Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray at the director’s formal installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington on Sept. 28, 2017. (FBI photo)

Wray to FBI After FISA Memo Release: ‘Keep Calm and Tackle Hard’

After unsuccessfully opposing today’s release of a House Intelligence Committee memo alleging FISA warrant abuses, FBI Director Christopher Wray assured employees that “talk is cheap” while “the work you do is what will endure.”

“The American people read the papers, and they hear lots of talk on cable TV and social media,” Wray wrote in the letter obtained by BBC. “But they see and experience the actual work you do — keeping communities safe and our nation secure, often dealing with sensitive matters and making decision under difficult circumstances. And that work will already matter more.”

“…We speak through our work. One case at a time. One intelligence product at a time. Once decision at a time.”

Wray, who assumed office at the beginning of August, added that FBI agents and staff “stay laser-focused on doing great work, even when it’s not easy, because we believe in the FBI.”

“We believe in what it stands for and in what this institution means to people,” he said. “And nothing is going to change that. We’re going to keep doing that work, because we know who and what we are, and because we know that our mission comes first. The American people come first.”

The director asked the Bureau to “keep being the great people that you are,” adding that he finds it “an incredible privilege to work beside you” and he’s “determined to defend your integrity and professionalism every day.”

“Remember: keep calm and tackle hard,” Wray concluded. “Thank you for standing strong together, and for keeping your faith in this institution that means so much to all of us.”

The House memo, which was prepared by staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), focuses on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants in the investigation of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page surrounding his interactions with Russian figures. Former FBI Director James Comey signed off on three warrants and former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe signed one, the memo says, while at the DOJ then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “each signed one or more” applications.

“In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts,” the memo alleges. “However, our findings indicate that… material and relevant information was omitted.”

The memo alleges that the FBI relied on information from the dossier prepared by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele to gain authorization to monitor Page, without telling the court about Democratic Party funding for Steele’s later work. The memo also alleges that the FBI used Steele as a FISA source after he leaked info on his Trump investigation to news organizations, and that Steele made biased comments about Trump to a former Justice Department official whose wife worked for Fusion GPS, the research firm employing Steele. These details were also omitted from FISA applications, the memo charges.

READ THE FULL HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE MEMO HERE

The document also brings up Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty Oct. 5 to “lying to federal agents about the nature and timing of his contacts” with Russians, and claims that the Page FISA application mentions Papadopoulos there is “no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos.” The memo claims that former chief of the Counterespionage Section, Peter Strzok, started the Russia investigation on the basis of Papadopoulos information and segues into Strzok text messages with Lisa Page that showed “a clear bias against Trump.”

Evidence not related to Steele submitted in the Page applications is not detailed in the GOP memo. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said they will try again Monday to get their counter-memo released, previewing its contents in a lengthy statement today charging that the memo “fails to provide vital context and information contained in DOJ’s FISA application and renewals, and ignores why and how the FBI initiated, and the Special Counsel has continued, its counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s election interference and links to the Trump campaign.”

The memo “ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture,” the Intel Dems continued. “The majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele’s potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate.”

On Thursday, when Wray was fighting to keep the memo classified, the FBI Agents Association said it “appreciates FBI Director Chris Wray standing shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the FBI as we work together to protect our country from criminal and national security threats.”

“As Director Wray noted, FBI Special Agents have remained steadfast in their dedication to professionalism, and we remain focused on our important work to protect the country from terrorists and criminals—both domestic and international,” association president Thomas O’Connor said in a statement. “Special Agents take a solemn oath to our country and to the Constitution, and the American public continues to be well-served by the world’s preeminent law enforcement agency.”

Today, O’Connor released another statement: “The men and women of the FBI put their lives on the line every day in the fight against terrorists and criminals because of their dedication to our country and the Constitution. The American people should know that they continue to be well-served by the world’s preeminent law enforcement agency. FBI Special Agents have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission.”

Former FBI Director James Comey weighed in with a tweet after the memo was released: “That’s it?”

“Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen,” Comey added. “For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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