The Department of Justice warned House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes against releasing a memo that allegedly details results of an investigation into abuses by the department and FBI in its use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, calling it “extraordinarily reckless.”
In a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner that was sent to the California Republican on Wednesday, Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, wrote that “it would be extraordinarily reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the Department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum and to advise the HPSCI [the House intelligence committee] of the risk of harm to national security and to ongoing investigations that could come from public release.”
Boyd wrote the Justice Department does “not understand” why the House Intelligence Committee would want to disclose the memo and its contents without “first consulting with the relevant members of the intelligence committee.”
“You well understand the damaging impact that the release of classified material could have on our national security and our ability to share and receive sensitive information from friendly foreign governments,” Boyd wrote.
Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department have been allowed to see the memo, and only members of the House have been granted permission by Nunes to view it in the House’s safe space.
The Justice Department is also “unaware of any wrongdoing” related to the FISA process, Boyd said.
The intelligence panel's majority party shot back, saying it would be irregular for agencies under investigation by lawmakers to gain access to their documents.
“Agencies that are under investigation by congressional committees don’t typically get access to the committees’ investigative documents about them, and it’s no surprise these agencies don’t want the abuses we’ve found to be made public," said Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes.
Republican lawmakers have rallied around the four-page memo in recent days, having described it as “shocking” and “alarming.”
“I believe the consequence of its release will be major changes in people currently working at the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said last week.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are preparing their own memo in response to Nunes's memo, ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday.
In a statement, Schiff said Republicans on the committee are seeking to “selectively and misleadingly characterize classified information” in an effort to “protect” President Trump.
The Democrats's memo will “[set] out the relevant facts” and “[expose] the misleading character of the Republicans’ document.”
According to Schiff, the House intelligence panel will vote on Monday during a normally scheduled meeting to release the Democrats’ memo to the full House.
The committee has yet to vote on releasing the Nunes-led memo from beyond Congress’ walls.
The only way the Nunes memo would be released is if a majority on the committee agrees to declassify it. Then, the executive branch has five days to block it from going public. A source told the Washington Examiner on Monday that will happen in the next two to three weeks.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters this week that the president supports "full transparency" when it comes to the House Intelligence Committee's memo, but declined to directly confirm Trump would allow its release.