- Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations have begun promoting the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo.
- It’s a reference to a document written by Rep. Devin Nunes that purports to show abuse by the Obama administration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
- The frequency with which the accounts have been promoting the hashtag has spiked by 233,000% over the past 48 hours, according to an analysis.
- The most-shared URL has been a link to WikiLeaks’ “submit” page.
Republican lawmakers are pushing for the House Intelligence Committee to release a memo written by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, that outlines purported surveillance against then President-elect Donald Trump by former President Barack Obama’s administration during the transition period.
And Russia-linked Twitter bots have jumped on the bandwagon.
#ReleaseTheMemo is the top-trending hashtag among Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence operations, according to Hamilton 68, a website launched last yearthat claims to track Russian propaganda in near-real time.
The frequency with which the accounts have been promoting the hashtag has spiked by 233,000% over the past 48 hours, according to the site. The accounts’ references to the “memo,” meanwhile, have increased by 68,000%.
The most-shared domain among the accounts has been WikiLeaks, and the most-shared URL has been a link to WikiLeaks’ “submit” page.
WikiLeaks said on Thursday that it would reward anyone with access to the “FISA abuse memo” who chooses to submit it to the site. The Russia-linked accounts have evidently been sharing the submit page in an effort to push the memo’s release.
WikiLeaks will match reward funds up to $1m sent to this unique Bitcoin address: 3Q2KXS8WYT6dvr91bM2RjvBHqMyx9CbPMN
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 19, 2018
Hamilton 68 has been working to expose trolls – as well as automated bots and human accounts – whose main use for Twitter appears to be an amplification of pro-Russia themes. The site’s mission is to monitor and illustrate the themes that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants Americans to be thinking and talking about, including “the failure of democratic governance in the United States.”
Mueller’s top critics want the memo out
Several GOP congressmen – many of whom have been highly critical of special counsel Robert Mueller, the FBI, and its investigation into Trump’s Russia ties – have released statements calling on the House Intelligence Committee to declassify and release Nunes’ four-page memo.
The executive branch would have to review the document before it was released to the public, but “this could happen real quick,” GOP Rep. Jim Jordan told Fox News on Thursday. “Chairman Nunes is committed to getting this information to the public.”
The document purportedly describes classified information Nunes obtained from the FBI and DOJ as part of his investigation into whether the Obama administration misused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to spy on Trump and his associates during the transition period.
“The House must immediately make public the memo prepared by the Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who has called on Mueller to resign. “The facts contained in this memo are jaw-dropping and demand full transparency. There is no higher priority than the release of this information to preserve our democracy.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has introduced legislation that would curtail Mueller’s mandate and budget, said on Thursday that “the classified report compiled by the House Intelligence is deeply troubling and raises serious questions about the upper echelon of the Obama DOJ and Comey FBI as it relates to the so-called collusion investigation.”
‘A profoundly misleading set of talking points’
Democrats, meanwhile, have called the Nunes memo grossly exaggerated and “misleading.”
“The Majority voted today on a party-line basis to grant House Members access to a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat, said in a statement on Thursday.
“Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI,” Schiff continued.
A source with knowledge of the memo told Business Insider that the memo is “a level of irresponsible stupidity that I cannot fathom. Purposefully misconstrues facts and leaves out important details.”
Schiff said the document “mayhelp carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals.”
Nunes, who chairs the intelligence committee, began investigating the “Obama DOJ and Comey FBI” after he travelled to the White House to view classified information in March 2017, without telling his committee colleagues. There, he viewed classified information that he said showed FISA abuse by Obama administration officials.
When asked whether he had gotten his information from the White House, Nunes would neither confirm nor deny. “We have to keep our sources and methods here very, very quiet,” he told reporters at the time. He told Bloomberg later that the information had come from a “network of whistleblowers.”
Nunes briefed Trump on the intelligence, which he said showed the president and his advisers may have had their communications “incidentally collected” – and their identities “unmasked” in intelligence reports – by the intelligence community after the election.
A source of concern has been why some of Trump’s associates who had been caught up in the surveillance and later unmasked, such as former national security adviser Michael Flynn, had their names leaked to the press.
But Republican and Democratic congressional aides told reporters in early April – after being briefed on the classified reports – that Obama administration officials did not act inappropriately.
Indeed, the committee under Nunes’ leadership made at least five unmasking requests to US spy agencies related to Russia’s election meddling between June 2016 and January 2017, The Washington Post reported last year.
The report came days after Nunes, who would have had to sign off on any committee requests to reveal the identities of US persons mentioned in intelligence reports, called unmaskings “violations of Americans’ civil liberties.”
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