US House panel votes to release Republican memo on anti-Trump bias

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. House Intelligence Committee voted along party lines on Monday to release a classified memorandum that Republicans say shows anti-Trump bias at the Justice Department, the committee's top Democrat said.

Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, calling it a "sad day" for the committee, told reporters the panel also voted along party lines not to release a Democratic-drafted memo that countered the Republican report.

The memo was commissioned by Representative Devin Nunes, the committee's Republican chairman, and discusses FBI surveillance practices.

Several House members have said it is critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe, while Democrats have criticized the document as "highly misleading" and intended to undermine the investigation.

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U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence ranking member Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks with reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
House Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speak with the media about the ongoing Russia investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. March 15, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA) reacts to Committee Chairman Devin Nunes statements about surveillance of U.S. President Trump and his staff as well as his visit to the White House, during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
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Ranking member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) (R) speak during the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on Russian actions during the 2016 election campaign on March 20, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Mandel Ngan (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, March 19, 2017. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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The House vote gives President Donald Trump up to five days to decide whether to release the classified document. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Monday that no decision had been made.

The memos are a major component of an increasingly bitter dispute between Republicans and Democrats over investigations of alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and whether Trump's associates colluded with Moscow.

Russia denies any meddling, and Trump has dismissed talk of collusion.

Republicans say the memo will expose dangerous bias against the Republican president. Democrats say the document is a partisan bid to protect Trump and a distraction from the need to prevent foreign influence on U.S. elections.

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People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe
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People reportedly interviewed in Robert Mueller's Russia probe

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions 

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Former FBI Director James Comey

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump advisor Stephen Miller

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

President Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner 

(bBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Don McGahn, general counsel for the Trump transition team

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 agent who compiled the reported Trump dossier 

(Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sam Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo
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House Intelligence is one of three congressional committees, along with Mueller, investigating the issue.

Monday's vote was the first time the declassification process has been used by the committee.

"I think we have crossed a deeply regrettable line in this committee where for the first time in the 10 years or so that I’ve been on the committee there was a vote to politicize the declassification process of intelligence and potentially compromise sources and methods,” Schiff told reporters.

Representative Mike Conaway, a senior Republican member of the committee, said Republicans voted against releasing the Democrats' memo because the House of Representatives had not yet had a chance to read it. He said the committee agreed to let House members read it and would consider making it public after that.

Schiff also said the intelligence committee voted down a motion he proposed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Department of Justice brief the entire House in a classified session on the underlying facts in the Republican memo.

The Department of Justice, which previously said it opposed the memo's release, declined comment.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Eric Beech; Editing by Eric Walsh and Cynthia Osterman)

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