House intel votes to release Nunes memo

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) calls the House Intelligence Committee's vote to release the Republican memo alleging FBI abuses a "tragic" day for the committee.

Posted: Jan 30, 2018 10:25 PM
Updated: Jan 30, 2018 10:25 PM

On Monday night, the House Intelligence Committee approved -- on a party line vote -- the public release of a memo alleging a litany of abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department. President Donald Trump now has five days to decide whether or not to allow the memo's release. While no final "OK" has been given, Trump had made little secret of his desire to release the memo.

In expectation of that decision, I reached out to Carrie Cordero, a CNN contributor who has extensive background on the subject having served as Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Senior Associate General Counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; and Attorney Advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.

Cillizza: Walk me through the process going forward. The memo is now at the White House. When does Trump need to make a decision? And when might we see the memo publicly released?

Cordero: According to the House Rules, the President has five days to object to the release of the memo on national security grounds. As long as he does not object, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) can release the document. Given that timeline, and the statements from the White House that the President thinks the memo should be released publicly, it is possible that it will be released as early as Saturday, or, perhaps Monday, if business days are used.

There is still a possibility, however, that intelligence community and Department of Justice leadership, or perhaps Trump's national security lawyers who work in the White House, will persuade the President that releasing the memo in its current form will harm national security, and that it should be properly reviewed for declassification purposes. Alternatively, a new memo could be written in an unclassified format that is prepared specifically for public release.

Cillizza: How normal (or not) is a memo like this one — produced by the majority on the House Intelligence Committee that lots of intelligence officials haven't even seen?

Cordero: Highly unusual. Unprecedented, in fact. In my 18 years of professional and academic involvement with the Intelligence Community I have not observed HPSCI release a document using this procedure, and I am not aware of its having been used in the past (although I expect intelligence community historians to be hard at work this week).

The context is that information that is provided to the intelligence oversight committees is information provided by the executive branch of government. And, in circumstances when the intelligence committees write reports based on information provided by the community, they work with the relevant intelligence community agencies to review the reports and declassify information. That's why sometimes the committees produce reports that include both an unclassified report for public consumption, and a separate, classified version.

It is also not unusual for members of the committees to want to discuss publicly information they receive on the committee. This can be for a variety of reasons, including, for example, circumstances where those members are concerned about the use of legal authorities or oppose certain activities being undertaken by an agency or intelligence element as a policy matter.

Normally, what happens in those situations is the member of Congress will send the information he or she wants declassified to the specific agency, and/or to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for review and approval. This is because the information belongs to the executive branch; not to the committees or the legislative branch. And it is officials in the Executive Branch -- the DNI and ultimately the President -- who have final classification or declassification decision-making authority.

When a member seeks that review, sometimes the intelligence community will approve the declassification, sometimes they will say "no," and sometimes they will declassify portions of the proposed statement or document. This is how members who respect the process and the national security equities at play, work.

Cillizza: What are the national security concerns — if any — to releasing this memo? And how should transparency be balanced with these concerns?

Cordero: I haven't seen the memo, so I can't speak to the precise national security risks that exist if it is released. At a general level, depending on the classification level of the document -- whether SECRET or TOP SECRET -- if released in an unauthorized fashion [it] could cause either "serious damage" or "exceptionally grave damage" to the national security of the United States.

If public reports are correct that the information in the memo is derived from applications that had been presented to and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) then the information could include sensitive investigative information, and information about sources and methods; that is, how the intelligence community obtains its information. Release of such information without proper consideration of the harm that could result from the disclosure can jeopardize ongoing investigations, human sources, technical sources and important relationships with foreign intelligence services, as examples.

As a practical matter, it appears that the White House and the Chairman of the HPSCI have worked together in a way that bypassed the normal process of consultation and deference to the Intelligence Community. Proponents of #releasethememo might bill this as a transparency "win," but I think that scholars and knowledgeable observers of the intelligence community transparency efforts will understand that what is transpiring this week is the exact opposite, because it is "transparency" that will cloud the public's understanding of the actual intelligence information involved. It is hard to see this proposed release as meaningful transparency versus a harmful politicization of intelligence.

Cillizza: Let's say this memo is released. How will it land at the FBI and the broader intelligence community? And what — if any — are the long-term implications of doing something like this?

Cordero: The release of this memo under the process that is unfolding this week may cause serious damage to the relationship between the operational and policy professionals who work in the national security space in the executive branch, and the political leadership at the White House and in the House of Representatives.

There is an entire system of classification that exists to protect national security information. There are laws, policies and procedures. While many involved in the classification system understand that it is far from perfect, and needs to be improved and modernized, it is the system currently in place. There are professionals throughout government who work every day to ensure that national security information is appropriately protected. Those who mishandle classified information -- whether intentionally or deliberately -- are subject to a range of serious consequences, from administrative to criminal prosecution.

Cillizza: Finish this sentence: "Releasing the memo publicly would be a _______ thing for the country." Now, explain.

Cordero: "Releasing the memo publicly would be a sad thing for the country."

Because it means that there is a real reason for Americans to have less faith that the components of their government are functioning in the American people's best interests. The committee vote that already took place last night was a major crack in the credibility of an important American institution: HPSCI. HPSCI is one of two intelligence committees created to provide an important check on intelligence community overreach. The vote last night, and if this document is released by the White House this week, means that an important component of intelligence oversight is broken.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 601937

Reported Deaths: 9593
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion831111322
Lake44972678
Allen32498545
Hamilton29039315
St. Joseph27133380
Elkhart24291343
Vanderburgh19160246
Tippecanoe17799130
Johnson14871292
Porter14631167
Hendricks14188247
Madison10851219
Vigo10636178
Clark10520137
Monroe9299110
Delaware9055134
LaPorte8972160
Howard8134142
Kosciusko800382
Warrick665197
Hancock6575103
Bartholomew637999
Floyd6322109
Wayne6076161
Grant5937113
Dubois552578
Boone544967
Morgan530594
Henry503464
Marshall499884
Cass478663
Dearborn470745
Noble468357
Jackson420747
Shelby410781
Lawrence387478
Clinton370642
Gibson365559
DeKalb344264
Montgomery340754
Harrison340544
Knox333139
Miami317344
Steuben311545
Whitley301725
Wabash299747
Adams299035
Ripley296545
Putnam292049
Huntington288659
Jasper287634
White270340
Daviess266073
Jefferson257938
Fayette245148
Decatur244883
Greene238162
Posey236927
Wells233350
LaGrange226361
Scott221838
Clay220932
Randolph212148
Jennings195836
Sullivan190833
Spencer188019
Fountain182127
Washington182022
Starke174443
Jay166322
Owen162837
Fulton162330
Orange156333
Carroll155415
Rush153318
Perry151227
Vermillion147334
Franklin146933
Tipton130932
Parke13018
Pike115626
Blackford110522
Pulaski96137
Newton90521
Brown86833
Benton85910
Crawford7839
Martin72313
Warren6757
Switzerland6455
Union6227
Ohio4787
Unassigned0375

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 849704

Reported Deaths: 10518
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin100046706
Cuyahoga845231068
Hamilton63092447
Montgomery42660405
Summit34405754
Lucas31041611
Butler30546229
Stark25443429
Warren19436140
Lorain18767223
Mahoning17163337
Lake15882153
Clermont15697110
Delaware1422678
Licking13067137
Trumbull12680313
Fairfield1262180
Greene11915136
Medina11439167
Clark10802265
Wood10230158
Allen9774126
Portage9163107
Miami907373
Richland9035117
Marion7420113
Tuscarawas7280179
Columbiana7263124
Pickaway719550
Wayne6954169
Muskingum690741
Erie6090127
Hancock547590
Ross543487
Scioto533664
Geauga501155
Darke465591
Ashtabula449373
Lawrence447053
Union444928
Sandusky433062
Mercer432088
Huron423541
Seneca423465
Auglaize419662
Shelby419421
Jefferson415469
Belmont411240
Washington383340
Athens37379
Putnam372674
Madison349929
Knox347922
Ashland342538
Fulton335243
Defiance327782
Crawford319472
Preble318437
Brown307121
Logan304132
Ottawa289243
Clinton286643
Williams275866
Highland271818
Jackson261345
Guernsey249825
Champaign249328
Fayette234429
Morrow23014
Perry228318
Holmes222864
Henry216849
Hardin210133
Coshocton203521
Van Wert200545
Gallia194726
Wyandot193851
Pike172417
Adams172015
Hocking169824
Carroll153216
Paulding143221
Noble119940
Meigs106823
Monroe100331
Harrison87821
Morgan82229
Vinton68913
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
20° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 9°
Angola
Cloudy
18° wxIcon
Hi: 26° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 6°
Huntington
Cloudy
17° wxIcon
Hi: 28° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 9°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
20° wxIcon
Hi: 30° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 9°
Lima
Cloudy
20° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 7°
More Sunshine Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events