- The White House is likely to release a classified GOP memo Thursday, Reuters reported, citing an administration official.
- The memo has for weeks been a source of controversy among lawmakers in Washington.
- Republicans say it outlines bias against President Donald Trump at the FBI and the Justice Department, while Democrats have characterized it as misleading.
A classified memo that Republicans say exposes corruption at the FBI and the Department of Justice has been the subject of a fiery debate in Washington.
The controversy over what the memo actually alleges – and whether it should be released to the public – has put Democrats, Republicans, and top officials at the FBI and the DOJ at odds in an unprecedented showdown.
And it could come to a head soon.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted on Monday to declassify the memo, giving President Donald Trump five days to decide whether to make it public. On Wednesday, Reuters described a Trump administration official as saying the White House was likely to do so on Thursday.
Here’s what you should know about the memo.
Why was it drafted?
The memo is a four-page document spearheaded by Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, that’s said to contain classified information.
The memo was drafted as part of Nunes’ investigation into potential corruption and bias against Trump among federal law-enforcement officials. It was conducted alongside a separate investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Nunes, who is close to Trump, recused himself from the Russia investigation last April amid an ethics investigation into allegations that he may have illegally disclosed classified information.
What does it say?
- REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Citing people familiar with the memo, The New York Times reported over the weekend that it accuses top officials at the FBI and the DOJ of misleading a judge in seeking a warrant to extend secret surveillance of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser.
The Times said the memo contends that the officials failed to fully inform the surveillance court judge that the request was partly based on research by Christopher Steele – the author of an explosive dossier outlining ties between Trump and Russia – funded by Democratic organizations.
It also names Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as an official who approved the request, the Times report says.
The memo suggests that FBI and DOJ officials relied on politically motivated sources to justify continued spying on Page, The Washington Post reported.
What do Republicans think?
Republicans backing the public release of the memo believe it will expose anti-Trump bias and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI and the DOJ.
Last month, House members were granted special access to view the memo.
“What I saw is absolutely shocking,” Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina said in a tweet. “This report needs to be released – now. Americans deserve the truth.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday also voiced support for the memo’s release.
“I think we should disclose all this stuff,” he said, according to Fox News. “It’s the best disinfectant – accountability, transparency, for the sake of the reputation of our institutions.”
Meanwhile, conservative pundits like the Fox News host Sean Hannity have led the charge in promoting the Twitter hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo to pressure Trump to authorize its disclosure.
Citing people familiar with White House discussions, CNN reported on Thursday that Trump had privately told friends and colleagues that disclosing the memo would make it easier for him to discredit the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the outcome in his favor.
The memo controversy has erupted as Mueller’s investigation has heated up – multiple recent reports have said Mueller is also investigating whether Trump sought to obstruct justice, most notably by firing James Comey as FBI director in May.
Some Republicans, including Reps. Peter King and Mike Conaway, have cautioned against publicly releasing the full memo, saying it would be “dangerous” to disclose classified national security information that has not been fully reviewed and sourced, and at least partially redacted.
What do Democrats think?
- REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Democrats who have seen the memo dispute the way Republicans have characterized it.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has described the memo as “highly misleading.”
“This represents another effort to distract from the Russia probe and undermine the Special Counsel,” Schiff said in a statement. “With this latest gambit, however, the Majority seeks to selectively and misleadingly characterize classified information in an effort to protect the President at any cost.”
He told The Post that the memo “distorts the work of the FBI and the Department of Justice.”
Schiff on Wednesday accused Nunes of making unauthorized material changes to the memo after the committee voted to release it but before it was sent to Trump. (A representative for Nunes characterized the edits as minor.)
Democrats on the committee are said to have introduced a memo of their own to members of the House to counter the Republican version.
In an effort to stop the GOP memo from going public, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Ryan on Thursday imploring him to remove Nunes as chairman and “put an end to this charade.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined Pelosi in calling for Nunes’ removal, Reuters reported.
What do the FBI and the DOJ say?
Both law-enforcement agencies strongly oppose releasing the memo, saying there are significant inaccuracies and the potential for classified information to be compromised.
On Wednesday, the FBI made a rare public statement warning against the memo’s release, citing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Over the weekend, FBI Director Christopher Wray met with Nunes to review the document, Politico reported. But the statement said the bureau had only a “limited opportunity to review” it.
Despite pushback from the agencies, Trump has hinted that he still wants the memo to get out. In response to a question after the State of the Union address on Tuesday about whether he would approve its disclosure, Trump said, “Oh, yeah, don’t worry, 100%.”