Democrats See Campaign Issue in House GOP Memo Alleging Bias

Updated on
  • Intelligence panel to decide whether to release document
  • Democrats accusing Republicans of complicity in obstruction
GOP Lawmakers Back Mueller Inquiry

A House panel meets Monday to consider releasing a rebuttal to the disputed memo alleging bias in the Russia investigation, as Democrats signaled a willingness to use the issue against rank-and-file Republicans ahead of this year’s mid-term elections.

The House Intelligence Committee will hold a closed-door session at 5 p.m. Monday to consider public disclosure of material prepared by Democrats under the same, obscure House rule the panel used to release the Republican memo by Chairman Devin Nunes on Friday.

Adam Schiff

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Multiple officials familiar with the meeting agenda said the subject is the Democratic counter memo, authored by California Representative Adam Schiff, the panel’s top Democrat. He’s said his memo is based on the same underlying classified material that Republicans used for their version, but will point out its errors and omissions.

President Donald Trump and some Republican allies are using the Nunes memo to allege bias in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

Trump went on offense Monday, making unsubstantiated allegations against Schiff, Democratic Senator Mark Warner, former FBI Director James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper -- all of whom have publicly criticized the Nunes memo.

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!,” Trump tweeted. “Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!"

‘Effort to Obstruct’

Even before Monday’s expected vote, Democratic lawmakers circulated talking points saying House Republicans are “now part and parcel to an organized effort to obstruct” Mueller’s probe.

“Until now, we could only really accuse House Republicans of ignoring the President’s open attempts to block the Russia investigation,” Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee said a six-page letter circulated Saturday.

According to lawmakers who’ve read the Democratic memo and spoke on condition of anonymity, it is more than 10 pages -- at least twice as long as Republican version. It also contains an “annotated section” of explanatory notes at the end.

Some Republican members of the committee have said they’ll join Democrats in backing the release of their memo, which under the House “Rule X” would also require Trump’s authorization as not posing “a threat to the national interest.”

White House Call

Republican committee member Will Hurd of Texas said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he initially opposed the release of the Democratic memo because he thought there was information affecting national security but that “I believe they’re working through that.”

The White House released a statement on Friday saying the administration “stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards, including the need to protect intelligence sources and methods.” The Democratic memo will be considered if it is voted out of committee, the White House said.

Schiff told reporters on Friday that Democrats have sent their memo to the FBI and Justice Department for review. He said he expects parts of it will be redacted but that the White House will allow its public disclosure on grounds of transparency.

“I think they are going to be forced to release it,” Schiff said.

‘Fundamental Fairness’

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer sent Trump a letter on Sunday urging him to approve the release of the Democrats’ memo. To do otherwise would confirm suspicions that making only the Republican version public was intended to undermine Mueller’s investigation, Schumer said.

“I believe it is a matter of fundamental fairness that the American people be allowed to see both sides of the argument and make their own judgments,” Schumer said in the letter.

The Democratic memo outlines what it describes as mischaracterizations and omissions in the Republican version. They include the Republican allegation that a secret intelligence court wasn’t told that Democrats funded a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele that was used to secure a surveillance warrant on Trump adviser Carter Page, Schiff said.

“It’s misleading to say, suggest the court had no idea there was a political motivation involved in his work,” Schiff said. The Democratic memo will show the extent of other information about Page that was provided to the court in the warrant application, he said.

Trump’s Vindication

Trump tweeted on Saturday that the Republican memo “totally vindicates” him, even as Republican members of the House intelligence Committee said on Sunday morning talk shows that the Russia probe should continue.

“There’s going to be a Russia probe, even without a dossier,” Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Gowdy is the only Republican on the intelligence panel who’s seen the classified intelligence used to write the Nunes memo.

Democrats say the Republican memo itself acknowledges that the FBI probe began months before the surveillance warrant was sought for Page, based on information provided on another Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos.

Still, Trump’s efforts to undermine the credibility of the investigation by attacking the leadership of the FBI and Justice Department appear to be having some effect. A SurveyMonkey poll conducted for Axios Feb. 1-2 showed that only 38 percent of Republicans approve of the FBI, a result that runs counter to the party’s decades-long support for law enforcement.

— With assistance by Erik Wasson, and Toluse Olorunnipa

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