WASHINGTON (TNS) — President Donald Trump accused House Intelligence Committee Democrats Saturday with crafting their rebuttal memo about FBI and Justice Department officials' actions early in the Russia election meddling investigation in a way that would back his White House into a corner.
Trump used a Twitter post to explain his Friday night decision to block the release of the Democratic document, which counters one released Feb. 2 by the panel's Republicans. Trump claims the Democrats crafted "a very political and long response memo which they knew, because of sources and methods (and more), would have to be heavily redacted."
Trump said the Democrats wrote their memo that way so they could "blame the White House for lack of transparency."
Trump said he is not opposed to releasing the Democratic memo in some form, writing that he told the panel's minority side to "re-do and send back in proper form!" In a letter to the committee released Friday night, White House Counsel Donald McGahn offered the assistance of Justice Department experts to revise the document so it can be made public.
Senior Democrats blasted Trump's refusal to release it after clearing the Republican memo, which the panel's Republican chairman quickly made public, arguing the FBI and Justice Department improperly obtained surveillance on then-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the early phases of the Russia probe.
Republicans contend that senior law enforcement officials were — and still are — biased against Trump, something the president also says frequently. Democrats disagree, saying the Republican was written solely to help Trump discredit the Russia investigation.
McGahn told committee leaders Friday night that the president is "inclined" to release the memo but could not allow the Democrats' document to be made public "because the memorandum contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded to the memo blockage by accusing Trump of a "cover-up" in relation to the Russia investigation and his actions in response to it. Her sharp rhetoric raised the stakes in the Russia investigation — and November's midterm elections, which could hand Democrats control of the House and Senate, increasing the chances for impeachment proceedings against Trump over possible collusion with Russians during the 2016 election and possibly obstruction of justice charges based on actions since he took office.
Pelosi called Trump's refusal to release the memo "a stunningly brazen attempt to cover up the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal from the American people." She said in a statement that his decision was "part of a dangerous and desperate pattern of cover-up on the part of the president. Clearly, the president has something to hide."
"The U.S. intelligence community has concluded, and members of Trump's cabinet agree, that the Russians interfered in our election and plan to do so again. America's intelligence and national security are being politicized. Why won't the president put our country before his personal and political interests?" Pelosi said.
Democrats also said it was questionable that the White House sent the Democratic memo back to the panel's Republican majority, rather than submitting it to Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the committee's ranking minority member.