More and more congressional Republicans are demanding the release of a classified four-page memo believed to reveal political bias at the FBI and Department of Justice during the investigation into claimed ties between Russian interference with the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s political campaign. The top secret report was compiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).  Rep. Pete King (R-NY) was successful in allowing members of Congress to see the report. However, the memo remains hidden from the public for the time being.

According to independent journalist Sara Carter, the memo is so explosive that senior officials in the FBI and the Department of Justice may lose their jobs, while the end of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation may be in sight. According to Fox News, the memo details the Intelligence Committee's oversight work for the FBI and Justice, including the controversy over unmasking and FISA surveillance. This has led observers to theorize that the memo may detail extensive abuse of power by members of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton's campaign with elements of the FBI and the Department of Justice in efforts directed against Trump and his political organization during and after the 2016 presidential election.

“The revelations contained in the memo prepared by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have a compelling public interest and must be declassified and released as soon as possible,” the Republican Steering Committee said in a statement.

Speaking with Fox News, several Republicans said that they cannot yet discuss the details in the memo, which they want made public. “It is so alarming the American people have to see this,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said. “It's troubling. It is shocking,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-SC). “Part of me wishes that I didn't read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.”

On Thursday evening, Rep. Jordan appeared to nod his head affirmatively when show host Sean Hannity asked him whether then-FBI Director James Comey was aware of abuses of FISA by the Obama administration.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said, “I believe the consequence of its release will be major changes in people currently working at the FBI and the Department of Justice,” he said, referencing DOJ officials Rod Rosenstein and Bruce Ohr. Rosenstein is currently Deputy Attorney General, while Bruce Ohr is a former deputy attorney general. “You think about, ‘is this happening in America or is this the KGB?’ That's how alarming it is,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA) said.

At issue is surveillance on the Trump campaign that was allowed when Barack Obama’s Department of Justice was successful in petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Intelligence (FISA) court for a warrant to intercept communications by American citizens. There have been suspicions aired during hearings in the House that uncorroborated salacious material obtained by a former British secret agent, Christopher Steele, at the behest of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign was used as the basis of the warrant. The subject of the so-called Trump dossier has caused widespread speculation.

The wide-ranging Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) governs U.S. surveillance on foreigners became entangled with the controversy over the federal investigation into Trump's campaign and its supposed ties to Russia in March 2017 when Trump tweeted that former President Obama had ordered surveillance on Trump Tower. Nonetheless, the Senate voted on Thursday 65-34 to reauthorize a FISA provision that allows the U.S. to surveil foreigners abroad for the next six years. President Trump has said he will sign the bill, which already has been passed by the House.

Most Republicans have seen the classified report prepared by Nunes and that is available at a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility on Capitol Hill. Some expressed shock upon leaving the facility, and added that the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is based on politically motivated actions at the highest level of law enforcement. Among them was House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) said in a speech in the House, “I’m here to tell all of a America tonight that I’m shocked to read exactly what has taken place.” Speaking on Thursday night, Meadows said, “I thought it could never happen in a country that loves freedom and democracy like this country. It is time that we become transparent with all of this, and I’m calling on our leadership to make this available so all Americans can judge for themselves.”

Meadows and some fellow Republicans are asking the GOP leadership to declassify the report as part of the the stop-gap federal spending bill that the House passed late Thursday night. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) deferred to Nunes and the Intelligence Committee. If Nunes calls for a vote in his committee and a majority agrees to declassification, the executive branch would then need to sign-off to make it public. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), another Freedom Caucus member, said “It is so alarming the American people have to see this.”

On Thursday night, Fox News show host Sean Hannity directed himself at Special Counsel Mueller personally, saying:“Your witch hunt is now over. Time to close the doors.” On social media, the hashtag #releasethedocuments trended widely on Twitter.

The president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., stated Friday on Twitter that Democrats in Congress are focused only on shutting down the federal government in order to draw attention away from the memo. “Prediction: Democrats will take an even stronger stance on shutting down the govt so that becomes the narrative rather than talking about the release of the apparently very damaging memo. Media will obviously be complicit in helping them! #releasethememo,” he wrote.

According to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) said the memo contains widespread evidence of “FISA abuse.” Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said the report “raises serious questions about the upper echelon of the Obama DOJ and Comey FBI as it relates to the so-called collusion investigation.”

For his part, however, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said the report “a profoundly misleading set of talking points drafted by Republican staff attacking the FBI and its handling of the investigation."

Republicans claim that the Obama administration and the FBI used the so-called Steele dossier to obtain a politically motivated FISA warrant to spy on Trump during the transition. They suggest that the classified memo offers airtight evidence that the FBI and Justice Department conspired to undermine Trump’s presidency.

Speaking on Thursday evening on Fox News, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Sean Hannity, “Some of the very people we have been talking about will be exposed as the key reason that all Americans need to see this memo.” Gaetz said, “It names names. It says who was involved with who, how different actors and characters we heard about interacted with one another, and that is a type of information that we need all Americans to see immediately.”  Gaetz told Hannity that if the memo comes out: "I believe people will go to jail."

On Friday, Gaetz appeared on Fox News Channels 'America's Newsroom' and said “Unfortunately, I can't get into the specific details of this Top Secret document." Gaetz said, "I think there are people who could face criminal consequences as a result of the activities laid out in this memo. It’s easy to see after reading this memo why Senator Grassley and why Senator Graham wanted to refer this matter for criminal prosecution. Laws were broken."

In a statement on his congressional website, Gaetz declared: "The House must immediately make public the memo prepared by the Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI and the Department of Justice. The facts contained in this memo are jaw-dropping and demand full transparency. There is no higher priority than the release of this information to preserve our democracy."

Partial transcript of Fox News interview:

REP. MATT GAETZ: Our republic is in jeopardy if we allow this type of a palace coup environment to continue to persist and that’s why I'm one of the members of Congress who will be encouraging today Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes to release the memo. We can have a vote in the Intelligence Committee, a vote in the full House of Representatives.

This is a matter of such importance that I think we need to do it immediately… 

Unfortunately, I can't get into the specific details of this Top Secret document, but that is why we have to release it. I don't think it is appropriate for just members of Congress to be horrified by the activities that were undertaken during this endeavor.

If we get this memo into the public square, heads are going to roll at the FBI and the Department of Justice. There is no way everyone keeps their job...

We can never live in a country where this type of thing happens. And particularly, the authentication processes that are laid out in the memo are of such fiction --they are so laughable-- that they would never withstand scrutiny from the public.

What I'm worried about is that the cast of characters identified in the memo are not a group of people that are gone. Many of these people are still in our government. They still wield influence. And that's why we've got to get this information out into the public...

I think there are people who could face criminal consequences as a result of the activities laid out in this memo. It’s easy to see after reading this memo why Senator Grassley and why Senator Graham wanted to refer this matter for criminal prosecution. Laws were broken... 

I have every confidence after speaking with Paul Ryan and Devin Nunes that after we go through the right procedures and provide the adequate notifications to the executive branch that we will release this memo. We need the public to continue to call for it.
 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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