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It Looks Like It's Going To Be Another Week Of Memo Madness

Feb 6, 2018
Originally published on February 6, 2018 8:14 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Another day, another memo from the House intelligence committee. You'll remember that on Friday, a memo from the committee's Republican chair, Devin Nunes, was released to the public, and it alleged that the FBI improperly used its surveillance authority. So last night, the House intelligence committee voted to declassify a secret Democratic countermemo. President Trump will decide if that should be made public, too. Here to walk us through the memos - Asha Rangappa. She's a former FBI special agent.

Asha, thanks for being with us.

ASHA RANGAPPA: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Let's start with the memo that we've seen. Republicans say that memo - the Nunes memo - proves that the FBI used unsubstantiated opposition research to secure a FISA warrant to spy on a member of the Trump campaign, thus illustrating, as they say, that the FBI is biased against President Trump. Do you think the Nunes memo showed that?

RANGAPPA: It did not show that. In fact, I believe that Nunes, at this point, has actually admitted that there was a footnote in the FISA application that did disclose that whatever material was used from the Steele dossier was funded by political operatives, so there was a disclosure that's made. But the bigger picture is that FISA applications are incredibly lengthy. They come at a stage of an investigation - so there's already an investigation open. It's called a full investigation. It's the most serious kind of investigation in the FBI. You have to have articulable facts to open one.

MARTIN: And you say facts. You have to have facts, so - which implies that they couldn't have used the Steele dossier in and of itself as a justification, as a predicate to get a FISA warrant and subsequent FISA warrants after that.

RANGAPPA: Right. So the facts - you know, you need the facts to open the full investigation, then you conduct the investigation, which will include all kinds of investigative techniques like, you know, physical surveillance. You'll get records. You might get source reporting from other places. At some point, you've built up enough probable cause to then put together a FISA application. And you will put together the evidence that you've gathered to present the probable cause that says, yes, this person is acting on behalf of a foreign power. And for a U.S. person, you actually have to show that they're doing so knowingly. But we know that Page was approached in 2013 by the FBI.

MARTIN: This is Carter Page, the man...

RANGAPPA: And Carter Page....

MARTIN: ...Targeted in this whole thing, that the FBI was looking into.

RANGAPPA: That's right. He was warned that he was being recruited by the Russian intelligence services. And, you know, if he kept on going, that would have met their knowing requirement.

MARTIN: So the White House - it's now on the White House to decide if the Democratic memo is going to be released, which Democrats say undercuts the Republican memo. What would you expect to be in that? What kind of context would you want to see?

RANGAPPA: I don't want to see it, to be quite honest with you.

MARTIN: Why?

RANGAPPA: You know, the Nunes memo was, frankly, such a train wreck. It had no valid legal claim. And I can talk to you about how judges look at bias for human sources because they encounter this all the time. Prosecutors are always getting search warrants in criminal cases. You know, they're - these FISA applications are presented quite often.

MARTIN: So you think releasing the Democratic memo would give credence to a memo you think was flawed from the get-go.

RANGAPPA: You know, the problem is that there's - you can't really clarify either one without looking at the entire underlying application, which I said would be very lengthy. And even that, you would need to then look at the whole case file. That's not going to happen.

MARTIN: We're getting piecemeal information, and we're going to have to wait to understand the full scope of the source material that these things were based on. Asha Rangappa, she's a former FBI special agent, senior lecturer at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale. Thanks for your time this morning.

RANGAPPA: Thank you. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.