By Alex Johnson, NBC News–
The House Intelligence Committee sent the White House a different version of a classified memo about the Trump-Russia investigation from the one that committee Republicans voted to release to the public, the committee’s top Democrat said Wednesday night.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee’s ranking Democrat, said in an open letter to the committee’s chairman, Republican Devin Nunes of California, that the situation is “deeply troubling” and the memo should be withdrawn immediately,
The committee voted Monday to release the memo, which was prepared by Republicans, on a straight party-line vote. The memo is under White House review; the final decision on whether to make it public rests with President Donald Trump.
Republicans who have seen the memo say it shows that the FBI relied on an opposition research dossier paid for by Democrats to obtain a warrant to conduct secret surveillance on an aide to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign; Democrats who have seen the memo say it is an inaccurate and misleading attack on the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller and designed to undermine the FBI.
The FBI warned Wednesday of its “grave concerns” that the document contains “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” The FBI’s unusual statement appeared to be part of a last-ditch lobbying campaign designed to get the White House to reconsider releasing it.
The White House, nevertheless, was likely to release the memo Thursday, two administration officials told NBC News late Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear how Schiff’s letter would affect their decision.
Schiff described the differences in general as “substantive” and “material” alterations that committee members “were never apprised of, never had the opportunity to review, and never approved.” That means “there is no longer a valid basis for the White House to review the altered document,” he wrote.
BREAKING: Discovered late tonight that Chairman Nunes made material changes to the memo he sent to White House – changes not approved by the Committee. White House therefore reviewing a document the Committee has not approved for release.
“The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound, and in accordance with House and Committee rules,” Langer said. “To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves.”
But a senior Democratic source on the Intelligence Committee disputed that account, telling NBC News that the changes weren’t “cosmetic.”
“Instead, they try to water down some of the majority’s assertions,” the source said.
In his letter, Schiff wrote that the changes prove that the committee’s Republican majority “no longer stands by the representation it has made to House Members in its original document and felt it necessary to deceive Committee Members during Monday’s vote.”
He pointed to an exchange during the committee’s deliberations between Nunes and Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., saying Nunes promised Himes that the memo wouldn’t be changed before it was sent to the White House.
According to a transcript of the hearing that was made public Wednesday, Himes pressed Nunes to clarify whether the final version of the memo, if it were released to the public, would be “word for word” the same document that the committee reviewed or whether it would be “redacted or altered in any way.”
According to the transcript, Nunes responded: “We will send the content over to the White House, and the president has five days to either agree with us that it should be made public, or the president could say that he does not want it made public.”
Schiff called that response “misleading” Wednesday night — an assessment that Himes agreed with.
“In a formal meeting, I asked Chairman Nunes not once, but twice, if his memo would be released precisely as we reviewed it,” Himes said on Twitter. “He said yes. Then altered it.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York went further, accusing Nunes in a statement Wednesday night of working to “undermine the rule of law and interfere with the Russia probe” and calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to “put an end to this charade once and for all.” He didn’t suggest how Ryan could do that.
Two administration officials told NBC News that it was likely that the memo would be released Thursday. Five career FBI officials met with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Tuesday to review what the White House would likely release, according to another official. Sources said it was possible that the public version of the memo could include redactions of sensitive information, but Justice Department officials said the issues it raised were so highly classified that they might not be in a position to point out errors or misleading statements.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House late Wednesday following Schiff’s letter.