Lawmakers dispute ‘vindication’ for Trump in Intel memo

Democrats on Sunday argued that the release of a controversial memo accusing the Justice Department of surveillance abuses does not vindicate President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE in the Russia investigation — and Republicans are also avoiding declarations of Trump's exoneration.

Trump made the claim that the memo "totally vindicates" him in the Russia investigation in a Saturday tweet following the memo's release the day before.

But Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdGun control group plans to spend million in Texas in 2020 Trump to attend California fundraiser with Oracle chairman The Hill's Morning Report - Nearing witness vote, GOP rushes to acquit Trump MORE (R-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC on Sunday that he doesn't believe the memo vindicates Trump. Several other Republicans argued that the memo was not about the ongoing investigation.

The memo, released on Friday upon Trump’s authorization, roiled Washington, D.C., as Democrats labeled the Republican-led push to publish the document an effort to undermine law enforcement agencies as well as the special counsel probing Russia’s election meddling and any potential ties between Trump campaign members and Moscow.

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Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats introduce bill to reverse Trump's shift of military money toward wall Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge Democratic senators criticize plan that could expand Arctic oil and gas development MORE (Ill.) on Sunday dismissed Trump’s assertion that the memo vindicates him.

“No, of course it does not,” Durbin told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“And the fact that the Republicans in the House refused to allow a minority report, the Democratic response to their memo, is an indication that this — they're just bound and determined to continue to find ways to absolve this president from any responsibility," he continued.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment House Intelligence lawyer Goldman leaving committee Schiff presses top intel official to declassify part of report on Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Intelligence panel, in both a Saturday op-ed and a Sunday appearance on ABC’s “This Week” said the memo does not provide Trump with any vindication.

“The memo’s release provided none of the vindication the president sought or would claim, but it was hugely consequential nonetheless, in how it undermined the system of checks and balances designed to insulate the FBI from White House meddling established in the wake of Watergate,” Schiff wrote for Esquire.

Republicans on Sunday emphasized that the memo provided evidence of the Justice Department's abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in order to gain a warrant — rather than proof of the president's innocence from allegations of collusion.

“I think this is a separate issue,” Rep. Brad WenstrupBrad Robert WenstrupOvernight Defense: Bolton, GOP senators see close ties challenged | Republicans fume over Dem maneuver on Iran bills |Trump criticizes Democrats over war powers vote GOP fumes over Democrats' maneuver for bringing up Iran bills Trump and Pelosi clash over Iran, impeachment MORE (R-Ohio), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked if he agreed with the president’s view of the memo.

“In my opinion, what we're dealing with is a situation within our FISA court and how we process within our government agencies," he said. "And I don't think it really has anything to do with that.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdySunday shows preview: 2020 Democrats jockey for top spot ahead of Nevada caucuses Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely MORE (R-S.C.), who is also a member of the Intelligence Committee, argued that the memo had nothing to do with the Russia investigation.

"I actually don't think it has any impact on the Russia probe," he told CBS's "Face the Nation."

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Sunday seized on Republicans’ refusal to agree that the memo exonerated Trump, blasting out clips of interviews with GOP members of Congress in an email that argued “even Republicans agree that the Nunes memo does nothing to discredit the Russia investigation."

For example, Hurd instead highlighted his worry about FISA abuse.

“I’m not shocked that elected officials are using hyperbole and ... exaggerations,” he told ABC’s “This Week.” “But this is about, for me, what kind of information should be used in a Title III court in order to spy on American citizens. Our civil liberties are important.”

The concern refers to the surveillance warrants obtained on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page. The memo states that information from a politically-funded dossier assembled by a former British spy “was an essential part of the Carter Page FISA application.”

Gowdy, in defending the Russia investigation, argued Sunday that while he doesn't think the warrant would have been acquired without the dossier — something Democrats also contest — the Russia probe would still exist without it.

That dossier includes unverified claims about Trump and was partially funded by the DNC and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton to start new podcast Centrist Democrats insist Sanders would need delegate majority to win President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs MORE’s campaign. Republicans have argued that the funding makes the material politically biased and that the origins of the dossier were not disclosed on the FISA application or its renewals.

The Democrats have compiled a countermemo based on the same classified materials as the GOP memo that reportedly argues, among other things, that the dossier's funding was disclosed in the warrant.

"There was a barrage of evidence that they presented to the court including a disclosure that the Steele dossier had a political motivation," Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill California lawmakers mark Day of Remembrance for Japanese internment Chris Wallace: 'Just insane' Swalwell is talking impeaching Trump again MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Rep. Jim HimesJames (Jim) Andres HimesDemocrats press World Bank chief on meeting with Ukrainian president amid Trump pressure House Republicans boycott public Intelligence panel hearing Democrats criticize Medal of Freedom for Limbaugh as 'slap in the face' MORE (D-Conn.), another member of the House Intelligence Committee, during his own Sunday interview disputed the notion that the FISA application relied on the dossier.

“Just because it was opposition research doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. In fact, we wouldn’t pay a penny for opposition research if it is biased,” Himes told CNN. “I think when the facts are out here, this will turn out to be a very, very small and insignificant thing.”

Democrats are now pushing to release their own memo, which aims to counter the Nunes document. The House Intelligence Committee is expected to vote Monday on whether to release that document. If the panel votes to make it public, it will likely undergo vetting and Trump will have to sign off on its release.