Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper condemned what he said looks like a "partisan" effort to attack the Justice Department and FBI, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes' memo on alleged surveillance abuses, and suggested the proper course of action would be to call in an independent watchdog.
The four-page report has become a flashpoint, not only between Republicans and Democrats, but also with the DOJ and FBI, as Nunes, a Republican from California, has refused to allow federal law enforcement access to the memo, even though it is said to be based on classified material from them.
"To me it appears a partisan attempt here to attack the FBI and the Department of Justice," Clapper said on CNN.
His interview occurred hours after Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, wrote to Nunes warning that publicly releasing the memo without giving access to agency would be "extraordinarily reckless."
"This is really an irregular approach to doing this. Conventionally, if the Congress finds or suspects wrongdoing, then typically what you would do, and hopefully be on a bipartisan basis, and then do a referral to the inspector general of the Department of Justice," Clapper explained in a nod to Democratic opposition to the memo's public release.
Democrats have dismissed its contents as nothing more than "talking points" and have complained that those contents, based on classified material from the Justice Department and FBI to which most members do not have access, are leading to a "false narrative."
Meanwhile, dozens of Republican lawmakers have pushed for the release of the memo, written by the GOP majority in the House Intelligence Committee, as they say it contains evidence of misuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The memo reportedly says the FBI included false claims from "Trump dossier" author Christopher Steele about Trump associates' ties to Russia in an approved application to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, though current and former law enforcement officials have said much more information was also used to justify the surveillance application.
Clapper expounded upon the what he suggested would be the proper course of action to decide what to do about the memo: turn to the Justice Department's independent watchdog.
"The FBI does not have a separate inspector general, so you go to the IG who is Senate-confirmed, independent, and who has professionals on his staff and the resource wherewithal to do a thorough, methodical, credible investigation," Clapper said. "The fact that this was not bipartisan and was not referred to the Department of Justice for validation of accuracy and all that, I — makes this very suspect. And I think very partisan."