Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee appeared to downplay the FBI’s concerns about the release of a controversial memo put together by Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), according to a transcript of the panel’s closed-door Monday meeting that was made public Wednesday.
Asked by Democrats whether the FBI had approved the memo’s release, Nunes didn’t answer directly, saying the committee was satisfied that the memo on the intelligence community’s alleged surveillance abuses did not “disclose any issues of national security.”
The FBI put out a statement Wednesday expressing “grave concerns” about the document’s accuracy.
The developments highlight the divide between the White House and congressional Republicans on one side who want to release the memo, and the FBI, DOJ and Democrats on the other, who says it’s a misleading effort to make the intelligence community appear biased against President Trump.
At Monday’s meeting, Rep. Pete King (R-NY) said FBI Director Christopher Wray and two other senior FBI employees had reviewed the document, prompting Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) to ask if they were “okay” with its dissemination.
Nunes responded:“[O]ur goal was to make sure that we were not going to disclose any issues of national security, and we believe that we have met that threshold.”
The FBI on Wednesday issued a rare public statement disavowing the memo’s “material omissions of fact,” prompting Swalwell to fume on Twitter that his Republican committee colleagues had misled him.
The transcript also laid bare the battle over what, exactly, the minority and minority think they’re investigating. As Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) disclosed to reporters after Monday’s meeting wrapped, Nunes made the remarkable admission that he sees the DOJ and FBI as targets in their investigation into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election.
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) had downplayed Schiff’s characterization that the committee majority had announced a designated investigation into those agencies, telling reporters they were simply engaged in standard “oversight.”
But the transcript shows Nunes took a stronger tone behind closed doors.
Schiff introduced a motion to delay the committee’s vote on the memo’s release so that the DOJ and FBI could provide the full House of Representatives with a briefing on security issues with making it public.
“The Department of Justice and the FBI have been under investigation by this committee for many, many months for FISA abuse and other matters,” Nunes replied, referring to his concerns about the validity of warrants issued by specialized foreign surveillance courts. “That investigation continues.”
Urging his colleagues to vote against Schiff’s motion, Nunes added, “We are not going to be briefed by people that are under investigation by this committee.”
Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.