President Donald Trump was overheard telling a GOP lawmaker Tuesday night that he’s “100 percent” behind releasing a classified Republican intelligence memo detailing alleged surveillance abuses.
“Don’t worry,” the president reportedly told U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., on the House floor after delivering his first State of the Union address. “One hundred percent.”
Duncan asked Trump to “release the memo,” a controversial document drafted by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
The House panel voted Monday along party lines to release the memo, prompting a political fight between Republicans and Democrats and pitting Congress against the FBI and the Department of Justice, which object to the release of the four-page document.
Republicans said the memo reveals alleged abuses of government surveillance powers in the investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats said the document is selectively edited in an attempt to thwart the investigation.
House Speaker Paul Ryan came out Tuesday in support of releasing the memo, but warned against using it to attack special counsel Robert Mueller. “This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation and his investigation should be allowed to take its course,” he said.
Ryan added that the memo shows “there may have been malfeasance at the FBI by certain individuals” and raise questions “about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated by the FISA process,” referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was extended for an additional six years earlier this month.
The Justice Department called the Republican staff memo’s release “unprecedented” and “reckless.” Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote in a Jan. 24 letter that “Though we are currently unaware of any wrongdoing relating to the FISA process, we agree that any abuse of that system cannot be tolerated.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly advised White House Chief of Staff John Kelly against releasing the memo, saying such action would set a dangerous precedent and would not accurately characterize the FBI’s investigative practices, the Washington Post reported.
But two senior FBI officials – one from the bureau’s counterintelligence division and the other from the legal division – who reviewed the memo said they “could not point to any factual inaccuracies,” Fox News reported Tuesday.
The White House has five days to review the content of the memo and decide whether to release the memo. It said Tuesday that it would conduct a legal and national security review before making the decision.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.