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Trump will clear way for release of classified memo

  • Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., at a speech by President Donald Trump at the 2018 Republican Member Conference at The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Thursday. Ap photo

  • Rep. Adam Schiff, D- Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, arrives to speak at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) Matt Rourke

  • President Donald Trump, accompanied by from left, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., speaks at the 2018 House and Senate Republican Member Conference at The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Andrew Harnik

  • President Donald Trump walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Washington. Trump is traveling to speak at the House and Senate Republicans' annual legislative planning conference at the luxury Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Evan Vucci

  • President Donald Trump greets Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford after delivering his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington. (Win McNamee/Pool via AP) Win McNamee



Associated Press
Thursday, February 01, 2018

WASHINGTON — Over the strong objections of his own Justice Department, President Donald Trump will clear the way for the publication of a classified memo on the Russia investigation that Republicans say shows improper use of surveillance by the FBI, White House officials said Thursday.

The memo, prepared by Republicans on the House intelligence committee, is said to allege FBI misconduct in the initial stages of its investigation of potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump’s Justice Department and Democrats furiously lobbied Trump to stop the release, saying it could harm national security and mislead the public.

A White House official said Congress would probably be informed of the decision Friday, adding Trump was “OK” with its release. A second White House official said Trump was likely to declassify the congressional memo but the precise method for making it public was still being figured out.

The FBI’s stance means that Trump, by allowing the memo’s release, would be openly defying his own FBI director. It also suggests a clear willingness by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in the early stretch of his tenure has been notably low-key, to challenge a president who just months ago fired his predecessor, James Comey.

The House intelligence panel voted along party lines Monday to put the memo out, giving Trump five days to reject the release under committee rules. But Trump also has the power to declassify the document himself and either release it or hand it to Congress to release. One of the White House officials said the memo would be in “Congress’ hands” after Trump declassified it and there were unlikely to be any redactions to the document.

Trump has said he wants the memo released even after the FBI declared Wednesday that it has “grave concerns” about its accuracy. The document was written as part of an effort to reveal what Republicans say are surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department early in Russia investigation, before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take it over.

FBI officials have also made appeals to the White House, warning that it could set a dangerous precedent.

Democrats call the memo an attempt by Republicans to distract attention from the investigation into Russian meddling in the election that sent Trump to the White House. Democrats on the intelligence panel made a last-ditch effort Wednesday evening to stop the release, saying it had been “secretly altered” by the Republicans who wrote it.

California Rep. Adam Schiff said in a letter to the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Republican Devin Nunes of California, that committee Democrats had discovered changes that were made after the vote Monday.

“The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the committee never approved for public release,” Schiff said in the letter.

Trump has been telling confidants in recent days that he believes the document will validate his concerns that the FBI and Justice Department conspired against him.

But Schiff said the opposite Thursday, asserting that Trump is looking for a reason to fire Mueller and Rosenstein. He said he’s more worried about Rosenstein because he decides the scope of Mueller’s investigation.

“The White House knows it would face a firestorm if it fired Bob Mueller,” Schiff said. “What’s more effective is to fire Bob Mueller’s boss.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona also questioned the release in a joint statement with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware.

“The president’s apparent willingness to release this memo risks undermining U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts, politicizing Congress’ oversight role, and eroding confidence in our institutions of government,” the senators said.