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Ahead of memo release, Adam Schiff calls on Devin Nunes to step aside in Russia probe

Intel memo controversy

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, who serves as the top Democrat leading the House Intelligence Committee's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, called on the committee's chair Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, to step down from his position in the Russia probe.

"So should he step aside? Yes," Schiff said of Nunes during a University of Pennsylvania event Thursday. "He sort of said he was going to do that already but really didn't, and I think we need someone credible leading the investigation."

Schiff and Nunes have been fighting over the release of a four-page, highly-classified memo that is said to detail alleged abuses of the FISA Act by the Justice Department and FBI. Nunes and his staff authored the controversial memo, which has yet to be released. Schiff also claims that the memo was secretly altered before the White House received it.

Earlier in the House's investigation, Nunes said he would step away from the Russia probe, but, Schiff said, "Throughout this whole time, he continued to make the most consequential decisions in our investigation." 

Schiff says that Nunes "never bothered to read" the memo's underlying, classified information. Schiff and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, are the only members of the committee who reviewed its underlying intelligence before Monday's vote to make the memo public, which pends President Trump's approval.

"The memo is seriously misleading because it omits very material information and has deep factual inaccuracies," Schiff said. "But the point, of course, wasn't to make it accurate. The point was to make it misleading. The point was to selectively declassify information so it would support a narrative favorable to the president."

The White House has debated releasing the memo, with or without redactions. Thursday, two sources directly involved with the memo said that the White House, for the time being, will return the memo on Friday to the House Intelligence Committee, but with redactions approved by the White House in consultation with the FBI.

In a rare move, the FBI publicly opposed the memo's release, saying in a statement that it has "grave concerns" about releasing controversial, classified information.

FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, asked White House Chief of Staff John Kelly not to allow the memo's release.

Schiff fears its release could potentially damage the congressional intelligence committees' information-sharing relationship with the FBI and DOJ.

"This memo is really a spin on not just a set of particular documents, but broader classified information than that," Schiff said. "Because of serious material and omissions, [it] is inaccurate and gives a very misleading impression designed to tar the FBI and tar the Department of Justice."

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