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Trump expected to approve release of Russia memo

by Adam Edelman /  / Updated 

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President Donald Trump is expected to tell the House Intelligence Committee that he does not object to the release of a classified memo about the Russia investigation, a senior White House official said Thursday.

A decision not to block the memo's release would fly in the face of warnings from law enforcement officials — the FBI has said it has "grave concerns" about the memo's disclosure — as well as Democrats, who contend the memo is designed to distort the federal probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, the senior White House official said the White House has had time over the last couple of days to look over the memo "to make sure it doesn’t give away too much in terms of classification."

"Right now, I think it will be that we tell the Congress, probably tomorrow, that the president is okay with it," the official added, noting that the ultimate public disclosure of the memo is in the hands of Congress.

Republican lawmakers pushing for the release of the memo have said it examines how the FBI eavesdrops on suspects in national security investigations. They have also contended it shows corruption in the FBI, proving that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is based on a fraud.

Specifically, they say the memo shows that the FBI relied on an opposition research dossier paid for by Democrats to obtain a warrant to conduct secret surveillance on a Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.

Democrats, for their part, have called the memo a grossly distorted attack on the Mueller probe, which is investigating Trump's campaign for possible collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice.

If Trump declassifies the memo it could be released in whatever way the White House chooses. Or the president could declassify the memo and send it back to the House to handle the public disclosure.

If the president does declassify the memo, the House Intelligence Committee has more leeway to make the contents public as it chooses, and it is not required that the House be in session. Just how soon the House would release the material is not clear and some members think it might be after Saturday.

The president could also choose not to declassify the memo but inform the House he has no objection to it being put out. That would require it be submitted to the Congressional Record or have a member read it on the floor, which would have to take place when the House is in session and it is expected that would have to wait until the next regular session day on Monday, at the earliest.

Justice Department officials told NBC News that the issues raised in the memo are so highly classified that they may not be in a position to point out errors or misleading statements.

It was not immediately clear whether the memo would be redacted when it is made public.

A White House official told NBC News on Thursday evening that the White House is still evaluating some redactions at the FBI’s request, but leaning toward making none before approving its release. A senior administration official said as much on Air Force One earlier in the day: "I doubt there will be any redactions."

Related: FBI urges White House not to release GOP Russia-probe memo

On Wednesday, the FBI — just hours after Trump assured a lawmaker he planned to allow the document to become public — said the memo was inaccurate and misleading.

"We have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy," the FBI said. The statement followed a Monday visit to the White House by FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who asked Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, not to make the memo public, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday the memo was meant to "sow conspiracy theories and attack the integrity of federal law enforcement as a means to protect President Trump."

Schumer also accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., one of the primary authors of the memo, of working to "undermine the rule of law and interfere with the Russia probe" and called on House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to remove him as chair.

The latest developments come less than 24 hours after Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the Intelligence Committee's ranking Democrat, complained that the committee had sent the White House a different version of the classified memo about the Trump-Russia investigation from the one that committee Republicans voted to release to the public.

House Republicans voted to release the classified memo Monday night under a House rule that lawmakers say has not been used in modern times. The president has five days to object.

Jack Langer, a spokesman for Nunes, confirmed that the memo had been edited, but said that the changes included "grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the Minority themselves," referring to committee Democrats.

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