GOP reps demand release of 'shocking' surveillance memo

A growing number of Republicans are demanding the release of a classified report that they say reveals political bias at the FBI and Department of Justice in the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian election meddling

Rep. Pete KingPeter (Pete) Thomas KingHouse to vote on background check bills next week The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for MORE (R-N.Y.) spearheaded the effort this week to allow lawmakers to view a top-secret report compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Kidney Care Partners — Lawmakers scramble as shutdown deadline nears ‘Fox & Friends’ host asks if McCabe opening FBI probe into Trump was attempt to ‘overthrow government’ Nunes says GOP lawmakers looking through Russia transcripts, will make DOJ referrals MORE (R-Calif.).

Scores of Republicans have since viewed the document in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility on Capitol Hill. They left expressing shock, saying the special counsel investigation into whether Trump’s campaign officials had improper contacts with Russia is based on politically motivated actions at the highest level of law enforcement.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine — Trump, Congress prepare for new border wall fight Winners and losers in the border security deal MORE (R-N.C.) called the memo “shocking.”

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“I’m here to tell all of a America tonight that I’m shocked to read exactly what has taken place,” Meadows (R-N.C.) said in a speech on the House floor. 

“I thought it could never happen in a country that loves freedom and democracy like this country. It is time that we become transparent with all of this, and I’m calling on our leadership to make this available so all Americans can judge for themselves.” 

Meadows and his allies asked GOP leaders in the House to declassify the report as part of a short-term spending bill the House passed late Thursday night. Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race McCabe: No one in 'Gang of Eight' objected to FBI probe into Trump MORE (R-Wis.) said he wanted to follow House rules on the matter and deferred to Nunes and the Intelligence Committee.

Nunes could call for a vote to release the report on his panel. If a majority on the committee agrees to declassify the report, the executive branch would then need to sign-off to make it public, said Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanFive takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump Jordan says Oversight should be more focused on McCabe, Rosenstein ahead of Cohen testimony White House, GOP defend Trump emergency declaration MORE (R-Ohio), another Freedom Caucus member.

“It is so alarming the American people have to see this,” Jordan said.

Speculation about the memo and what it might say exploded on social media Thursday night under the hashtag #releasethedocuments. Conservative firebrand Sean Hannity kicked off his Thursday night Fox News show with a message directly to special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE.

“Your witch hunt is now over,” Hannity said. “Time to close the doors.”

Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinFuror over Omar puts spotlight on AIPAC Zeldin slams Omar for 'lack of empathy' in her apology The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the American Academy of HIV Medicine - All eyes on Trump after lawmakers reach spending deal MORE (R-N.Y.) said the memo contains widespread evidence of “FISA abuse.” Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Drug pricing fight centers on insulin | Florida governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs | Dems blast proposed ObamaCare changes Florida GOP governor working with Trump to import cheaper drugs from Canada DeSantis formally asks Trump to base Space Command in Florida MORE (R-Fla.) said the report “raises serious questions about the upper echelon of the Obama DOJ and Comey FBI as it relates to the so-called collusion investigation.”

In a statement, Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall White House braces for Mueller report MORE (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, called the report “a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation." 

"Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI," Schiff said. "This may help carry White House water, but it is a deep disservice to our law enforcement professionals."

The sprawling Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs U.S. spying on foreigners, became politically entangled with the controversy over the federal investigation into President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE's campaign and Russia in March 2017 when Trump tweeted that former President Obama had ordered surveillance on Trump Tower.

Some Republicans have claimed that the FBI used the so-called Steele dossier as the basis to obtain a politically motivated FISA warrant to spy on Trump during the transition — though former FBI officials say this reflects a misunderstanding of the law. 

One former senior official who worked on national security issues noted that, in general, the application for a surveillance warrant involves several layers of authentication of information, suggesting that if any of the information from the dossier were used in an application, it would have been corroborated. Justice Department lawyers often modify orders based on feedback from the court — and they must show probable cause that the target is acting as an agent of a foreign power. 

But Republicans are suggesting the classified memo contains airtight evidence that the FBI and Justice Department have conspired to undermine Trump’s presidency. 

“The revelations contained in the memo prepared by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have a compelling public interest and must be declassified and released as soon as possible,” the Republican Study Committee said in a statement.

Lawmakers were tight-lipped about the contents of the memo, as they are barred from unilaterally releasing classified information.

But the lawmakers who have long been claiming that FBI agents and Justice Department officials launched a partisan investigation into Trump said the report vindicated their claims. 

Republicans have long believed that an opposition research memo funded in part by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump pushes to speed up 5G rollout | Judge hits Roger Stone with full gag order | Google ends forced arbitration | Advertisers leave YouTube after report on pedophile ring 4 ways Hillary looms over the 2020 race Hillary Clinton met with Biden, Klobuchar to talk 2020: report MORE's presidential campaign and the Democrats — which former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyRosenstein: My time at DOJ is 'coming to an end' Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump FBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it MORE once described as “salacious and unverified” — was used to secure a warrant in a FISA court to spy on Trump and his campaign and transition officials. 

They have also drawn attention to private communications between FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who privately disparaged Trump and other political figures. Strzok had a lead role in the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified material while secretary of State, and both were on Mueller’s team before getting reassigned. 

GOP lawmakers have also raised the alarm over Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, who appears to have close ties to the opposition research firm that compiled the anti-Trump dossier. 

“Some of the very people we have been talking about will be exposed as the key reason that all Americans need to see this memo,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzHouse passes border deal, setting up Trump to declare emergency Parkland parents create anti-gun violence Valentine’s Day candies: ‘Don’t shoot,’ ‘he’s gone’ House conservatives blast border deal, push Trump to use executive power MORE (R-Fla.) said on Hannity’s show.

“It names names. It says who was involved with who, how different actors and characters we heard about interacted with one another, and that is a type of information that we need all Americans to see immediately.” 

Katie Bo Williams contributed.