MEMO WAR WAGES ON: Top Intel Committee Democrat says Trump's hypocrisy on the memos 'reaches out and grabs you by the throat'

  • Kellyanne Conway said President Donald Trump refused to release the Democratic memo responding to Rep. Devin Nunes controversial Russia investigation memo because it contained improper information about confidential “sources and methods” that need to be redacted.
  • Trump had previously authorised the Nunes memo, against the warnings of intelligence agencies, reportedly without even reading it.
  • Ranking Democrat on the committee Rep. Adam Schiff criticised Trump’s apparent double standard, saying “the hypocrisy of this just kind of reaches out and grabs you by the throat.”
  • Trump had previously attacked Schiff on Twitter, saying he need to be “stopped.”

Counselor Kellyanne Conway defended President Donald Trump’s refusal on Friday to release a Democratic rebuttal to the controversial memo on the Russia investigation, authored by House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, despite Trump’s decision to release Nunes’ memo last week.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week”, Conway told host George Stephanopoulos that the Democratic memo includes classified information that needs to be redacted.

“The Democratic memo is much longer,” she said. “It’s much more involved. And those who are in a position to know national security and lawyers have said that it contains sources and methods that could be very compromising. So they want to make sure that that is cured before it is released to the public.”

The week before, Trump authorised the release of the the Nunes memo that details alleged misconduct on the part of the FBI and Justice Department in the Russia investigation. The FBI had released a rare public statement urging against its release, cautioning that it could reveal intelligence methods.

The first memo claims that the FBI and DOJ misled a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court in order to obtain and renew a so-called FISA warrant on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and that they used the largely uncorroborated Trump-Russia dossier as the primary source of evidence in their application.

The Democratic rebuttal memo pushes back against the Nunes memo’s claims, in particular criticising its assertion that the dossier was the sole basis for the Page FISA application, two sources on the House Intelligence Committee told Business Insider.

Trump declined to declassify the Democratic memo, and sent it back to the committe for revisions.

The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, had some harsh words on the White House’s measured response to the Democratic memo. Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, he accused Trump of putting “his own personal interest above the national security interest of the country.”

“The hypocrisy of this just kind of reaches out and grabs you by the throat,” Schiff said. “Here the Republicans write a memo the FBI quite accurately describes as misleading and omitting material facts, the Department of Justice says it would be ‘extraordinary reckless’ to release this. And what does the president do? He says ‘I’m going to release it, before I even read it, 100% I’m going to release it.'”

Despite Trump’s initial refusal to release Schiff and the Democrats’ memo, Conway said he was open to doing so once the appropriate redactions were made.

“This is serious business,” she said, “and if it takes a little bit of extra time to get the transparency and accountability out there, we should all respect that. The president is inclined to declassify as he did the other memo.”

She told Stephanopoulos that Schiff is complying with the redaction process.

Trump throws his weight behind Nunes, against Schiff

Trump attacked Schiff on Twitter Monday.

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper!” Trump tweeted. “Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!”

Trump has stated that the Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him in the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s potential collusion in the Kremlin’s efforts.

But Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who helped author the Nunes memo, pushed back against this claim.

“I’m sure the president is frustrated,” Gowdy said after Trump released the first memo. “So I’m sure that that instructs some of what he said. I actually don’t think it has any impact on the Russia probe for this reason.”

The Nunes memo fell short of expectations

The memo itself, which Nunes had promised would be a bombshell, proved largely underwhelming after its release.

Blasting the memo in a tweet the day the memo was released, former FBI director James Comey wrote, “That’s it?”

Critics of the Nunes memo have pointed out that it does not even come close to answering the key question it was supposed to address – whether the warrant application was obtained illegally – because it does not include any other supporting information that investigators presented to the court.

In addition, the memo seemed to undercut the idea that Nunes insisted it casts doubt on the validity of the Russia investigation as a whole.

The application to surveil Page was filed in October 2016. But the memo notes the FBI opened its investigation into links between Trump and Russia in July 2016, on account of “Papadopoulos information.”

This is a reference of former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who reportedly told an Australian ambassador that Russia had “dirt” on 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during a night out in London in May 2016.

In addition to his first memo, Nunes is looking to possible release as many as five more memos. These memos reportedly allege misconduct at the State Department.

Intelligence experts warned against the precedent that releasing memos could set.

“Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen,” Comey said. “For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.”

Watch a clip of Schiff’s interview below:

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