President Donald Trump will clear House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to release his memo accusing the FBI of overstepping its authorities early in the Russia election probe “probably tomorrow,” a White House official said Thursday.
Friday is the final day of a five-day presidential review period that began following a Monday evening party-line vote by the Intelligence panel to release the document. FBI Director Christopher Wray and congressional Democrats oppose making the memo public, arguing that it cherry-picks information without context or other facts, and could undermine national security.
The official told reporters traveling Thursday with the president that the White House has been studying the Nunes-crafted memo to make sure “it doesn’t give away too much, in terms of classification.”
“The president is OK with it,” the White House official said. “I doubt there will be any redactions. It’s in Congress’ hands after that.”
Trump committed to releasing the document late Tuesday night, before he had reviewed it. White House officials say he has now done so and is comfortable with making it public in full — despite FBI and intelligence community objections.
The GOP-crafted document reportedly accuses the FBI of overstepping its authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, by using a controversial dossier on Trump and Russia when it sought and obtained a surveillance warrant on a former Trump campaign aide.
Earlier Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer called on Speaker Paul D. Ryan to strip Nunes of his chairmanship. That came after House Intelligence ranking member Adam B. Schiff on Wednesday night accused Nunes of making several “material changes” to the document after the committee’s vote.
Democrats are charging Nunes and the White House with pushing to release the memo to discredit the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation of Russian election meddling that focuses on the 2016 Trump presidential campaign and the president’s related actions since taking office.
Trump delivered remarks Thursday afternoon at the annual Republican lawmaker retreat in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. He did not mention the memo, but Ryan was asked about it at a press conference shortly after the president departed.
“If American civil liberties were abused, then that needs to come to light,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
“This memo is not an indictment of the FBI, of the Department of Justice,” he told reporters. “It does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general.”
Asked about Pelosi calling on him to remove Nunes as chairman, Ryan said: “I think they’re just playing politics, and they’re looking for a political distraction.”
The speaker also sought to give the embattled Intelligence chairman some cover in the flap over the alleged post-vote memo alterations.
“My understanding,” Ryan said, “it was before this memo was voted on.”