President Donald Trump was recorded assuring a lawmaker on Tuesday that he supports the public release of a secret memo which reportedly contains damning evidence of politically charged government surveillance abuses.
“Mr. President, please release the memo,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said to Trump as the president exited the Capitol chamber after the State of the Union address.
“Oh yeah, don’t worry, 100 percent,” Trump responded.
The classified memo was released to members of the House two weeks ago. Shortly afterward, 65 lawmakers sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee to release the memo to the public. Since then, at least 190 lawmakers have viewed the document, according to Fox News.
— CSPAN (@cspan) January 31, 2018
The intelligence committee voted to make the memo public on Monday. The release is pending Trump’s signature. The White House has been reviewing the document since Tuesday.
Lawmakers who have seen the memo describe its contents as “worse than Watergate” and compare it to a “palace coup” and the KGB. The memo details, in part, how an unverified anti-Trump dossier compiled by a British ex-spy was used to obtain a warrant to surveil a Trump associate.
Democrats have mounted a unified opposition to the memo’s release, though only a handful have actually viewed the document. According to the Washington Post, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein pleaded with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to not make the document public. Kelly indicated that the document will be released soon.
According to the New York Times, Rosenstein is named in the four-page memo as the person who approved an application to spy on Trump associate Carter Page. At least part of the application used the anti-Trump dossier as the rationale for surveillance, which presents an issue because the contents have not been verified.
The dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Fusion GPS, the dossier’s purveyor, took money from the Russian government while Steele worked on compiling the document.
FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe stepped down hours before the House committee voted to release the memo to the public. McCabe’s boss, Christopher Wray, viewed the document the day before, on Sunday. A source told Fox News that Wray was “shocked to his core” by the content of the report.
House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly backed the release of the memo on Tuesday.
“Let it all out, get it all out there. Cleanse the organization,” Ryan (R-Wis.) told Fox News. “I think we should disclose all this stuff. It’s the best disinfectant. Accountability, transparency—for the sake of the reputation of our institutions.”
“Covering up mischief would be worse,” Ryan added.