Ryan: GOP memo not an 'indictment' of FBI, DOJ

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism Anti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments MORE (R-Wis.) on Thursday defended an unreleased House GOP memo that alleges abuses by the FBI and Justice Department, saying that it’s not an “indictment” of those government institutions.

“What this is not is an indictment on our institutions, of our justice system. This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice. It does not impugn [special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s Russia] investigation or the deputy attorney general,” Ryan said at a retreat for GOP lawmakers in West Virginia.

“What it is is the Congress’s legitimate function of oversight to make sure the FISA process is being used correctly,” he added, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. “If it wasn’t being used correctly, that needs to come to light and people need to be held accountable so this doesn’t affect our civil liberties.”

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The classified memo, authored by staffers in Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesBlack Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority Nunes's 2018 Dem challenger launches voting rights group Democrats: Concentrate on defeating, not impeaching MORE's (R-Calif.) office, allegedly criticizes the FBI and Justice Department for failing to adequately explain to a secret spy court that some of the information included in a surveillance application for a Trump campaign associate came from opposition research funded in part by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Pompeo’s Cairo speech more ‘back to the future’ than break with past MORE.

But Nunes has faced growing scrutiny for his efforts to publicly release the memo, which is based on classified materials provided by the Justice Department.

The FBI has expressed concerns with its release, and White House officials are fretting that FBI Director Christopher Wray may quit if the memo is released, according to reports.

However, President TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE is expected to allow its release in the next few days.

Democrats view the memo as a GOP effort to undermine Muller's probe into Russia's election interference and potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Earlier Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Centrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter On The Money: Shutdown Day 26 | Pelosi calls on Trump to delay State of the Union | Cites 'security concerns' | DHS chief says they can handle security | Waters lays out agenda | Senate rejects effort to block Trump on Russia sanctions MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerCardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid Government shutdown impasse is a leveraging crisis Overnight Health Care: Dem chair meets Trump health chief on drug prices | Trump officials sued over new Kentucky Medicaid work rules | Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions MORE (D-N.Y.) both called on Ryan to remove Nunes as Intelligence chairman over his handling of the memo. The Speaker has the sole authority to appoint or remove the Intelligence chairman.

But Ryan quickly rejected those calls and defended Nunes, a Ryan ally, as someone who was working to keep Americans safe.

Pelosi and Schumer “are just playing politics and they are looking for a political distraction,” Ryan told reporters.

“The tax cuts are working. We’ve got ISIS on the run. Things are going well. Economic confidence is at a 17-year high,” he said. “I think they would like nothing more than to play politics and change the subject.”

“Devin Nunes helped shepherd through a reauthorization of … the foreign terrorist surveillance law. So he’s focusing on keeping our country safe, focusing on national security," he said. "I think what they are trying to do is sidetrack us for some political gain.”