Trump to allow release of controversial memo
President Trump plans to allow the release of a controversial memo detailing alleged surveillance abuses at the FBI, according to a senior administration official.
The official said Trump will inform Congress of his decision “probably tomorrow,” adding the president did not have any national security objections to releasing it and would likely not request that any material be redacted.
“The president is OK with it,” the official told reporters traveling with Trump aboard Air Force One. “I doubt there will be any redactions. It’s in Congress’s hands after that.”
The decision paves the way for the document, which was drafted by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, to be released to the public.
Once the White House approves the memo’s release, it would be up to the Intelligence panel to decide if and when to make it public.
Trump has been widely expected to sign off on the public release of the document, which some conservatives on Capitol Hill have heavily hinted could prove the undoing of the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
The president has long derided that probe as a “witch hunt.”
Democrats have described the document as a series of cherry-picked data points designed to kneecap special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Intelligence Committee Republicans have blocked Democrats, at least for now, from releasing their own countermemo drafted to rebut the GOP document.
The FBI also fiercely opposes the release of the document.
Senior Justice Department officials, including FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, have lobbied both the White House and the Intelligence Committee against releasing the document.
In a rare public statement issued Wednesday afternoon, the FBI characterized the memo as misleading, noting that they had been given limited opportunity to review it before the committee voted to release it and saying the agency has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
The future of the document now rests with Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), whose staff drafted the memo based on classified documents provided by the Justice Department.
Nunes is under a mountain of pressure from the right to release the document, even as other members of his own party urge caution.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) said Thursday that Nunes should first share the memo with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) before releasing it publicly, noting that Burr has been unable to obtain the document.
“There are important national security considerations they need to weigh, and hopefully they’re doing that,” he told reporters at a Republican retreat in West Virginia.
Committee Republicans used an obscure House rule to override the classification of the document and make it public. The rule gave Trump five days to block the release of the document. It is not clear whether the committee will move to release it immediately upon receipt of his approval or wait the full five days.
The committee voted to release the memo on Monday night.
The precise contents of the memo remain unknown. However, it’s believed to contain allegations that the FBI did not adequately explain to a clandestine court that some of the information used in a surveillance warrant application for Trump campaign adviser Carter Page came from what is known as the “Steele dossier,” which was composed of opposition research partially funded by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Adding further uncertainty, the Intel Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), on Wednesday claimed that Nunes had altered the contents of the memo after the committee had voted to release it.
It’s unclear what changes were made. A spokesman for Nunes said Democrats were “complaining about minor edits … including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and the Minority themselves.”
Democrats say the changes are far more substantive. A committee source said the changes were “not cosmetic” and “try to water down some of the majority’s assertions.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has demanded that Nunes step down over the alterations.
Updated at 3:33 p.m.
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