House Republicans have voted to release a controversial secret memo that has become a rallying point for allegations of bias in the Trump-Russia investigation.
Nicholas Fandos of the New York Times reported that a House panel voted Monday along party lines to take the unprecedented move to release the memo, over the objections of the Justice Department and House Democratic colleagues.
The Justice Department said making the document public would be “extraordinarily reckless” and represent a potential risk to national security and ongoing investigations. House Democrats have portrayed the memo’s release as a political ploy, designed to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign.
President Donald Trump has five days to review the document and decide on its release, though he has previously indicated he wanted the memo made public. Bloomberg reported that the president seethed on Air Force One on his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, over the Justice Department’s attempts to block the memo’s release. Trump has long maintained the Russia investigation is a targeted political witch hunt.
Republicans have been drumming up the campaign around the “alarming” memo for weeks, rallying on Twitter around the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) compiled the three-and-a-half-page document; it alleges that the entire investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia hinged on the Christopher Steele dossier, a paper exploring possible Trump-Russia ties compiled by a former British spy for the research firm Fusion GPS.
As Vox’s Jane Coaston explained:
The story that leads to the memo begins in the fall of 2016, when the FBI applied for a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to wiretap Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser for President Trump’s presidential campaign, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
According to the FBI, that warrant was based on information from a variety of sources that showed they had probable cause Page may have been acting as an agent of the Russian government. But the Nunes memo, according to Republican members of Congress who have seen it, makes a very different case. It argues that much of the information that led to the warrant came from the controversial dossier on Trump created by Fusion GPS and ultimately compiled by Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 officer.
The memo allegedly concludes that FBI and Department of Justice officials misled the FISA judge who approved the warrant by not revealing that the information in the Steele dossier was opposition research paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
According to the Times, critics familiar with the memo say it is misleading because it homes in on the Steele dossier, even though other evidence was presented to obtain the FISA warrant. Officials corroborated or supplemented intelligence from other sources to make a case to surveil Carter Page, but much of that information can’t be made public because it’s highly sensitive.