Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blasted the decision by President Trump and Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee on Friday to release a controversial memo alleging surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Department of Justice.
Trump declassified the four-page memo, prepared by GOP chairman Devin Nunes, and authorized its release, ignoring warnings from current and former FBI and DOJ officials and numerous lawmakers who said doing so would be reckless and dangerous.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was among the first to criticize the decision.
“The latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests ― no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s,” McCain said in a statement. “The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”
The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s. https://t.co/6dsbcBIla6
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) February 2, 2018
Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, slammed the decision too.
The manner in which this was done was wrong and does a disservice to our country. My full statement on the release of the memo: pic.twitter.com/AuwIpLDaBz
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) February 2, 2018
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, vowed to “fight” to release the Democratic response to Nunes’s memo, which has yet to be declassified.
“The President’s decision to publicly release a misleading memo attacking DOJ & FBI is a transparent attempt to discredit these institutions and undermine Mueller’s probe,” Schiff wrote on Twitter. “We’ll fight to release our classified response.”
The President’s decision to publicly release a misleading memo attacking DOJ & FBI is a transparent attempt to discredit these institutions and undermine Mueller’s probe.
We'll fight to release our classified response. Until then here's a glimpse at what's wrong with their memo: pic.twitter.com/HX0J6UtDLY
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) February 2, 2018
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the release of the memo “reckless,” and said the unprecedented public disclosure of classified material during an ongoing criminal investigation is dangerous to our national security.
The release of the #NunesMemo by House Intelligence Committee Republicans and the White House, over the objections of the FBI and the Department of Justice, is reckless and demonstrates an astonishing disregard for the truth.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) February 2, 2018
This will make it far more difficult for the Intelligence Committees to conduct meaningful, bipartisan oversight of intelligence activities in the future.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) February 2, 2018
Unlike almost every House member who voted in favor of this memo's release, I have actually read the underlying documents on which the #NunesMemo was based. They simply do not support its conclusions.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) February 2, 2018
Former FBI Director James Comey, who has taken to defending the bureau against Trump’s repeated attacks, expressed his disbelief.
“That’s it?” Comey tweeted. “Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”
That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 2, 2018
In recent days, FBI and Justice Department officials urged Trump not to release the memo, with the bureau saying it had “grave concerns” about its accuracy.
Earlier Friday, Trump tweeted a statement slamming the leadership of the FBI and DOJ.
“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!”
“I think it’s a disgrace,” Trump told reporters at the White House after authorizing the memo’s release. “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.”
According to the Washington Post, Trump had reportedly told friends in recent days that he believes the memo will vindicate his repeated claims that special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation was a “witch-hunt,” and could give him the justification to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Mueller, or even Mueller himself, should he decide to do so.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., warned that using the Nunes memo “as a pretext” to fire anyone involved with the Russia probe “would be viewed as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation.”
The Nunes memo is partisan and misleading, simple as that. To use it as pretext for firing Deputy AG Rosenstein, Special Counsel Mueller or other DOJ leadership would be viewed as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. pic.twitter.com/vqlZKkY94V
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 2, 2018
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that by releasing the memo, Trump “has surrendered his constitutional responsibility as Commander-in-Chief” and that the decision “undermines our national security” and serves as “a bouquet to his friend Putin.”
.@realDonaldTrump has surrendered his constitutional responsibility as Commander-in-Chief by releasing Nunes’ unredacted, classified memo. His decision undermines our national security and is a bouquet to his friend Putin. pic.twitter.com/kdUgIrCE6l
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) February 2, 2018
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., slammed the release of the memo as “a blatant attempt by House Republicans and the White House to disrupt the critically important investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.”
“The fact that Congressional Republicans and the White House would release a memo the FBI itself says is misleading is a sad example of a political party putting partisanship above patriotism,” Sanders said in a statement.
“According to news reports President Trump himself has acknowledged that the release of the memo was designed to disrupt Robert Mueller’s investigation,” Sanders added. “It is critical that the American people learn the truth about what happened in 2016, and no political stunt should interfere with the special counsel’s work. What is the president afraid of?”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the memo “seems to do more to confirm the legitimacy of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign than to undermine it.”
“It is clear from this memo that Chairman Nunes is serving up garbage evidence to provide cover for the president to fire either Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in order to scuttle the investigation before it reaches the truth,” Murphy said. “Americans deserve the full story, not a partisan witch hunt.”
Nunes himself pushed back against criticism.
“Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies,” Nunes said in a statement. “It’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz, said the memo shows “clear and convincing evidence of treason.”
My full statement on the declassified memo: pic.twitter.com/eRo6ugpWQ9
— Rep. Paul Gosar, DDS (@RepGosar) February 2, 2018
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s decision to declassify the memo, saying the four-page document “raises serious concerns about the integrity of decisions made at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and the FBI to use the Government’s most intrusive surveillance tools against American citizens.”
“This decision was made with input from the President’s national security team—including law enforcement officials and members of the intelligence community, for whom the President has great respect,” Sanders said, contradicting Trump’s own ruminations about the “Deep State,” which suggest he actually has very little respect for members of the intelligence community.
“He is especially grateful to the hardworking rank-and-file public servants who work every day to keep America safe and uphold our laws while protecting the constitutional rights of all Americans,” she added.
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