US President Trump has said he won’t declassify a memo written by Democrats refuting Republican claims the FBI was biased against Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump called the memo “very political and long.”
The White House, citing national security concerns, on Friday notified the House Intelligence Committee that President Donald Trump was “unable” to declassify a key memo drafted by Democrats.
The memo challenges Republican allegations contained in the recent so-called ‘Nunes memo’ of abuse of surveillance powers in the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
White House counsel Don McGahn wrote in a letter to the committee that the Democrats memo contained “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages” and asked the Democrats to revise the memo with the help of the Justice Department (DoJ).
President Trump meanwhile tweeted that the Democrats had “sent a very political and long response memo” allegedly designed to “blame the White House for lack of transparency” and stressing that the Democrats knew the original document could not be released in full. He added that it would need “to be heavily redacted” before being released in any form.
McGahn meanwhile stated earlier that Trump was still “inclined” to release the memo in the interest of transparency if revisions were made.
Trump taking aim at the FBI
The president has recently ratcheted up his criticisms of the FBI’s handling of probes into Hillary Clinton’s email server, and has called the House Intelligence Committee’s investigations into possible Russian meddling in the 2016 election a witch hunt.
He has also reportedly been seeking ways to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the only person empowered to dismiss the man undertaking the investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller — and hence derail, or seriously impede, the probe.
Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the FBI, for example was reportedly pushed out of the bureau last week, over reported accusations of partiality.
War by memo
The release last week of the ‘Nunes memo’ increased speculation that Trump would try to oust Rosenstein.
Republican House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes’s memo — which was declassified by Trump last week — attacked Rosenstein for his role in obtaining wiretap warrants on a member of the Trump campaign with several Russian contacts. The memo described this as an abuse of power.
Congressional Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan have said it shouldn’t be used to undermine the special counsel.
But Democrats on the committee then produced a memo they said would refute some of the claims made in the Nunes document, which they argue was misleading and sought to undermine the Mueller investigation.
DoJ No. 3 quits
It comes after reports Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand will leave the DoJ after only nine months on the job. An anonymous source confirmed to The Associated Press later on Friday that the department’s number 3 will join the executive board of Walmart, although this has not been officially confirmed.
National security expert Brand was appointed by Trump in May 2017 and has been working directly below Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from involvement with the Mueller investigation due to his work for the Trump campaign, in effect making Brand next in line if Trump decided to sack Rosenstein.
jh/bw (AFP, AP, dpa)