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Ryan urges lawmakers: Don't overplay memo

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Trump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world MORE (R-Wis.) on Tuesday implored Republicans not to use a GOP-crafted memo alleging “shocking” surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice (DOJ) to undermine 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 in remarks made less than 24 hours after the House Intelligence Committee voted to make the document public.

Ryan during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday urged Republicans not to overstate the facts in the memo and not to tie its conclusions to Mueller’s investigation, according to a person in the room.

“First, there are legitimate questions about whether an American's civil liberties were violated by the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] process,” he told reporters after the meeting. “This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller's investigation and his investigation should be allowed to take its course.”

The classified memo was drafted by staff for Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesFormer GOP operative installed as NSA top lawyer resigns Sunday shows preview: Russia, US exchange sanctions; tensions over policing rise; vaccination campaign continues Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE (R-Calif.) and is believed to contain allegations that federal investigators did not adequately explain to a clandestine spy court that some of the information included in a surveillance warrant application for Trump adviser Carter Page came from opposition research paid for in part by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi on power in DC: 'You have to seize it' Cuba readies for life without Castro Chelsea Clinton: Pics of Trump getting vaccinated would help him 'claim credit' MORE's campaign. 

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Some GOP members who have seen the memo have hinted heavily that it contains the key to unraveling the entire investigation into whether President TrumpDonald TrumpHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong Former Vice President Walter Mondale dies at age 93 White House readies for Chauvin verdict MORE’s campaign coordinated with Russia to swing the 2016 election — a probe Trump has repeatedly derided as a “witch hunt.”

Conservatives have called the memo’s revelations a threat to democracy and “bigger than Watergate.”

Since the classified memo was made available to the entire House last week, Democrats have blasted the document as a transparent effort by Republicans to discredit Mueller’s investigation and protect the president. They have described it as a set of misleading and unsubstantiated allegations that Republicans can’t back up without exposing highly classified information.

But there has been a mounting crescendo from the right to reveal the document. Ryan’s remarks come as their demands are poised to become reality — and questions have begun to emerge about whether the document will live up to the hype.

"To say that it’s so, ‘earth-shattering,’ as some of my colleagues have been saying — I believe, based on a number of things that I’ve seen, that there were a number of things that were done inappropriately,” Rep. 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.) told The Hill on Sunday when asked if Republicans may have overplayed the memo's significance.

Meadows previously called the document “shocking,” saying “I thought it could never happen in a country that loves freedom and democracy like this country.”

Some Senate Republicans have also urged caution on the memo.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin Graham'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party Graham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of troop withdrawal Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (R-S.C.) over the weekend told ABC’s "This Week" that the document should not be released. “I want somebody outside of the Republican-led Congress to look at these allegations," he said.

The fight over whether or not to release the document comes amid an inferno of tension between the GOP and the DOJ as Mueller moves closer to interviewing the president.

On Monday, longtime GOP target Andrew McCabe abruptly stepped down from his position as deputy director at the FBI, after months of withering criticism from Trump and other Republicans.

Republican lawmakers from four separate committees for weeks have raised alarm bells about text messages between two FBI employees assigned to the investigation into Russia and Trump’s campaign, claiming that they show law enforcement bias against the president.

And a vocal set of conservatives has blasted Mueller’s investigation as hopeless biased and called for his dismissal.

“My concern is that the bias that any person could bring to any job actually seem to manifest in this case in a conspiracy to undermine the president of the United States,” Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzGOP struggles to rein in nativism 'Real Housewives of the GOP' — Wannabe reality show narcissists commandeer the party Boehner: 'America First Caucus is one of the nuttiest things I've ever seen' MORE (R-Fla.) told CNN on Monday.

“I think that there’s really a mosaic of evidence here, not one particular donation or one particular party affiliation that illuminates tremendous bias that should stop this probe from going forward.”

Gaetz is urging Trump to release the memo during the State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

The decision to release the document now rests with Trump, who has five days to stop the publication if he so chooses. But the White House has signaled an interest in making the document public and Trump is widely expected to release it.

— Jonathan Easley contributed to this report.