Hours after President Donald J. Trump told congressmen, as he exited the House chamber after his State of the Union address, he will “100 percent” release the memorandum written by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence detailing abuses by the FBI during the 2016 political cycle, the FBI and Capitol Hill Democrats are mounting a last-ditch effort to keep the memo from the American people.
“I have served on the committee for 10 years,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (R.-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intel committee, Monday just before the committee voted to make the memo public. “This is the first time we have sought to declassify highly sensitive information from a political reason–It is, I think, a terrible line to cross.”
It is widely reported that the memo documents how the FBI used an opposition research file on candidate Trump, the so-called “Steele Dossier, paid for by Hillary R. Clinton’s presidential campaign to secure a FISA court warrant for surveillance of the Trump campaign.
The dossier was completed by Christopher Steele, a veteran of British Intelligence service.
Schiff lost Monday’s vote, but Wednesday night he launched his next potential roadblock, the fact that the memo that was made available to all House members was not presented to the White House for review.
At 10 p.m. Wednesday, the California Democrat Tweeted out a letter that spelled out that he and his fellow Democrats were misled by Rep. Devin G. Nunes (R.-Calif.), the committee chairman, when Monday Schiff took the chairman as saying that the memo would be released without any changes or redactions.
BREAKING: Discovered late tonight that Chairman Nunes made material changes to the memo he sent to White House – changes not approved by the Committee. White House therefore reviewing a document the Committee has not approved for release. pic.twitter.com/llhQK9L7l6
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 1, 2018
“It is imperative that the committee majority immediately withdraw the document that it sent to the White House,” Schiff wrote.
He further wrote:
Because there were material changes made to the document unbeknownst to committee members and only revealed to us this evening, two days after the vote, there is no longer a valid basis for the White House to review the altered document, since this new version is not the same document shared with the entire House and on which the committee voted.
Washington Examiner columnist Byron York Tweeted out that the changes were either grammatical or specifically requested by the either the Democrats themselves or by the FBI.
Just talked with House Intel source. Said total changes to memo were: A) Unknown number of 'grammatical and clarifying' fixes. B) One change requested by FBI due to sources & methods concerns. C) One two-word change requested by Democrats for accuracy. House Intel GOP statement: pic.twitter.com/ZkNuMBoLZK
— Byron York (@ByronYork) February 1, 2018
In light of Schiff’s latest gambit is it interesting to look back at the transcript of Monday’s committee meeting, when Rep. James A. Himes (D.-Conn.) asked Nunes directly about alterations to the memo.
“I guess, what I am looking for is that memo word-for-word to be made public or will it be redacted or altered in any way?” Himes asked.
Nunes did not respond directly, but he did give a “yeah” that Schiff now takes as an effort to mislead Democrats.
Also at Monday’s committee meeting, Schiff complained that FBI Director Christopher A. Wray personally told him he was concerned about the memo’s release.
The day before the vote, Nunes and Rep. Harold W. “Trey” Gowdy (R.-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee met with Wray and shared the memo with him.
In addition to Wray, Nunes sent copies of the memo to two senior FBI officials, so it is easy to speculate that this was the context of the FBI-requested alterations.
It was also Monday that Deputy FBI Director Andrew G. McCabe, no relation to this reporter, announced he was taking terminal leave in connection with his March retirement.
Wednesday afternoon the Federal Bureau of Investigation posted this statement on its website in a direct rebuke to Nunes and the president:
The FBI takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.
With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it. As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.
In his response to the FBI, Nunes pulled no punches.
“Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies,” he said.
The FBI is well aware of how it has tried to slow-walk the committee’s investigations, he said. “The FBI is intimately familiar with ‘material omissions’ with respect to their presentations to both Congress and the courts, and they are welcome to make public, to the greatest extent possible, all the information they have on these abuses.”
Also, joining the FBI and Schiff in the effort to block the release of the memo was Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.), who called on Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R.-Wis.) to support Schiff in the interest of the rule of law and the integrity of the House.
It’s clear that Chairman Nunes will seemingly stop at nothing to undermine the rule of law & interfere with the Russia probe. He’s been willing to carry the White House’s water, attack our law enforcement and intelligence officials, & now to mislead his House colleagues. 1/2
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 1, 2018
If @SpeakerRyan cares about the integrity of the House or the rule of law, he will put an end to this charade once & for all. 2/2
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 1, 2018
For his part, Ryan said he is backing Nunes.
Speaking to Fox News’ “Fox and Friends,” Tuesday, Ryan said he wanted a clean slate at the FBI.
“Let it all out, get it all out there. Cleanse the organization,” he said. “I think we should disclose all this stuff. It’s the best disinfectant. Accountability, transparency — for the sake of the reputation of our institutions.”