Top Judiciary Democrat says Justice Department denied access to intel memo

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee says the Justice Department as well as the FBI have been denied acc...

Posted: Jan 23, 2018 8:58 PM
Updated: Jan 23, 2018 8:58 PM

The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee says the Justice Department as well as the FBI have been denied access to the Republican House Intelligence Committee memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses, in the latest sign that the panel doesn't plan to share the classified memo ahead of an anticipated vote to make it public as early as next week.

Judiciary Committee top Democrat Jerry Nadler of New York said it was "profoundly unfair" that the memo on alleged FISA abuses wasn't being shared with the FBI or Justice Department, in a letter sent Tuesday to Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia.

Rep. Jerry Nadler's letter signaled a growing political fight on Capitol Hill over a memo

The memo is spearheaded by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes

Nadler's letter signaled a growing political fight on Capitol Hill over the memo spearheaded by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican. Nadler called the memo a "profoundly misleading document" and said the Judiciary Committee members should view the memo's classified source materials.

"You and I have had the opportunity to review many of the documents that the intelligence committee claims are the basis for its memo," Nadler wrote to his committee's chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia. "Those materials tell a very different story than the conspiracy theory concocted by Chairman Nunes and being repeated in the press."

An FBI spokesman told CNN on Sunday that the agency "has requested to receive a copy of the memo in order to evaluate the information and take appropriate steps if necessary" and "to date, the request has been declined." The Justice Department declined comment on the memo.

But Republicans have said that the Justice Department and FBI should not be given access, given who is involved.

"I'm not in favor of looking at DOJ or FBI weighing in -- they've been less than cooperative on a number of fronts," said Rep. Mark Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus and a vocal Republican pushing for public release of the memo.

"I think given the seriousness of this one and the players, that this should go to the President first," said Rep. Mike Conaway, the Texas Republican in charge of the Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee say they're anticipating a vote to override the executive branch's declassification process to release the memo - and potentially some of the intelligence materials supporting it - as early as next week when Congress returns from its one-week recess, according to several Republicans on the panel.

Last week, the committee voted along party lines to allow all House members to view the classified memo, and to date roughly 200 Republicans have done so, along with a handful of Democrats, Conaway said.

"Last count we had we're pushing 200," he said.

Under the House Intelligence Committee rules, the next step is for the panel to vote on releasing the memo. If the committee votes to do so as is expected, the memo would be sent to the President to decide whether to make it public - potentially setting up a clash between the White House and the FBI and Justice Department, which to date have not been allowed to view the Nunes document.

Republicans allege that the four-page memo, which was prepared by Nunes and Republican committee staff, reveals FBI abuses of the FISA surveillance law. CNN has reported that the document alleges that judge who signed off on FISA warrants for members of Trump's team was not given full information about the opposition research dossier on President Donald Trump and Russia, including the Democratic sources funding the research.

Democrats charge that the Nunes' memo is skewed and contains inaccuracies intended to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump's team.

Nunes, Goodlatte and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy have met to discuss what should be released publicly under the Intelligence Committee process, with many Republicans on board to move quickly to make the memo public.

One of the lingering questions for Democrats is what intelligence supporting the memo is not physically in the committee's possession. Under an agreement struck between the committee and Justice Department earlier this month, Nunes was given "access" to materials related to the dossier that he had been seeking, where the documents could be reviewed but not taken from FBI and Justice Department possession.

Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said there was some sensitive intelligence related to the memo that could not be made public, but he suggested much of it could be.

"This is by and large a law enforcement undertaking, and some of it has underpinnings in sensitive national security issues, but most of it doesn't," Stewart said. "Some of those things you won't see. The vast majority that you will."

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