The Nunes Memo: 12 Things to Know

The Nunes memo is a declassified memo alleging abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by the FBI to obtain a warrant authorizing surveillance against Carter Page, a former foreign policy advisor to President Donald Trump. The four-page memo was prepared at the direction of Rep. Devan Nunes by the Committee’s Republican staff and released with the blessing of President Trump, over the opposition of his own FBI Director, the Department of Justice, and the intelligence community. The FBI and others said that it was highly misleading and omitted material facts “that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Here are 12 quick things to know about the Nunes memo:

1. The Nunes memo is mostly things we already know, repackaged to fit neatly into the argument that the FBI is engaged in a politically motivated witch hunt.


 The Nunes memo is about the validity of the information used to obtain a FISA warrant on one, not particularly consequential, former Trump advisor named Carter Page. Page was no longer associated with the Trump campaign when the FBI applied for the FISA warrant discussed in the memo, although according to press reports, there may have been other FISA warrants on Page as far back as 2014.

3. The Memo implies that the Steele Dossier was the principal grounds for the FISA warrant. There was almost certainly a great deal more. The FBI had other evidence about Carter Page it presumably would have presented to the FISA Court as well.


Carter Page was known to FBI Counterintelligence long before his association with Donald Trump. Page had been on the FBI’s radar at least since his involvement in a 2013 investigation of a Russian spy ring in New York.


Wiretaps in the 2013 case revealed Russian intelligence officers‘ efforts to recruit Page. Page was a cooperating witness for the FBI in the case and acknowledges that he is the consultant the Russians attempted to recruit that is referred to in the criminal complaint.

“Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal advisor to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for their Presidency of the G-20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be a prominent point on the agenda,” Carter Page,  letter Aug. 25, 2013.


Page resurfaced in the Dossier as a Trump campaign go-between with the Kremlin, which Page denies. Following the memo’s release, Time reported on a 2013 letter in which Page claimed to be an advisor to the Kremlin.


 Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016. The Dossier alleges that during that trip, he secretly met with senior Kremlin officials on behalf of the Trump campaign. Page acknowledges he was in Moscow at the time and briefly spoke with deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, but not on behalf of the Trump campaign.


According to Congressional testimony by Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, the FBI also had a source in the Trump Organization. It is possible that the FBI had signals intelligence intercepts and other highly classified information that was not discussed in the memo as well. The information in the Dossier and what the FBI likely knew independently from other sources aligned in such a way that the FBI took it seriously.


The memo alleges that the FBI hid the Democrats’ links to the Dossier. It appears that this may be misleading. Recent reports suggest that the FISC was informed that the document was funded by Trump’s political opposition. However, it may not have discussed the specifics.

10. By omitting key details and misrepresenting others, the Nunes memo commits some of the same offenses of which it accuses the FBI. 


It is impossible to reconcile an FBI scheming to derail Trump with the FBI that actively tamped down Trump-Russia speculation prior to the election, reopened the Hillary email investigation and arguably secured Trump’s victory in the process. Like all good disinformation, the memo, by design, takes us further from the truth, rather than closer to it.

 NOTE: This post has been updated.

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