committee under the leadership of chairman Devin Nunes (R-California).

It's claimed to allege that the FBI abused its authority when applying for a secret court order to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page as part of the wider investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

You might have come across talk about the memo in recent weeks, but here's a primer if you're new to the topic.

What's in the memo?

Republicans in Washington who've seen it claim it shows the FBI and the DOJ used the controversial "Steele dossier" to obtain a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant (FISA) to surveil a member of the Trump campaign.

As the Washington Post reports, the "Steele dossier" was a piece of intelligence conducted into Russian links with the Trump campaign that was funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.

While some of the information in the dossier have been proven to be true, as Newsweek lays out, some of it is also unverified. This has led Republicans and President Trump accuse the FBI and DOJ of pursuing an anti-Trump agenda and using dodgy information to fuel the Russia investigation.

As VOX reports, a second part of the memo focuses on the decision to re-authorize surveillance on Page. The FISA was approved by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – the man currently overseeing the Robert Mueller investigation into Russian interference (after AG Jeff Sessions recused himself).

Earlier this week, the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee voted to release the memo, and Trump is not expected to use his executive powers to block its release.

Why is the FBI not happy?

Because FISA warrants are typically 50-60 pages long, according to Quartz, and any information from the Steele dossier used in the FBI application is only likely to be a small part of a larger body of evidence it submitted to the court.

This has led the FBI to express concern that Nunes has cherrypicked information for his 4-page memo.

It released a rare public statement earlier this week, saying it has "grave concerns" that the Nunes memo contains "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy.

What are Republicans saying?

Nunes issued a statement on Wednesday criticizing the FBI and DOJ for objecting to the memo's release, citing transparency as the reason it needs to be released.

"It’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign," he said. 

"Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again."

Trump meanwhile has had his say on Twitter Friday morning.

Republicans in the House, meanwhile, including Speaker Paul Ryan, want the memo release as it shows alleged surveillance abuses by the FBI.

What are critics saying?

As CNN reports, critics claim it's a coordinated attempt by Trump and his allies in Congress (of whom Nunes is one of his biggest) to undermine and malign Mueller's Russian probe, which could implicate several prominent current and former members of the Trump campaign and administration.

Democrats also believe the information used by Nunes was cherrypicked, with Democratic House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff accusing Nunes of altering the memo from what the committee approved.

Even a couple of Republicans are against its release. Sen. Jeff Flake told The Hill it could undermine the FBI's intelligence efforts and politicize Congress' oversight role.

Another major concern among critics is that the release of the memo could be used as a pretext to fire Rod Rosenstein, who could have a crucial role to play should the Mueller investigation lead to any criminal charges against Trump campaign members.

As Vox reports, Trump can't fire Mueller without Rosenstein's say-so, and with Rosenstein previously saying there's no "good cause" to fire the special counsel, replacing the Deputy AG could give the president an opportunity to remove the special counsel investigating him.

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