White House nearing decision on whether to approve release of memo Democrats say refutes GOP allegations against FBI, DOJ
lucky-photographer/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The White House is nearing a decision on whether to approve the release of a classified memo Democrats say refutes Republican allegations of FBI and Department of Justice bias and abuse of government surveillance powers.
The 10-page document was written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as a response to the four-page memo from Republican committee staff accusing the FBI and DOJ of improperly seeking surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Specifically, the GOP memo accuses law enforcement officials of relying heavily on uncorroborated allegations about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia in applications to an intelligence court to surveil Page, whom authorities suspected at the time of being a Russian agent, arguing that the dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele “formed an essential part” of the Page application in October of 2016.
It also alleges that DOJ official did not disclose to the court that the dossier was funded in part by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and that the Page surveillance application contained information about Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos, which “triggered” the opening of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign and allegations of ties to Russia.
The minority memo describes in greater detail why law enforcement officials wanted to conduct surveillance on Page beyond the information contained in the Steele dossier, according to sources familiar with the document. It is said to indicate that the court was made aware of the political motivations behind the information provided by Steele, but that specific Democratic organizations were not identified.
The committee voted unanimously to release the memo on Monday, giving the president five days to determine whether to withhold the document on national security grounds.
Additionally, Trump can approve the memo’s release, declassifying the document for the committee to post publicly. He can also make his own redactions to the document, in addition to rejecting the request.
The committee could seek a vote of the full House to override Trump’s decision on the memo. Some Democrats, wary of the president withholding information in the document, have pushed for the document to be made public by entering it into the Congressional Record.
President Trump has reviewed the Democratic memo with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, White House chief of staff John Kelly told reporters on Tuesday.
Kelly said he had given FBI, DOJ and intelligence officials until Thursday to review the document. “Then we will brief the president on it, he’ll have a decision to make,” Kelly said.
He described the Democratic memo as “not as clean as the first one,” suggesting that the White House could release it with redactions.
On Capitol Hill, partisan sparring over the release of the memos has marked a low point in relations between Republicans and Democrats on the traditionally bipartisan committee, with many members expecting that the panel’s once-united Russia investigation will likely end with dueling majority and minority reports.
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