By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously Monday evening to release a memo from Democrats meant to rebut assertions from a Republican-drafted document alleging improper surveillance practices by the FBI.
The vote starts the clock on a five-day window for President Donald Trump to either declassify and approve the memo's release or block it from being made public.
It is unclear if Trump will sign off on the release or not, and the White House said before the vote that if it does come out of committee, the Democratic document would be considered "along the same terms that we considered" the Republican memo.
Representative Adam Schiff, the committee's ranking Democrat, said the Democratic memo "will help inform the public of the many distortions and inaccuracies in the majority memo".
Democrats have asked that the Department of Justice and FBI vet any information within the memo and have had it for "several days", Schiff told reporters at the Capitol.
The FBI in particular issued an unusual public denunciation of the initial Republican-drafted document, calling it inaccurate and objecting to what it called "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy".
The "Nunes memo", named for Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, took issue with the FBI's use of a dossier produced by opposition groups that alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia before and during the election cycle. The "Steele-dossier" was used by the FBI to obtain a warrant from a FISA court to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide.
Christopher Steele is a former British spy and longtime FBI source whose research was partly funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. His dossier was "essential" to the application for electronic surveillance on Page, the committee's memo said.
Trump and his campaign have been under scrutiny from law enforcement officials over possible collusion with what officials describe as Russia's "influence campaign" aimed at damaging Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Following Monday night's vote, Representative Mike Conaway, who is the ranking Republican leading the House's separate Russia probe, said "it's only fair that Democrats get to tell their side".
"Every story has two sides," he told ABC News.
Schiff said Democrats want to make sure the White House does not make redactions to the document "for political purposes, and obviously that's a deep concern".
"The majority found themselves in an insupportable position when they released a misleading memo and refused to release the Democratic response," Schiff said. "They were compelled to take the action they did today."
Schiff was the target of Trump's ire earlier Monday, with the president coining a new nickname for the California Democrat.
"Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington, right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper! Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!" he bemoaned on Twitter.
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