Washington: President Donald Trump on February 9 blocked the release of a classified memo written by congressional Democrats to rebut a Republican document that he allowed to be made public last week that claimed FBI and Justice Department bias against him in the federal probe of Russia and the 2016 US election.
The Republican president’s decision – the latest controversy relating to an investigation that has hung over his year in office – infuriated Democrats. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, “Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?”
The White House also released a letter from the FBI director and the department’s No. 2 official voicing concern about its release in relation to protecting US intelligence sources and methods.
A week earlier, Trump had overruled similar objections from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department about releasing the memo written by the same committee’s Republican members that took aim at senior law enforcement officials.
”The president’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling, Schumer said.
Trump on February 2 allowed the release of the memo written by the committee’s Republicans with no redactions. Democrats said the Republican memo mischaracterised highly sensitive classified information and was intended to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
McGahn said the president would be willing to reconsider the release of the memo if the committee decides to revise it “to mitigate the risks” identified by the Justice Department.
The committee’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff, said the memo Trump blocked puts forth facts that the public needs to know, including that the FBI acted properly in seeking permission from a special court for surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russia.
Schiff said the committee’s Democrats “take seriously” the Justice Department and FBI concerns and will review their recommended redactions. He said he hopes the matter can be resolved quickly so the committee can return to the Russia investigation.
The Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on Monday to release the document drafted by the panel’s Democrats, contingent on the Republican president agreeing to reclassify it.
“Although the President is inclined to declassify the February 5 Memorandum, because the memorandum contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages, he is unable to do so at this time,” McGahn said in a letter to Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House panel.
The White House also released a letter sent to McGahn by FBI Director Christopher Wray and to Rod Rosenstein, the No. 2 Justice Department official, expressing concerns about the memo’s release “in light of longstanding principles regarding the protection of intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations, and other similar sensitive information.”
Democratic Representative Ted Lieu wrote on Twitter that Trump’s action was outrageous, adding that he read the memo and is convinced that Trump “is now intentionally hiding relevant information from the American people in order to mislead the public. An innocent person would not block the memo.”
The Republican memo portrayed the Russia investigation as a product of political bias at the FBI and Justice Department against Trump. The president said the document “totally vindicates” him in the Russia investigation, a claim disputed by Democrats and some Republicans.