Despite objections from the Justice Department, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have voted to release the so-called “Nunes memo”, which alleges misconduct by FBI officials investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
President Donald Trump, who has insisted there was no collusion, has reportedly accepted the committee's request, and the memo could be made public as early as Friday.
What is the Nunes memo?
The memo reportedly alleges that senior FBI and Justice Department officials relied on questionable and politically motivated sources to justify surveillance of President Trump’s campaign.
The Daily Beast reported that Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Select Intelligence Committee, and his committee staff spent months compiling the memo, which relies upon classified information.
What “incriminating” information does the memo contain?
The four-page document is said to allege that FBI and Justice Department officials abused their power under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
According to multiple news accounts, it alleges that the FBI's 2016 application for a warrant to wiretap Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser, was based on information in the infamous Trump dossier detailing Mr Trump’s alleged connections to Russia.
According to the Washington Post, some funding for the dossier came from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
To obtain a surveillance warrant for a US citizen like Page, the government would have needed to show probable cause that Mr Page, a former Moscow-based investment banker, was an agent of the Russian government.
Why is there controversy over releasing it?
The memo has spurred further partisan discord among members of Congress, even though the Russia investigation is supposed to be nonpartisan.
While Republicans argue that the memo shows wrongdoing by FBI officials, Democrats say the document mischaracterises intelligence and attempts to create a narrative to show the FBI’s Russia investigation has been biased from the beginning.
Democrats also assert that it is an attempt to divert attention away from special counsel Robert Mueller's own probe into Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
The ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam Schiff, said last week that Democrats would push to release their own memo if the committee releases the Nunes memo.
Was it 'changed'?
Democrats on the intelligence panel made a last-ditch effort Wednesday evening to stop the release, saying the memo had been "secretly altered" by the Republicans who wrote it, at some point after the committee voted on whether it should be released.
California Rep. Adam Schiff said in a letter to the Nunes that committee Democrats had discovered changes that were made after the vote on Monday.
"The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the committee never approved for public release," Schiff said in the letter.
Schiff asked Nunes for another vote on the memo, but Republicans didn't appear to waver. Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said the committee vote was "procedurally sound."
"To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves," Langer said.
What is Trump's view of the memo?
No decision has been made, but a White House official said on Thursday that Congress would probably be informed of Trump's decision Friday, adding that the president was "OK" with its release. A second White House official said Trump was likely to declassify the congressional memo but the precise method for making it public was still being figured out.
Mr Trump has made it clear he has never been a fan of the Russia investigations, repeatedly referring to them as a “witch hunt”. Trump has said he wants the memo released even after the FBI declared Wednesday that it has "grave concerns" about its accuracy. The document was written as part of an effort to reveal what Republicans say are surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department early in Russia investigation, before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take it over.
The Washington Post earlier reported that the President wants the memo to be released, even though his own Justice Department has said doing so would be “extraordinarily reckless”. Senior FBI officials have also made direct appeals to the White House, warning that it could set a dangerous precedent.
But Mr Trump has been telling confidants in recent days that he believes the document will validate his concerns that the FBI and Justice Department conspired against him, advisers have told AP.
The president also has told allies that he believes the memo bolsters his claim that accusations of collusion between his campaign and Russian officials are false and part of a conspiracy to discredit his election.
Additional reporting by agencies
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