House Intel Committee Votes To Release Dem Countermemo. Will Trump Go Along?

Feb 5, 2018
Originally published on February 5, 2018 5:13 pm

Updated at 7:05 p.m. ET

The House intelligence committee voted without opposition on Monday to declassify a secret Democratic rebuttal to the once-secret Republican memo about alleged surveillance abuses that was unveiled on Friday.

The Democrats' document now goes to the White House, where President Trump will decide whether it should become public.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One on Monday that the administration would review the countermemo by intelligence committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., as it did the first one by Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

One additional wrinkle with Schiff's document is that he has also asked for the FBI and Justice Department to go over it as well. Those agencies already have copies of it, Schiff told reporters at the Capitol on Monday evening.

It wasn't immediately clear what effect the FBI and DOJ role in the review might have on the timing of the release, but Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. called on the administration to act fast.

"Now that the House intelligence committee has acted, the president should move quickly," Schumer said. "The president decided the public deserved to see the Nunes memo before he'd even read it, so he ought to be similarly eager for the American people to see this memo."

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other leaders in the majority in Congress have said they thought Democrats' response should be released as Nunes' document was, so long as it also went through review and declassification.

Monday's vote started the clock on that process, and if the same timetable applies as before, Democrats' countermemo could be out by Friday.

Notwithstanding the White House's official willingness to treat Schiff's memo as it treated Nunes', Trump took a shot on Twitter at Schiff earlier in the day.

Schiff responded in short order.

Nunes' memo charges that "biased" officials in the FBI and Justice Department abused their surveillance powers in asking for a warrant to monitor the communications of a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page.

Although the document makes a narrow case about the specific practices involving Page, Trump and his supporters also say it suggests a "systemic" pattern of abuse. That is not described.

Trump also said on Twitter that it "totally vindicates" him. It does not; the memo delineates how the FBI's Russia investigation began earlier with another foreign policy aide who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

The chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in October 2017 that for the purposes of his investigation, the question of whether the Trump campaign conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election remains "open."

Trump and the White House say there was no collusion.

Meanwhile, the FBI and Justice Department deny any wrongdoing on their part involving surveillance warrants.

Democrats argue the Nunes document glosses over some aspects of the story and leaves out others. Schiff and his minority say they prepared their secret rebuttal to fill in what they call these gaps.

Their allies also have prepared other memorandums of their own; House Judiciary Committee ranking member Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., released a memo that he said makes the case while stopping short of the classified aspects of the matter.

Plus Nunes isn't finished with his own memos either. He told The Weekly Standard that he plans to release more documentation about what he calls abuse by the FBI and the Justice Department, although he hopes it will be via the "standard process" as opposed to with a secret document that must then be declassified.

Trump hailed Nunes on Monday and appeared to welcome these efforts.

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