Democrats' Russia memo sets up confrontation with Trump

Trump has five days to decide whether or not the new memo should be made public.

world Updated: Feb 06, 2018 21:40 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Democrat memo,Donald Trump,FBI
A papier mache caricature depicting US President Donald Trump is pictured during preparations for the upcoming Rose Monday carnival parade in Mainz, Germany.(REUTERS)

The intelligence committee of the US House of Representatives has voted to release a secret Russia probe memo authored by its Democratic members, which is expected to contradict the one released by Republicans earlier that President Donald Trump used to claim he had been vindicated.

The Republican memo had claimed the FBI had relied solely on questionable material to seek permission to surveil a member of the Trump campaign in 2016, Carter Page, a foreign policy adviser who had been on the FBI’s radar from before for his Russia contacts about which he had been warned.

Eager to put the Russia probe behind him, the president, being the final arbiter on questions about release of classified documents, had allowed it to be made public, overruling the senior leadership of the justice department and the FBI, which had expressed “grave concerns” about the claims in the memo.

Trump has five days to decide whether or not the new memo should be made public.

“We will consider it along the same terms that we considered the Nunes memo,” White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters, referring to the document named after Devin Nunes, the Republican heading the committee .

The Democrat memo will now go for a legal review and national security review, led by the White House Counsel's Office, according to Shah. “And then, within five days, the President will make a decision about declassifying it”.

Democrats have expressed concern that the president might not allow their memo to be released as it is expected to question the assertions in the Republican version that Trump had quickly, but incorrectly, claimed to have vindicated his position, that the Russia probe was a politically motivated “witch-hunt”.

“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” he had tweeted.

“But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!,” Trump had said in the tweet.

Democrats and critics have said the president’s claims of vindication are grossly exaggerated, if not patently wrong.

The Republican memo had alleged that the FBI had relied solely on a controversial dossier put together by a former British spy — Christopher Steele — to seek permission to put Page under surveillance.

It also said that the investigating agency omitted to disclose the dossier was the product of a project funded by the Democratic party and its presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The FBI had indeed relied on other material, it has since been said, and it had also disclosed the dossier was politically motivated.

“We think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies” in the Republican memo, Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee told reporters on Monday. He added he had concerns the memo could be subjected to “political redactions” by the White House.

If Trump doesn’t allow its release, the memo, which has passed the Republican-led committee, could be put up for a vote in the Republican-led House in a close-door session. And if cleared, it would over-ride the president.

First Published: Feb 06, 2018 21:39 IST