President Donald Trump on Saturday tweeted a brief explanation for why he rejected the request to declassify a Democratic memo from the House Intelligence Committee.
Trump called the memo “very political and long” and said he “told them to re-do and send back in proper form.”
“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,” Trump said on Twitter. “Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!
On Friday, White House counsel Don McGahn informed the committee of the President’s decision, writing in a letter that although Trump is “inclined to declassify” the memo spearheaded by the panel’s ranking member, California Rep. Adam Schiff, “he is unable to do so at this time.”
“However, given the public interest in transparency in these unprecedented circumstances, the President has directed that Justice Department personnel be available to give technical assistance to the Committee, should the Committee wish to revise the February 5th Memorandum to mitigate the risks identified by the Department,” McGahn wrote.
Schiff’s memo rebuts allegations in another memo from the committee’s Republicans that accuses the FBI suppressing Democratic ties to an opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia used in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. That memo, spearheaded by the panel’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, was released last week.
Schiff pointed out the President’s different treatment of the memos in a tweet Saturday, noting that the FBI had released a statement on the Republicans’ document expressing “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
“Mr. President, what you call ‘political’ are actually called facts, and your concern for sources and methods would be more convincing if you hadn’t decided to release the GOP memo (“100%”) before reading it and over the objections of the FBI,” Schiff wrote.
In a statement Friday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein called Trump’s decision not to release the Democratic memo “hypocrisy at its worst.”
In a statement Friday, Feinstein, a Democrat from California, called the Republicans’ memo “misleading” and said she had read the underlying intelligence documents on which both memos were based.
“I know the Nunes memo is misleading, and I know Congressman Schiff was seeking to provide a factual counterpoint,” Feinstein said. “If the President really believes the Nunes memo vindicates him, as he has said, what is he hiding by blocking the Schiff memo?”
In addition to alleging abuse of FISA warrants by the FBI, the memo produced by Nunes and declassified earlier this month also said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had approved of at least one FISA warrant to conduct surveillance on Page, which left questions about whether Trump would fire Rosenstein. Rosenstein is currently overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether there was any connection between Russians and Trump associates during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Mueller’s is just one of several investigations into Russian meddling in the campaign, which include a probe by the House Intelligence Committee. Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion.
Feinstein’s statement Friday also said any changes that need to be made for the Schiff memo to be declassified should be made swiftly and the memo “should be released.”
“One week after he released the misleading and incomplete Nunes memo, President Trump tonight blocked the release of the Schiff memo that sought to fill in the holes. This is hypocrisy at its worst,” Feinstein said.