In a highly anticipated decision, on Monday evening the House Intelligence Committee voted to make public the memo alleging what some Republicans say are “shocking” surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice regarding the Trump presidential campaign.
In immediate response to the vote, the Committee’s top democrat Adam Schiff said that “we’ve crossed a deeply regrettable line”, adding that the “committee voted to put the president’s interest above the interest of the country.”
The decision weeks of speculation over whether the memo, which was drafted by staff for committee chairman Devin Nunes (R- Calif) would be made public. At the same time, it intensifies the dispute over what Democrats say is an all-out assault by Republicans to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Now the fate of the 4-page FISA memo is in the hands of Donald Trump: as we discussed earlier, the document will not be immediately released as under the House rule Republicans used to override the classification of the four-page memo, President Trump now has five days to review and reject its publication.
But, as per Bloomberg’s reporting earlier, the White House has signaled support for the document’s release and is widely expected to defy the DOJ in allowing the publication to go forward. The DOJ has opposed the release of the document, reportedly infuriating President Trump.
While Nunes has described the memo as “facts,” Democrats have slammed it as a collection of misleading talking points they are unable to correct without exposing the highly classified information underpinning the document.
As Bloomberg disclosed earlier on Monday, releasing the memo without allowing them to review it on those grounds, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to Nunes, would be “extraordinarily reckless.”
Of course, the reason for the DOJ – and the Democrats’ fury – is well-known: Republicans who have read the memo have hinted heavily that it contains information that could unravel the entire Mueller investigation, long described by the president as a “witch hunt.”
In an amusing twist, now that transparency appears to be the watchword, the Republican controlled House Intel Committee also plans to release the transcript of the business meeting dealing with releasing the FISA memo.
While the precise contents of the memo remain unknown, it’s believed to contain allegations that the FBI did not adequately explain to a clandestine court that some of the information it used in a surveillance warrant application for Trump adviser Carter Page came from opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign, now known as the “Steele dossier.”
As Bloomberg reported earlier, citing three House lawmakers who have read the memo, the memo claims FBI officials didn’t provide a complete set of facts in requests made to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to obtain a warrant or warrants on Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate.
Furthermore, the memo claims important details were left out that might have kept a judge from issuing a surveillance warrant, or possibly two, targeting Page. Those include its claims that investigators were relying partly on an unverified dossier put together by an opposition research firm that hired a former British spy, Christopher Steele — work that was funded by Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats.
The memo also spotlights Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s role in approving the warrant application, according to the New York Times. Rosenstein appointed Mueller and has become a recent target on the right — as well as reportedly garnering the frustration of the president.
* * *
According to The Hill, it’s unclear how much input the DOJ will have prior to the publication of the memo. Typically, when sensitive documents are declassified, the agencies with equities in the intelligence weigh in to assess whether its release would damage national security. But the committee initially stonewalled the DOJ from viewing the document because, as one committee member put it last week, “They’re the ones that have the problem.”
On Monday morning, deputy press secretary Raj Shah hinted on CNN that the DOJ would also not have an opportunity to review the document during the White House pre-release review. “The Department of Justice doesn’t have a role in this process,” he told CNN.