Trump blocks release of Russia memo drafted by Democrats

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has blocked the release of a classified memo written by congressional Democrats to rebut a Republican document that he allowed to be made public last week that claimed FBI and Justice Department bias against him in the federal probe of Russia and the 2016 US election. The classified memo is “very political and long” and would have to be “heavily redacted” before it could be released, Trump said on Twitter on Saturday. “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. “Told them to re-do and send back in proper form!”
The Republican president’s decision — the latest controversy relating to an investigation that has hung over his year in office — infuriated Democrats. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said, “Millions of Americans are asking one simple question: what is he hiding?”
White House Counsel Don McGahn said the Justice Department had identified portions of the 10-page memo written by Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee that “would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests” of the country.
The White House also released a letter from the FBI director and the department’s No 2 official voicing concern about its release in relation to protecting US intelligence sources and methods.
A week earlier, Trump had overruled similar objections from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department about releasing the memo written by the same committee’s Republican members that took aim at senior law enforcement officials.
“The president’s double standard when it comes to transparency is appalling,” Schumer said.
Trump on February 2 allowed the release of the memo written by the committee’s Republicans with no redactions. Democrats said the Republican memo mischaracterised highly sensitive classified information and was intended to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
Mueller is also investigating whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice in trying to impede the Russia probe.
McGahn said the president would be willing to reconsider the release of the memo if the committee decides to revise it “to mitigate the risks” identified by the Justice Department.
The committee’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff, said the memo Trump blocked puts forth facts that the public needs to know, including that the FBI acted properly in seeking permission from a special court for surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser with ties to Russia.
— Reuters