House Intel Committee votes to make controversial surveillance memo public

Early Monday evening, the House Intelligence Committee voted to release a classified memo circulating in Congress that reveals government surveillance abuses.

The vote was announced to reporters by California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, who called it a “very sad day, I think, in the history of this committee.” The motion passed on a party-line basis, he said.

President Trump now has five days to decide whether he has any objections before the memo can be publicly released.

Last week, a top Justice Department official urged House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes not to release the memo, saying it would be “extraordinarily reckless” and could harm national security and ongoing investigations.

The Nunes memo says that the FBI abused the FISA surveillance law over its use of the opposition research dossier on Donald Trump and Russia as part of the case to obtain a FISA warrant for former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. It cites the role of deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and outgoing deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe for their roles in overseeing aspects of the investigation, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Separately, Republicans on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees are expected to get briefed Tuesday by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is investigating FBI actions during the 2016 election, according to two members of the panels, which are conducting a separate investigation into the FBI.

The vote could spark a showdown between Trump and his Justice Department.

Under an obscure committee rule to make the classified memo public, which has never been invoked in the panel's 40-plus-year history, the President would have five days following a vote to decide whether to allow the public release to move forward or object to it.

Trump, who has called the investigations a hoax and witch hunt, is inclined to release it.

"It will be subjected to appropriate and serious review before a decision is made. The President strongly favors transparency for the American people and has urged the Executive Branch to cooperate with Congress to the fullest extent appropriate," said White House lawyer Ty Cobb in a statement Monday.

People who have seen the memo confirm that it accuses senior FBI officials of abusing a classified surveillance program, known as FISA, to spy on a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser. Obtaining a warrant under FISA requires the FBI to present an application to a court with evidence that indicates the target is acting on behalf of a foreign power.

The GOP has complained that the FBI included in its evidence material culled from a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele that described illicit connections between Trump and Russia. Steele compiled the dossier in 2016 on behalf of research firm Fusion GPS, which was being paid by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

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