White House problems with the Democrat’s “rebuttal memo” on the surveillance of Trump associates are genuine and the document could disclose “sources and methods,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence confirmed.
“We need to go through that and identify that which remains classified and would implicate sources and methods or investigative interests,” he said at a newsmaker’s breakfast meeting on Wednesday sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.
His comments constituted a direct rebuke to his party’s top boss in the House of Representatives, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
White House counsel Don McGahn said in a statement Friday that Trump was “inclined” but “unable” to declassify the Democrat’s 10-page memo because it “contains numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages,” according to Politico.
Schiff’s conciliatory statement could embarrass Pelosi. In a stinging comment following the McGahn statement, Pelosi said, “President Trump’s refusal to release Intelligence Committee Democrats’ memo is a stunningly brazen attempt to cover up the truth about the Trump-Russia scandal from the American people.”
The Democratic memo is an attempt to counter a four-page memo released by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, a California Republican.
The Nunes memo asserts the FBI relied on the use of the salacious and unverified Trump dossier in an application before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Based on the document, the FISA court issued a warrant to spy on Carter Page, an unpaid advisor to the Trump campaign.
Schiff said “we hope to resolve this soon” and noted the Democrats were working with the FBI.
He also somewhat backtracked on the Trump-Russia collusion issue, saying the Democrats’ definition of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was much lower than potential criminal acts being reviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Collusion is not a crime under the federal statutes.
“I’ve never said there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt” about collusion, the California Democrat told reporters. “Our responsibility is not determining what can be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Our responsibility is to tell the country as much as we’ve been able to learn.”
Schiff also broadly criticized former President Barack Obama for his failure to impose a ‘deterrent’ against hostile nations whose intent was to launch cyber attacks against the private sector and during the 2016 elections.
“I think the Obama administration should have done more to establish a deterrent when it had the opportunity,” he said.
“I was urging back when the North Koreans hacked Sony that we establish a deterrent then. I feared if we didn’t, not only would the North Koreans be back, but others would take a lesson from this that cyber-hacking and attacking is a freebie. There’s no consequence,” he said.
In the 2014 Sony hack, a North Korean group that called itself “Guardians of Peace” hacked Sony Pictures and eventually released Sony staff emails, personal information about Sony employees, executive salaries and even copies of several unreleased Sony films.
“In the North Korean situation, what I had urged was not necessarily a cyber-response to a cyber-attack, but to respond in a way that gets the North Korean’s attention.” He said the lack of deterrence encouraged other countries to launch cyber attacks, culminating with Russian cyber attacks.
“In the case of Russia, I think we should have named them a lot earlier, call them out on it. It’s not enough for members of Congress to do so. We need an administration to do it. The administration did it through a written statement in October, which I don’t think was enough,” he said.
“Of course the biggest way to get the attention of Russia is through sanctions. I had urged that the administration, before the election, begin negotiations with our European allies over sanctions that ought to be imposed over Russia’s interference,” Schiff said.
He also confirmed the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee were authentic. “As far as we can tell, the documents that they dumped were largely or completely authentic. That is, they weren’t fakes.”
He said his “deepest concern” was that in the future a foreign power might add fabricated information in legitimate documents.
“I was concerned when that was happening in real-time was that among the real documents, they would dump fake documents. Or even more pernicious, they would take a real document, they would add a paragraph to it suggesting illegality and dump that,” Schiff said.
“So you would have a document where let’s say, two-thirds were accurate, one-third was document. You would have no way for the campaign in the final weeks to demonstrate that the document had been altered,” the Democrat said.