Republicans open to releasing Democrats' countermemo

Facing mounting political pressure, Republicans are signaling increasing openness to releasing a Democratic rebuttal to a controversial GOP memo made public Friday by the House Intelligence Committee.

Republican lawmakers said Friday evening and Saturday morning that they would be willing to consider releasing a memo by Intelligence Committee Democrats, which is still classified after the Republicans on the committee made public a four-page document alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI and Justice Department. 

Some Republicans on the committee and Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanIndiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Indiana GOP Rep. Brooks says she won't seek reelection Inside Biden's preparations for first debate MORE (R-Wis.) have signaled that they are open to making the Democratic rebuttal public.

But many have been steadfast in claiming that the Democratic memo would first need to be scoured to ensure that it does not divulge information that could endanger national security or intelligence gathering.

The memo released Friday, compiled by Republicans led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing MORE (R-Calif.), accuses FBI and Justice Department officials of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance warrant against Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.

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Republicans had argued that releasing their document was necessary, because it shed light on what they say is bias among federal law enforcement officials, as well as the origins of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

But intelligence committee Democrats have raised concerns about the memo's accuracy, and have accused their Republican counterparts of omitting key information in order to discredit the Russia investigation and protect President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump defends Stephanopolous interview Trump defends Stephanopolous interview Buttigieg on offers of foreign intel: 'Just call the FBI' MORE.

In turn, Democrats have pushed to release their own classified memo filling in what they see as important material omissions in the GOP document. They contend that by declining to release the Democratic response, Republicans are trying to tamp down a narrative that could throw their own into question.

"If it is scrubbed to ensure it does not reveal sources and methods of our intelligence gathering, the speaker supports the release of the Democrats' memo," AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for Ryan, said of the Democratic memo on Friday.

Nunes said Friday in an interview on Fox News that the committee would hold a vote on whether to release the Democratic response. But when that will happen is hard to pin down, he said, adding that the document would have to be reviewed before the committee could bring the matter to a vote.

"I've only read through it once. We're going to have to go through it and scrub it again," Nunes, who led the charge to release the GOP memo, said.

But Nunes also sought to pre-emptively cast doubt on the rebuttal. He accused Democrats of blatantly lying about whether a clandestine court was made aware of the political origins of an opposition research dossier that Republicans claim made up a key pillar of the FBI's case to surveil Page. That is reportedly one of the claims made in the Democrats' document.

Democrats say that the court was, in fact, told that funding for the dossier came from a political entity. Nunes, however, said that such information was never disclosed, and that the surveillance order would not have been issued if it was.

"These guys tell so many lies you can’t keep track of them," Nunes said, referring to Intelligence Committee Democrats. "If the court did know that, I think the judge would have to be considered very suspect, but I don’t think that happened at all."

The White House has also signaled an openness to declassifying the Democratic memo if it goes through the same vetting process that the Republican document was subjected to.

Raj Shah, a White House deputy press secretary, said on CNN Friday that Trump "would be inclined" to OK the memo for release, so long as national security officials determine that it does not endanger intelligence sources and methods. The president has the authority to block or approve the release of classified information at the behest of Congress.

"We would be happy to review it once it's sent to us and once it goes through the House Intelligence Committee and the House of Representatives process," Shah said.

Even if Republicans move to hold a vote on whether to release the Democratic memo, it isn't clear if it would pass.

When House Intelligence Committee Republicans voted on Monday to release their document, they voted down a series of motions by Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Schiff blasts DOJ over memo on withholding Trump tax returns Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data MORE (D-Calif.), the panel's top Democrat, intended to ensure that the minority's rebuttal would be released as well.

They did, however, approve one motion allowing the Democratic memo to be made available to the entire House, as the committee had previously voted to do with the Republican memo.

Intelligence Republicans have said that they simply want the minority rebuttal to go through the same review process required of the Nunes memo.

Asked on PBS "NewsHour" if he would vote to release the Democratic memo, Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Hillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing MORE (R-Texas) sided with many of his GOP colleagues. He said that he would support doing so, as long as any sensitive information was redacted.

"As long as it doesn't have direct revelations of existing, ongoing intelligence, which I think we can take out, but of course I would support that," he said.