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Trump will clear Dems' intel memo for release

John T. Bennett, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Friday he has signed off on the release of a memo crafted by House Intelligence Committee Democrats that rebuts a GOP document claiming abuses by the FBI and Justice Department in the early phases of the Russia probe.

"It's going to be released soon," Trump said. "We're going to be releasing a letter soon." That letter must accompany the returned copy -- possibly redacted -- to the House panel to explain his decision.

The decision comes exactly one week after Trump approved the release of a controversial memo from the panel's Republicans. It is not yet known if it will be heavily or partially redacted.

Trump ordered the GOP memo, which critics say was compiled in a way to discredit the Justice Department's special counsel investigation, released with not a single letter blacked out.

Intelligence Committee Democrats and party leaders were warning even before the full panel voted unanimously Monday night to release the document that Trump would be too heavy handed with redactions. They worry he will wield the black pen with political, rather than national security, concerns in mind.

Specifically, Democrats like House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff of California have publicly urged Trump to avoid blocking out portions of their memo they say show parts of the GOP memo were false or cherry-picked in a manner to help Trump's case against the Russia probe by attempting to show top FBI and Justice officials as biased against him.

But White House aides, not long after they received the Democratic memo, began claiming it was not as "clean" -- meaning free of classified information -- as the Republican one.

Despite the possible differences in blacked-out sections, White House aides contend the two memos were put through the same legal and security review processes.

Schiff said he will ask the FBI and Justice Department to recommend redactions, which panel Democrats will compare to any called for by the White House.

White House staff gave the Democratic document to Trump on Tuesday, who had until Friday to decide whether or not to make it public.

 

"He has it. It's pretty lengthy," Kelly told reporters Tuesday at the White House.

"Oh, of course, yeah," Kelly responded when asked if the president would read the document following the event.

White House aides have said all week the president has been hearing from a range of opinions about its contents and what he should decide to do with it -- a list that includes keeping it classified, releasing it as-is, or making it public with any sensitive parts blacked out. At the same time, Trump and his senior staff were shuffling through their collective response to an abuse scandal that forced former Staff Secretary Rob Porter from his post.

"We'll get some people down to brief him on it," Kelly said. One was Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who some Democrats and Trump critics have warned the president might fire, using the GOP memo as justification.

"He met with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, within the last hour to discuss some of the differences between the two memos," Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday afternoon. "When (the review is) completed, the president will be given a thorough briefing on the findings of the different organizations and stakeholders that are involved, and will make a determination at that time."

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