By Steve Neavling
President Trump on Friday blocked the release of a classified, Democratic memo that counters a much-disputed, GOP-drafted document alleging the FBI and Justice Department had abused their surveillance powers to spy on a former Trump campaign aide.
White House counsel Donald McGahn wrote in a statement released Friday night that the Democratic memo would “create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests.”
Trump was “inclined to declassify” the memo, McGahn suggested, but not until sensitive passages were omitted.
Trump’s bold, contentious decision to block the rebuttal one week after cheerfully releasing the GOP memo sets the stage for a potentially volatile, high-stakes standoff that could have a lasting impact on the presidency, federal law enforcement and Americans’ faith in their leaders and institutions
Under an obscure rule, the House Intelligence Committee, which unanimously voted in favor of publicly disclosing the rebuttal on Monday, has the option of calling for a full House vote to override the decision.
It’s not yet clear whether enough Republicans would vote in favor of the memo’s release. Whatever the case, Trump, who declared last weekend that the GOP memo “totally vindicates” him, is losing support from his own party as he elevates the rhetoric against the FBI and DOJ, which are overseeing the special counsel investigation into Russia and Trump’s actions before and after he became president.
Among the Republicans who publicly criticized the president for refusing to release the rebuttal was Justin Amash, of Michigan, who said the public has a right to examine both documents and draw their own conclusions.
“I’ve read both memos,” Amash tweeted. “Neither one endangers national security. The American people deserve the opportunity to read both memos.”
Both the Republican and Democratic #FISA memos should be released. I’ve read both memos. Neither one endangers national security. The American people deserve the opportunity to read both memos.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) February 10, 2018
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. D-Calif., said Trump’s refusal to release the Democrats’ memo indicates he “has something to hide.”
“The President’s decision to block the Democratic memo from release is part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the President,” she added. “Clearly, the President has something to hide.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., accused Trump of obstructing justice by releasing one document and refusing to disclose another.
“Refusal to release Democratic response to #NunesMemo – evidence of obstruction of justice by Donald Trump happening in real time,” Blumenthal tweeted.
On Saturday, Trump defended his decision on the rebuttal, saying the memo is “very political” and “long.”
President Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to defend his decision not to declassify a memo written by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee in response to a GOP memo the president declassified for release last week. He called the Democrats’ memo “very political” and “long.” It is 10 pages, while the GOP memo is four pages.
Mr Trump also claimed Democrats knew their memo could not be released in its current form because it would reveal “sources and methods,” forcing the White House not to support its release.