White House legislative affairs director Marc Short confirmed on Sunday that President Trump wants the public release of a classified four-page memorandum that some Republican lawmakers seem to believe — or hope — will discredit the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that Trump made it clear last week that he wanted the memo released, and that White House chief of staff John Kelly communicated the wish to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
But it’s Congress, not Sessions, that has the power to declassify and release the memo. And the Justice Department has warned that making it public without a review process would be “extraordinarily reckless,” though this wouldn’t be the first time Trump has endorsed a course of action that others in his administration would describe in such fashion.
Asked about the Post story during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Trump aide Marc Short said the president “generally is on the side of transparency,” and that Trump “believes that [the memo] should be put out.”
The document at the heart of the “Release the Memo” outcry from the GOP and its allies was authored by staff for House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes, who never actually recused himself from the committee’s Russia investigation as he said he had. The memo, which was made public to all members of the House in a party-line vote by the House Intelligence Committee two weeks ago, apparently implies misconduct and (anti-Trump) bias by the FBI and Justice Department at the outset of the Russia investigation. Though, it’s not clear how that would discredit everything we’ve come to learn about Russia’s meddling and the actions of Trumpworld members since then.
Regardless, the memo has quickly become a cause célèbre for many GOP lawmakers and their allies in the media, as well as right-wing figures like the president’s tweet-happy son Donald Trump Jr. The information contained within is probably just a partisan collection of conspiracy theories based on classified intelligence that only its authors have been able to review and summarize. After all, the document and the manufactured controversy surrounding it could help delegitimize the most serious investigation into a Republican president since Watergate. Indeed, according to the Post, one of the reasons Trump wants the memo released is to allow his administration to get rid of people like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to run the Russia investigation.