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 KingThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh, accuser say they’re prepared to testify On The Money: Broad coalition unites against Trump tariffs | Senate confirms new IRS chief | Median household income rose for third straight year in 2017 | Jamie Dimon's brief battle with Trump Blue-state Republicans say they will vote against 'tax cuts 2.0' if it extends SALT cap 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 NunesRussia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems Nunes: Russia probe documents should be released before election Gowdy: House Intel panel should release all transcripts from Russia probe 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 MeadowsRepublicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr Conservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Graham to renew call for second special counsel 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 RyanHow does the 25th Amendment work? Sinema, Fitzpatrick call for long-term extension of Violence Against Women Act GOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign 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 JordanHillicon Valley: Trump cyber strategy lets US go on offense | AT&T urges court to let Time Warner merger stand | Conservatives want wife of DOJ official to testify | Facebook, nonprofits team up to fight fake news | DC camera hacker pleads guilty FBI memos detail ‘partisan axes,’ secret conflicts behind the Russia election meddling assessment Republicans threaten to subpoena Nellie Ohr 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 ZeldinTrump allies want Congress to find anonymous op-ed author House Republicans ask Trump to declassify Carter Page surveillance docs Biographer criticizes Republicans for using Pat Tillman's memory to attack Kaepernick MORE (R-N.Y.) said the memo contains widespread evidence of “FISA abuse.” Rep. Ron DeSantisRonald Dion DeSantisTrump's baby blimp arrives in Florida for Mar-a-Lago protest Dems look to Gillum, Abrams for pathway to victory in tough states San Juan mayor calls Hurricane Maria ‘Trump's Katrina’ 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 SchiffKey House Dem's objections stall intel bill as deadline looms The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — Kavanaugh and his accuser will testify publicly Russia probe accelerates political prospects for House Intel Dems 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 TrumpSunday shows preview: Trump sells U.N. reorganizing and Kavanaugh allegations dominate Ex-Trump staffer out at CNN amid “false and defamatory accusations” Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her 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 ClintonPompeo: 'We've not been successful' in changing US-Russia relations Michael Moore ties Obama to Trump's win in Michigan in 2016 The Memo: Could Kavanaugh furor spark another ‘year of the woman’? MORE's presidential campaign and the Democrats — which former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyDershowitz: Trump's lawyers could force Rosenstein to recuse himself from Mueller probe New York Times defends bombshell Rosenstein report Donald Trump’s Rosenstein dilemma 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) GaetzThe federal government must stop stifling medical marijuana research Hillicon Valley: Twitter chief faces GOP anger over bias | DOJ convenes meeting on bias claims | Rubio clashes with Alex Jones | DHS chief urges lawmakers to pass cyber bill | Sanders bill takes aim at Amazon Conservatives blame McCarthy for Twitter getting before favorable committee 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.