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Controversial Nunes Memo Released Following Formal Approval From Trump

President Trump is renewing his feud with the intelligence community as part of a campaign by his allies to make the case that the FBI and Justice Department are "biased."
Win McNamee
President Trump is renewing his feud with the intelligence community as part of a campaign by his allies to make the case that the FBI and Justice Department are "biased."

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET

President Trump joined his Republican allies on Friday in piling on with attacks about "bias" in the FBI and the Justice Department as Washington, D.C., waited on tenterhooks for the release of a controversial secret spying memo.

The White House said Trump reviewed the memo and approved its full declassification. The House Intelligence Committee then posted it online.

Trump said the memo confirmed bad conduct by his enemies inside the federal law enforcement world.

"I think it's terrible. It's a disgrace what's going on in this country," Trump told reporters. "When you look at that, and you see that, a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that."

The FBI and Justice Department both are led by leaders nominated by Trump and confirmed by Republican majorities in the Senate. But the president and his allies say those same agencies are out to get him. He made that case on Twitter earlier in the day.

Trump tried to draw a line, however, in saying workday G-men and G-women aren't part of this: "Rank & File are great people!" he wrote.

Trump also quoted a supporter, Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, who explained how the case, in his opinion, connects to former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Trump's allies in Congress, led by Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., say the real Russia scandal is the FBI conspiracy that they say launched a scurrilous investigation into whether Trump's campaign conspired with the Russians who attacked the 2016 election.

Republicans focus on details in the memo that they say confirm people involved with the Russia investigation bear a personal animus against Trump, including FBI investigators and the former British intelligence officer who authored the infamous, unverified dossier about the Trump camp's connections to Russia.

The FBI and Justice Department deny they've done anything wrong, and they opposed the public release of the memo.

Critics complain Trump and his allies are simply dirtying up federal law enforcement in order to raise doubts among their supporters about whatever the office of Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller eventually releases.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., lamented Friday that the controversy over the memo had stolen the focus of officialdom from Russian President Vladimir Putin's attack on Western democracies that began two years ago.

"The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests — no party's no president's, only Putin's," McCain said. "The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia's ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why special counsel Mueller's investigation must proceed unimpeded."

And former FBI Director James Comey pointed out the damage he said had been done to the underlying institutions involved — trust has been broken between the intelligence community and Congress, he wrote, for no reason.

Mueller is also understood to be investigating whether Trump tried to frustrate his investigation into the Russian interference in the election and, if so, whether the president or anyone else broke the law by obstructing justice.

Nunes' memo is Republicans' latest gambit in their defense of the president. They've also complained that former President Barack Obama ordered Trump Tower wiretapped during the 2016 campaign, that Obama aides improperly "unmasked" Trump aides and more.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Friday he respected Congress' oversight role and that the Justice Department would continue to cooperate with lawmakers' questions.

"Congress has made inquiries concerning an issue of great importance for the country and concerns have been raised about the department's performance," Sessions said. "I have great confidence in the men and women of this Department. But no Department is perfect."

The Intelligence Committee voted Monday to make the memo public, starting the process that paid off on Friday afternoon.

Critics called the memo saga a new low point in the already-contentious relationship between America's intelligence agencies and the congressional committees that are supposed to oversee them.

Former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who served as the previous chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he thought the episode meant that panel has lost its credibility.

"Unfortunately I do," he told NPR. "And it's not necessarily even the credibility from the public perspective. I know for a fact [people in the intelligence community] don't trust Republicans and Democrats on this committee anymore to keep a secret in the intelligence community."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Philip Ewing is an election security editor with NPR's Washington Desk. He helps oversee coverage of election security, voting, disinformation, active measures and other issues. Ewing joined the Washington Desk from his previous role as NPR's national security editor, in which he helped direct coverage of the military, intelligence community, counterterrorism, veterans and more. He came to NPR in 2015 from Politico, where he was a Pentagon correspondent and defense editor. Previously, he served as managing editor of Military.com, and before that he covered the U.S. Navy for the Military Times newspapers.