President Donald Trump on Friday 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 earlier document seemingly supported the idea that the FBI and Justice Department acted with bias against Trump and Republicans in general, in the early stages of the federal probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
In denying to release the Democratic rebuttal memo, the White House cited ‘national security concerns.’
President Donald Trump on Friday 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
The Justice Department had identified portions of the Democratic memo that ‘would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests’ of the country, the Trump administration said.
A week earlier, Trump had overruled objections from the Federal Bureau of Investigation about releasing the Republican memo that took aim at senior law enforcement officials.
The House of Representatives Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on Monday to release the 10-page document drafted by the panel’s Democrats, but the committee could not do so unless Trump agreed to reclassify the document.
Trump allowed the release of an earlier memo, made public on February 2, which was written by the committee’s Republicans.
The release of that memo escalated a campaign criticizing current and former senior law enforcement officials.
Democrats said the Republican memo mischaracterized 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.
Trump met on Friday afternoon with officials from the Justice Department, White House Counsel’s Office and the FBI director, Christopher Wray, to get their input on the Democratic memo, the White House said.
‘Although the President is inclined to declassify the February 5 Memorandum, because the memorandum contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages, he is unable to do so at this time,’ White House Counsel Don McGahn said in a letter to Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House panel.
The White House also released a letter sent to McGahn by Wray and to Rod Rosenstein, the second-ranking Justice Department official, expressing concerns about the memo’s release ‘in light of longstanding principles regarding the protection of intelligence sources and methods, ongoing investigations, and other similar sensitive information.’
President Donald Trump speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast at a hotel in Washington, DC onThursday
The Republican memo portrayed the Russia investigation as a product of political bias at the FBI and Justice Department against Trump. The president said the document ‘totally vindicates’ him in the Russia investigation, a claim disputed by Democrats and some Republicans.
Democrats last week warned Trump against using the Republican memo as a pretext to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who hired Mueller and oversees the investigation, or to remove Mueller himself.
The Republican memo singled out Rosenstein and several other officials by name, including former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, who Trump fired in May 2017, as the agency investigated the Russia matter.
Mueller took over the investigation from the FBI.
US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign using hacking and propaganda, an effort that eventually included attempting to tilt the race in Trump’s favor.
Russia denies interfering in the election. Trump denies collusion with Moscow.
(Ayesha Rascoe contributed to this report; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Eric Walsh; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Paul Simao and Daniel Wallis)