Trump authorizes release of controversial Nunes memo: 'A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves'

  • President Donald Trump authorized the release of a classified and controversial memo that purports to show surveillance abuses by the Department of Justice.
  • "A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves," Trump said after he signed off on the memo's release. 
  • The memo has been a source of hot debate between Democrats and Republicans, while intelligence and law enforcement officials have strongly urged against its release.

President Donald Trump on Friday authorized the release of a highly-controversial memo authored by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes.

The memo, whose release became imminent after Trump moved to declassify it, purports to show the Department of Justice abusing its surveillance authority to monitor Carter Page, a former Trump campaign aide. 

"President Trump has approved the declassification of the document in full and it has been transmitted to the minority and majority of the House Intel Committee," said White House spokesman Raj Shah. He added that the White House did not request any redactions to the memo. 

RELATED: Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe
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Key Trump officials, advisers of note in the Russia probe

Tom Barrack

The close friend to Donald Trump and CEO of private equity firm Colony Capital recommended that Trump bring in Paul Manafort for his presidential campaign.

R. James Woolsey

Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), has cooperated with Mueller's investigation and worked with Michael Flynn and was present at a meeting where they discussed removing the controversial Turkish Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen from US soil. 

(Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The former senior Trump campaign official and White House adviser was present and crucial during the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey.

The former head of the Trump transition team following the 2016 election has said previously that he believes he was fired due to his opposing the hiring of Michael Flynn as national security adviser.

Jeff Sessions

Former U.S. senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama joined Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser in February 2016. Sessions was nominated to be U.S. attorney general by President Trump and was then confirmed by the Senate. Reports then emerged that Sessions had spoken twice with Sergey Kislyak while he was senator -- a fact that he left out of his Senate hearing testimony. Instead, he said in writing that he had not communicated with any Russian officials during the campaign season. Sessions defended himself saying he had spoken with Kislyak specifically in a senate capacity.

Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort signed on as Donald Trump's campaign manager in March 2016. A longtime Republican strategist and beltway operative, Manafort had previously served as an adviser to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich -- a pro-Russia leader who was violently ousted in 2014. Manafort resigned from his campaign position in August 2016 amid questions over his lobbying history in Ukraine for an administration supportive of Russia. The former campaign manager reportedly remained in Trump's circle during the post-election transition period.

Michael Flynn

Gen. Michael Flynn was named President Trump's national security adviser in November of 2016. Flynn reportedly met and spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in December, at one point discussing sanctions. Flynn originally told Vice President Pence he did not discuss sanctions -- a point the Department of Justice said made the national security adviser subject to blackmail. Flynn resigned from his position in February.

Donald Trump

2016 election winner Donald Trump is at the center of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russia's handlings.

Sam Clovis

Clovis, a former member of the Trump campaign, arrives on at the U.S. Capitol December 12, 2017 to appear before a closed meeting of the House Intelligence Committee. Clovis worked with George Papadopoulos, a former Donald Trump campaign foreign policy advisor who struck a plea deal on charges of lying to the FBI.

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Roger Stone

Stone is a longtime Republican political consultant who served as a campaign adviser to Trump who continued to talk with the then-GOP candidate after stepping away from his adviser role. Stone claimed last year that he had knowledge of the planned WikiLeaks release of emails pertaining to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee. Stone recently admitted to speaking via direct message with "Guccifer 2.0" -- an online entity U.S. officials believe is tied to Russia. Stone says the correspondence was “completely innocuous.”

Carter Page

Page worked for Merrill Lynch as an investment banker out of their Moscow office for three years before joining Trump's campaign as a foreign policy adviser. During his time with Merrill Lynch, Page advised transactions for two major Russian entities. Page has called Washington "hypocritical" for focusing on corruption and democratization in addressing U.S. relations with Russia. While Page is someone Trump camp has seemingly tried to distance itself from, Page recently said he has made frequent visits to Trump Tower.

J.D. Gordon

Before Gordon joined the Trump campaign as a national security adviser in March 2016, he served as a Pentagon spokesman from 2005 through 2009. Like others involved in Trump-Russia allegations, Gordon met with ambassador Kislyak in July at the Republican National Convention, but has since denied any wrongdoing in their conversation. He advocated for and worked to revise the RNC language on and position toward Ukraine relations, so it was more friendly toward Russia's dealings in the country.

Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo (L)

Caputo waves goodbye to reporters after he testified before the House Intelligence Committee during a closed-door session at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center July 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Caputo resigned from being a Trump campaign communications advisor after appearing to celebrate the firing of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Denying any contact with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign, Caputo did live in Moscow during the 1990s, served as an adviser to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and did pro-Putin public relations work for the Russian conglomerate Gazprom Media.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Stephen Miller, White House Senior Advisor for Policy

Jason Miller
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer
Eric Trump
Donald Trump Jr.
Ivanka Trump
White House Senior adviser Jared Kushner
Executive assistant to Donald Trump Rhona Graff
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
US Vice President Mike Pence
Katrina Pierson
K.T. McFarland
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci
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Trump, addressing the memo's release, said Friday, "A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves."

"I think it's a disgrace what's happening in our country," he said, adding that the memo had been sent to the House Intelligence Committee, which is expected to release it later today. 

In particular, the memo purportedly shows that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein acted improperly when he approved an application to extend counterintelligence surveillance of Page shortly after he took office last spring. 

 

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Trump declassifies Nunes memo
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Trump declassifies Nunes memo

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Asked on Friday whether reading the memo affected his confidence in Rosenstein and made it more likely that he would oust the deputy attorney general, Trump replied, "You figure that one out."

Rosenstein is currently in charge of overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the election in his favor. Mueller is also examining whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired FBI director James Comey last May.

If Trump fires Rosenstein, assistant attorney general Rachel Brand will assume oversight of the Russia probe.

'Extraordinarily reckless'

The Nunes memo and its possible release have sparked a firestorm on Capitol Hill and within the intelligence community. Republicans say they want to release the document to promote transparency and hold law enforcement accountable, but Democrats have slammed it as a thinly veiled attempt to distract the public and discredit the agencies investigating the president and his associates.

Top intelligence and law enforcement officials have cautioned against the memo's release.

FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met Monday with White House chief of staff John Kelly to argue against releasing the memo, saying that the document contained several inaccuracies and that releasing it could expose sources and methods, according to The Washington Post

When Kelly didn't budge, Wray again called him on Monday night, but was unsuccessful. 

The next day, at least five FBI officials traveled to the White House to speak with Kelly about the memo, according to the report. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also cautioned the chief of staff against releasing the document but appeared to be rebuffed as well. 

The Justice Department, meanwhile, said it would be "extraordinarily reckless" for the House Intelligence Committee to approve the memo's release without giving the DOJ enough time to review it and advise lawmakers about possible national security implications. 

RELATED: Members past and present of Trump's inner circle

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Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
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Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
Hope Hicks: Former White House Director of Strategic Communications
Melania Trump: Wife to President Trump and first lady of the United States
Gary Cohn: Former Director of the U.S. National Economic Council
Michael Flynn: Former National Security Advisor, no longer with the Trump administration
Ivanka Trump: First daughter and presidential adviser
Gen. John Kelly: Former Secretary of Homeland Security, current White House chief of staff
Steve Bannon: Former White House chief strategist, no longer with the Trump administration
Jared Kushner: Son-in-law and senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway: Former Trump campaign manager, current counselor to the president
Reince Priebus: Former White House chief of staff, no longer with the Trump administration
Anthony Scaramucci: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House press secretary
Donald Trump Jr.: First son to President Trump
Sean Spicer: Former White House press secretary, soon to be no longer with the Trump administration
Jeff Sessions: U.S. attorney general
Steve Mnuchin: Secretary of Treasury
Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign chairman
Carter Page: Former foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign
Omarosa Manigault: Former Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison
Jason Miller: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Mike Dubke: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Stephen Miller: Trump senior policy adviser
Corey Lewandowski: Former Trump campaign manager
Eric Trump: Son to President Trump
Rex Tillerson: Former Secretary of State
Sebastian Gorka: Former deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration, no longer in his White House role
Roger Stone: Former Trump campaign adviser, current host of Stone Cold Truth
Betsy DeVos: U.S. Education Secretary
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The FBI also weighed in, saying in a rare statement Wednesday that it had been "provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it."

The statement continued: "As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

Democrats have prepared their own document which rebuts many of the claims in the Nunes memo, but Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have not yet approved its release. 

CBS News reported on Thursday that Wray, who has largely expressed his reservations about the memo behind closed doors, is prepared to publicly issue his own rebuttal to the Nunes memo. 

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