On Friday, the White House cleared the release of the controversial four-page memo written by Rep. Devin Nunes, chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. President Trump’s decision comes after Republicans on the committee voted to declassify the memo earlier this week. Democrats on the committee opposed its release, as did the FBI.
The president defended the decision, writing on Twitter Friday morning, “The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!”
The FBI’s rank and file, for what it’s worth, are siding with Director Christopher Wray, who opposed the memo’s release. In a statement on Friday, the FBI Agents Association said it “appreciates” Wray “standing shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the FBI as we work to protect our country from criminal and national security threats.” Wray has raised concerns that declassifying the document could compromise the sources and methods behind the FBI’s work.
While Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were in favor of release, Republicans were not unanimously supportive. Sen. John McCain said in a statement on Friday, “The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s.”
All Democrats, meanwhile, are firmly against it. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Trump “just sent his friend Putin a bouquet.” Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee accused their Republican colleagues of “deliberate and active complicity” with the Trump administration’s attempts to undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and the FBI.
Sen. Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, called the document misleading. “Unlike almost every House member who voted in favor of this memo’s release, I have actually read the underlying documents on which the memo was based. They simply do not support its conclusions.”
Democrats on the House Intelligence committee were even more specific in their criticism. “The authors of the GOP memo would like the country to believe that the investigation began with Christopher Steele and the dossier,” they wrote in a joint statement Friday. “This ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the
Rather, the Democrats contend, the FBI had independent, existing intelligence suggesting Russian agents approached the Trump campaign through George Papadopoulos, a campaign aide not mentioned in the dossier.
“As we know from Papadopoulos’ guilty plea, Russian agents disclosed to Papadopoulos their possession of stolen Clinton emails and interest in a relationship with the campaign. In claiming that there is ‘no evidence of any cooperation or conspiracy between Page and Papadopoulos,’ the Majority deliberately misstates the reason why DOJ specifically explained Russia’s role in courting Papadopoulos and the context in which to evaluate Russian approaches to Page.”
Nunes’ memo does not dispute the fact that Papadopoulos was mentioned in the FISA warrant application, but the congressman does appear eager to cast doubt on the FBI’s investigation into Papadopoulos, noting that it was opened by Peter Strzok, an agent who was removed from Mueller’s investigation after it was revealed he wrote texts critical of Trump. (Strzok also ghost-wrote the letter re-opening an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server days before the election — a letter many observers believe ultimately cost her the election.)