When Will Congress Release the Secret Memo? Trump Must Decide

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The House Intelligence Committee voted on January 29 to make public a memo outlining alleged misconduct by the FBI and Department of Justice. Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of the committee, pictured here on November 30, 2017, called it a “very sad day.” Mark Wilson/Getty

The public will likely soon see the controversial memo that Republicans in Congress have said contains "jaw-dropping" revelations about the FBI and Department of Justice.

On Monday evening, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to make public the memo written by staffers for GOP Representative Devin Nunes of California, the committee chairman.

The classified four-page document outlines how Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein approved the extended surveillance of Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser on Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), according to The New York Times. The memo reportedly claims that officials did not disclose the extent to which the FBI and Justice Department were relying on research funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Related: What Is In the Nunes Memo?

Because Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd has warned the committee against making the memo public, saying it would be "extraordinarily reckless" to do so, the panel has reportedly invoked a rule that enables the president to decide whether to grant the release the document, overruling the Justice Department. A White House spokesman told CNN Monday morning that President Donald Trump had not seen the memo, but The Washington Post and Bloomberg reported that the president has indicated that he believes it should be made public. Under the rule, he has five days to decide. On Monday evening, White House lawyers were reviewing the memo, according to the Times.

Democrats on the panel have said that the Nunes memo is misleading and that the representative had not even reviewed firsthand the information on which it is based. The Democrats drafted their own document based on the same information, but on Monday evening, the full committee voted against making that document public. Members of the House will be able to view the Democratic version, as was the case with the Republican one. The Republicans on the committee also voted against allowing FBI and Justice Department officials to review their document.

"We had votes today to politicize the intelligence process," California Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member on the committee, told reporters following the voting. "A very sad day, I think, in the history of this committee."

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The House Intelligence Committee voted on January 29 to make public a memo outlining alleged misconduct by the FBI and Department of Justice. Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of the committee, pictured here on November 30, 2017, called it a “very sad day.” Mark Wilson/Getty

People on the political right have called for the public release of Nunes' memo, taking to social media with the hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo. But people on the other side of the political spectrum have considered the memo part of a wider effort discredit the FBI and Justice Department as special counsel Robert Mueller moves forward with his probe into Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible links to the Trump campaign. Those people have pointed out that the memo apparently targets Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, perhaps in an attempt to get him removed from overseeing the Mueller probe.

The House Intelligence Committee has faced a partisan divide as it moves forward with its own probe into Russian meddling and possible coordination. Democrats on the panel told Newsweek in early January that the Republicans had sought to draw attention away from the main aspects of the Russia probe.

"Looking at the history of the investigation, there's been, I think, a motive on the part of some, including our chair, to protect the White House at all costs," Schiff told Newsweek at the time. "They've moved from one diversion to another."

Illinois Representative Mike Quigley, another Democrat on the committee, said in early January, "They don't want this to continue because it embarrasses them."

At press time, Nunes had not released a public statement about Monday's votes.