Reps, Senators React to Release of Nunes Memo
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A memo purporting that the FBI and Justice Department have acted improperly in its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election drew a swift – and angry – response Friday from U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.
The memo was drafted by U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-22 Calif., chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and released with the support of President Donald Trump.
The committee’s GOP majority raised concerns “with the legitimacy and legality” of certain Department of Justice and FBI interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court and say its findings “represent a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses” related to the process of utilizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Criticism centers on surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page and the reliance on a dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
Trump has long derided the Russia investigation as a witch hunt. Democrats, the Justice Department and the FBI, who opposed release of the memo, criticized the document’s release, saying it cherry picks intelligence data and doesn’t give a complete picture of the information used.
Shortly after the memo’s release, Ryan, D-13 Ohio, issued a statement criticizing its release and the decision by the committee’s Republican majority to block Democrats from releasing their own memo, which offers “balanced context and analysis,” he said. Having read both documents, he predicted the public will conclude, as he did, that the memo’s release represents “a dangerous political ploy” on the part of Republicans.
“Republicans have been disingenuous about this memo and its implications from the start,” Ryan said. “Our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies have told the President that he should not release this discredited memo. They have said it harms our national security. But this is just one more example of Donald Trump believing that the rules don’t apply to him.”
Further, he said, Republicans in Congress have moved “from silence and inaction” in the face of Trump’s efforts to hamper Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation to serving as “full-fledged accomplices.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican who represents the 6th District, neighboring Ryan’s 13th, applauded the release of the memo, which he read last week. The allegations of the declassified memo are “deeply disturbing,” he said in a statement.
“It certainly does appear that the FBI and Department of Justice used a partisan campaign document to get a warrant to spy on a rival campaign, by omitting critical information from the court — like where the still unverified information came from,” Johnson said.
He also called the memo “just one piece of information,” and said he supported the release of the Democrats’ memo, which he intends to read, along with the FBI inspector general’s report when it is complete.
“There is still a lot of information yet to come forward before we get the full picture,” Johnson said. “But, the bottom line is that manufactured work products produced from a political process should not be used to obtain warrants to conduct surveillance on American citizens.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-3 Pa., called the content of the memo “extremely disturbing” and that Americans should be alarmed. He praised the memo’s release as “a victory for government transparency,” and said citizens deserve to see the information and should read it.
On Jan. 19, Kelly joined more than 60 members of Congress in sending a letter to Nunes requesting the document’s immediate release and on Monday he co-sponsored a House resolution calling for the memo’s public disclosure.
“In order to draw informed conclusions about this entire troubling situation, and to fully understand its potential ramifications, the American public must have access to all of the facts. An informed citizenry is indispensable to our democratic system,” Kelly said.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, responded to the memo’s release with a statement defending FBI personnel, who “serve our nation with integrity.”
“This blatant attempt to discredit and undermine law enforcement officials who keep this country safe is not only shameful, it’s dangerous,” Brown said. “The president and his team should cooperate with the FBI and make all their dealings with Russia public, so the American people can get the answers they deserve and the country can move forward with the business of creating jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure and renegotiating NAFTA.”
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the memo makes “serious allegations” about how FBI and Justice sought electronic surveillance of a U.S. citizen and he has concerns about the accuracy of the so-called Steele dossier. He said he supports the release of any information relevant to the memo, including the Democrats’ memo, as long as it doesn’t compromise future intelligence gathering.
Given the classified nature of the information, Portman said he supports the issue be further examined by the Senate Intelligence Committee to determine if any wrongdoing took place.
“I’ve long said that the issue of Russian meddling in our presidential election must be investigated fully. The various congressional investigations, as well as the special counsel, should follow the facts wherever they lead because the American people deserve to see all the facts,” he said.
“This entire investigation into Russian meddling in the election, including this particular matter, is too important for partisan politics. We must give these investigations the time and space they need to get all the facts and deliver the truth to the American people,” Portman said. “After examining the full body of work, we can assess whether additional action is necessary. I hope to see results from these investigations soon.”
In the meantime, Russia “continues to use extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation to undermine the United States, our values and our institutions, as well as our allies around the world,” he warned. Portman called for implementing the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, which “provides additional authorities and resources to the State Department to combat Russian propaganda and disinformation and advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.”
Dissatisfaction with the release of the memo is not confined to Democrats.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime foil of Trump, said the attacks on the FBI and Justice Department serve “no American interests,” only those of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded,” McCain said. “Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a frequent critic and 2016 rival of Trump, said oversight of the FBI and Justice must be done in a bipartisan manner and “not for partisan reasons or political gain.” How the memo was created and released “was wrong and does a disservice to our country,” he said.
“It is very serious when a foreign power engages in sophisticated efforts to impact not just our elections, but elections throughout the world,” Kasich said. “Make no mistake, Russia is not an ally — they are not our friends — and they shouldn’t be treated as such. The independent investigation into Russia’s meddling in our election must continue unimpeded by outside forces from either Congress or the president.”
Graphic at top courtesy of CNN.
Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.