Lawmakers spar on whether to release memo alleging FBI abuse of power
As lawmakers negotiated to end the government shutdown over the weekend, top House Republicans discussed releasing details of a report that alleges surveillance abuses by the government.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), and House Government and Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), met to talk about what to do with the FISA memo.
“I was horrified. This will shock the conscience of the country when it’s released,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) said after reading the memo.
The four-page memo was written by Rep. Nunes alleging the Obama administration misused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or FISA. The report was made available to all House members last week.
“I wrote a letter that 65 of my colleagues signed onto trequest a release of not only the memo, but of supporting documentation,” he said.
Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the memo has “misleading information” and is “full of falsehoods” and “half-truths."
“It’s [Rep. Nunes’] latest installment of throwing mud on the FBI in order to give credibility to the president’s insane belief that he was spied on,” Rep. Himes said.
Conservative lawmakers say the memo shows the FBI abused the FISA law in 2016. Some have raised questions about whether the FBI used the infamous anti-Trump dossier to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign during the transition.
“That question, I think, was answered in there, and I want the American people to see that answer,” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL)
Himes pushes back on that claim.
“There is zero evidence of abuse of the FISA process, there is zero evidence that the FBI relied on political considerations to start the investigation ,” he said.
House Republicans calling for the memo to be released, want the Intel Committee to use an obscure rule to go around the regular declassification process. If this rule were used, the president would then decide whether to make the memo public.
“I support Devin Nunes’ process he is trying to put in place under the House rules and the committee rules there are steps you take to make that happen. If it comes to a vote, yes, I would vote to release the memo,” said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) who is leading the House Intelligence Committee Russia investigation.
Other lawmakers believe any disclosure would put national security at risk. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), a member of the Intelligence committee cautioned releasing the memo publicly.
“It sets a horrific precedent. It would expose the United States to a great deal of criticism by our allies,” she said. “It would create a great deal of reluctance for our intelligence agencies and the FBI to be willing to share with us information, they really must if they are going to provide oversight.”
According to a source, no final decision has been made to publish the memo, but it would take about two to three weeks.