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Trump: Democrats Knew Memo Would Have To Be 'Heavily Redacted'

Trump: Democrats Knew Memo Would Have To Be 'Heavily Redacted'
(AP)

By    |   Saturday, 10 February 2018 10:00 AM

President Donald Trump called out congressional Democrats for playing political games when they submitted a Democratic response to the Republican memo concerning abuses by the FBI and Justice Department, saying they knew it would have to be "heavily redacted."

"The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency,” Trump said in a tweet. “Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!"

Trump returned the Democratic response to the House Intelligence Committee on Friday asking for it to be revised over concerns about classified information contained in the document.

White House counsel Don McGahn outlined Trump's concerns in a letter sent to House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Devin Nunes. The letter included a document from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, regarding passages in the Democratic response that involved "longstanding principles regarding the protection of intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations and other similarly sensitive information."

McGahn also wrote because of "public interest and transparency in these unprecedented circumstances," Trump had directed "Justice Department personnel be available to give technical assistance to the committee" in making needed revisions.

'Double Standard'

Democrats immediately slammed Trump's decision to withhold the Democratic memo so it could be revised "to mitigate risks identified." Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump's "double standard when it came to transparency was "appalling" and asked, "What is he hiding?"

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi posted a fiery tweet that claimed Trump's "hypocrisy is on full display."

And, the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, accused the president of flip-flopping over the release of the Democrat's response following the GOP memo released a week ago.

Political Gamble

The decision to block the Democratic memo is a political risk for Trump, who claimed the Republican-authored version vindicated his claims of unfair political influence in investigations at the Justice Department. He approved the release of the GOP memo over the objections of FBI Director Christopher Wray, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Schiff had submitted the memo to the FBI and Justice Department so they could vet it for sensitive information.

The White House released a letter from Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that said they have given details to the intelligence panel about which portions of the Democratic memo are too sensitive to release.

The decision to completely block the memo’s release — rather than redact particular excerpts objected to by law enforcement and intelligence agencies — could give further ammunition to critics who say the president is politicizing the process. 

Fact-Checking the Disputed Republican Memo on the Russia Probe

Already, the White House was grappling with the sense the original Republican document had done little to change the narrative on the Russia investigation, which has proven a chronic issue during Trump’s first year in office. In a Quinnipiac University poll released this week, 56 percent of Americans said they saw Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 election as fair  — down just 3 points from the previous month.

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have several options. They could accept Trump’s offer for help from the Justice Department to scrub the memo of sensitive information. Under the obscure rule the panel is using to release both memos, known as Rule X, they could also call for a vote on releasing it over the objections of the president. But that would require the support of Republicans on the panel.

Origin Stories

The dueling memos both examine the origins of the Russia inquiry, including how the FBI obtained a surveillance warrant for Carter Page, a low-level Trump campaign adviser. Much of the underlying evidence, including the warrant application, remain classified.

Schiff’s memo challenges a Republican assertion that the FBI based its surveillance application almost entirely on an unverified dossier paid for by Trump’s political opponents, including Hillary Clinton, and that it kept the dossier’s origins from the court that approved the warrant. Democrats say the court was informed that a former British spy, Christopher Steele, who assembled the dossier, was politically motivated.

The Democratic memo also says that the FBI had other legitimate evidence that prompted the investigation into possible links between Trump associates and Russia.

The rebuttal was the latest Democratic volley against a Republican assault on the legitimacy of the government’s Russia investigation. Schiff and other Democrats say the Republicans are trying to undermine the Mueller inquiry.

'Politically Smart'

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, an Intelligence Committee member who wrote the Republican memo, said earlier this week on Fox News that Democrats may have purposely included classified or sensitive information in their rebuttal.

“I think the Democrats are politically smart enough to put things in the memo that require either the bureau or the Department of Justice to say it needs to be redacted. Therefore, it creates this belief that there’s something being hidden from the American people,” Gowdy said.

In response, Schiff told Bloomberg News, “That’s their spin,” referring to Republicans. He said of his memo, “It sets the context. And there’s a lot we left out.”

“So, I’m not surprised they would like to see some omitted from our response,” he added.

Bloomberg contributed to this report. 

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Politics
President Donald Trump defended his decision not to release the Democratic rebuttal of a Republican memo that alleged bias and misconduct by the FBI and Justice Department early in their investigation of Russian election interference, saying on Twitter that the document was...
trump, democrat, memo, political
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2018-00-10
Saturday, 10 February 2018 10:00 AM
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