White House re­view­ing classified memo al­leg­ing sur­veil­lance abuse

Journal Pioneer - - WORLD -

The White House said Tues­day it will con­duct a le­gal and na­tional se­cu­rity re­view be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­cides whether to re­lease a classified memo on the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion that has sparked a po­lit­i­cal fight pit­ting Repub­li­cans against the FBI and the Depart­ment of Jus­tice. Trump has five days to ob­ject to the re­lease of the memo, though he has sig­nalled he wants it made pub­lic. The memo ar­rived at the White House on Mon­day evening af­ter Repub­li­cans on the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee brushed aside op­po­si­tion from the Jus­tice Depart­ment and voted to re­lease it. The four-page memo was writ­ten by Repub­li­cans on the com­mit­tee, led by chair­man Rep. Devin Nunes of Cal­i­for­nia, a close Trump ally who has be­come a fierce critic of the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment. Repub­li­cans have said the memo re­veals im­proper use of sur­veil­lance by the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Democrats have called it a se­lec­tively edited group of GOP talking points that at­tempt to dis­tract from the com­mit­tee’s own in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling. On Tues­day, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he sup­ports the memo’s re­lease but doesn’t want Repub­li­cans to use it to at­tack spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, who is in­ves­ti­gat­ing Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 elec­tion and whether Trump’s cam­paign was in­volved.

“This is a com­pletely sep­a­rate mat­ter from Bob Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and his in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be al­lowed to take its course,’’ Ryan said, not­ing that he also sup­ports Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein who over­sees Mueller. Ryan said the memo shows “there may have been malfea­sance at the FBI by cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als.’’ He did not pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tails, only say­ing that “there are le­git­i­mate ques­tions about whether an Amer­i­can’s civil lib­er­ties were vi­o­lated by the FISA process,’’ a ref­er­ence to the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Act.

It’s un­clear how FBI malfea­sance could have solely re­sulted in a judge sign­ing off on a FISA war­rant. Ap­pli­ca­tions for such war­rants are sub­mit­ted by Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers be­fore a judge of the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court. Those lawyers would have to au­tho­rize and ul­ti­mately pre­pare any fil­ing that is made.

Ryan’s com­ments came af­ter House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi said late Mon­day on CNN that Ryan is al­low­ing the re­lease of a “false memo based on a false premise.’’

The vote to re­lease the memo is an un­prece­dented move by the com­mit­tee, which typ­i­cally goes out of its way to pro­tect classified in­for­ma­tion in the in­ter­est of pro­tect­ing in­tel­li­gence sources and meth­ods. On Tues­day, a senior White House of­fi­cial said the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is lead­ing an in­ter­a­gency re­view of the memo, and no de­ci­sion has yet been made on pub­lic dis­clo­sure. If Trump de­cides to re­lease the memo, it could be made pub­lic as early as Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, said the of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss con­fi­den­tial in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions.

So far, the of­fi­cial said, the Jus­tice Depart­ment is the only agency op­pos­ing its re­lease. Asked Tues­day about the depart­ment’s po­si­tion on the memo’s re­lease, Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman Sarah Is­gur Flores de­clined com­ment. Repub­li­cans said they are con­fi­dent the re­lease won’t harm na­tional se­cu­rity. They also said they would not re­lease the un­der­ly­ing in­tel­li­gence that in­formed the memo.

“You’ll see for your­self that it’s not nec­es­sary,’’ said Texas Rep. Mike Con­away of Texas, who’s lead­ing the House’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But Rep. Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the com­mit­tee, said the memo’s re­lease could com­pro­mise in­tel­li­gence sources and meth­ods. The Jus­tice Depart­ment said in a let­ter last week that it would be “ex­traor­di­nar­ily reck­less’’ to re­lease the memo without first giv­ing the FBI and the depart­ment the chance to re­view it.

Af­ter those com­plaints, FBI Director Christo­pher Wray re­viewed the memo over the week­end.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who was with Wray when he re­viewed the memo, said the FBI director did not raise any na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns with him. Gowdy said the memo doesn’t re­veal any in­tel­li­gence meth­ods but it does re­veal “one source.’’

But Schiff said Wray told him Mon­day that the re­view didn’t sat­isfy his con­cerns about the memo’s re­lease. Wray wanted to brief the com­mit­tee about FBI and Jus­tice Depart­ment con­cerns ahead of any re­lease, a re­quest com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans blocked, Schiff said.


Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters ahead of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s first State of the Union address, at the Capi­tol in Wash­ing­ton, Tues­day.

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