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Schiff blasts FBI for heavy-handed redactions on Democratic countermemo

Schiff blasts FBI for heavy-handed redactions on Democratic countermemo
© Greg Nash

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said the FBI is being too heavy-handed in redacting information included in a memo that Democrats compiled to offer a point-by-point rebuttal of a GOP memo released earlier this month.

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffDems eye ambitious agenda if House flips Schiff: There is legal precedent for impeaching sitting officials over prior criminal conduct Hillicon Valley: 50M affected by Facebook hack | Google CEO to testify on Capitol Hill | Tesla shares slump after SEC sues | House Intel votes to release Russia probe transcripts | Dem holds up passage of key intel bill MORE (D-Calif.) suggested the FBI is using too much red ink to try to block any new information in the memo from being made public. 

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"The FBI has identified in the memo, in our response, essentially everything that isn't already a matter of public record that wasn't already declassified," Schiff told reporters during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. 

He argued that since the Republican memo was released to the public, as drafted by the staff of committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Citi — Latest on Hurricane Michael | Trump, Kanye West to have lunch at White House | GOP divided over potential 2020 high court vacancy Senate Dem: Trump's 'fake, hyperbolic rantings' an insult to real Medal of Honor recipients Trump: Nunes should receive Medal of Honor MORE (R-Calif.), as a four-page document with completely new information, the Democrats' countermemo should also be able to include new information. 

"The GOP memo was all classified before it was declassified. There is a great deal in the Democratic response that has already been declassified. I think the question ought to be, ‘Is there anything that can’t be declassified in the public interest because of sources and methods for investigating ventures?'" he continued.

Schiff said he is making headway with the FBI as they continue to go through what information can be made public. The memo involves the process by which Justice Department officials applied for a surveillance warrant of a former Trump campaign aide in 2016. Republicans claim that officials relied on biased or politically motivated information as part of their argument in favor of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant application.

"We hope to have it resolved soon so that we can make sure that we redact anything that legitimately concerns the source or method [used in the FISA application], but to meet the public interest as well as the will of the committee that as much of this can be released as possible," Schiff added.

Schiff claimed the excessive redactions by the bureau could be a result of pressure from the White House on the FBI, suggesting that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I don't trust everybody in the White House' JPMorgan CEO withdraws from Saudi conference Trump defends family separations at border MORE doesn't want their memo to see the light of day for political purposes.

Trump has claimed the information in the GOP-drafted memo vindicates him in the Russia probe.

Meanwhile, Schiff and other Democrats say the GOP memo is misleading and a set of cherry-picked facts.

"What it appears the FBI did, and I assume this was at the request of the White House, is identify anything in our memo that wasn’t already public," Schiff told reporters.

The White House on Friday indicated it is open to releasing the countermemo if certain information is redacted. 

“The administration stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in reference to Schiff's memo.

Schiff has repeatedly emphasized that the FBI has not dismissed their memo as inaccurate, while the bureau publicly voiced "grave concerns" over the Nunes memo. 

"The FBI has as far as I can tell taken no issue with the accuracy of what we have written. So unlike the Republican memo, the Nunes memo, which they considered to be misleading and inaccurate, there is no issue on the accuracy of what we’ve written largely because we’ve taken the material facts from the FISA application," Schiff said.