Donald Trump 1 - Deep State 0
In a highly anticipated decision, on Monday evening the House Intelligence Committee voted to make public the memo alleging what some Republicans say are “shocking” surveillance abuses at the Department of Justice regarding the Trump presidential campaign.
In immediate response to the vote, the Committee's top democrat Adam Schiff said that "we've crossed a deeply regrettable line", adding that the "committee voted to put the president's interest above the interest of the country."
Adam Schiff's full post-memo release press conference is below:
The decision weeks of speculation over whether the memo, which was drafted by staff for committee chairman Devin Nunes (R- Calif) would be made public. At the same time, it intensifies the dispute over what Democrats say is an all-out assault by Republicans to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Now the fate of the 4-page FISA memo is in the hands of Donald Trump: as we discussed earlier, the document will not be immediately released as under the House rule Republicans used to override the classification of the four-page memo, President Trump now has five days to review and reject its publication.
But, as per Bloomberg's reporting earlier, the White House has signaled support for the document’s release and is widely expected to defy the DOJ in allowing the publication to go forward. The DOJ has opposed the release of the document, reportedly infuriating President Trump.
While Nunes has described the memo as “facts,” Democrats have slammed it as a collection of misleading talking points they are unable to correct without exposing the highly classified information underpinning the document.
As Bloomberg disclosed earlier on Monday, releasing the memo without allowing them to review it on those grounds, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote to Nunes, would be “extraordinarily reckless.”
Of course, the reason for the DOJ - and the Democrats' fury - is well-known: Republicans who have read the memo have hinted heavily that it contains information that could unravel the entire Mueller investigation, long described by the president as a “witch hunt.”
In an amusing twist, now that transparency appears to be the watchword, the Republican controlled House Intel Committee also plans to release the transcript of the business meeting dealing with releasing the FISA memo.
Hse Intel Cmte plans to release transcript of business mtg dealing with releasing the FISA memo— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 29, 2018
While the precise contents of the memo remain unknown, it’s believed to contain allegations that the FBI did not adequately explain to a clandestine court that some of the information it used in a surveillance warrant application for Trump adviser Carter Page came from opposition research funded by the Clinton campaign, now known as the “Steele dossier.”
As Bloomberg reported earlier, citing three House lawmakers who have read the memo, the memo claims FBI officials didn’t provide a complete set of facts in requests made to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court to obtain a warrant or warrants on Carter Page, a Trump campaign associate.
Furthermore, the memo claims important details were left out that might have kept a judge from issuing a surveillance warrant, or possibly two, targeting Page. Those include its claims that investigators were relying partly on an unverified dossier put together by an opposition research firm that hired a former British spy, Christopher Steele -- work that was funded by Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and Democrats.
The memo also spotlights Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein’s role in approving the warrant application, according to the New York Times. Rosenstein appointed Mueller and has become a recent target on the right — as well as reportedly garnering the frustration of the president.
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According to The Hill, it’s unclear how much input the DOJ will have prior to the publication of the memo. Typically, when sensitive documents are declassified, the agencies with equities in the intelligence weigh in to assess whether its release would damage national security. But the committee initially stonewalled the DOJ from viewing the document because, as one committee member put it last week, “They’re the ones that have the problem.”
On Monday morning, deputy press secretary Raj Shah hinted on CNN that the DOJ would also not have an opportunity to review the document during the White House pre-release review. “The Department of Justice doesn’t have a role in this process," he told CNN.
FBI Director Christopher Wray was reportedly allowed to view the document in the committee’s secure spaces over the weekend. A committee spokesperson declined to comment on Monday, as did the FBI.
Another unanswered question revolves around the highly-classified intelligence that underpins the memo, which came from documents provided to the committee by the DOJ as part of an agreement brokered by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). The DOJ has said that the release of the memo would be an abrogation of the terms of that agreement, an assertion that spokesmen for both Ryan and Nunes reject.
Lawmakers say the underlying intelligence justifying the memo’s allegations is so sensitive that only eight members of Congress are able to view it. Nunes and ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) are two of the eight figures, but the other members of the Intelligence Committee are not. The top two lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee are also part of the so-called Gang of Eight, but while they have access to the underlying intelligence, Nunes has denied committee requests to see the memo.
“Seeking Committee approval of public release would require [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] committee members to vote on a staff-drafted memorandum that purports to be based on classified source materials that neither you nor most of them have seen,” Boyd told Nunes.
Nunes has brushed aside the notion that the memo wouldn’t be persuasive without the underlying intelligence to substantiate its claims, calling the argument Democratic obstruction of his investigation into DOJ misconduct. The memo is a committee work product and the responsibility for releasing it, or not releasing it, rests with Congress.
The underlying intelligence, however, belongs to the executive branch, and Trump could unilaterally make it public if he wished.
For now, however, the decision whether the FISA memo will be made public - an event which is supposed to help Trump greatly in his ongoing battle against Special Counsel Mueller - is entirely in Trump's hands, which will be a welcome change for the president.
And incidentally, Trump will be delighted to learn that, in addition to blocking the Democrat memo, House Intel Committee member Adam Schiff admitted that the committee was also probing the DOJ and FBI, i.e., the "deep state" itself.
Hse Intel Cmte votes along party lines to release GOP FISA memo. Cmte votes to block Dem memo. Cmte says it is probing DoJ/FBI.— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) January 29, 2018