Tags: NSA/Surveillance | Paul Ryan | Russia Probe | Trump Administration | memo | rule x | release the memo

Speaker Ryan Defends 'Rule X' Use to Release GOP's FISA Memo

Image: Speaker Ryan Defends 'Rule X' Use to Release GOP's FISA Memo
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. (John Hart/AP)

Tuesday, 30 Jan 2018 05:07 PM

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., defended a House committee's party-line vote to release a Republican memo about FBI surveillance in the Russia meddling investigation, saying there are "legitimate questions" about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated and possible official "malfeasance."

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., employed a procedure known as Rule X that had never been used before Monday's vote to release the document, which is now undergoing a White House review for classified information. Ryan dismissed complaints by Democrats the move set a damaging new precedent for a once-bipartisan committee.

"First, there are legitimate questions about whether an American's civil liberties were violated" in the way a surveillance warrant was obtained, Ryan told reporters Tuesday. The speaker also said Congress, through the Intelligence Committee, has oversight responsibilities for the Justice Department and FBI.

"There may have been malfeasance by people at the FBI – by certain individuals," he said.

Intelligence Community

Some in the intelligence community are uncomfortable with Monday's vote to release the memo because it is a departure from normal procedure, according to current and former U.S. officials. Intelligence agencies usually conduct a declassification review before a vote to release a document, and it is unclear what role they will play in the White House review of this memo.

Officials at the White House, which has up to five days to review the documents, has not said exactly how the memo will be vetted, although a person familiar with the process said it will be a disciplined process. Trump has not seen or been briefed on the memo, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an emailed statement.

Trump has told associates in recent days he wants to see the memo released, according to two people familiar with the matter. The president has dismissed the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and whether anyone close to him was involved in it as partisan "witch hunt."

On Flight to Davos, Trump Erupted Over DOJ Role in Russia Probe

The four-page memo was drafted by Republican staffers based on classified documents. House members who have seen it said it summarizes questionable actions by FBI officials in getting a judge to issue a surveillance warrant to monitor a Trump associate last year – including relying in part on an unverified dossier about Trump without revealing it was paid for by Democrats during the 2016 campaign.

Democrats say the memo is selective and misleading. Republicans voted "to politicize the intelligence process, to prohibit the FBI and the Department of Justice from expressing their concerns to our committee, and to the House, and to selectively release to the public only the majority's distorted memo without the full facts," the Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said after Monday night’s vote.

Republicans on the House Intelligence panel also voted Monday to delay the release of a competing Democratic memo until it goes through the same procedure as the GOP document.

Ryan said the Democratic memo "just got popped on us [Monday]," and the committee did vote to begin the process for possibly releasing that document.

"What's OK is to follow the process as the process is laid out, and that is precisely what is happening," Ryan said, adding the Republican memo already has been scrubbed of information that could reveal intelligence "sources and methods." 

Never Used

Congressional researchers confirmed the "Rule X" procedure used by the Intelligence Committee to release the memo had never been used before.

"It does not appear that either house has invoked its procedure for disclosing classified information," the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service wrote in a May 18 report, before Monday’s party-line vote. The CRS said the rule was designed to allow disclosures of classified information when it would serve an "essential" public interest.

"We raised, of course, the transparently political objective behind this, which is to allow the majority to set a certain narrative for a week or so before they release a full statement of the facts from the minority," Rep. Schiff said after the vote Monday.

Ryan said Tuesday the committee's vote was separate from the continuing Russia probe and was not aimed at undercutting FBI special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

"This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller's investigation, and his investigation should be allowed to take its course," Ryan said.

Even so, Ryan's reference to possible "legitimate questions about whether an American's civil liberties were violated" at the FBI stands in contrast to his strong defense earlier this month of a portion of the foreign surveillance law that was set to expire.

Conservatives had opposed a bill to reauthorize surveillance under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, citing concerns about abuses they said might have led to improper surveillance of Trump.

Ryan told the House floor Jan. 11 the bill "strikes the balance that we must have, between honoring and protecting privacy rights of U.S. citizens, honoring civil liberties, and making sure that we have the tools we need in this day and age of 21st century terrorism to keep our people safe."

It was passed in both chambers and signed by Trump on Jan. 19.

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The "never used" congressional 'Rule X' was warranted to release a Republican memo about FBI surveillance in the Russia meddling investigation, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Tuesday.
memo, rule x, release the memo, fisa, house intelligence committee
Tuesday, 30 Jan 2018 05:07 PM
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