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House Intelligence Committee Expected To Vote On Release Of Democratic Memo


Memo madness is not done yet. Last week, a Republican memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses dominated news headlines, and today, the House Intelligence Committee is expected to vote on whether to make a Democratic countermemo public. NPR's Ryan Lucas has been following all of the twists and turns of this story and is here with the latest.

Hi, Ryan.


SHAPIRO: On Friday, you were sitting in that very same seat, and we were talking about the Republican memo. Now tell us, what can you say about what's in this classified Democratic memo?

LUCAS: Well, the important point that you mentioned earlier is that it's a response to the Republican memo, and that's the one, of course, that alleged the FBI and Justice Department omitted important facts when it got court approval to conduct surveillance on a former Trump campaign aide. That's Carter Page. Now, Democrats say that that document was misleading, and they say their own memo is basically a detailed rebuttal of the Republican claims.

This detailed rebuttal was prepared by the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee - that's Adam Schiff - and his committee staff. Now, Democrats are going to need some help from Republican lawmakers to make this public. The committee breakdown is 13 Republicans, nine Democrats. Several Republican committee members have said they do support releasing it. But ultimately, this is going to come down to a vote.

SHAPIRO: Because they did vote before on keeping it private. If they vote this time to release it, what happens?

LUCAS: Well, it will follow the same process as the Republican memo. So it'll be sent to the president, who will have five days to decide whether to make it public or not. If he wants it released, it will be. If he objects, then the full House can vote to overrule that veto and make it public anyway, but, of course, that would require the support of a lot of Republican lawmakers. White House spokesman Raj Shah says that if the Democratic memo is sent to the White House, the administration will consider it. It will undergo a legal and national security review, just as the Republican memo did.

Democrats have also said that they will - that they want to be sure that their memo is reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department to scrub out any information that could be deemed sensitive or classified. And that, of course, was a point of friction over the Republican memo. The FBI and the Justice Department, of course, very pointedly said they did not want that released.

SHAPIRO: Today, the president was tweeting at the Democratic leader of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff. How did this all go down today?

LUCAS: Well, basically, the president accused Schiff of being one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington. At the same time, we have to remember that, you know, this is part of a dueling Republican-Democrat memo situation here. And Trump praised the man behind the Republican memo. That's the committee's Republican chairman, Devin Nunes. He said that Nunes was a man of great courage. He said that he'll someday likely be considered a great American hero.

All of this comes after the public release of the memo. The president said that document totally vindicates him - no collusion, no obstruction of justice. The president's tweets, when you take a step back, really are exceptional in their tone and the content. They're exceptional because the president is picking a partisan side in the work of a committee that is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and any coordination Trump's campaign had with Russia.

SHAPIRO: We know the president views this as defending himself, while others may view it as obstruction of justice. How does all of this impact special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation?

LUCAS: Well, despite attempts from a number of Republicans, and most notably, House Speaker Paul Ryan, to say that the memo fight has nothing to do with Mueller's investigation, the president has made clear that he thinks it has everything to do with Mueller's probe. And, of course, that's what Democrats say, as well. They say that this is about Mueller, but they say that it's an attempt to undermine Mueller's investigation.

The concern is that the Republican memo will be used by the president and his allies to try to discredit the special counsel's investigation and raise questions about any sort of conclusion that it comes to in its work. But this also feeds into another line of attack that we've seen from Republicans and the president's allies of alleging political bias at the Justice Department.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ryan Lucas covering this memo-versus-memo debate. Thanks so much.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.