Following a vote Monday to take steps toward releasing a classified memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tool, Democrats were stressing Tuesday just how livid they are.
“It’s f—ing apoplectic and ridiculous,” one Senate Democratic aide said about the memo, which was authored by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes, R-California.
The one Republican that Democrats plan to direct their outrage at is House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“He’s going to get a lot of heat coming his way,” this aide said, adding that Nunes has had the Wisconsin Republican’s blessing throughout the process of authoring the memo and pushing for its release.
In a statement Monday night, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Americans should be deeply concerned by Speaker Ryan’s sanctioning of this irresponsible decision.”
Ryan told reporters Tuesday he is in favor of the public release of a memo, but said he is telling GOP House members that there needs to be separation between those allegations and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“I think we should disclose all this stuff. I think sources and methods we’ve gotta protect, no two ways about it for sure, 100%,” Ryan said. “But I think disclosure is the way to go. It’s the best disinfectant. And I think we need to disclose, that brings us accountability, that brings us transparency, that helps us clean up any problem we have with (the Justice Department) and FBI.”
Ryan also sided with Nunes earlier this month when Justice Department officials – Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray – met with Ryan trying to gauge where the speaker stood on Nunes’ outstanding subpoena demands, CNN reported. Ryan sided with Nunes, saying the department needed to comply with the panel’s requests, sources said at the time.
Democrats are also insisting that a memo authored by the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff of California, be released as well.
A Democratic staffer familiar with discussions on the Nunes memo addressed the possibility of whether Democrats – after the Nunes memo is made public – could simply release or “leak” the Schiff memo.
“We’re not going to leak classified information. That is ruled out,” the aide said. “We’re being responsible people.”
This aide adds, however, that they are thinking through everything they could do short of that. They think there are numerous ways in which they can get out information from the Schiff memo without leaking it in full form.
In terms of their immediate strategy, Democrats feel like they’re pretty constrained given the classified nature of the information they’re handling, but politically they see Ryan as one of the most important “pressure points.” They believe Ryan’s decision to give his blessing on the Nunes memo coming out makes him vulnerable.
As one of the Democratic aides said, Democrats’ hope is to figure out: “How do you draw the speaker into all of this more? Because he’s responsible for this.”