Members of Congress on Friday as well as outside individuals and groups reacted to the public release and declassification of a controversial memo prepared by Republicans that alleges abuses of a key surveillance law. Democrats ripped Republicans for releasing the document while most -- but not all -- Republicans defended it.
The president announced in the afternoon that he had decided to declassify the memo, prepared by Republican staff on the House Intelligence Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California.
"The GOP memo is a disgrace," Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office while meeting with a group of North Korean defectors. "It was declassified and let's see what happens...But a lot of people should be ashamed."
On Friday morning, the president suggested that the FBI and Justice Department have favored Democrats over Republicans in the process that is expected to lead to the release of the Republican memo alleging abuses of a surveillance law. Mr. Trump tweeted that they have "politicized the sacred investigative process" but added that "rank & file are great people."
Here's a sampling of some of the responses to the release of the memo:
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona
Just as the memo was released by the Intelligence Committee, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, released a blistering statement blasting the president.
"The latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party's, no president's, only Putin's," said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. "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. Our nation's elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin's job for him."
Former FBI Director James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey responded to the GOP House Intelligence Committee memo released Friday with a tweet: "That's it?" He then slammed the memo as "dishonest and misleading" and said it "wrecked the House intel committee."
In the same tweet, Comey suggested that the memo had "destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen." Though he didn't elaborate, Comey seems to be referring to the fact that the memo revealed secret information about the Russia probe he had once led, the electronic surveillance warrants sought by the FBI and DOJ from the Foreign Intelligence Special Court (FISC), and the target of the warrant, former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page."
Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin
"The matter of concern outlined in this memo is a specific, legitimate one. Our FISA system is critical to keeping America safe from real and evolving threats. It is a unique system with broad discretion and a real impact on Americans' civil liberties. Unlike most judicial proceedings, the FISA system depends not on an adversarial process, but instead on the government providing a complete presentation of the facts and circumstances underlying its warrant applications," Ryan said in a statement. "It is clear from this memo that didn't happen in this case, and as a consequence an American's civil liberties may have been violated. I also have serious concerns with the practice of using political documents funded by a candidate's political opponents to make law enforcement and counter-intelligence decisions. Amid all the political rancor, we must be able to work together to ensure the FISA system works as intended and Americans' rights are properly safeguarded. I am glad that this memo helps to provide greater transparency, and I reiterate my support for the similar release of the minority's memo once it is properly scrubbed of all intelligence sources and methods. It is critical that we focus on specific actions and specific actors and not use this memo to impugn the integrity of the justice system and FBI, which continue to serve the American people with honor."
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California
Nunes said his committee has discovered "serious violations of the public trust" and that Americans have a right to know when crucial institutions "are abusing their authority for political purposes."
"Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another," he said in a statement. "It is my hope that the Committee's actions will shine a light on this alarming series of events so we can make reforms that allow the American people to have full faith and confidence in their governing institutions."
"The brave and assiduous oversight by Congressional leaders in discovering this unprecedented abuse of process represents a giant, historic leap in the repair of America's democracy," Page said. "Now that a few of the misdeeds against the Trump Movement have been partially revealed, I look forward to updating my pending legal action in opposition to DOJ this weekend in preparation for Monday's next small step on the long, potholed road toward helping to restore law and order in our great country."
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California
"President Trump has surrendered his constitutional responsibility as Commander-in-Chief by releasing highly classified and distorted intelligence. By not protecting intelligence sources and methods, he just sent his friend Putin a bouquet," she said. "As the Department of Justice warned, the public release of the memo would be an 'unprecedented action' and 'extraordinarily reckless.' The FBI also expressed 'grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy.'"
Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-New York and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee
Nadler, the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel, and his fellow Democrats issued a lengthy joint statement after the memo's release: "President Trump's decision to allow the release of Chairman Nunes' Republican talking points is part of a coordinated propaganda effort to discredit, disable and defeat the Russia investigation," they said. "House Republicans are now accomplices to a shocking campaign to obstruct the work of the Special Counsel, to undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the Justice Department and the FBI, and to bury the fact that a foreign adversary interfered with our last election."
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida
"By releasing this memo, the President of the United States is undermining the credibility of our intelligence community and serving a huge victory to Vladimir Putin, the Russian government, and many other intelligence services," said Nelson, a former member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
FBI Agents Association
The group's president, Thomas O'Connor, said in a statement, "The men and women of the FBI put their lives on the line every day in the fight against terrorists and criminals because of their dedication to our country and the Constitution. The American people should know that they continue to be well-served by the world's preeminent law enforcement agency. FBI Special Agents have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission."
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