Reports surfacing in mid January of a potential bombshell classified report created by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence launched a social media campaign asking the committee to #releasethememo. Even Edward Snowden jumped on the bandwagon, tweeting out the hashtag from wherever his Russian overlords have him stashed at the moment.
The memo alleges abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act spying processes during the 2016 election, most directly affecting President Donald Trump. Members of the House intelligence committee voted — along party lines — to make the memo available to all members of the House on Thursday morning. More than 150 House members have read the memo since then, primarily Republicans. It is housed in the Secure Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) the committee uses, in the basement of the Capitol Building. Members have to sign in to see the document so keeping track of who has and has not made the effort to read it would not be difficult.
The memo is based on top secret intelligence that the FBI showed to a tiny number representatives and staff and was written by Rep. Devin Nunes. Rep. Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, is among the other members who have seen that intelligence firsthand.
North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, called the memo “troubling” and “shocking” and said, “Part of me wishes that I didn’t read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.”
The document apparently outlines several issues with how FISA warrants were “packaged, and used” according to sources with direct knowledge of the report.
Former British spy Christopher Steele compiled a dossier in 2016 about then candidate Donald Trump, for embattled research firm Fusion GPS. The firm’s founder is Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who has already testified before Congress in relation to the dossier. In October, The Washington Post revealed for the first time that it was the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC that financed Fusion GPS. The growing cry to #releasethememo comes from assertions the Steele dossier was used as evidence to obtain the FISA warrants that kicked off the Russia collision investigations against Trump — a dossier that has proven to be mostly unvetted and unfounded.
Those concerned about the claims being made about FISA abuses should understand why the issue of evidence is crucial. The House, Senate and FBI investigations into Trump collusion with Russia have thus far proceeded with many media claims, but to date hold no concrete evidence. Claims by any partisan actors need to be substantiated by evidence. There are 3 primary ways that Congress can make the memo public:
- The President has ultimate classification authority and can therefore release any documents he chooses.
- The House (and Senate) intelligence committees can declassify any material they possess, though historically they have never done so.
- Members of Congress have legal immunity for acts they commit as part of the legislative process. So basically, the information may be read out loud on the floor of Congress.
Sources inside the House of Representatives say that an imminent release of the memo is likely.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.