President Trump said the memo House Intelligence Committee Democrats sent him last week was "very political" and suggested it was purposefully riddled with sensitive information in order to make his decision to block its release Friday look bad.
His tweet Saturday, his first direct comment on the matter since the memo was sent back to the intelligence panel, parroted accusations by members of his party who pointed a finger at the Democrats for angling to make Trump appear to be standing in the way of transparency.
"The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency," Trump said in a tweet Saturday morning. "Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!"
The Democrats sent a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted, whereupon they would blame the White House for lack of transparency. Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2018
Democrats say their 10-page memo provides much-needed context and details missing from the GOP memo released the Friday before last, which Trump allowed without redactions despite protests from Democrats, the Justice Department, and the FBI. That memo, put together by an effort spearheaded by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., details alleged surveillance abuse by the U.S. government that allowed spying on a member of the Trump campaign.
Democrats raged Friday at what they said was a double standard by Trump for declining to release their memo, and some, like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called Trump out for espousing "hypocrisy."
But some Republicans and Trump supporters have said in the past week that Democrats may indeed have sought to embarrass Trump with their effort.
"Democrats specifically put information in this memo that they knew the White House could not sign off on because of national security reasons," former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said on Fox News on Saturday.
He echoed the words of Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a member of the panel who helped put the GOP memo together, who suggested last week that Democrats may be playing political games.
"I think the Democrats are politically smart enough to put things in the memo that require either the [FBI] or the Department of Justice to say it needs to be redacted. Therefore, it creates this belief that there's something being hidden from the American people," Gowdy told Fox News. Gowdy, a former prosecutor, was one of the few lawmakers who read the underlying information upon which the GOP memo was built.
"Unfortunately, we are in an environment where you would include material that you know has to be redacted, and you know responsible people are going to redact just so that questions will be asked," he added.
The top Democrat on House Intel, Rep. Adam Schiff, called this "spin."
"It sets the context. And there’s a lot we left out," Schiff, D-Calif., told Bloomberg News. "So, I’m not surprised they would like to see some omitted from our response."
Despite the back-and-forth accusations of political gamesmanship, as Trump noted in his tweet Saturday, he is not against releasing the Democrats' memo, but not before changes are made.
In a letter transmitted to the House Intelligence Committee late Friday, White House counsel Don McGahn explained Trump was “inclined to declassify” the memo, but he wouldn't be doing so over national security concerns, following a review by top spy and law enforcement officials, including Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
McGahn also said Trump directed the Justice Department to give “technical assistance” to the intelligence committee if they decide they want to “revise” the memo to “mitigate the risks identified," and that the White House is ready to review any new draft offered in the future.
Nunes said in a brief statement on Friday that "it’s no surprise" that the Justice Department recommended to President Trump that he block the release of the Democratic memo without redactions.
“Along with other Intelligence Committee Republicans, I had warned that the Democratic memo contains many sources and methods," Nunes said in a statement late Friday. "Ranking Member [Adam] Schiff pledged to seek the input of the Department of Justice and FBI regarding the memo’s public release, and it’s no surprise that these agencies recommended against publishing the memo without redactions."