President Donald Trump has blocked the release of a classified memo that was written by Democratic lawmakers to counter Republican claims of anti-Trump bias in the FBI’s Russia probe, the White House said on late Friday.
A letter from White House Counsel Don McGahn informed the U.S. House Intelligence Committee that the president is “inclined” to release the memo but, because it contains “numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages,” he is unable to do so at this time.
“However, given the public interest in transparency in these unprecedented circumstances, the President has directed that the Justice Department personnel be available to give technical assistance to the Committee, should the Committee wish to revise the [memo],” McGahn said.
The White House lawyer added that Trump encourages the House Intelligence Committee to revise the memo to help mitigate risks. “The Executive Branch stands ready to review any subsequent draft of the February 5th Memorandum for declassification at the earliest opportunity,” McGahn said.
Earlier this month, Trump authorized the release of a classified memo written by Republican U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes. The memo accused the FBI and the Justice Department of improperly obtaining a secret warrant to monitor a former Trump campaign aide, but the FBI criticized the document for “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,”
Trump used the memo to justify his opposition to the FBI’s Russia probe, claiming it “totally vindicates” him, even though the memo is focused on only a small part of a wider investigation, which is looking into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election and possible links to Trump’s presidential campaign, as well as obstruction of justice.
In response, Democratic members on the House Intelligence Committee wrote a rebuttal of the memo and the committee voted unanimously to release it to the public. Trump, as president, is able to block the release of classified information.
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