Conservative Republicans are pushing to release a memo containing classified information about the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, sparking new controversy in a case that has already caused deep partisan rifts.
The contents of the four-page memo, which was written by staff working with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, have not been publicly revealed. But President Trump’s allies in Congress say that they are explosive.
"It's some of the most alarming things I've ever read, and every single American citizen should be able to read that material as soon as possible,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
Democrats on the committee have dismissed the memo as a dishonest attempt to undermine the Russia investigation, and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) called it a “pack of lies.”
Republicans have repeatedly said the Russia investigation, currently led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, has been undermined by partisan bias. Mueller was appointed last May after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Freedom Caucus members asked House Speaker Paul Ryan to support releasing the memo during Thursday night negotiations over the federal budget. Ryan deferred the issue to the House Intelligence Committee, which made it available to every member of Congress this week.
It was unclear Friday whether the GOP-led House committee would hold a vote that would lay the groundwork for making the memo public.
Not everyone in Ryan’s caucus wants it out. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), who is leading the House Intelligence Committee’s inquiry into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, said it would be “real dangerous” to release the memo because it includes classified information.
The document is the result of Nunes probing how the Department of Justice handled the Russia investigation. Nunes has said his work has uncovered serious problems involving the use of secret surveillance powers.
“I believe there's evidence that abuses have occurred," he told Fox News last month.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the memo also looked at Republican claims that Mueller’s criminal investigation has been undermined by partisan bias.
The reaction to the memo was sharply split along party lines.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) said the information was “jaw-dropping.” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) said Americans would be “outraged” if they read the memo.
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's personal lawyers, said on his radio show Friday that it appears the memo reveals corruption that's "breathtaking in scope." Sekulow has previously called for the appointment of a second special counsel to investigate the Department of Justice.
But Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin), another committee member, said the memo was filled with misinformation and should not be released.