The FBI has strongly criticized Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee for voting to release a secret memo on the Justice Department probe into the 2016 election.
In a brief but strongly-worded statement, the FBI said it was provided with little time to review the memo before Republicans, led by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), voted to release the allegedly explosive document, which claims that the FBI and DOJ’s investigation into the Trump campaign has been tainted by political bias.
“The FBI was provided with a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” FBI chief Christopher Wray said in a statement. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Both Democrats and law-enforcement officials have fiercely criticized Republicans’ decision to release the memo, saying that its cherry-picked intelligence is designed specifically to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion. “[Republicans] seek to selectively and misleadingly characterize classified information in an effort to protect the President at any cost,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said last Wednesday.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, tweeted that releasing the Republican version of the memo was “dangerous and irresponsible.”
Even FBI officials who have praised Trump are wary of the Republican interference with their organization. “There is certainly a group that sees damaging the FBI as the path to undoing Mueller and having Mueller go away,” former FBI official Ron Hosko told the Huffington Post. “The image of the FBI being tarnished. I’m hurt by it, I’m offended by it, because it’s my badge that’s being tarnished as well.”
In a statement Rep. Nunes called the FBI’s objections “spurious” and maintained that the agencies had been misused in their investigation of the Trump campaign. “It’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign,” Nunes said. “Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
The White House could prevent the release of the memo if it wanted to. But following his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, President Trump was caught on a hot mic telling a House Republican that he “100 percent” supports the memo’s release — despite the fact that at the time, Trump hadn’t even read it yet.
Trump has reasons for supporting the memo’s release that go beyond concerns over alleged law enforcement misconduct. On Wednesday evening, the Washington Post reported that Trump “has told close advisers recently that the memo could provide him with grounds for either firing or forcing [Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein] to leave, according to one person familiar with his remarks.”
This post has been updated to include Rep. Nunes’ statement.