Senate GOP leader cautions Nunes on FBI memo
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — House Republicans should proceed carefully before making public a House Intelligence Committee memo alleging a variety of abuses by the FBI and Department of Justice, Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said Thursday.
Thune, speaking to reporters at a Republican retreat, said that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), chairman of the Intelligence panel, should first share the memo with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) before releasing it publicly, noting that Burr has been unable to obtain the document.
“I think the Senate Intelligence Committee needs to see it, for sure. Sen. Burr would like to see it and hasn’t been able to yet,” Thune said, arguing that the Senate Intelligence Committee should be apprised before the document becomes available to the public.
“There are important national security considerations they need to weigh, and hopefully they’re doing that,” he said.
Thune also said that Nunes should heed the concerns of FBI Director Christopher Wray about divulging information about the agency’s sources and methods.
“They have to take into consideration what the FBI is saying, and if there are things that need to be redacted, I think they need to pay careful attention to what our folks who protect us have to say about how this bears on our national security,” he said.
The memo alleges that the FBI improperly used information related to a dossier of opposition research partly funded by Democrats to get a warrant to conduct surveillance of a senior Trump campaign adviser.
The FBI has pushed the White House to not authorize the release of the memo. In a statement released this week, the FBI said it had “grave concerns” about what it viewed as inaccuracies in the memo.
“We have grave concerns about the material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the agency said in an unsigned statement.
The New York Times reported that the statement was drafted by Wray, an appointee of President Trump.
Wray and other officials also reportedly met with White House chief of staff John Kelly and other officials this week to weigh in against the memo’s release.
Trump backs releasing the memo, however, and told a Republican congressman after Tuesday night’s State of the Union address that he was 100 percent behind its release.
Democrats have sided with the FBI, and argue that the House Intelligence Committee memo, which Nunes spearheaded, cherry-picks information to present a biased case.
A separate memo authored by Democrats on the panel has also been written, but the Intelligence Committee voted on party lines to release the Nunes memo but not the Democrats’ memo.
Thune also urged Nunes to release the Democratic memo if he goes ahead and makes public the Republican-authored document.
“If you’re going to release one, I think you have to release the other,” he said.
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said it’s not unusual for a federal agency to fight back against an unflattering report from Congress.
“You’re going to see major pushback. This is not the only pushback we’re going to see. If it’s released, you’re going to see unbelievable spin that ‘it doesn’t mean this’ and ‘we didn’t do that,’” he said.
“Any time that you spy on American citizens there needs to be an unbelievable high bar, and we have to make sure that our Fourth Amendment process is certainly secure and intact,” he said.