Democratic lawmakers are pushing Monday for the release of their rebuttal to a Republican-approved memo alleging that the FBI abused its power in probing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The minority Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are calling for a vote, clearing the path to disclose their views on the underlying classified information that Republicans used in a four-page memo they released last week. But the Democrats face questions about whether their rejoinder could expose information about U.S. intelligence-gathering operations.
U.S. President Donald Trump would also have to review the release of the Democratic rebuttal to see if it exposed classified information. Trump claims the Republican memo crafted by House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes and others "totally vindicates" him of wrongdoing in the ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the election and whether he obstructed justice in trying to limit the probe.
In a Twitter remark early Monday, Trump assailed the top Democrat on the panel, referring to him as "Little Adam Schiff" and naming several others with whom he has feuded over national security issues.
The California congressman has called the Republican memo a "political hit job" on the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Schiff responded on Twitter:
Meanwhile, Trump praised Nunes, saying, "Representative Devin Nunes, a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!"
Several Republicans on Sunday disputed Trump's contention that the Republican memo vindicated him in the investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The four-page memo concluded the FBI relied excessively on opposition research funded by Democrats in a dossier compiled by a former British spy, Christopher Steele, as its sought approval from a U.S. surveillance court in October 2016 to monitor Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, and his links to Russia.
But the memo also noted that the FBI investigation that eventually led to Mueller's probe started months earlier — in July 2016 — when agents began looking into contacts between another Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos, and Russian operatives.
Papadopoulos, as part of Mueller's probe, has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his Russian contacts and, pending his sentencing, is cooperating with Mueller's investigation.
Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, one of the key authors of the Republican memo, told CBS's "Face the Nation" the document does not undermine Mueller's months-long investigation.
Gowdy said that "there is a Russia investigation without a (Steele) dossier" because of other Trump campaign links to Russia, including a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York set up by Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., on the premise that a Russian lawyer would hand over incriminating evidence on Trump's election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Gowdy said the Steele dossier "also doesn't have anything to do with obstruction of justice."
Another Republican on the Intelligence panel, Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah, told Fox News, "I think it would be a mistake for anyone to suggest the special counsel should not continue his work. This memo, frankly, has nothing to do at all with the special counsel."
In a letter Sunday, Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer pushed Trump to approve the release of the Democratic response to the Nunes memo, saying Americans should "be allowed to see both sides of the argument and make their own judgments."
Democratic lawmakers opposed to Friday's release of the memo contend that the Republican-approved statement "cherry-picks" information and overstates the importance of the Steele dossier in the FBI's effort to win approval from the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court for the monitoring of Page's activities.
The FBI also opposed release of the memo, saying it had "grave concerns" about its accuracy because of omissions concerning its request to the surveillance court to monitor Page. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Mueller investigation, also opposed its release.
Nunes said last week he hoped release of the memo would "shine a light" on what he called "this alarming series of events.
"The committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes," Nunes said. "Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another."