The controversial memo purportedly detailing federal surveillance abuses could be declassified and released by the end of the week, sources have told Fox News.
The memo, put together by House Republicans, is said to show improper surveillance techniques used by the Department of Justice and the FBI in the Russia investigation, GOP lawmakers said.
Democrats have dismissed the memo, arguing that it was selectively edited by Republicans to push a narrative that the Russia investigation is biased against the president.
Here’s what we know so far about the memo – and the response it’s already garnered.
So what is this memo?
The secret, four-page memo, put together by the staff of House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., reveals improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation, GOP lawmakers said.
Earlier this week, the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the classified memo on what Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said was a party-line vote.
Republicans who support the release of the memo do so in the interest of “transparency” for “anyone who cares about America and our democratic system of government,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said in a letter signed by 65 other lawmakers.
What’s the argument against releasing it?
House Democrats have cautioned against releasing the memo, calling into question its factual accuracies and warning that it could be detrimental to national security.
Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., likened the memo to “a book report by a high school kid [written] at 1 a.m. on two Red Bulls who hasn’t read the book.”
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., contended that the Republicans on the committee have “crossed from dangerous irresponsibility and disregard for our national security into the realm of cover up” and “disregarded the warnings of the Justice Department and the FBI.”
“Chairman Nunes’ memo contains significant inaccuracies and omissions that misrepresent the underlying intelligence and jeopardize the effectiveness of our intelligence and law enforcement communities,” she said.
How has Trump reacted to the memo?
Trump could declassify the memo by the end of the week, sources told Fox News.
After his first State of the Union address, Trump was overheard assuring Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., that he “100 percent” planned to release the memo.
And the FBI?
In a statement, the FBI said it has “grave concerns” with the memo.
“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 statement said. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Justice Department officials also asked the White House to block the memo’s release.
Could the release of the memo affect Mueller’s Russia investigation?
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he supports releasing the document but does not want it to be used against Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and if the Trump campaign was involved.
Ryan has said “there are legitimate questions about whether an American’s civil liberties were violated by the FISA process.”
As the memo has not yet been released, it’s unclear how FBI malfeasance could have solely resulted in a judge signing off on a FISA warrant. Applications for such warrants are submitted by Justice Department lawyers before a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Those lawyers would have to authorize and ultimately prepare any filing that is made.
But what is so controversial about the FISA surveillance program?
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – which was recently reapproved by Congress – allows intelligence officials to oversee communications of foreigners outside of the U.S. without a warrant.
Critics argue that although the law cannot be used to target Americans, U.S. citizens are often swept up in the data collection – which can be viewed without a warrant.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.