House intelligence committee members voted to release a Democratic memo that counters a GOP paper made public last week that accuses the FBI and Department of Justice of surveillance abuses against the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
Analysts were quick to note that the Monday evening vote sets the Democrats on a collision course with the White House as President Trump has five days to review their document before allowing its release or withholding it.
The GOP memo, which dominated the headlines all weekend, was written by Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and committee chairman. It argues that at least one questionable surveillance warrant during the 2016 campaign was partly justified by the anti-Trump dossier funded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party — and hence injected political bias into the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process.
The Democrats say their 10-page memo counters what they call a GOP mischaracterization of classified data in an overall effort to undermine the credibility of the DOJ, the FBI and especially special counsel Robert Mueller’s overall investigation of Mr. Trump and Russian election meddling.
On Capitol Hill late Monday after the vote, Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intel panel and lead author of the rebuttal memo, told reporters that “we think this will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies.”
Mr. Schiff added that the rebuttal memo adds crucial context explaining how the FBI and DOJ obtained a disputed surveillance warrant on former Trump aide Carter Page.
The partisan din over the issue has been particularly intense and exploded before the vote as Mr. Trump and Mr. Schiff traded insults online Monday, Mr. Trump tweeting that the Californian was one of “the biggest liars and leakers in Washington.”
“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!” the president tweeted.
During a rally in Ohio on Monday, Mr. Trump ratcheted up the rhetoric, claiming the FBI had been “caught in the act” of spying on his campaign.
“Oh, did we catch them in the act,” he told a told a crowd of workers. “They are very embarrassed. They never thought they were going to get caught, but we caught ‘em.”
On Monday, Mr. Nunes said the Democratic criticism actually helped Republican efforts in highlighting the issues in government institutions.
“We actually enjoy the criticism,” the California Republican told Fox News. “Because when you’re being criticized like this by all the major networks, and when you’re being attacked by the left, we know that we’re getting close to the truth.”
Mr. Trump also singled out Mr. Nunes on Twitter as “a man of tremendous courage and grit” for making public the GOP memo last week.
Mr. Schiff responded to Mr. Trump calling him “little Adam” and a liar by saying White House Chief of Staff John Kelly should give Mr. Trump “a timeout.”
“Look, first he attacked me some months ago, calling me ‘sleazy Adam Schiff,’ now it’s ‘little Adam Schiff’ which, I don’t know, seems better. It’s also confusing,” Mr. Schiff told CNN, later referring to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. “But bottom line is I think it may be time for Gen. Kelly to give the president a timeout. The country would certainly benefit from that anyway.”