Republicans on the House intelligence committee voted late Monday to release a controversial, classified GOP memo alleging that the FBI and Justice Department illegally spied on the Trump campaign in 2016.
In a sign of the intensely partisan trench warfare that’s broken out over the direction of Washington’s multiple Russian election meddling probes, GOP committee members during the same hearing also voted down releasing an alternate memo complied by Democrats.
The votes came just hours after FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe announced he was leaving the bureau earlier than expected after President Trump has repeatedly criticized him for overseeing a politically biased Russia investigation.
House Republicans have clamored for public disclosure of the memo since committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes and his staff wrote it.
“Outstanding work from Chairman Nunes,” conservative House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows tweeted minutes after the vote. “We’re one step closer to the public rightfully seeing the very same memo we did. #ReleaseTheMemo”.
The document, which was unclassified by the committee’s extraordinary vote, will not be released immediately but could be at any moment this week based upon a design by the White House.
The memo reportedly describes FBI abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) surveillance laws with officials using the controversial anti-Trump dossier, penned by ex-British Intelligence officer Christopher Steele, as a partial justification to observe former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
Additional sources said the memo is critical of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Mr. McCabe for their oversight roles.
The memo’s existence sparked a frenzy online, spawning a Twitter hashtag, #releasethememo, which appeared to be promoted by Kremlin-backed trolls.
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It also caught the interest of WikiLeaks, which offered $1 million to anyone who would leak it.
Republicans see the memo as a long-awaited vindication of their argument that Mr. Trump was smeared politically by the Washington establishment after his election.
Democrats have dismissed it as a “a set of misleading talking points” aimed at discrediting the DOJ, FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s overall investigation of Russian election meddling.
Late Monday after the closed-door hearing, the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, told reporters the votes were along party lines.
He also reiterated a warning from the DOJ to Mr. Nunes that its release would be “extremely reckless” because it was a national security risk to allude to the raw intelligence that the memo was based upon.
Mr. Schiff added that it was “a very sad day” and that he expected “that the president of the United States will not put the national interests over his personal interests” and would soon release the memo.
“After a thorough review of the memo to ensure it does not reveal sensitive sources and methods of the Intelligence Community, I voted tonight in support of releasing the memo to the American people,” committee member Rep. Tom Rooney said in a statement.
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