Despite his commitment earlier in the day, White House officials on Friday evening said President Donald Trump has not made a final decision on whether to clear a memo from House Intelligence Democrats rebutting one from Republicans alleging abuse by FBI and Justice Department officials in the early days of the Russia probe.
“This afternoon, the president met with the director of the FBI, the principal associate deputy attorney general, and the White House Counsel’s Office to discuss the memorandum from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and receive their input,” Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a statement. “The president is weighing his options and will respond soon.”
Around midday, however, Trump told reporters in the oval office during an unplanned public event with the day’s media pool that the would be clearing the document for release.
Trump indicated he had signed off on the release of the House Intelligence Committee Democrats’ memo that offers a counter to a GOP document made public last Friday claiming abuses by the FBI and Justice Department in the early phases of the Russia probe.
“It’s going to be released soon,” Trump said. “We’re going to be releasing a letter soon.”
That letter must accompany the returned copy — possibly redacted — to the House panel to explain his decision.
Multiple White House aides have not responded to inquiries about the seeming delay, given Trump's earlier comment.
A White House official around 4 p.m. Friday told Roll Call and several other publications that Trump’s reference to a “letter” was just him being loose with nomenclature. She gave no indication he might block release of the document.
There was a meeting about an hour earlier in the West Wing about the fate of the Democratic memo. About two and a half hours later came Shah’s statement. Friday is the fifth day of a five-day presidential review period a Monday evening unanimous vote by the full House Intelligence Committee set in motion.
White House aides have said all week the president has been hearing from a range of opinions about its contents and what he should decide to do with it — a list that includes keeping it classified, releasing it as-is, or making it public with any sensitive parts blacked out. At the same time, Trump and his senior staff were shuffling through their collective response to an abuse scandal that forced former Staff Secretary Rob Porter from his post.
“We’ll get some people down to brief him on it,” Kelly said. One was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who some Democrats and Trump critics have warned the president might fire, using the GOP memo as justification.
“He met with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, within the last hour to discuss some of the differences between the two memos,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday afternoon. “When [the review is] completed, the president will be given a thorough briefing on the findings of the different organizations and stakeholders that are involved, and will make a determination at that time.”