Trump blocks release of Democratic memo written in response to Republican claims

Democrats claimed the decision showed "hypocrisy at its worse"

Trump blocks release of Democratic memo written in response to Republican claims

US President Donald Trump. Image: Evan Vucci/AP/Press Association Images

Donald Trump will not immediately release a classified Democratic memo, which was written as a response to a Republican memo alleging FBI abuse of power.

The White House has said it will reconsider the document once changes are made - but Democrats quickly accused President Trump of 'hypocrisy'.

The Republican document was released without redactions last week, and claimed the FBI used unsubstantiated allegations by former British spy Christopher Steele to obtain a warrant to monitor former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.

That memo was prepared by the office of House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes, and Donald Trump opted to not block its release despite the FBI publicly raising 'grave concerns' about its content.

The agency claimed it contained "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy".

In response, a memo was prepared by Democrats that reportedly contests and further details the claims made by Republicans.

Earlier this week, the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the Democratic memo.

However, the White House yesterday confirmed that President Trump will not declassify the document in its current form.

'Significant concerns'

In a letter to Mr Nunes, the US president's legal counsel wrote: "[The US Department of Justice] has identified portions of the February 5th Memorandum the disclosure of which it believes would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests.

"Although the President is inclined to declassify the February 5th Memorandum, because the Memorandum contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages, he is unable to do so at this time."

The letter notes that due to the 'public interest in transparency in these unprecedented circumstances', justice department officials would be made available to offer 'technical assistance' to edit the memo for potential release.

In a statement, Mr Nunes said: "It’s no surprise that these agencies recommended against publishing the memo without redactions.

"Intelligence Committee Republicans encourage the minority to accept the DOJ’s recommendations and make the appropriate technical changes and redactions so that no sources and methods are disclosed and their memo can be declassified as soon as possible.” 

However, the White House decision was criticised by Democrats - with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi claiming it proves that the release of the initial memo was a 'blatantly political move'.

Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, said he 'will review' the recommended redactions with officials:

Senator Dianne Feinstein, meanwhile, described President Trump's decision to block the release as 'hypocrisy at its worse', arguing: "I have reviewed the classified documents that underpin both memos. I know the Nunes memo is misleading, and I know Congressman Schiff was seeking to provide a factual counterpoint.

"If the president really believes the Nunes memo vindicates him, as he has said, what is he hiding by blocking the Schiff memo? Any minor redactions should be made as quickly as possible and the memo should be released."

President Trump himself has previously claimed the Nunes memo 'totally vindicates' him in the ongoing probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US election.