White House officials told reporters on Thursday that President Donald Trump is expected to approve the release of a controversial intelligence memo written by House Republicans, overriding the strenuous objections of his own Justice Department, as well as the FBI Director.
“The President is okay with it,” a Senior Administration Official told reporters aboard Air Force One, after the President had spoken to a GOP legislative retreat in West Virginia. Reporters were told the approval would officially come down on Friday.
“I doubt there will be any redactions. It’s in Congress’ hands after that,” the official added.
The move comes amid public objections from the FBI, which on Wednesday expressed “grave concerns” about such a decision.
“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy,” the FBI statement read, as the FBI and Justice Department remain at odds with the President on the matter.
Even as members of both parties battled over the issue, it still wasn’t exactly clear what the GOP memo would reveal. House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Thursday that this memo was not a rebuke to the Special Counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, or a direct threat to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, the Department of Justice,” Ryan said. “It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the Deputy Attorney General.”
Speaking at a GOP legislative retreat in West Virginia, Ryan repeatedly referred to the GOP memo as regular Congressional oversight that is pursuing possible breaches of civil liberties, with regards to how surveillance warrants are authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
But that characterization of what the memo does by the Speaker was at odds with the public evaluation of it by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
In a Wednesday statement, Nunes took aim at the FBI and Department of Justice, saying “it’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign.”
Various news organizations have reported this matter centers around Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump Campaign, who attracted attention with a visit to Russia in July of 2016.
Page argues that he was put under surveillance because of information in the controversial “dossier” about President Trump, which was cobbled together by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.
Page – and many Republicans – argue that since the dossier was funded by the Democratic Party, it basically means the FBI had been doing opposition campaign work against Mr. Trump.
“Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again,” Nunes said in his statement.
Democrats meanwhile denounced the effort, saying it’s nothing more than an attempt to undermine the Mueller investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and any links to President Trump’s campaign organization.
“The decision of Chairman Nunes and House Republicans to release a bogus memo has taken the GOP’s cover-up campaign to a new, completely unacceptable extreme,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Both Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer asked Speaker Ryan to take Nunes off the Intelligence Committee, a suggestion that was immediately rejected by Ryan, who said Democrats were just playing “political games.”