A group of 65 lawmakers signed a letter Friday calling on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to publicly release a memo they say contains revelations about U.S. government surveillance abuses.
Led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the Republicans said the four-page memo, which by a party-line vote in the intelligence panel was released to the entire House, should be released immediately along with any other relevant information.
"After reading the document, we were shocked and frustrated, but it has deepened our belief in the vital importance of transparency," the letter states.
Dozens of House conservatives have raised the alarm about this memo over the past 24 hours, suggesting it contains evidence that the Obama administration used FISA warrants to spy on both the Trump campaign and transition team — charges Obama officials have long denied.
"This important memo will be of interest to anyone who cares about America and our democratic system of government," the letter continues. "We are writing to request the immediate release of this document to the public, as well as any relevant ancillary information. The audience of this document should not be limited to Members of Congress — the American people deserve to know the information it contains."
Today, I led a group of 65 lawmakers in a letter to Chairman Nunes of the House Intelligence Committee urging the release of the FISA Memo to the public. The American people deserve to know the information it contains. #ReleaseTheMemohttps://t.co/zcTr5QOKSQ pic.twitter.com/J6aQT7wXxN— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) January 20, 2018
Following what would be another vote in the House Intelligence Committee, which needs to be approved by Nunes, the question of whether the memo is publicly released will ultimately be up to the president, as Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, explained on Thursday.
"Here is the process: Chairman [Devin] Nunes in the Intelligence Committee in the House he can he bring the committee back together. They can have a vote. If the majority of the committee votes to release these documents, the executive branch gets a certain amount of time to review them. If the executive branch gives the thumbs up they go public," he told Fox News' Sean Hannity. "This could happen real quick. Chairman Nunes is committed to getting this information to the public.
Rep. Mark Meadows, asked House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to authorize a vote on releasing the memo, and Ryan chose to defer to Nunes for the decision, Politico reported.
Both Jordan and Meadows, top members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, signed onto the Gaetz's letter.
Members have been blocked from discussing the memo in detail due to a waiver they signed, according to The Hill. They have described it as being supported by classified documents and interviews that most lawmakers have not been allowed to see — putting knowledge of its veracity in doubt.
Gaetz, during an appearance on Fox News on Friday, went further with his assertions about the memo, saying the special counsel investigation into Russian interference and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin is "built on a false premise." Gaetz has previously called for the removal of special counsel Robert Mueller.
.@mattgaetz on fighting for the release of the #FISA memo: "The activities of the last administration, the crimes that I believe were committed, & the total sham that this Mueller investigation is built on a false premise, & rotten to the core." #Tucker pic.twitter.com/FVsA8b7loK— Fox News (@FoxNews) January 20, 2018
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, called the memo a "profoundly misleading set of talking points."
“[T]he Majority voted today on a party-line basis to grant House Members access to a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation,” Schiff, D-Calif., in a statement. “Rife with factual inaccuracies and referencing highly classified materials that most of Republican Intelligence Committee members were forced to acknowledge they had never read, this is meant only to give Republican House members a distorted view of the FBI.”
The push to release the memo comes as the U.S. government is on the verge of a partial shutdown as the Senate has yet to come up with an agreement to pass a short-term spending bill that was already passed by the House.