House Intel committee votes to release Nunes memo on FBI
The House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines Monday to publicly release a classified memo written by Republicans alleging FBI abuses in their surveillance, an aggressive move that could feed a GOP push to undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and ratchets up a battle with the Justice Department.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, told reporters that Republicans on the committee voted to release the controversial memo by chairman Devin Nunes.
The Nunes memo says that the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act surveillance law over its use of the opposition research dossier on Donald Trump and Russia as part of the case to obtain a FISA warrant for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. It cites the role of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and outgoing deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe for their roles in overseeing aspects of the investigation, according to a source briefed on the matter.
Under an obscure committee rule to make the classified memo public, which has never been invoked in the panel’s 40-plus-year history, the President now has five days following a vote to decide whether to allow the public release to move forward or to object to it.
An administration official said the House Intelligence Committee memo was being couriered over to the White House on Monday evening and will be reviewed.
The House Intelligence Committee also considered a Democratic memo by Schiff, who said he would be offering his own memo Monday evening to counter the Nunes one. Schiff and other Democrats say Nunes’ memo skews the intelligence it’s based on and is effectively an effort to try to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign in 2016.
Rep. Mike Conaway, who’s heading the Republican investigation in the House, said the committee is taking same first step with the Schiff memo that they took on Nunes memo earlier this month to first release it to the full House, explaining that’s why Republicans voted against making the Schiff memo public today.
He said House members need a chance to read it before a vote to make it public. Conaway also defended the GOP investigation and disputed Schiff’s characterization that the committee Republicans were formally investigating the Justice Department and FBI.
Separately, Republicans on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees are expected to get briefed Tuesday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is investigating FBI actions during the 2016 election, according to two members of the panels, which are conducting a separate investigation into the FBI.
One of the members, Jim Jordan of Ohio, confirmed to CNN the meeting was taking place Tuesday, saying it will not be the first time the members are meeting with Horowitz. Democrats on the committees are contending they were not invited to the briefing.
Trump, who has called the investigations a hoax and witch hunt, is inclined to release it, CNN has reported.
But the Justice Department sent Nunes a letter last week saying it would be “extraordinarily reckless” to release the memo without giving the Justice Department the opportunity to review it for possible concerns with national security and ongoing investigations.
White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said on CNN’s “New Day” Monday that releasing the memo could “send a message of accountability” in the US intelligence community.
“It could shed light on allegations that have existed for a long time,” Shah told CNN’s Chris Cuomo, adding that Trump hasn’t seen the memo.
House Speaker Paul Ryan is deferring to Nunes over whether to release the memo, an aide to the speaker said Monday. The speaker’s move all but ensures that the Justice Department won’t get much backing within the House Republican conference, and underscores the divide between House Republicans who are pushing for the memo’s release and many Senate Republicans, who are urging caution and siding with the Justice Department.
The House Intelligence Committee voted to allow all House members to read the memo, but it has kept it guarded from others. In addition to the FBI and Justice Department, the House panel did not grant a request from the Senate Intelligence Committee to view the document.