Chief of staff John Kelly said the White House is reviewing a Democratic memo on the investigation into a Trump campaign associate and he has ordered authorities to give their recommendations on how to handle it by Thursday, after which the President will make his final decision on whether to release the memo and whether to redact it.
Kelly said the memo came in late Monday night and on Tuesday, he and White House counsel Donald McGahn met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for a “great conversation.”
He said the White House was not leaning any way on the memo.
“This is a different memo than the first one, it’s lengthier, well it’s different, so not leaning towards it,” Kelly said. “It will be done in a responsible way. But again, where the first one was very clean relative to sources and methods, my initial cut is this one is a lot less clean. But at the end of it all, it’ll be guys like Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray from FBI, certainly the national security attorneys at the White House giving the President a recommendation on that.”
Speaking to reporters after leaving a meeting on the Hill about immigration, Kelly said that the review of the memo would be much like that done of a previous memo that was written by Republicans.
The release of that memo, crafted by Republican staff on the House Intelligence Committee under Chairman Devin Nunes, generated a firestorm of controversy over whether it should be released, with Democrats saying the memo was one-sided and misrepresented the facts of how federal authorities obtained a warrant to surveil Trump campaign associate Carter Page over his potential connections with Russia.
“We essentially got it today, the teams are doing exactly the same thing on this one that we did on the first one,” Kelly said. “This one’s more lengthy, but anyway, drop-dead date, they need to get back to me by close of business Thursday, then … we’ll go in and brief the President on it, and just like we did the first time, give him a recommendation as to what he should do going forward.”
Kelly continued that Trump will have the final say.
“He’ll have a decision to make as to what he wants to do with it: Should he do the same thing he did on the first memo and essentially declassify it, or should he declassify it with some redactions,” Kelly said.
“This is not as clean a memo as the first one,” he added, referring to the inclusion of intelligence information.
After Trump released the first memo without any redactions, despite objections from the FBI and intelligence community, the House Intelligence Committee reversed course and held a second vote on whether to release the Democratic memo summarizing the same underlying intelligence – this time voting to send it to Trump.
On Tuesday, Rosenstein met with Trump for 10 to 15 minutes. Rosenstein was not at the White House for a roundtable on the MS-13 gang that was held around the same time.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced in the daily press briefing that the meeting had happened.
One White House official told CNN they believed the conversation was solely about the memo.