Trump close to a decision on releasing classified Russia probe memo
The FBI have publicly stated “grave concerns” over the memo, and warned that its release could set a dangerous precedent.
US president Donald Trump is close to making a decision on whether to release a classified Republican memo alleging misconduct by the FBI in its investigation into potential ties between Russia and Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Democrats and the justice department have urged him to block the document’s disclosure, while the FBI said it had “grave concerns” over its accuracy.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said he expected a decision to be made “pretty soon” on whether to halt the House intelligence committee from releasing the memo. The panel voted along party lines on Monday to release it, and Mr Trump now has five days to object. If he does not, then US congress can release the document.
The president has read and been briefed on the memo, according to a senior administration official. Mr Trump is expected to approve the release of the memo shortly.
Mr Trump has said he wants the memo released despite the objections of the FBI and the justice department. The FBI declared it has “grave concerns” about the accuracy of the document, which was written as part of an effort to reveal what Republicans say were surveillance abuses by the FBI and the justice department in the early stages of the Russia probe.
Senior FBI officials have also made direct appeals to the White House, warning the move could set a dangerous precedent.
Democrats made a last-ditch effort on Wednesday evening to stop the memo’s release, saying it had been “secretly altered” by the Republicans who wrote it. California representative Adam Schiff said in a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that committee Democrats had discovered changes that were made after the Monday vote.
“The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the committee never approved for public release,” Mr Schiff said in the letter.
He asked Mr Nunes for another vote on the memo, but Republicans did not appear to waver. A spokesman for Mr Nunes said the committee vote was “procedurally sound”, and that “to suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves”.
The FBI’s stance means that Mr Trump, by allowing the memo’s release, would be openly defying his own FBI director by continuing to push for its disclosure. It also suggests a clear willingness by FBI director Christopher Wray, who in the early stretch of his tenure has been notably low-key, to challenge a president who just months ago sacked his predecessor, James Comey.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer are pressuring Speaker Paul Ryan to stop the memo’s release, and Ms Pelosi called for Mr Nunes to be removed as chairman of the intelligence panel, saying he took “deliberately dishonest actions” by altering a classified memo.
Democrats have called the memo a “cherry-picked” list of Republican talking points that attempt to distract from the committee’s own investigation into Russian meddling.