President Donald Trump is refusing to declassify a high-profile memo written by Democratic lawmakers about the Russia probe.
In a letter to the chair of the House Intelligence Committee Friday, White House counsel Don McGahn says the memo “contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages.” The Democrats’ memo aimed to counter a Republican-drafted one the president declassified and released.
However, portions of the memo “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests,” McGahn wrote.
FBI chief Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in a separate letter indicated that releasing this material would present concerns for the “protection of intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations and other similarly sensitive information.”
House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s move to block the memo a “stunningly brazen attempt to cover up the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal from the American people.”
“The president’s decision to block the Democratic memo from release is part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the president,” she said in a statement. “Clearly, the president has something to hide.”
However, Republican lawmaker Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and author of the previously released Republican memo, said it was “no surprise” the Department of Justice and FBI advised against publishing the Democratic memo.
“Intelligence Committee Republicans encourage the minority to accept the DOJ’s recommendations and make the appropriate technical changes and redactions so that no sources and methods are disclosed and their memo can be declassified as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.
The previously released Republican text alleges anti-Trump bias in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election that brought Trump to power. The Justice Department and the FBI had also warned against releasing the Republican memo, saying it could jeopardize US intelligence collection methods. Trump authorized its release anyway.
Democrats on the intelligence committee complained the Republicans’ four-page memo cherry-picked facts and explained events out of context and was thus not accurate. They joined other Trump administration critics in calling the release of the Republican document an effort to undermine the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
On Friday, Adam Schiff, the top democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, accused the president of holding double standards in approving the release of the Republican memo, but blocking the Democratic one.
“After ignoring urging of FBI & DOJ not to release misleading Nunes memo because it omits material facts, (the President) 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”, he wrote on Twitter.
In his letter, McGahn said Trump has instructed Justice Department officials to be available to help the intelligence committee revise the Democratic memo, if it so wishes, so as to “mitigate the risks.”
“The executive branch stands ready to review any subsequent draft of the February 5th memorandum for declassification at the earliest opportunity.”
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