The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee made “material changes” to a controversial memo before providing it to the White House to be considered for public release, according to the top Democrat on the committee.
In a letter Wednesday night, Representative Adam Schiff, the Democratic ranking member of the committee, accused Representative Devin Nunes, its Republican chairman, of “secretly” altering a memo that alleges misconduct by the FBI and the Department of Justice in their surveillance of a former campaign adviser to President Donald Trump.
The changes, Schiff charged, came after the intelligence panel voted on Monday to release the memo and before the document was sent to the White House for review. Nunes did not tell Democrats about the changes, Schiff wrote, and said that after the Democrats learned of the alterations, Republicans allowed them to compare the new memo to the original.
“After reviewing both versions, it is clear that the majority made material changes to the version it sent to the White House, which committee members were never apprised of, never had the opportunity to review and never approved,” Schiff wrote to Nunes. “This is deeply troubling, because it means that the committee majority transmitted to the White House an altered version of its classified document that is materially different than the version on which the committee voted. The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the committee never approved for public release.”
A Nunes spokesman dismissed Schiff’s letter Wednesday, calling it part of an “increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo.”
“The committee minority is now complaining about minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the minority themselves,” Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes and the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound and in accordance with House and committee rules. To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves.”
Schiff’s letter marked the latest development in a dramatic debate over the release of a classified memo alleging misconduct around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process. The allegations reportedly involve Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the surveillance of Carter Page, who was a foreign policy adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Nunes, who served on Trump’s presidential transition team, wrote the memo.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee made the memo available to all members of the House for review on January 18. Some Republicans have since rallied for its public release, despite vocal opposition from the Justice Department and the FBI.
Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd reportedly has said the move would be “extraordinarily reckless,” and the FBI said in a statement that it has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Schiff has disputed the accuracy of the document, and the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee wrote their own 10-page memo based on the same source materials. During the vote on Monday, the committee decided to make the Democratic version available to the full House, but it voted against releasing it publicly.
In his Wednesday letter, Schiff argued that Nunes’s alleged alterations to the letter meant “there is no longer a valid basis for the White House to review the altered document, since this new version is not the same document shared with the entire House and on which committee members voted.”
A senior Democratic committee official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the closed-door matters, disputed Nunes’s spokesman’s characterization that the alterations were minor. “The changes are not cosmetic,” the official said.
In his letter, Schiff called for the Republicans to withdraw the memo from White House consideration and to hold a new vote on February 5 so the panel can consider the new document.
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