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What the GOP memo says (and doesn't say)

WASHINGTON

After more than a week of partisan bickering and social media-fueled buildup, the #releasethememo crowd got their wish.

President Donald Trump declassified it. The GOP majority of the House intelligence committee released it. And the public dissection of the four-page, GOP-authored document began.

Here are a few key takeaways:

What’s the gist?

The memo makes a series of allegations of misconduct on the part of the FBI and the Justice Department in obtaining a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, to monitor former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

Specifically, it takes aim at the FBI’s use of information from a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who compiled a collection of memos containing several allegations of ties between Trump, his associates and Russia.

The memo says the FBI and the Justice Department didn’t tell the FISA court enough about Steele’s role in an opposition research effort. The research was funded by Democrat Hillary Clinton through a Washington law firm.

The document also takes aim at several senior FBI and Justice Department officials. Among them is former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr, who it says knew of Steele’s anti-Trump leanings and whose wife worked at the firm behind the opposition research effort.

What’s new?

The memo provides the first formal government confirmation of the secret FISA warrant and that Page was the person being monitored.

Information like that is ordinarily considered among the most tightly held national security information, and it almost never gets released to the public.

Though the memo takes issue with the FBI’s methods, it also confirms that the FBI and Justice Department believed there was probable cause that Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power and a judge agreed—four times over.

The memo fills in the timeline of the Russia investigation, showing that Page was under surveillance for months.

It started with Papadopoulos

The whole Russia investigation, that is.

According to the memo, information about former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos “triggered the opening of an FBI counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016.”

That’s significant because Trump and his allies in the GOP have tried to undermine the Russia investigation by saying it all stems from the Steele dossier.

But the memo confirms reporting by The New York Times late last year that FBI concerns about Papadopoulos started the investigation.

Court papers show that Papadopoulos learned the Russians had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails” prior to that information becoming public.

The FBI did use information from Steele, though

The memo says Steele’s collection of reports “formed an essential part” of the FISA application for Page, but it doesn’t specify exactly what information was used or how much.

It also says that the FISA application relied on a September 2016 Yahoo News article, and claims that the information in the article also came from Steele.

The document quotes former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe as telling the House intelligence committee in December that “no surveillance warrant would have been sought” from the FISA court “without the Steele dossier information.”

According to the memo, the application also included “Steele’s past record of credible reporting on other unrelated matters.”

No underlying information released

The accuracy of the memo is hard to assess because the majority of the underlying contents are classified or confidential.

The memo cites an initial FISA warrant application—a document which usually has dozens of pages—as well as three additional renewals by the court. None of those documents are public.

The same is true of the transcripts of the committee’s closed-door interviews with McCabe and other senior FBI officials who had contact with Steele.

‘Minimally corroborated’

It’s been a burning question ever since the dossier was published by Buzzfeed News last year: How much did the FBI corroborate?

According to the memo, not much at the time the FBI obtained the FISA warrant on Page. The memo cites FBI Assistant Director Bill Priestap as saying FBI corroboration of the dossier was in its “infancy” when the court authorized the first FISA warrant.

But without the underlying documents or transcripts of Priestap’s testimony, it’s hard to judge the accuracy of the memo’s description.


Angela Major 

Craig fans wait to celebrate on the court after the Cougars’ 80-53 victory against Parker on Friday at Parker High School. 


Local
top story
Looking at the numbers: Has the groundhog been right?

JANESVILLE

Jimmy the Groundhog predicted what we all feared Friday morning. The Sun Prairie groundhog saw his shadow at sunrise, indicating there will be six more weeks of winter.

In Pennsylvania, the more famous Punxsutawney Phil also saw his shadow. By these estimates, it looks like we might endure more cold weather.

But the tradition of Groundhog Day poses a worthwhile question: Are these underground animals worthy weather prognosticators for Janesville?

The answer depends on how you look at it.

The city of Sun Prairie boasts an 80 percent accuracy on behalf of Jimmy. Actually, Jimmy is always correct, according to the city of Sun Prairie, but the mayor “misinterprets” Jimmy’s prognostication 20 percent of the time, according to Sun Prairie.

Sun Prairie doesn’t keep a record of Jimmy’s previous predictions, so The Gazette couldn’t compare past weather data with his prognostications.

Instead, we looked at Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions since 1948 and compared them with The Gazette weather database to the find out how accurate the Pennsylvania groundhog is for Janesville.

According to our criteria, we found that Phil was right exactly 50 percent of the time. In the past 70 years, he accurately predicted Janesville remaining winter 35 times.

But some factors complicate our findings. For example, the definition of an “early spring” is muddy, particularly for Wisconsin.

Does an early spring mean higher-than-average temperatures in the six weeks after Feb. 2? Does it mean fewer inches of snowfall?

According to The Gazette’s weather database, the average Janesville snowfall between Feb. 2 and March 16 from 1948 through 2017 is exactly 10 inches. The average temperature is 26.9.

We decided that if Phil did not see his shadow, there was only one way for him to correctly predict an early spring for Janesville. In the six weeks after Feb. 2, the amount of snowfall in the region had to be less than 10 inches and the average temperature had to be higher than 26.9.

In 1983, for example, Janesville received 9.6 inches of snow in those six weeks, and the average temperature was 35.5. Phil did not see his shadow that year, predicting an early spring. So, according to our criteria, he was correct.

But in those same six weeks in 1988, 7.8 inches of snow fell to the ground, and Phil did not see his shadow. He was wrong, though, according to our criteria, because the average temperature was 23, almost four degrees lower than the 70-year average.

One unusual year in our examination is 1974. The six-week average temperature was almost 30, and Phil predicted six more weeks of winter. He ended up being correct, though, because over 14 inches of snow—4 inches more than average—fell in the following six weeks.

The results change slightly with different formulas. With the same overall averages, if snowfall is taken out of the equation and only temperatures are calculated, Phil would have been correct 34 out of 70 years; but if the equation only considers average snowfall as an indicator of spring, Phil would have correctly predicted Janesville weather 41 times.

So all of this begs the question: Is Phil right this year, and will we have six more weeks of winter to suffer through?

Just flip a coin to find out.


Business
Gray Goose in Janesville welcomes another tech firm

JANESVILLE

The four-story former warehouse in downtown Janesville now known as the Gray Goose has landed a new gander from up north.

Local broker Commercial Property Group announced this week that Michigan tech and telecommunications company CCI Systems plans to locate engineering offices in space it will lease on the entire third floor of the 24,000-square-foot brick building on North Academy Street.

CCI Vice President Rick Hurzeler says the company plans to open offices in the Gray Goose by April, and it plans to hire “upwards of 50 employees” to staff the office.

CCI, which is based in the Upper Peninsula community of Iron Mountain, Michigan, handles engineering, planning, mapping infrastructure and design services for telecommunications companies and large cable operators, Hurzeler said.

He said the company chose Janesville for its new satellite office because of its proximity to key clients. He said CCI also operates offices in Atlanta, Denver and Los Angeles.

The Gray Goose, a historic former tobacco warehouse, was renovated in 2016 under a set of state, federal and city tax incentives totaling about $2.3 million. The building also has another major tenant, Janesville tech firm Foremost Media.

Renovations to the building leveraged the warehouse’s expansive spaces and high ceilings to create an open-concept commercial or office space. Hurzeler said CCI chose the Gray Goose because of the building’s layout.

“I liked the open-concept floor space because it allowed us to configure designers and drafters in a kind of collaborative environment,” he said.

He said crews are now working on a buildout of the third floor, which is part of the lease deal between the Gray Goose’s owners and CCI.

The Gazette on Friday was unable to reach Gray Goose owner, local attorney and developer Mark Robinson, for comment.

Broker Mandy Witt, whose firm McGuire-Mears Coldwell Banker Commercial has represented the owners in the past, declined comment and deferred to Robinson.

Commercial Property Group broker Mike Venable worked with CCI on the lease deal.

He said it’s another example of Janesville’s downtown attracting employees through building renovations. He said he’s glad this client was a high-tech company that will bring in dozens of new white-collar jobs.

Tech job growth was in the spotlight recently in the Janesville-Beloit metro area after California economic analyst Milkin Institute last month ranked the Janesville area as the fifth-best small city in the U.S. for growth in high-tech exports.

Venable said he thinks CCI’s move here is another step in the right direction.

“You look at the growth of some tech firms downtown, Foremost Media and a few others. I said before that with firms like SHINE (Medical Radioisotopes) in downtown, when they do get (medical radioisotope production) up open and operating … seeing these things, it’s all going to mean something,” Venable said.

“The hope is it’ll help make a lot of other research and development-type companies want to take a look at Janesville.”


glance

local • 3A, 6A

Milton man will be new judge

Gov. Scott Walker announced Friday his appointment of Karl R. Hanson to replace retiring Rock County Judge James Daley. Hanson, of Milton, is an assistant attorney general for the state Department of Justice. He said he will start the Rock County job handling criminal cases on March 5. Hanson was a municipal judge for the towns of Milton, Harmony and Lima, but he said Friday he no longer will continue in those roles

state • 2A

Judges defend their efforts

Former judges who sat on the Government Accountability Board say they were following well-established law when they investigated Gov. Scott Walker for possible campaign finance violations. The 11 judges said the state Supreme Court adopted a new interpretation of campaign finance law when it shut down what was known as John Doe II in 2015 and found Walker and conservative groups backing him had done nothing illegal.

nation/world • 5B-6B

Inflation fears spook markets

U.S. stocks slumped Friday, and the market suffered its worst week in two years, as fears of inflation and disappointing quarterly results from technology and energy giants spooked investors. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped by more than 650 points. Each of the three major indexes lost about 2 percent of their value in Friday’s trading session.