U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan is defending a Republican-backed plan to release a classified memo allegedly showing bias at the Justice Department against President Donald Trump.
Ryan said Tuesday, "There are legitimate questions about whether an American's civil liberties were violated" as authorities sought to monitor contacts Trump campaign adviser Carter Page may have had with Russian operatives.Ryan said, "There may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals."
He said the need for "transparency" dictates the need to release the memo, but Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say the Republican-drafted document is misleading.The memo was crafted by the panel's chairman, Republican Congressmen Devin Nunes of California.
The panel's Democrats have written their own assessment of the intelligence underlying the memo.
Even as he called for release of the memo, Ryan warned his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives to not oversell the information in the memo as a means to derail special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.Mueller is also probing whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director who was heading the agency's Russia investigation before Mueller, over Trump's objections, was appointed to take over the probe.
Trump is weighing whether to allow release of the memo and has five days to decide, but the White House has repeatedly signaled the president is in favor of making the memo public.
The memo has become a flashpoint in politically divided Washington, with some Republicans increasingly voicing complaints about Mueller's months-long investigation and claiming that some Justice Department officials have worked to undermine Trump's presidency.
Trump has repeatedly said there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russia and last week said there also was "no obstruction" of the Russia investigation.
The House Intelligence Committee voted along partisan lines late Monday to release the GOP-crafted memo.The committee voted against making public the Democrat-drafted counter-memo, but did vote to release it to the entire House, Democratic lawmakers said.
Republicans who have seen the Nunes memo indicate it says the FBI abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by using it to wrongly obtain surveillance warrants using an unverified dossier on Trump and Russia compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.They have hinted that it contains information that could unravel the entire Mueller investigation, long described by the president as a "witch hunt."
Last week, a top Justice Department official urged Nunes not to release the memo, saying it would be "extraordinarily reckless" and could harm national security and ongoing investigations.
California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, called Monday a "very sad day, I think, in the history of this committee."