GOP reps demand release of 'shocking' surveillance memo

A growing number of Republicans are demanding the release of a classified report that they say reveals political bias at the FBI and Department of Justice in the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian election meddling

Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingWashington big names celebrate launch of Hill.TV The Hill's Morning Report — Trump denigrates NATO allies, floats 4 percent solution ‘Unmasking Antifa Act' includes 15-year prison term proposal MORE (R-N.Y.) spearheaded the effort this week to allow lawmakers to view a top-secret report compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Health Care: Official defends suspending insurer payments | What Kavanaugh's nomination means for ObamaCare | Panel approves bill to halt employer mandate House panel advances bill that would temporarily halt ObamaCare's employer mandate Nunes leaves in middle of hearing following questions on Russia probe MORE (R-Calif.).

Scores of Republicans have since viewed the document in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility on Capitol Hill. They left expressing shock, saying the special counsel investigation into whether Trump’s campaign officials had improper contacts with Russia is based on politically motivated actions at the highest level of law enforcement.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans Conservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report MORE (R-N.C.) called the memo “shocking.”

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“I’m here to tell all of a America tonight that I’m shocked to read exactly what has taken place,” Meadows (R-N.C.) said in a speech on the House floor. 

“I thought it could never happen in a country that loves freedom and democracy like this country. It is time that we become transparent with all of this, and I’m calling on our leadership to make this available so all Americans can judge for themselves.” 

Meadows and his allies asked GOP leaders in the House to declassify the report as part of a short-term spending bill the House passed late Thursday night. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump walks back criticism of UK Brexit strategy | McConnell worries US in 'early stages' of trade war | US trade deficit with China hits new record Tampons sent to Dem who called for free feminine hygiene products in House MORE (R-Wis.) said he wanted to follow House rules on the matter and deferred to Nunes and the Intelligence Committee.

Nunes could call for a vote to release the report on his panel. If a majority on the committee agrees to declassify the report, the executive branch would then need to sign-off to make it public, said Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanFive GOP lawmakers mulling bid to lead conservative caucus Conservatives moving to impeach Rosenstein soon: report The Hill's Morning Report — Trump readies for Putin summit: 'He’s not my enemy’ MORE (R-Ohio), another Freedom Caucus member.

“It is so alarming the American people have to see this,” Jordan said.

Speculation about the memo and what it might say exploded on social media Thursday night under the hashtag #releasethedocuments. Conservative firebrand Sean Hannity kicked off his Thursday night Fox News show with a message directly to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

“Your witch hunt is now over,” Hannity said. “Time to close the doors.”

Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinMan arrested after allegedly threatening to kill Trump supporters, GOP lawmaker Donald Trump Jr. called to check on GOP campaign volunteer after reported threats CNN contrasts Fox personalities' praise for Trump-Kim summit with past criticism of Obama MORE (R-N.Y.) said the memo contains widespread evidence of “FISA abuse.” Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisFox's Ingraham chides Gohmert for infidelity questions of Strzok: 'I didn't think that was good' Cook shifts House race of lawmaker who bought multimillion dollar yacht away from GOP Live coverage: Tensions mount as Rosenstein grilled by GOP MORE (R-Fla.) said the report “raises serious questions about the upper echelon of the Obama DOJ and Comey FBI as it relates to the so-called collusion investigation.”

In a statement, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows preview: Trump readies for meeting with Putin Top Democrats request meeting with intel chief over sharing of classified info Schiff: Trump should cancel meeting with Putin since he 'lacks courage to confront him' MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, called the report “a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation." 

"Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most 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 said. "This may help carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals."

The sprawling Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs U.S. spying on foreigners, became politically entangled with the controversy over the federal investigation into President TrumpDonald John TrumpReporters defend CNN's Acosta after White House says he 'disrespected' Trump with question Security costs of Trump visit to Scotland sparks outrage among Scottish citizens Ex-CIA officer: Prosecution of Russians indicted for DNC hack 'ain't ever going to happen' MORE's campaign and Russia in March 2017 when Trump tweeted that former President Obama had ordered surveillance on Trump Tower.

Some Republicans have claimed that the FBI used the so-called Steele dossier as the basis to obtain a politically motivated FISA warrant to spy on Trump during the transition — though former FBI officials say this reflects a misunderstanding of the law. 

One former senior official who worked on national security issues noted that, in general, the application for a surveillance warrant involves several layers of authentication of information, suggesting that if any of the information from the dossier were used in an application, it would have been corroborated. Justice Department lawyers often modify orders based on feedback from the court — and they must show probable cause that the target is acting as an agent of a foreign power. 

But Republicans are suggesting the classified memo contains airtight evidence that the FBI and Justice Department have conspired to undermine Trump’s presidency. 

“The revelations contained in the memo prepared by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have a compelling public interest and must be declassified and released as soon as possible,” the Republican Study Committee said in a statement.

Lawmakers were tight-lipped about the contents of the memo, as they are barred from unilaterally releasing classified information.

But the lawmakers who have long been claiming that FBI agents and Justice Department officials launched a partisan investigation into Trump said the report vindicated their claims. 

Republicans have long believed that an opposition research memo funded in part by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDHS secretary: No sign Russia targeting midterm elections at 2016 level Twitter suspends Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks accounts after indictments Elon Musk donated nearly K to Republican PAC, filings show MORE's presidential campaign and the Democrats — which former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyEx-GOP lawmaker: Strzok hearing 'was a humiliating day' for Republicans Ignore the spin — still no evidence of Trump collusion Peter's 'principles' damaged public's faith in FBI MORE once described as “salacious and unverified” — was used to secure a warrant in a FISA court to spy on Trump and his campaign and transition officials. 

They have also drawn attention to private communications between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who privately disparaged Trump and other political figures. Strzok had a lead role in the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified material while secretary of State, and both were on Mueller’s team before getting reassigned. 

GOP lawmakers have also raised the alarm over Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, who appears to have close ties to the opposition research firm that compiled the anti-Trump dossier. 

“Some of the very people we have been talking about will be exposed as the key reason that all Americans need to see this memo,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzWho to watch for in Sacha Baron Cohen's upcoming show GOP lawmaker thinks he was duped by Sacha Baron Cohen Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page gets closed-door grilling from House Republicans MORE (R-Fla.) said on Hannity’s show.

“It names names. It says who was involved with who, how different actors and characters we heard about interacted with one another, and that is a type of information that we need all Americans to see immediately.” 

Katie Bo Williams contributed.