By TOM LoBIANCO
WASHINGTON (AP) - House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte has launched a probe into the top-secret surveillance of a former campaign aide to Donald Trump, according to letters provided to The Associated Press.
Goodlatte sent a request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Jan. 16 for more information about the use of the so-called "Steele dossier" as the basis for a warrant to spy on campaign aide Carter Page. He sent a similar request to the Justice Department last Thursday - a day before Trump approved the release of a Republican memo that the president said "vindicated" him in the ongoing federal Russia probe.
Goodlatte's requests dovetail with the allegations by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes in his controversial memo, which accuses the Obama administration of relying on political documents to launch its probe into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
"I am shocked by media reports that the FBI may have relied upon an unsubstantiated 'dossier' which makes 'salacious and unverified' claims against President Trump," Goodlatte wrote in his letter to Judge Rosemary Collyer, the presiding judge of the court that reviews and vets Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant applications.
Goodlatte, a Virginia Republcian, also is seeking additional FISA warrants that were based on the dossier by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. A spokeswoman for Goodlatte did not immediately respond to a question Tuesday night asking if the committee had evidence of additional warrants built off the dossier.
The request from the top Republican of the House Judiciary Committee comes as Trump and his allies say Nunes' memo proves Trump was the target of a political investigation. The Nunes memo has sparked a firestorm of accusations - which has continued this week with a new fight over the release of a Democratic rebuttal.
Goodlatte's committee has oversight of the FBI and the Justice Department. The chairman's letters prompted a similar backlash from the Judiciary committee's top Democrat, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. Nadler sent a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray, arguing that Democrats had been frozen out of Goodlatte's new probe.
"Given the sensitive nature of the items requested and the potential for misuse and cherry-picking of any classified information you provide - a problem demonstrated in the release of the so-called 'Nunes Memo' - I respectfully request that the Committee (Democrats) be included in any discussions," Nadler wrote.
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