House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said on Friday that the Republican memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses was justified because "I have an obligation to the American people when we see FISA abuse" — denying that he coordinated its release with President Donald Trump or his private attorneys.
"These are secret courts that exist to target foreigners to catch terrorists," Nunes, the California Republican, told Bret Baier on Fox News, referring to the courts established under the federal Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
"The American citizens that are represented before this court have to be protected.
"The only place that can protect them is the U.S. Congress when abuses occur," Nunes continued. "It's not a place we wanted to go, but it's where we had to go."
Committee Republicans released the four-page document Friday without redactions after President Trump gave his approval.
It alleged that the FISA warrant obtained by the FBI to investigate former Trump campaign aide Carter Page was based on an unsubstantiated dossier of negative information on the Republican presidential candidate.
The dossier was paid, in part, by the campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton — and this information was never disclosed in the application for the FISA warrant, according to the memo.
"Yes, the largest percentage of the entire application has to do with the dossier — and then the news story to corroborate the dossier."
Nunes was referring to a Yahoo News story on Page's trip to Moscow in 2016 written by Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence agent who was hired to create the dossier.
"The dossier was presented to the court as if it was true," he added. "The court was not told that the Democrats paid for this."
Nunes beat back attacks by Democrats on several fronts — including whether he actually wrote the memo, viewed the actual FISA warrant documents and whether he coordinated its release with the president.
The chairman said he, House Oversight Committee chief Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and two Intelligence Committee investigators wrote the document.
He told Baier that he never read that FISA data. He chose Gowdy, who's retiring from the House at the end of the year, and the investigators.
"The agreement we made with the Department of Justice was to create a reading room and allow one member and two investigators to review the documents," Nunes said.
"They would come back with their notes and brief the rest of the committee members."
Nunes then denied any coordination of the document's release with the president or his lawyers.
"No," he told Baier. "In fact, we opened up the investigation into the Department of Justice and the FBI for FISA abuse and other matters last summer."
Nunes also slammed another key Democratic criticism: That Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, who resigned on Monday, had never testified to the House panel in 2016 that the FISA warrant would not have been obtained without the Steele dossier.
"That's definitely what he said," Nunes told Baier. "Other witnesses said similar things.
"The main things used to go out and get this warrant was the dossier and the story that corroborated the dossier."
He called McCabe's House testimony "pretty damning," adding that "I would not mind" including it in the memo but would have required an extensive process to make them public.
The Intelligence Committee would vote to release the Democratic response of the FISA memo, Nunes said, after it has "gone through the same process" and their own document.
He could not give a timeline.
"Let's not forget, these are the same Democrats who never wanted to start an investigation," Nunes told Baier. "They belonged our subpoenas back in August.
"They tried to block our ability to go and get the records from Fusion GPS [the firm that initially hired Steele] that led to a lot of discoveries in this investigation.
"These are not honest actors," he added. "They know they are not being honest."
Turing his attention to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whom President Trump has attacked in the days leading up to the memo's release, Nunes said that "I personally like Rod Rosenstein.
"The bottom line is Mr. Rosenstein and Attorney General [Jeff] sessions and [FBI] Director [Christopher] Wray have work to do.
"First, you have to admit you have a problem," he continued. "They have been unwilling to do that."
He declined to say whether President Trump should fire Rosenstein — "that's not my decision" — and said that Democrats and the media have linked the FISA memo to the Mueller investigation to "perpetuate this nonsense of obstruction of justice."
"They know there was no collusion," he said. "I have been saying this for a year now.
"There was no evidence of collusion."
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