House GOP votes to re­lease se­cret memo on Rus­sia probe,

Doc­u­ment ac­cuses FBI, Jus­tice Dept. of mis­us­ing author­ity.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - No­cholas Fan­dos­jan ©2018 The New York Times

Repub­li­cans WASH­ING­TON — on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, ap­par­ently dis­re­gard­ing Jus­tice De­part­ment warn­ings that their ac­tions would be “ex­traor­di­nar­ily reck­less,” voted Mon­day evening to re­lease a con­tentious se­cret mem­o­ran­dum said to ac­cuse the de­part­ment and the FBI of mis­us­ing their author­ity to ob­tain a se­cret sur­veil­lance order on a for­mer Trump cam­paign as­so­ciate.

The vote threw fuel on an al­ready fiery par­ti­san con­flict over the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sia’s brazen med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Repub­li­cans in­voked a power never be­fore used by the se­cre­tive com­mit­tee to ef­fec­tively de­clas­sify the memo they had com­piled. Democrats called the 3½-page doc­u­ment a dan­ger­ous ef­fort to build a nar­ra­tive to un­der­cut the de­part­ment’s on­go­ing Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, us­ing cherry-picked facts as­sem­bled with lit­tle or no con­text.

What comes next was less clear. Un­der the ob­scure House rule in­voked by the com­mit­tee, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has five days to re­view the doc­u­ment and de­cide whether to try to block it from go­ing public. The White House has re­peat­edly in­di­cated that it wants the memo out, but Trump’s Jus­tice De­part­ment had been work­ing to slow or block its re­lease.

The memo, which was made avail­able to all mem­bers of the House, is said to con­tend that of­fi­cials from the two agen­cies were not forth­com­ing to a For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court judge. Repub­li­cans ac­cuse the agen­cies of fail­ing to dis­close that the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign helped fi­nance re­search that was used to ob­tain a war­rant for sur­veil­lance of Carter Page, a Trump cam­paign ad­viser. The re­search pre­sented to the judge was as­sem­bled by a for­mer Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, Christo­pher Steele.

The memo is not lim­ited to ac­tions taken by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, though. The New York Times re­ported Sun­day that the memo re­veals that Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein, a top Trump ap­pointee, signed off an ap­pli­ca­tion to ex­tend the sur­veil­lance of Page shortly af­ter tak­ing of­fice last spring. The re­newal shows that the Jus­tice De­part­ment un­der Trump saw rea­son to be­lieve Page was act­ing as a Rus­sian agent.

The in­clu­sion of Rosen­stein’s ac­tion in the memo could ex­pose him to a tor­rent of crit­i­cism from Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill and from con­ser­va­tives in the me­dia who have seized on the sur­veil­lance to ar­gue that the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion may have been tainted from the start. Rosen­stein is oversee­ing that in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­cause At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions re­cused him­self. It was Rosen­stein who ap­pointed Robert Mueller as spe­cial coun­sel. Peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the un­der­ly­ing ap­pli­ca­tion have por­trayed the Repub­li­can memo as mis­lead­ing in part be­cause Steele’s in­for­ma­tion was in­suf­fi­cient to meet the stan­dard for a FISA war­rant.

In a let­ter last week to Rep. Devin Nunes of Cal­i­for­nia, the com­mit­tee’s Repub­li­can chair­man, Stephen Boyd, an as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral, said it would be “ex­traor­di­nar­ily reck­less” to re­lease a memo draw­ing on clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion with­out of­fi­cial re­view.

Democrats re­sponded to the com­mit­tee’s ac­tions with out­rage.

“Clearly, House Repub­li­cans’ de­sire to pro­tect Pres­i­dent Trump has clouded their judg­ment and caused them to lose sight of what’s at stake: the se­cu­rity and in­tegrity of our elec­tions,” the of­fice of Rep. Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia, the Demo­cratic leader, said in a state­ment.

REX BY SHUTTERSTOCK / ZUMA PRESS

U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., heads the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that voted Mon­day night to re­lease the se­cret memo.

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