WASHINGTON — President Trump is expected to make public Friday a classified memo about the Russia investigation, which was written by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Mr. Trump would be doing it over the objections of Democrats and the FBI.
The impending release of the memo has touched raw nerves in Washington. Throughout the day on Thursday, the White House batted down rumors FBI Director Christopher Wray was going to resign in protest.
Releasing the information, which is based on classified intelligence, would be unusual.
The memo covers events during the 2016 campaign, when the FBI and the Department of Justice went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to get a warrant to monitor then-Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, who was suspected of having illegal contacts with Russian operatives.
The four-page memo, authorized by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, outlines alleged surveillance abuses. It has deepened a severe partisan divide.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, says the document presents a distorted and unfair picture of how the FBI behaved, and jeopardizes the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
“They ought to be sending the message instead to the White House that were the president to fire Bob Mueller or Rod Rosenstein, that would be considered obstruction of justice and it would bring down the administration,” Schiff said, referring to the special counsel and the deputy attorney general, who is overseeing the Russia probe.
House Speaker Paul Ryan denied the memo is politically motivated.
“The memo is not an indictment of the FBI, the Department of Justice,” Ryan said at a GOP retreat Thursday. “What it is, is Congress’ legitimate function of oversight to make sure the FISA process is being used correctly. If American civil liberties were abused, then that needs to come to light so that it doesn’t happen again.
Whether the FBI director will go to the mat to prevent the memo’s release remains an open question.
“I’m not sure that this is that die-in-the-ditch moment for Chris Wray,” said Chris Swecker, former assistant director of the bureau. “I think he would resign if this were something that he really, really felt strongly about.”
Thursday evening, former FBI Director James Comey — who was fired by the president — weighed in:
All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.— James Comey (@Comey) February 1, 2018
(Wendy Gillette, CBS News)