Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted Monday to release a secret memo on the Justice Department probe into possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — while refusing to let the top-ranking Democrat release a competing report.
FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly met with Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), who prepared the memo, and asked him to wait to release it, but Nunes moved forward with the vote anyways.
Nunes claims his memo shows that the FBI and DOJ used tainted information to form a politically biased investigation into the Trump campaign. Specifically, the memo says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed off on an application extending the surveillance on Trump campaign associate Carter Page, the New York Times reported.
Republicans and Fox News pundits have been clamoring for the release of the memo, calling it “worse than Watergate.” Until now, Nunes has kept his memo close — refusing to share it with Senate Republicans or officials with the DOJ and FBI.
“I viewed the classified report from House Intel relating to the FBI, FISA abuses, the infamous Russian dossier, and so-called ‘Russian collusion.’ What I saw is absolutely shocking,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said. “This report needs to be released — now. Americans deserve the truth. #ReleaseTheMemo.”
Contrary to what Republicans claim, the House Intelligence Committee’s top-ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff (CA), said that Nunes’ memo is completely biased, and cherry picks intelligence to undermine special counsel 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,” Schiff said last Wednesday.
The DOJ also warned Nunes last week that releasing the memo without review by law enforcement would be “extraordinarily reckless”
“This is an effort to circle the wagons around the White House and distract from the Russia probe,” Schiff said Monday after the vote to release the memo. “I think we have crossed a deeply regrettable line… There was a vote to politicize the declassification process of intelligence and potentially compromise sources and methods.”
This memo is part of the latest efforts of congressional Republicans and Fox News contributors to aggressively discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion. As ThinkProgress previously reported, by labeling Mueller’s investigation as “illegitimate,” “corrupt,” and full of “unaccountable bias” — the same claims in Nunes’ memo — conservatives are making it increasingly difficult for Mueller’s investigation to proceed unimpeded. This is only further emphasized by the abrupt resignation of FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe on Monday.
Nunes has used his role atop the House Intelligence Committee to run interference for Trump. Last March, after a late-night excursion to the White House, he claimed that it was at least possible that President Obama had tapped Trump’s phones, adding “I don’t know that the American people would be comfortable with what I’ve read.” The House Ethics Committee cleared Nunes of breaking the rules about public disclosure of classified information — but only because there was fierce disagreement as to what was and was not classified, according to The Atlantic.