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House panel votes to release Democratic memo on Russia probe

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, arrives for a closed-door meeting of the committee on Capitol Hill, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018 in Washington, D.C. Credit: AP / Alex Brandon

WASHINGTON — The House Intelligence Committee voted Monday to release a classified Democratic memo that disputes a Republican report released last week alleging the FBI and Justice Department abused their surveillance powers in investigating a Trump campaign associate.

The committee unanimously approved declassifying the memo drafted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, who said his 10-page memo would offer a point-by-point rebuttal to the GOP-backed memo released last week. President Donald Trump now has five days to sign-off on the Democratic memo’s release.

“We think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies in the majority memo,” Schiff told reporters after the meeting.

The Republican memo argues that federal investigators improperly obtained a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, by using a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele to compel a judge to issue a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant. The memo contends authorities never disclosed to a FISA court that Steele had been paid by Democrats for his work, but Democrats, and some Republicans, familiar with the investigation have said the FBI did disclose Steele’s political ties.

Trump authorized the release of the Republican memo last week over the objections of the FBI which said it had “grave concerns” about the accuracy of the four-page document. Schiff said Democrats had provided FBI and Department of Justice officials with his memo days earlier so they would have ample time to review the document to highlight any concerns.

While Trump quickly embraced the GOP memo, written by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a Trump ally, he did not immediately respond to questions about the fate of Schiff’s memo before a speech outside of Cincinnati on Monday.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah told reporters traveling with the Trump to Ohio, the White House would consider Schiff’s memo “along the same terms that we considered the Nunes memo — which is to allow for a legal review, national security review, led by the White House Counsel’s Office, and then, within five days, the President will make a decision about declassifying it.”

Earlier in the morning Trump took aim at Schiff on Twitter.

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!,” Trump wrote comparing Schiff to former FBI Director James Comey and other top U.S. Intelligence officials. “Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!”

Schiff shot back on Twitter, criticizing the president’s use of time as Congress grapples with approving a new spending bill by Thursday and passing a new immigration deal.

“Mr. President, I see you’ve had a busy morning of ‘Executive Time,’ Schiff wrote. “Instead of tweeting false smears, the American people would appreciate it if you turned off the TV and helped solve the funding crisis, protected Dreamers or . . . really anything else.”

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, but congressional Republicans and Democrats alike pushed back on Trump’s declaration.

Top lawmakers making the Sunday talk show rounds said the Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller should continue without interruption.

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