Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., rebuffed the Justice Department after it sent a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., warning against the release of a memo on alleged surveillance abuses without giving access to the agency.
Such a move would be "extraordinarily reckless," Stephen Boyd, the assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, wrote in a letter to Nunes on Wednesday.
"I would say this to my friend Stephen Boyd, let's lower the rhetoric," Gowdy said in response on CNN during an evening interview with Erin Burnett.
Gowdy, a member of the House Intelligence Committee who has been instrumental in talks about the process for releasing the four-page memo to the public, said he doesn't care if the agency sees the report, even though the FBI, which is under the jurisdiction of DOJ, says it was blocked from gaining access to it.
"Everything in the memo they already have," Gowdy said. "What they don't know specifically is what are the complaints. And I'm fine to share them with them, but you can't possibly say a memo was reckless if you haven't read it."
Since the memo, written by Nunes and the GOP majority in the intelligence panel, was released to all members of the House last week, dozens of House Republicans have demanded its release to the public over concerns about the 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.
Democrats have dismissed its contents as nothing more than "talking points," and on Wednesday Democrats on the intelligence panel said they would prepare their own memo to counter the "misleading" report from the GOP majority.
Still, Gowdy asserted the memo is important, adding that he has seen the underlying intelligence upon which the memo is based.
"I have concerns about the process, about representations that may be made in court pleadings," he said. "I have concerns about the duty of government to provide complete, full, accurate information. FBI agents and prosecutors are not advocates at this stage. We are representatives to the courts. So there is an obligation to present accurate, full, complete information. And that's true in every criminal case or every counterintelligence case. They don't get the scrutiny that this one does."
Burnett also asked about the significance of Boyd, a nominee of President Trump, sending a letter to Nunes and saying that the DOJ is “unaware of any wrongdoing” related to the FISA process.
"I mean, I would say this again. I like Stephen. I work well with him," Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, replied. "It's really difficult to say a memo is reckless when you haven't read it. To the extent he says that they've seen no evidence of any impropriety or untowardness or inappropriate conduct during the process we just respectfully disagree."
During his interview, Gowdy advised President Trump, who after a successful vote from the intelligence panel would have five days to block its release, not to allow the declassification of the underlying material in order to protect members of the intelligence community. But the South Carolina Republican said it is still possible to have a valid conversation about it without divulging classified information if done "adroitly" and "carefully."
Gowdy also commented on the other issue that has alarmed lawmakers regarding the FBI: How the agency lost five months worth of text messages between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two former members of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia inquiry team that had expressed anti-Trump, pro-Hillary Clinton sentiments.
"I'm not a conspiracist. And I have no reason to impeach or undercut what the department is representing and what the FBI is representing," he said, adding, however, that it puts self-professed fans of the federal law enforcement operation in an "awkward position."