Some Republicans Urge Going Slow on Release of Classified Memo

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By Chris Gordon and Kristina Peterson
Jan. 28, 2018 2:27 p.m. ET
157 COMMENTS
WASHINGTON—Republicans are divided over the possible public release of a memo drafted by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and his staff that alleges misconduct by the Justice Department in its investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.), who helped write the document, said it was a “distilling” of information the committee has gathered from “thousands” of documents. Mr. Gowdy said the report didn’t contain anything the Justice Department wasn’t aware of, but he said the Federal Bureau of Investigation should be allowed to review it before any release.

The memo is based on highly classified material gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law that authorizes spying on suspected foreign agents. Democrats and the Justice Department say that releasing the information, which would require a vote of approval from the GOP-controlled committee, would compromise national security.

Democrats say the memo is a thinly veiled attempt to discredit the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation into connections between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. President Donald Trump and Moscow have denied those allegations.

Mr. Gowdy said in the Fox interview that the memo “is not a hit piece on the department and the FBI.”

But Democrats and some Republicans have warned the House committee has divided along partisan lines, which could undermine its assessment of the Justice Department’s activities.

“One of the problems with the House investigation is it’s been very partisan,” Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The DOJ said in a letter to Mr. Nunes, a California Republican, that releasing the memo would be “extraordinary reckless.” Stephen Boyd, an assistant U.S. attorney general and a Trump appointee, wrote that the department did “not understand why the committee would possibly seek to disclose classified and law enforcement sensitive information without first consulting with the relevant members of the Intelligence community.”

The president has said he is in favor of making the information public.

“I think the president generally is on the side of transparency,” Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’m sure he’s very concerned about some of the appearances of conflict of interest at the very top of the agency.”

Mr. Trump and many fellow Republicans have said the bureau and Mr. Mueller, a former FBI director who served under presidents of both parties, are biased against him. But the GOP hasn’t presented a unified front.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Republican allegations of bias shouldn’t be used as justification to disregard concerns over Russian involvement in the election or with the Trump campaign.

“I don’t want it released yet,” Mr. Graham said when asked about the memo on ABC’s “This Week.” “I want somebody who is without a political bias to come in and look at the allegations that I have seen.”

“You should do two things: look at the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Trump campaign,” he said.

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