Washington: US President Donald Trump has five days to decide whether to release a Democratic memo countering Republicans’ claim of misconduct by the FBI and Justice Department in the Russia investigation, a week after he backed full disclosure of the GOP document.
The House Intelligence Committee voted on Monday to support releasing the memo, top Democrat Adam Schiff told reporters after a closed-door meeting. The vote was unanimous after Republicans got “hammered" for releasing their own version last week while blocking the Democratic memo, he said.
“It’s time for this majority to make the decision to be serious investigators," he said.
Separately, former White House strategist Steve Bannon is planning to skip a closed-door interview with the committee on Tuesday despite being subpoenaed to appear, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday night.
“We have a subpoena for him in the morning," representative Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican who is running the panel’s investigation, said earlier on Monday. “There are questions that need to be answered."
“We’ve got all the tools the House has to enforce subpoenas," Conaway added. “And we’ll take the steps necessary."
When Bannon appeared before the committee on 17 January, he refused to answer some questions, saying he was following White House instructions. The two people familiar with the matter, who requested anonymity to discuss a sensitive legal issue, said Bannon would show up if an agreement could be reached with the White House on the scope of the questioning.
After Monday’s Intelligence Committee vote on the Democratic memo, the president must decide whether to release it, make redactions, or block it, a decision that’s supposed to be made on national security grounds. Earlier Monday, the president dismissed Schiff, the memo’s lead author, in a tweet as “one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington."
The FBI and Justice Department are already reviewing the Democratic memorandum for classified information, Schiff said.
Committee chairman Devin Nunes of California left through a back door after Monday’s private committee meeting and didn’t comment to reporters.
The GOP memo, released last week with Trump’s approval, charges that FBI and Justice Department officials conducting the Russia probe didn’t tell a secret court that a dossier they cited to get a surveillance warrant on a low-level Trump adviser was paid for by Trump rival Hillary Clinton and Democrats.
Schiff, of California, and other Democrats said the GOP’s goal was to undermine—and perhaps end—special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, whether anyone close to Trump colluded in it and whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice.
Schiff has said the secret court was “aware that there was a political motivation behind" the funding of the dossier produced by former British spy Christopher Steele. He has said the Democratic counter-memo is based on the same underlying classified material the Republicans used for their version but points out its errors and omissions.
Trump tweeted over the weekend that although the Republican memo “totally vindicates" him, the “Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on." Even so, Republican members of the Intelligence Committee said on Sunday morning talk shows that Mueller’s investigation should proceed without interference.
Unless the president notifies Congress by the end of five days that the Democratic memo’s disclosure presents a threat to the national interest, the House committee could choose to release the information on its own.
Even if the White House refused to allow its release, the House committee could seek a rare closed-door vote of all House members to override the president and release it.
According to lawmakers who have read the Democratic memo, it’s about 11 pages long and has annotations and explanatory notes.
The Senate’s top Democrat, minority leader Chuck Schumer, issued a statement calling on Trump to move quickly to release the memo and “allow the public to make their own judgment on the facts of the case." There should be “no question" that it can be released because it’s based on the same underlying documents as the GOP memo, he said.
Trump spokesman Raj Shah told reporters Monday before the committee vote that if the memo were sent to the White House, “We will consider it along the same terms we considered the Nunes memo, which is to allow for a legal review, national security review, led by the White House counsel’s office." He added, “And then within five days the president will make a decision about declassifying it." Bloomberg