We may now know why Trump wants the controversial Russia memo released

  • The New York Times reports that the memo spearheaded by Rep. Devin Nunes about the Russia investigation says Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved to extend surveillance of a prominent associate of President Donald Trump’s last year.
  • Republicans are seeking to use the secret memo to cast doubt on the Russia investigation, which Rosenstein is overseeing.

President Donald Trump has recently echoed fellow Republicans in calling for a memo about the Justice Department to be released – and we may now know why he’s so eager.

The memo, spearheaded by the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, says that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein moved to extend surveillance of a Trump campaign foreign-policy adviser, Carter Page, last spring because he had reason to believe Page was acting on behalf of the Russian government, The New York Times reported Sunday.

According to The Times, which cited three people familiar with the secretive memo, the document’s “primary contention” is that the FBI and the Justice Department did not fully explain to an intelligence court judge that it initially sought the warrant to begin surveilling Page based in part on information uncovered by Christopher Steele, the former British spy who wrote the dossier laying out explosive claims connecting Trump to Russia. Research for the dossier, The Times pointed out, was funded in part by Democratic organisations.

The Times suggests that Republicans could seek to “use Mr. Rosenstein’s decision to approve the renewal to suggest that he failed to properly vet a highly sensitive application for a warrant to spy on Mr. Page.” Attacks on Rosenstein could be used to more broadly discredit the FBI’s investigation on Russian election interference and whether Trump obstructed justice because Rosenstein was the one who chose Robert Mueller as special counsel to carry out the investigation.

Nunes’ memo is classified, but Republican lawmakers who have reviewed it have suggested it paints a picture of an investigation that had been maligned from the beginning by corruption and partisanship at the FBI and the Justice Department. Democrats have characterised the memo as misleading.

As the chorus against the agencies heading up the Russia investigation has grown over the past few months, many Republicans including Trump have been calling for the memo’s release. As The Times pointed out, the House Intelligence Committee could vote to essentially declassify the memo, an action Trump would need to approve. Democrats, however, are believed to have written a memo of their own that counters the claims made in Nunes’ memo.

As Mueller’s superior, Rosenstein has pledged to protect the investigation into Russian election interference from congressional intervention. Rosenstein also reportedly met with FBI Director Christopher Wray and House Speaker Paul Ryan earlier this month about his concerns regarding partisan intervention in the Russia investigation.

Rosenstein’s commitment to shielding the investigation from interference has reportedly irked Trump, and the president has complained about the independence of the Justice Department in recent weeks.