Republicans vote to release classified memo on Russia probe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Brushing aside opposition from the Justice Department, Republicans on the House intelligence committee voted to release a classified memo that purports to show improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation.
The four-page memo has become a political flashpoint, with President Donald Trump and many Republicans pushing for its release and suggesting that some in the Justice Department and FBI have conspired against the president.
The memo was written by Republicans on the committee, led by chairman Rep. Devin Nunes of California, a close Trump ally who has become a fierce critic of the FBI and the Justice Department. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump’s campaign was involved.
Republicans have said the memo reveals grave concerns about abuses of the government surveillance powers in the Russia investigation. Democrats have called it a selectively edited group of GOP talking points that attempt to distract from the committee’s own investigation into Russian meddling.
The vote on Monday to release the memo is an unprecedented move by the committee, which typically goes out of its way to protect classified information in the interest of protecting intelligence sources and methods. The memo was delivered by courier to the White House on Monday evening. Trump now has five days to object to its release by the committee.
The White House said late Monday that the president will meet with his national security team and White House counsel to discuss the memo in the coming days.
Republicans said they are confident that the release won’t harm national security. They also said they would not release the underlying intelligence that informed the memo.
“You’ll see for yourself that it’s not necessary,” said Texas Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who’s leading the House’s Russia investigation.
But Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the panel had “crossed a deeply regrettable line.”
“Today this committee voted to put the president’s personal interests, perhaps their own political interest, above the national interest,” he said, noting that the memo’s release could compromise intelligence sources and methods.
While Trump’s White House signaled he would likely support the Republican memo’s release, his Justice Department has voiced concerns.
In a letter to Nunes last week, Justice officials said releasing the classified memo could be “extraordinarily reckless” and asked to review it. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd suggested that releasing classified information could damage the United States’ relationship with other countries with which it shares intelligence.