WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanCheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge Paul Ryan researched narcissistic personality disorder after Trump win: book 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 (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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.”
The classified memo, authored by staffers in Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesSunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies LIVE COVERAGE: Ways and Means begins Day 2 on .5T package Biden faces unfinished mission of evacuating Americans 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 ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll 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 TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response 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 PelosiManchin cast doubt on deal this week for .5T spending bill Obama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Congress shows signs of movement on stalled Biden agenda MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerObama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Congress shows signs of movement on stalled Biden agenda Schumer gets shoutout, standing ovation from crowd at Tony Awards 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.”