The House Intelligence Committee voted to release a memo detailing alleged surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department, The Washington Post reports. The vote means that Trump now has up to five days to review the material and decide whether to keep it secret. He could agree to the release anytime before that deadline, but if he does nothing, the committee can release it publicly.
It is expected that the Justice Department and the FBI lobby Trump in the interim, hoping that he would prevent the memo’s classified contents from becoming public before lawyers for those agencies can review the material. The Committee also voted in a manner consistent with the policy of GOP against releasing a rebuttal memo from the panel’s Democrats, who denounced both moves.
‘’We had votes today to politicize the intelligence process,’’ said Representative Adam B. Schiff.
At the same time, Representative K.Michael Conaway stated that if Trump decides to support the memo’s release, that could happen as soon as Tuesday. According to him, the Democrats’ counterargument may be released soon. Yet, Conaway thinks that more lawmakers should read it first. An unnamed person familiar with the Democrats’ document described it as a point-by-point rebuttal of the GOP memo.
The Republicans’ effort was led by the Intelligence Committee’s chairman, Representative Devin Nunes. The GOP memo became a flashpoint in the political battle surrounding efforts to understand the scope of the alleged Russian meddling in U.S. presidential election. While Republicans say that it shows the investigation may be tainted by political bias, Democrats say that it is a cynical attempt to undercut the work of special counsel Robert Mueller.
Meanwhile, intelligence officials said they are concerned that releasing the memo would harm national security.
“I am heartsick, as should anyone be who cares about democracy and our nation’s security,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel at the CIA.
The vote occurred hours after FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe abruptly stepped down after months of withering criticism from Trump, telling friends he felt pressure from the head of the bureau to leave, New York Times reports citing two people close to McCabe. The White House said Trump had nothing to do with McCabe’s exit.
Trump and other Republicans criticized McCabe for his alleged bias in favor of Hillary Clinton. McCabe had intended to stay on the job for six more weeks. The earlier departure came amid concerns about an upcoming Justice Department inspector general report scrutinizing the actions of McCabe and other top FBI officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, Reuters informs.