House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) on Thursday defended the vote by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee to release a memo that purports to prove surveillance abuses by top Justice Department officials.
“Congress doing its job in conducting legitimate oversight over a very unique law, FISA. And if mistakes were made, and if individuals did something wrong, then it is our job as the legislative branch of government to conduct oversight over the executive branch if abuses were made,” Ryan told reporters at a Republican retreat in West Virginia.
Ryan insisted that the memo, which targets officials who applied for permission to conduct surveillance on a Trump campaign aide as part of the Russia investigation, is about surveillance law, not about the Russia probe.
“What this is not, is an indictment on our institutions, of our justice system. This memo is not indictment of the FBI, of the department of justice, it does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general,” Ryan said.
The speaker dismissed concerns about the memo from Democrats, who say it is misleading and could expose the intelligence community’s methods and sources, as a “political game.”
Ryan also refused to criticize House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) for making changes to the memo after the committee voted to make it public.
The speaker claimed that Nunes made the changes “before it was voted on,” not after.
“That scrubbing has taken place in consultation with the FBI, they made a change to register those concerns and then they voted on releasing the memo to the White House. So the process is exactly what it should have been,” Ryan said.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA) on Wednesday night accused Nunes of making “material changes” to the memo after the committee voted to release it but before it was sent to the White House.
In a statement responding to Schiff, a spokesman for Nunes did not dispute the claim that Nunes made the changes after the vote and merely defended the alterations as minor or those asked for by the FBI and Democrats.