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Aaron Blake: White House's broken promise on Democratic memo

12 February 2018

"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 tweeted.

It was not immediately clear what recourse Democrats might seek against the president's decision to hold up the release of their memo.

Trump had claimed he was completely vindicated by the Republican-written congressional memo, which alleged the FBI abused its surveillance powers during an investigation of the Trump presidential election campaign's possible ties to Russian Federation.

On Friday, President Trump announced that he is blocking the release of the classified Democratic memo that rebuts the claims made in the GOP's memo.

The Intercept reported that the operation created rifts in the CIA, which is led by Trump loyalist Mike Pompeo but has many staffers still smarting over the president's repeated harsh comments about the intelligence community's role in the investigation into Russian meddling.

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Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe said the dossier was necessary to obtain the warrants on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, according to the memo.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who produced the GOP memo, encouraged Democrats to accept the Justice Department's recommendations and "make the appropriate technical changes and redactions".

The FBI had previously issued a highly unusual warning against releasing the memo from Republican Nunes, saying it could jeopardize USA intelligence collection methods.

Last week, the president declassified the contents of the Republican memo despite objections form the Justice Department and F.B.I.

The seller also repeatedly pressed USA agents with offers of kompromat - compromising materials - on Trump, the Times said, citing US and European intelligence officials.

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House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy, an Intelligence Committee member who wrote the Republican memo, said earlier this week on Fox News that Democrats may have purposely included classified or sensitive information in their rebuttal. "And if the Republicans were really concerned about this, because everything that I have seen the Federal Bureau of Investigation acted completely appropriately, they would have invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation before a committee as I urged them to do and asked them questions", said Schiff, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, is the author of the Trump-Russia dossier. If that did happen, though, responsibility for overseeing the Mueller probe would then fall to the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand.

"The President doesn't want you to see these facts from the FISA application because it completely undermines his claim of vindication", Schiff said.

The Intelligence Committee had voted unanimously on Monday to release the document drafted by the panel's Democrats, contingent on the Republican president agreeing.

Even before reading the GOP document, Trump pledged to make it public and was overheard telling one congressman after the State of the Union address that he would "100 percent" put it out. In retrospect, it looks as though the White House prepared the ground for his decision by saying all week that he was of a mind to release the memo - dampening expectations that his motivations were political.

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The surveillance warrant application itself remains under tight seal.

Aaron Blake: White House's broken promise on Democratic memo