Republicans vote to release secret memo on Russia probe

Republicans on the US House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Mr Devin Nunes, voted to release the controversial memo, saying it would shed useful light on potential political bias that may have warped the early stages of the Russia investigation wi
Republicans on the US House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Mr Devin Nunes, voted to release the controversial memo, saying it would shed useful light on potential political bias that may have warped the early stages of the Russia investigation without compromising intelligence gathering.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Paper said to accuse Justice Dept and FBI of misusing authority

WASHINGTON • Republicans on the US House Intelligence Committee, disregarding Justice Department warnings that their actions would be "extraordinarily reckless", have voted to release a contentious secret memorandum said to accuse the department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of misusing their authority to obtain a secret surveillance order on a former Trump campaign associate.

The vote, made along party lines on Monday, threw fuel on an already fiery partisan conflict over the investigations into Russia's brazen meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans invoked a power never before used by the secretive committee to effectively declassify the memo they had compiled.

It was an extraordinary manoeuvre, cheered on by President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly dismissed the Russia investigation as a "witch-hunt" and a sham.

Committee Republicans led by the intelligence committee's chairman, Representative Devin Nunes of California, said the memo's release would shed useful light on potential political bias that may have warped the early stages of the Russia investigation without compromising intelligence gathering.

The intelligence committee also voted along party lines on Monday against releasing a rebuttal memo from the panel's Democrats, who denounced both moves upon leaving the closed-door hearing.

Democrats called the 3 1/2-page document a dangerous effort to build a narrative to undercut the department's continuing Russia investigation, using cherry-picked facts assembled with little or no context.

"We had votes today to politicise the intelligence process," said California Representative Adam Schiff, the committee's senior Democrat.

The vote, made along party lines on Monday, threw fuel on an already fiery partisan conflict over the investigations into Russia's brazen meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Republicans invoked a power never before used by the secretive committee to effectively declassify the memo they had compiled.

He also said the committee is investigating the FBI and Justice Department, though a Republican disputed that characterisation, saying the panel is conducting oversight of those agencies.

Representative K. Michael Cona-way, a Texas Republican, said if the President supports the memo's release, it could take place as soon as yesterday. He said the Democrats' counter-argument may also be released soon, but he believes more lawmakers should read it first.

Republicans say the document shows the investigation may be tainted by political bias. Democrats call it a cynical attempt to undercut the work of special counsel Robert Mueller and the law enforcement agencies behind him.

The President wants the memo to go public. He has also told close advisers that the document is starting to make people realise how the FBI and the Mueller probe are biased against him.

The Republican memo, which was made available to all members of the House, is said to contend that officials from the two agencies were not forthcoming to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge. Republicans accuse the agencies of not properly disclosing that the Democratic National Committee and Mrs Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign helped finance research that was used to obtain a warrant for surveillance of Mr Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser.

Assistant Attorney-General Stephen Boyd wrote to Congress last week, warning lawmakers that releasing the memo without giving the Justice Department and the FBI an opportunity to review it "would be extraordinarily reckless", as doing so could harm national security and ongoing investigations.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2018, with the headline 'Republicans vote to release secret memo on Russia probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe