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House Intelligence Committee Votes Unanimously To Release Democratic Memo

Feb 5, 2018
Originally published on February 5, 2018 9:56 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We have an update now on a story we've been following today about dueling memos from the House Intelligence Committee. Of course last week a Republican memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses dominated news headlines. Well, today the House Intelligence Committee voted to make a Democratic countermemo public as well.

NPR's Ryan Lucas has been following all the twists and turns of this story and is back here in the studio with the latest. Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

SHAPIRO: So the Republican memo was finally released on Friday. What can you tell us about what is in this Democratic memo?

LUCAS: Well, the Democratic memo is basically their detailed response to the Republican one that you mentioned was released last week. And as a quick reminder, the Republican memo alleges that the FBI and the Justice Department left out important facts when it got court approval to conduct surveillance on a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. The Democratic memo was prepared by the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat - that's Adam Schiff - and his committee's staff. Today the committee voted without opposition to make this memo public. Schiff says he thinks this will go a long way towards help correcting what he called distortions and inaccuracies in the Republican memo. And he says timeline-wise, this is going to be sent to the White House tonight.

SHAPIRO: And what happens from there?

LUCAS: This is going to follow the same process as we saw with the Republican memo. So it's going to be sent to the president, who will have five days to decide whether to make it public or not. If he wants it released, it will be. If he objects, the full House can vote to overrule his veto and make it public anyway. White House spokesman Raj Shah said today that if the Democratic memo - well, when the Democratic memo is sent, the administration will consider it in the same way that it did as the Republican one. So it will undergo a legal and national security review.

Schiff said that he wants to have the FBI and the Justice Department review it as well. That way they can scrub out any information that they think might reveal what they call sources and methods or if it might somehow impact an ongoing investigation. He says both the FBI and the Justice Department have the memo already, the Democratic one. They haven't weighed in on it yet.

But he said importantly that if the White House makes any redactions to the Democratic memo, he wants the administration to come in and explain to the committee itself why they're making those. He says this is important because of - he's concerned that the White House could make redactions for political reasons.

SHAPIRO: So if we're looking at a five-day countdown clock, this could be another Friday afternoon memo (laughter) release for the second week in a row.

LUCAS: Yes.

SHAPIRO: Earlier today President Trump tweeted about the author of the Democratic memo, Adam Schiff. Tell us about what he said.

LUCAS: Well, he went after Schiff on Twitter, as you said. He accused him of being one of the biggest leakers and liars in Washington. At the same time, Trump praised the man behind the GOP memo. That's the chairman of the intelligence committee, Devin Nunes. He called Nunes a man of great courage. He said he could someday be recognized as a great American hero. Remember; this comes directly after - two days, three days after the GOP memo was released.

The president said that document totally vindicated him - no collusion, no obstruction of justice. The president's tweets here are really exceptional in their tone and also in their content. And they're exceptional because the president is picking a partisan side in the work of a committee that is investigating his own campaign's possible ties with Russia.

SHAPIRO: How does this debate over the memo affect that investigation into Russia?

LUCAS: Well, despite attempts by Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, most notably, to say that the memo has nothing at all to do with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, the president has made clear that he himself thinks it has everything to do with the Mueller investigation. And of course that's what Democrats have been saying for a while. They say that this is about Mueller, but it's an attempt to undermine Mueller's investigation. The concern is that the Republican memo will be used by the president and his allies in the Republican Party and media to try to discredit Mueller's investigation and raise questions about any conclusions that it may come to.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thanks very much.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.