Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, the controversy over whether his campaign colluded with Russian authorities to help get him there has not stopped roiling. Now, many of those involved in investigating that question are focused on what is in the Nunes memo, a secret document drafted by California Rep. Devin Nunes, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee.
The memo — which Nunes and other House Republicans have asserted contains claims that could throw special counsel Robert Mueller's whole investigation into question — has largely remained shrouded in secrecy. However, certain details have leaked out, and reports say that the memo claims that the FBI misused surveillance laws in order to obtain a warrant to track former Trump campaign official Carter Page.
The memo also apparently attacks Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — who, incidentally, is also the man who appointed Mueller as special counsel. Trump has reportedly repeatedly suggested that he would like to see Rosenstein removed from his position.
But specifically, the memo reportedly hinges on the claim that when FBI and Justice Department officials were seeking to extend a warrant to surveil Page, they based their request partly on information that came from the much talked about Christopher Steele dossier, and did not inform the court of that fact.
But while Nunes and his allies have claimed that the information contained in the memo is damning for the FBI, other reporting already suggests that the memo contains at least one misleading statement. When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issues a warrant, they rarely ever do so based on only one piece of information, The Hill reported — so the dossier is unlikely to have been the only piece of information that the FBI and the DOJ had as reason to surveil Page.
So far, The Hill reports that only the select group of congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight have the security clearance necessary to see the intelligence documents that underlie it. However, so far, only House members have been permitted to view it; when Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Gang of Eight member, requested access to the memo, Nunes denied it.
House Democrats have already put together their own response to the Nunes memo, claiming that House Republicans are using the memo to "selectively and misleadingly characterize classified information in an effort to protect the President at any cost."
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the contents of the memo "highly misleading" and said that it was "another effort to distract from the Russia probe and undermine the Special Counsel."
Right now, the swirling question is whether or not to release the memo to the public — and the House Intelligence Committee could vote on that soon. Congressional Republicans have called for it to be released, whereas Democrats have argued that what they describe as its misleading nature would make that a bad decision. The Justice Department also sent a letter to Nunes saying that it would be "extraordinarily reckless" for Nunes to release it without allowing them to first determine whether it contains sensitive intelligence information. Nunes' team, however, has argued that as one of the agencies under investigation, the DOJ should not have access to a report made about its "abuses."
If the House Intelligence Committee votes to release the memo, President Trump would have five days to block it from the public. However, CNN has reported that Trump is in favor of declassifying the memo, so it's unlikely that he would stop that process. If the committee votes to release it and the White House doesn't act to keep it classified, the public could have access to the memo very soon.