House panel backs release of Democrats’ memo on FBI

The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Monday in favor of publicly releasing a classified memo that Democrats say undermines allegations by President Donald Trump and his allies that the FBI abused its spying powers while investigating his campaign.

Trump has five days to review the request to release the memo, which was written by committee Democrats.

Democrats have clamored to release their memo since last week, when Republicans decided to make public their own classified document over the objections of the FBI.

Republicans’ memo, spearheaded by committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), claimed the FBI relied on a disputed dossier compiled by a former British spy to convince a court in October 2016 to grant a surveillance warrant for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. They said FBI agents improperly failed to disclose that the spy, Christopher Steele, had been financed by the campaign of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee for the research.

But Democrats have said — and some Republicans have acknowledged — that the FBI did mention a potential political bias in its application, though it didn’t specify Clinton or the DNC.

Democrats say Trump’s allies are trying to discredit the FBI to harm special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether any of the president’s associates were involved.

The Democratic memo is expected to remain secret while Trump reviews it, but its lead author, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), has said it will provide a point-by-point rebuttal to the Republican version. Trump could attempt to block it from being made public; the White House said Monday it would “entertain” the request to release it.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee said they endorsed the release of the Democratic memo in a nod to transparency, but one lawmaker, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said the Schiff memo will only further “muddy the water” surrounding the Russia investigation. He called the claims in the Democratic memo inaccurate “for a million different reasons.”

“But I am all for letting the people see it and decide for themselves,” he added.

Rooney said he hoped Trump would support the release of the memo as he did for Republicans’ and that he didn’t see much that would need to be redacted.

Schiff told reporters that Democrats had already provided copies of their memo to the FBI and Justice Department for review, a step he noted Republicans refused to take. He said he wants to ensure that any redactions to the memo are made by professional at those agencise rather than by the White House “for political purposes.”

Schiff also complained that Nunes declined, once again, to reveal whether the White House had any role in developing the GOP memo. He said Nunes denied the administration had a role in “drafting” the document but repeatedly declined to answer questions about other possible influence by the White House.

Nunes spokesman Jack Langer rejected the idea that the White House had any influence over the memo.

“The idea that the White House had any input whatsoever in the conception or writing of the memo is a totally false claim perpetuated by the Democrats and, as usual, dutifully reported by Politico,” he said in a statement.

In a transcript of a committee meeting last week, Nunes was asked by Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) whether the White House had any role in the GOP memo and he said “as far as I know, no.” He declined to answer further questions when pressed by Quigley.

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