The FBI expressed concerns Wednesday about the validity of a highly contentious House intelligence committee memo that alleges the bureau and Justice Department illegally spied on the Trump campaign in 2016.
Written by chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, the memo was cleared for release by the committee in a party vote on Monday night and now awaits approval from the White House to be released publicly.
“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the bureau said in a statement released Wednesday. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment if the agency would release additional information to include the “material omissions.”
Written by House Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, the memo was cleared for release by the committee in a party vote on Monday night. It now awaits approval from the White House to be released publicly.
Mr. Nunes pushed back against the FBI Monday afternoon.
“Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objects to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies,” Mr. Nunes said. “The FBI is intimately familiar with ‘material omissions’ with respect to their presentations to both Congress and the are welcome to make public, to the greatest extent possible, all the information they have on these abuses.
“Regardless, it’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign,” he said. “Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
Mr. Trump is expected to release the memo. The president was overheard Tuesday night at the State of the Union telling Rep. Jeff Duncan, Republican South Carolina, that he “100 percent” will make memo public.
But the White House is raising the drama. On Wednesday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, appearing on CNN, said the White House is completing a “legal and national security” review before taking action on the memo.
President Trump was overheard Tuesday night at the State of the Union telling a lawmaker that he “100 percent” planned to release the memo.
Mr. Trump was responding to Rep. Jeff Duncan’s questions as he left the jam-packed House chamber following his speech.
On Wednesday morning, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he believed Mr. Trump will release the memo.
“It will be released here pretty quick, I think, and the whole world can see it,” Mr. Kelly said on Fox News Radio.
But Bloomberg reported that FBI Director Christopher Wray told White House officials that the memo “paints a false narrative.”
The FBI’s statement Wednesday added that the agency “takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals in the Department of Justice and the FBI. We are committed to working with the appropriate oversight entities to ensure the continuing integrity of the FISA process.”
Reaction to the FBI’s forceful statement came swiftly from committee Democrats, who fought against the memo’s release.
“The FBI confirms that the memo contains ‘material omissions of fact’ that ‘fundamentally impact’ its accuracy. Nunes used this memo to mislead the House,” Rep. Adam Schiff tweeted. “Will the President now use it to mislead the country?
The document, which has been made available to the whole House, reportedly shows abuses in the intelligence community in order to obtain FISA warrants on Trump campaign aides. Democrats on the committee said the Republicans are misleading the situation and risking national security by publicly releasing the memo.
They drafted their own response to the document, which House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said is still being reviewed for classified information, but will also likely be released.
Republicans, meanwhile, see the memo as a long-awaited vindication of their argument that Mr. Trump was smeared politically by the Washington establishment after his election.