GOP debates releasing controversial memo
Congressional Republicans on Sunday pleaded their case for releasing a classified memo that they claim will reveal political bias within the FBI, while the White House also waded into the discussion.
Most Republicans want the memo to be released publicly, but the manner of its release — and whether it should be reviewed first by the administration — is a matter of dispute.
White House legislative affairs director Marc Short on Sunday confirmed reports that President Trump wants the memo released for the sake of “transparency,” despite concerns raised by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI.
“We don’t know what’s in the memo. It’s classified, I haven’t seen it. But I think the president generally is on the side of transparency. And so, yes, I think he believes that that should be put out,” Short said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Staff for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, crafted the four-page memo based on classified documents provided by the DOJ and FBI. The memo is said to contain allegations that senior FBI officials abused a surveillance program to target the Trump campaign last year.
It reportedly outlines allegations that the FBI used the controversial “Steele dossier,” which contains unverified claims about Trump’s ties to Russia, to obtain a surveillance warrant in the fall of 2016 against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Several Republican lawmakers have called for the classified report to be released, saying it will show special counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia is based on politically motivated actions.
DOJ officials, however, warned that releasing its contents before they are able to review it would be “extraordinarily reckless” because it reveals intelligence sources and could harm ongoing investigations. The DOJ also says it would violate the terms of the House’s access to the information set by Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) office.
“Those are rational concerns,” Short said. “But at the same time, I think the president is more inclined for transparency in this investigation. And so, to the extent that the House I think has advocated that it’s publicly released, I think the president is receptive to that.”
Most Republican lawmakers were adamant on Sunday that the public deserved to see the memo.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) assured Fox host Chris Wallace on the same program that there’s nothing in the memo that the DOJ isn’t already aware of. He denied that the document is a “hit piece,” and said the FBI should have a chance to see it before it’s released.
“I want the bureau to know everything that’s in the memo. I think you’ll be surprised. It is not a hit piece on the department and the FBI. I would not have participated in it if that’s what it was,” Gowdy said.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also voiced support for releasing the memo and suggested the Justice Department will have a chance to look it over once it’s released to the executive branch.
House Intelligence Committee member Will Hurd (R-Texas) said the memo should be released as part of an effort to hold leaders of the FBI accountable.
Democrats have ripped Republican rhetoric on the memo, calling it an effort to undermine the FBI amid Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Party members on the House Intelligence Committee said last week they have drafted a memo of their own to counter the Nunes memo.
Ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said his party’s memo is intended to expose “the misleading character of the Republicans’ document.”
Those sentiments found limited support on Sunday, when only Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) expressed reservations about making the memo public.
Graham said on ABC’s “This Week” that he’d prefer an outside counsel review the allegations raised in the memo, rather than declassify its contents.
“No, I don’t want it released yet. I don’t. I want somebody who is without a political bias to come in and look at the allegations that I have seen,” Graham said. “I’ve been a lawyer most of my adult life. And the way the FBI conducted itself and the Department of Justice bothers me.”