The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Monday to release a Democratic rebuttal to GOP accusations the FBI misled a secret surveillance court — but whether the information actually becomes public will depend on President Donald Trump, who has heaped scorn on the effort.
The vote means the political rancor roiling Congress is likely to continue, as accusations and counter-accusations fly about which party is misrepresenting or misusing sensitive intelligence surrounding the ongoing probe into whether any Trump associates coordinated with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
The panel’s senior Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, California, announced the vote results, saying GOP attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI show desperation on the part of the president’s defenders.
“We think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies” in the GOP memo released last week, Schiff told reporters after Monday’s vote, adding that he was concerned the Trump administration could still try to stymie the Democrats’ response.
“We want to make sure that the White House does not redact our memo for political purposes,” Schiff said. “There is a rising sense of panic clearly within the White House and as well on the Hill.”
Schiff said that he gave copies of the memo to the FBI and Justice Department days ago, and it would go to the White House on Monday night for review.
Even with the committee voting to make the Democrats’ memo public, Trump could still decide to keep it secret. Under congressional rules, the president has five days to consider whether to block the memo’s release. If he blocks it, the intelligence committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, could ask the full House to override the president’s decision.
Before the vote, Trump charged in a tweet that Schiff “leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information” and “must be stopped” — suggesting the president may decide not to allow the Democrats’ assertions to be made public.
The committee’s Republican members, including Nunes, had previously signaled they would support eventually making the memo public.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said last week he supports the rebuttal of the public release once it goes through the same process the Republican memo was put through. The GOP memo was available to House members to read in a secure facility for 11 days before the panel voted to make it public; last Monday, the House Intelligence Committee voted to make the Democrats’ memo available to all members to peruse in a secure facility as well.
The four-page GOP document released Friday accuses the FBI and the Justice Department of misusing information from a British ex-spy during the 2016 election to help justify their warrant application to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.
The Democrats’ 10-page rebuttal, written by Schiff and staffers, suggests that the Republicans’ memo is misleading and relies on cherry-picked information intended to discredit the ongoing probe into possible links between Russian agents and the Trump campaign.
In his Monday tweet, the president accused “Little Adam Schiff” of being “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington,” along with former FBI Director James Comey; Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; former CIA Director John Brennan; and former director of national intelligence James Clapper. All had spoken out against releasing the GOP memo.
Also Monday, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, released a heavily redacted version of their memo urging the Justice Department to investigate whether the British ex-spy, Christopher Steele, lied to the FBI. Steele authored a now-famous dossier of allegations alleging ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin, a document at the center of Republicans’ complaints about the bureau.
The two senators also made clear that they are probing whether officials at the State Department may have helped Steele. Nunes has indicated that he is investigating this as well.
The document made public by Grassley on Monday indicates that the Senate Judiciary Committee launched its inquiry in response to reports published by The Washington Post about Steele and the firm that hired him, Fusion GPS. It accuses Steele of misleading the FBI about his contact with reporters during the campaign.
Steele declined to comment. A lawyer for Fusion GPS did not immediately comment on the document.
Washington Post writer John Wagner contributed to this report.
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