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Democrats Hoping to Release Rebuttal to Republicans' Russia Memo

By Katherine Gypson February 06, 2018

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says the White House has received a Democratic rebuttal to a Republican memo alleging FBI abuses of power during a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and will follow the same process that led to the public release of the Republican document.

President Donald Trump will have to decide within days whether to declassify the Democratic memo.

In a unanimous bi-partisan vote Monday, members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence agreed to release the report showing a dissenting view of the approach used to obtain a government surveillance warrant on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign advisor accused of contacts with Russia.

The Republican memo cleared the same approval process last Friday, sparking a furious debate across Washington over the role of partisan politics in the nation's top law enforcement agency.

"We think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies in the majority memo," ranking House Intelligence Committee Democrat Adam Schiff told reporters shortly after the vote. "We want to make sure the White House does not redact our memo for political purposes and obviously that's a huge concern."

Trump claims the Republican memo crafted by House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes and others "totally vindicates" him of wrongdoing in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the election and whether he obstructed justice in trying to limit the probe.

In a White House press gaggle Monday, Raj Shah said the president's personal attorneys have called for a second special counsel to provide further review of the FBI's handling of the investigation into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats said the contents of the four-page so-called "Nunes memo," are nothing but partisan politics.

"It's the latest distraction concocted by Republicans to protect a president of their party from the conclusions from an independent – a truly independent investigation," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday. "At least the American people can now see the Nunes memo for what it truly is – an impotent document of GOP talking points."

Twitter back-and-forth

In a Twitter remark Monday, Trump assailed the top Democrat on the panel, saying Schiff "is desperate to run for higher office."

Trump claimed Schiff "is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there" with former FBI director James Comey, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan and former director of National Intelligence James Clapper –all of whom Trump has feuded with over national security issues.

Schiff responded on Twitter, saying, "Mr. President, I see you've had a busy morning of 'Executive Time.' Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or ... really anything else."

Meanwhile, Trump praised Nunes, saying, "Representative Devin Nunes, a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!"

The Nunes memo concluded the FBI relied excessively on opposition research funded by Democrats in a dossier compiled by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, as it sought approval from a U.S. surveillance court in October 2016 to monitor Page and his links to Russia.

But the memo also noted that the FBI investigation that eventually led to Mueller's probe started months earlier – in July 2016 – when agents began looking into contacts between another Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, and Russian operatives. Papadopoulos, as part of Mueller's probe, has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his Russian contacts and, pending his sentencing, is cooperating with Mueller's investigation.

Democratic lawmakers opposed to Friday's release of the memo contend that the Republican-approved statement "cherry-picks" information and overstates the importance of the Steele dossier in the FBI's effort to win approval from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court for the monitoring of Page's activities.

The FBI also opposed release of the memo, saying it had "grave concerns" about its accuracy because of omissions concerning its request to the surveillance court to monitor Page. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Mueller investigation, also opposed its release.

Michael Bowman contributed to this report

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