This time last week, there was growing tumult in Washington over the memo produced by House Intelligence Committee Republicans alleging "FISA abuse" in the Trump-Russia investigation. There were dire warnings that the release of the GOP memo would endanger national security, that doing so would be "extraordinarily reckless" without proper FBI and Justice Department review, and that the FBI had "grave concerns" about "material omissions of fact" that would "fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."
The GOP memo survived a starkly partisan process in the Intelligence Committee. Republicans voted unanimously to make it public, while Democrats voted unanimously against making it public. It was released last Friday with President Trump's approval.
Now, another memo is in the pipeline, this one produced by the committee's Democratic minority, and things are much quieter.
First, in a sharp contrast to last week, Republicans joined Democrats to vote unanimously to release the Democratic memo. Second, there haven't been high-profile warnings about endangering national security. And third, there haven't been alerts that the memo has critical omissions.
All that raises eyebrows among some Republicans on Capitol Hill who have read the Democratic memo. They say it contains much more classified information than the Republican memo did. The GOP paper was written so that it had a minimum of classified information in it, they explain, and indeed, after inspecting it, the FBI asked for just one small change.
The Democratic memo, these Republicans say, is much different. "It's full of sources and methods," said one lawmaker, referring to highly classified information. "It includes material that they clearly cannot release," said another. "It's nothing but sources and methods," said a third. "Even to the footnotes."
The inclusion of all that classified information has Republicans speculating on Democratic strategy. (A Democratic spokesman declined to comment.) One widely held theory is that the memo was intentionally written in a way that the FBI, Justice Department, and White House would have little choice but to recommend extensive redactions.
"Part of what they are going to do is to talk about how the White House redacted their memo and didn't redact the Republican one," said one of the lawmakers quoted above. "Part of the plan was, let's create a document that gets eviscerated in the scrubbing and comes out with a bunch of redactions and they say, look, the White House is hiding something."
Those suspicions were fueled Monday when Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, told reporters, "We want to make sure that the White House does not redact our memo for political purposes, and obviously that's a deep concern."
"I am concerned they will make political redactions, not redactions to protect sources and methods," Schiff continued. He said Democrats will demand that any redactions be "fully explained" by the FBI, Justice Department, and White House.
A Justice Department spokeswoman would only say, "We were given the opportunity to review both memos before the committee voted both times."
So what is actually in the Democratic memo? First, all the Republicans who have seen it said a substantial part of the 10-page document concerns the history of Carter Page, the sometime Trump campaign foreign policy adviser whose wiretapping by the FBI was the subject of the Republican memo. The GOP document did not include any references to a 2013 case in which Russian agents tried (unsuccessfully) to recruit Page — that was the "material omission" the FBI complained about. It is likely the Democratic memo will include a lot of discussion of that and other aspects of Page's life.
Second, Democrats complained that the Republican memo was misleading when it declared, "Neither the initial [surveillance] application in October 2016, nor any of the renewals, disclose or reference the role of the DNC, Clinton campaign, or any party/campaign in funding Steele's efforts, even though the political origins of the Steele dossier were then known to senior DOJ and FBI officials." There have been multiple public statements to the effect that the Democrats will include the actual footnote covering the question from the original surveillance application. The consensus is that the reference was convoluted and indirect.
"I read the footnote," Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina said Sunday on CBS. "I know exactly what the footnote says. It took longer to explain it the way they did than if they had just come right out and said Hillary Clinton for America and the DNC paid for it. But they didn't do that."
Democrats have also complained that the GOP memo was misleading when it reported that the dossier was "essential" to the surveillance warrant, so much so that Andrew McCabe, then the No. 2 official at the FBI, told the committee that without the Steele dossier information, no surveillance warrant would have been sought. Although some Democrats raised questions about that, it's not clear that the Democratic memo will contradict the Republican version of what McCabe said.
There will be other material in the Democratic memo. For example, there are said to be a number of criticisms of Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the committee chairman, as well as Gowdy. There will likely be complaints about GOP handling of the case.
One last thing. Lawmakers seem far less interested in the Democratic memo than they were in the Republican memo. To see the memos, a member must go to a special room and sign in, so we know how many members have viewed each memo. So far, 60 Democrats have read the Democratic memo, along with 81 Republicans. Compare that to 211 Republicans who read the GOP memo, along with 59 Democrats.
Now, the Democratic memo is in President Trump's hands. It seems likely he will agree to its release — how could he not, given that he just last week agreed to the GOP memo's release? And with that, finally, the public will be able to see it.