House Republicans are moving in the direction of releasing a controversial memo produced by Rep. Devin Nunes and the majority staff of the House intelligence committee.
Nothing is close to being finalized, and the memo’s release is far from guaranteed. But a House Republican leadership aide told The Daily Beast that its release is very likely.
“It’s only a matter of time,” he said.
News of the memo’s existence spawned the hashtag #releasethememo. Wikileaks and Edward Snowden tweeted the hashtag, calling for the memo’s release.
The memo purports to describe abuses by the intelligence community that impact President Donald Trump. On Thursday morning, members of the House intelligence committee voted –– along party lines –– to make the memo available to all members of the House. More than 150 House members have read the memo since then. It is housed in the Secure Compartmented Information Facility the committee uses, in the basement of the Capitol Building.
Nunes’ staff wrote the memo based on top secret intelligence that the FBI showed to a tiny number representatives and staff. Nunes and Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, are among the members who have seen that intelligence.
Unsurprisingly, Nunes and Schiff hold diametrically different views as to what that underlying intelligence means. Nunes and his team say it is evidence of grave abuses by the intelligence community; Schiff and the other Democrats on the committee released a statement calling it “a misleading set of talking points attacking the FBI.”
Democrats said the memo is designed to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into connections between Trump allies and the Kremlin. They also said that because members cannot see the underlying intelligence, they cannot fairly assess whether or not the memo characterizes it correctly.
Any efforts for Schiff and his staff to release a counter-memo would almost certainly be stymied; such a release would require a vote of by House intelligence committee, which is deeply divided along partisan lines.
On Saturday morning, as the government shutdown dominated headlines, Nunes explained to members in a House Republican conference meeting the steps Congress would have to take to make the memo public. The process, to our knowledge, has never been used before, but is detailed in the House rules. It could take more than a week –– and potentially much longer.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, has been one of the most vocal advocates of releasing the memo. He and 64 other lawmakers –– including Rep. Lee Zeldin, formerly an army intelligence officer –– signed a letter yesterday calling on Nunes to release it immediately.
Trump would have a five-day window to respond to any decision by the House to release the memo. If he announced that he opposed the move, the House could still vote to make it public, according to a person familiar with the process.
Not all Republicans want the memo released. One powerful House Republican, who spoke anonymously, told The Daily Beast that he found its contents concerning but did not believe they should be public.
Another member, who also spoke anonymously, said her office has received more calls from constituents pushing for its release than complaining about the government shutdown.