By Alana Abramson
Updated: February 2, 2018 1:00 PM ET | Originally published: February 1, 2018

After President Donald Trump told Congress to release the controversial “Nunes memo,” the House Intelligence committee released document became public on Friday.

Overseen by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the memo details allegations of bias in the FBI’s investigation into possible meddling in the 2016 election. Trump gave the blessing of release despite the strong objections of the FBI, which went so far as to express “grave concerns” about its accuracy.

“The Committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another,” Nunes said in a release accompanying the memo.

Congressional Democrats had objected as well, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for Nunes’ resignation. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have also prepared their own counter-memo, but are prohibited from releasing it.

But what exactly does the Nunes memo release mean for both the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation?

Here’s what you need to know.

What does the Nunes memo say?

The Nunes memo released on Friday includes allegations that the FBI abused its surveillance power over Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and displayed bias in its handling of the Russia investigation.

In particular, the Nunes memo argues the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by using claims in an unsubstantiated dossier about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, and failing to cite the use of the dossier in the FISA application to obtain a surveillance warrant for Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser for Trump’s campaign. The so-called Steele Dossier was compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. Steele also conducted this opposition research on President Trump for Fusion GPS, a firm retained by Marc Elias, an attorney for Hilary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The memo alleges that the FBI failed to disclose Steele was working for Fusion GPS or the firm’s founder Glenn Simpson, and that Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe—who is stepping down—said the FBI would not have sought a warrant without the Dossier.

The House Intelligence committee voted along party lines to release the memo on Monday, and it was immediately sent to Trump’s desk. The FBI issued a rare public statement on Wednesday, arguing that the Nunes memo omitted important information “that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” and that officials at the FBI were given a limited time to review it.

The controversy was only heightened after the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, claimed Thursday in a letter that Nunes and the Republicans had altered the memo before sending it to the White House and had not consulted Democrats. Schiff said the changes don’t alter the overall point of the memo, but called them “substantial.”

What does releasing the Nunes memo mean for the Russia investigation?

Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election will still continue, as will investigations being conducted by Mueller’s office and Congress.

Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent who now teaches at Yale Law School, said the biggest impact could come if the Nunes memo reveals the sources and methods used in the investigation. But she cautions that it is too hard to speculate the ultimate implications — both politically and procedurally — without knowing the actual content of the memo, and that ultimately it may just be one component of a larger story.

“It feels very big right now but I think once it’s out and it’s been sliced and diced and overanalyzed we will be on to the next thing,” she said.

 

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