Trump Blocks Release of Democrats' Memo Rebutting Nunes Allegations
WASHINGTON -- A week after allowing the release of a memo from House Intelligence Committee GOP staff alleging FISA abuse in the surveillance of campaign advisor Carter Page, President Trump decided to block the declassification of a rebuttal memo from committee Democrats.
The memo prepared by aides for Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) states that October 2016 FISA application to the court, as well as "any of the renewals," the memo continues, didn't "disclose or reference the role of the DNC" or "any party/campaign in funding Steele's efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials."
Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), who has viewed the classified documents behind the memo along with Intelligence Committee member Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), countered afterward that "the FBI did include information about a potential political bias" and "did set out information about who had provided the support for Christopher Steele."
But the Democrats saved their main fire for Nunes' nearly four-page memo with their 10-page rebuttal memo.
The House Intelligence Committee committee unanimously voted Monday to release the Democrats' rebuttal, sending that memo to the White House for a five-day review.
Schiff tweeted during the review period:
Have you seen the new GOP hashtag? It's quite a doozy:
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 7, 2018
This evening, the administration released a letter from White House Counsel Don McGahn stating that the Democrats' memo was sent to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department, and the DOJ "identified portions of the February 5th memorandum the disclosure of which it believes would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests."
The DOJ and FBI also, on national security grounds, objected to the release of the Nunes memo, which Trump approved for release.
"Although the president is inclined to declassify the February 5th Memorandum, because the Memorandum contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages, he is unable to do so at this time," McGahn wrote. "However, given the public interest in transparency in these unprecedented circumstances, the president has directed that Justice Department personnel be available to give technical assistance to the committee, should the committee wish to revise the February 5th memorandum to mitigate the risks identified by the department."
"The president encourages the committee to undertake these efforts," he added. "The executive branch stands ready to review any subsequent draft of the February 5th memorandum for declassification at the earliest opportunity."
Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told CNN he was "skeptical" about the White House rationale and wants to talk with the Justice Department next week.
"The president has been consistent in this investigation only in his obstructive behavior," Swalwell said, adding that the Dems wanted their memo reviewed by the DOJ whereas the committee GOPs did not want to work with the Justice Department on identifying and redacting potential national security issues in their memo.