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Congressional leaders react to Republican memo, Trump response

Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House

Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks to members of the media on Monday, Jan. 29, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike on Sunday dismissed President Donald Trump’s statements that a declassified Republican memo vindicates him in the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, the second ranking Democrat in the Senate, when asked on CNN’s “State of the Union’’ if the memo exonerated Trump, replied, “of course it does not,”

Making the Sunday talk-show rounds, Democrats advocated for the release of a Democratic counter-memo, while House Republicans insisted that the GOP-backed House Intelligence Committee memo released Friday would not undercut special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of the Trump campaign and Russia’s election meddling.

Trump approved making the partisan memo public despite objections by some of his own appointees, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, setting off a political storm amid concerns that Trump aims to undermine Mueller’s probe.

The president, in a Saturday tweet, said the memo that alleges Justice Department and FBI officials spied on a former campaign adviser in the Russia investigation for political purposes, “totally vindicates” him in the probe.

Democrats have argued that the four-page memo drafted by committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a Trump ally, omitted vital information and is misleading. They are demanding the release of a 10-page memo drafted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, meant to serve as a counterpoint to Nunes’ report.

On Sunday morning, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader, issued a letter to Trump urging him to approve the release of Schiff’s memo, saying, “it is a matter of fundamental fairness that the American people be allowed to see both sides of the argument and make their own judgments.”

The committee could vote on releasing Schiff’s memo as early as Monday, which, if approved, would need Trump’s authorization to be released.

Schiff, on ABC’s “This Week,” said the aim of the Nunes memo was “not to be accurate,” but to be “misleading.”

“The interest wasn’t oversight,” Schiff said. “The interest was a political hit job on the FBI in the interest of the president.”

Republicans pushed back against Democratic assertions that the memo was intended to undermine Mueller’s probe.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said the memo doesn’t provide justification for Trump to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight of Mueller’s investigation.

“When I look at Rod Rosenstein and Christopher Wray, where they are, I know in their agencies they have tremendous patriots who do great work each and every day, and they should stand up for them,” Wenstrup said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Wenstrup, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the FISA, or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, that granted the surveillance warrant should have been told the dossier used to get the warrant was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“There is a difference between saying it’s politically motivated and actually revealing who paid for it,” he said.

Gowdy, a member of the committee, said he did not believe the memo would interfere with Mueller’s probe because there were still purported ties and interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives left to examine. He cited as examples the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and other top Trump campaign aides with Russian operatives and Trump’s former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his attempts to contact Russian officials.

“There is a Russia investigation without a dossier,” Gowdy said on “Face the Nation.” “So to the extent the memo deals with the dossier and the FISA process, the dossier has nothing to do with the meeting at Trump Tower . . . The dossier really has nothing to do with George Papadopoulos’ meeting in Great Britain. It also doesn’t have anything to do with obstruction of justice.”

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Mueller “should be allowed to turn over every rock,” in his investigation.

Asked if he agreed with the president’s earlier tweet claiming the memo “totally vindicates” him, Hurd told host George Stephanopoulos: “I don’t.”

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