President Donald Trump is accusing House Intelligence Committee Democrats with purposely crafting their rebuttal memo about FBI and Justice Department officials’ actions early in the Russia election meddling probe in a way that would back his White House into a corner.
The president used a Saturday tweet to explain his Friday night decision to block the release of the Democratic document that counters one released last week by the panel’s Republicans. Trump claims the Democrats crafted “a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted.”
The GOP president accused the committee’s Democrats with crafting their document so they could “blame the White House for lack of transparency.”
The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency. Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
Trump contended Saturday that he is not opposed to eventually releasing the Democratic memo in some form, writing that he instructed the panel’s minority side to “re-do and send back in proper form!” In a letter to the committee released Friday night, White House Counsel Donald McGahn offered the assistance of Justice Department experts to revamp the document so it can be made public.
The Democrats’ memo offers a counter to a GOP document made public last Friday — with the president’s backing — claiming abuses by the FBI and Justice Department in the early phases of the Russia probe. Senior Democratic members blasted Trump’s refusal to release it after clearing a GOP memo last week, which the panel’s Republican chairman quickly made public, arguing the FBI and Justice Department improperly obtained a surveillance on then-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the early phases of the Russia probe.
Republicans contend senior law enforcement officials were — and still are — biased against Trump, something the president also says frequently. Democrats disagree, saying the GOP memo was written solely to help Trump discredit the Russia investigation.
McGahn informed committee leaders Friday night that the president is “inclined” to release the memo but could not allow the Democrats’ document to be made public “because the memorandum contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” The same missive offered Justice Department experts to help clear up those issues.
But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded to the memo blockage by accusing Trump of a “cover-up” in relation to the Russia election meddling probe and his actions in response to it. Her sharp rhetoric raised the stakes in the Russia investigation — and November’s midterm elections, which could hand Democrats control of the House and Senate, dramatically increasing the chances for impeachment proceedings against Trump over possible collusion with Russians during the 2016 election and possibly obstruction of justice charges based on actions since he took office.
Pelosi called Trump’s refusal to release the memo “a stunningly brazen attempt to cover up the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal from the American people.” She said in a statement his decision was “part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the President. Clearly, the President has something to hide.”
“The U.S. intelligence community has concluded, and members of Trump’s cabinet agree, that the Russians interfered in our election and plan to do so again. America’s intelligence and national security are being politicized. Why won’t the President put our country before his personal and political interests?” the California Democrat said.
Watch: One Dramatic Week: Congress, Trump Spar Over Shutdown, Then Another Memo
Democrats also said it was questionable that the White House sent the Democratic memo back to the panel’s Republican majority, rather than submit it to ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif. He fired off a tweet noting the FBI and Justice Department had warned Trump against releasing a GOP memo compiled by Nunes and his staff accusing those very agencies of abusing their power in the early phases of the Russia election meddling probe.
After ignoring urging of FBI & DOJ not to release misleading Nunes memo because it omits material facts, @POTUS now expresses concerns over sharing precisely those facts with public and seeks to send it back to the same Majority that produced the flawed Nunes memo to begin with: pic.twitter.com/qNVyS99eXs
Schiff warned Monday night after the Intelligence panel voted unanimously to clear the Democratic memo for release pending Trump’s review that the White House most likely would allow it to be released — but with large portions blacked out. Such redactions are made to prevent classified national security information from being visible to the country’s enemies.
Earlier Friday, Trump said he had signed off on the memo’s release. But White House officials later wavered, saying the president had not made a final decision on whether to clear the Democrats’ response to the GOP memo that alleged abuse by FBI and DOJ officials in the early days of the Russia probe.