WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — The release of a House Intelligence Committee memo accusing FBI officials of misusing surveillance powers to investigate President Donald Trump’s campaign drew sharp rebukes from some in both parties Friday.
House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff, D-Calif., accused Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., of selectively releasing and politicizing classified information.
“The sole purpose of the Republican document is to circle the wagons around the White House and insulate the president,” he said in a statement.
Schiff challenged the premise of the memo that the effort to obtain a FISA warrant on Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page represented a corrupt abuse of the process.
“The FBI had good reason to be concerned about Carter Page and would have been derelict in its responsibility to protect the country had it not sought a FISA warrant,” he said.
According to Schiff, the actions of the FBI need to be understood in the context of other information the bureau had about Russian interference in the election and Page, who had previous contacts with Russian intelligence operatives.
“The DOJ appropriately provided the court with a comprehensive explanation of Russia’s election interference, including evidence that Russian agents courted another Trump campaign foreign adviser, George Papadopoulos,” he said.
Schiff also alleged a number of “serious mischaracterizations of the FISA process,” including the claim that the FBI did not inform the FISA court of the political motivations of Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who compiled information about Page while being paid by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“This is not accurate,” Schiff said, adding that further details are laid out in the Democratic memo that has not yet been released.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the only other member of the committee besides Schiff to view the underlying intelligence, tweeted that he has "serious concerns" about possible abuses of the FISA process. However, he broke with some of his colleagues who have suggested the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election is invalidated by the memo.
"As I have said repeatedly, I also remain 100 percent confident in Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The contents of this memo do not - in any way - discredit his investigation," he said.
In a Washington Post op-ed Friday, Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, a former CIA officer, explained why he voted to release the GOP memo. He described the thorough process of vetting that raw intelligence typically goes through before intelligence officials deem it credible, and he suggested that process was not followed.
"In matters addressed by the Nunes memo, I am not confident that proper vetting occurred, and I believe that the American people should have the ability to decide for themselves," he said.
President Trump authorized the declassification and release of the Republican document on Friday morning.
Soon afterward, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blasted the efforts by his fellow Republicans in the House to discredit the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only Putin’s,” he said. “The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”
Many Republicans championed the memo's release, despite complaints from the FBI that it omits significant information.
"If any Department of Justice, Republican or Democrat, put their thumb on the scale for the sake of politics--it would undermine the very fabric of who we are as a nation. Americans deserve the truth, one way or the other," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said in a series of tweets late Thursday arguing for the memo's publication.
Democrats such as Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., also reacted to the memo's release citing various accounts from the Justice Department and FBI. He recalled how the Justice Department called the memo “extraordinarily reckless” and how the FBI warned against its release.
Furthermore, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., called the decision to release the memo "a dangerous attack on our justice system."
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., released a statement standing against the release of the memo. Nelson is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
"By releasing this memo, the President of the United States is undermining the credibility of our intelligence community and serving a huge victory to Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, and many other intelligence services," Nelson said.
Other Republicans who have weighed in on social media agreed with Meadows' thoughts such as Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, praised the memo's release. Arrington said the American people "deserve to see its contents."
Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., agreed with Arrington's sentiment, saying that transparency is needed. He believes this is the first step to restoring public trust in government.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., called the actions of FBI officials alleged in the memo "a wanton miscarriage of justice."
Former FBI Director James Comey, who signed off on at least one of the Page FISA applications and was later fired by Trump, called the memo "dishonest and misleading" and alleged that Republicans "inexcusably exposed classified investigation."