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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) KingNewsmax anchor Greg Kelly to host New York radio show Top GOP lawmakers call for Swalwell to be removed from Intelligence Committee Republican Garbarino wins election to replace retiring Rep. Pete King 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 NunesMcCarthy unveils House GOP task forces, chairs Former GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns Sunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues 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 MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here 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 RyanBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only 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 JordanJordan says 'votes are there' to oust Cheney from GOP leadership Republicans float support for antitrust reform after Trump Facebook ban upheld Facebook board decision on Trump ban pleases no one 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 (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE.

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

Rep. Lee ZeldinLee ZeldinThe US has a significant flooding problem — Congress can help GOP lawmakers ask acting inspector general to investigate John Kerry Andrew Giuliani to meet with Trump before potential New York gubernatorial campaign MORE (R-N.Y.) said the memo contains widespread evidence of “FISA abuse.” Rep. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisOvernight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections DeSantis to hold Newsmax town hall DeSantis signs bill banning gun regulations by local governments 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 SchiffFree Speech Inc.: The Democratic Party finds a new but shaky faith in corporate free speech Trump backs Stefanik to replace Cheney Gender politics hound GOP in Cheney drama 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 TrumpKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote READ: Liz Cheney's speech on the House floor Cheney in defiant floor speech: Trump on 'crusade to undermine our democracy' 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 ClintonSchumer: 'The big lie is spreading like a cancer' among GOP America departs Afghanistan as China arrives Young, diverse voters fueled Biden victory over Trump MORE's presidential campaign and the Democrats — which former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThe FBI should turn off the FARA faucet Barr threatened to resign over Trump attempts to fire Wray: report 'Fox News Sunday' to mark 25 years on air 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) GaetzKinzinger, Gaetz get in back-and-forth on Twitter over Cheney vote Federal investigators seeking cooperation from former Gaetz girlfriend, second key witness: CNN GOP braces for wild week with momentous vote 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.