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Rep. Hurd on Nunes memo: DOJ authority should be used appropriately every time

A Republican on the House Intelligence Committee defended the panel’s release of the controversial memo about the FBI’s Russia investigation Friday, even as he acknowledged criticism from Democrats that its contents weren’t “explosive” as some GOP lawmakers had suggested.

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas told the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff that he wouldn’t describe the contents of the memo as “explosive.” Instead Hurd, a former undercover CIA officer, said the memo raised questions about whether law enforcement should be able to use “unverified information, circular reporting and rumors” to obtain a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“I was comfortable releasing this information because, as you’ve looked, none of this damages national security,” Hurd said.

But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the committee’s top Democrat, said in his own interview with Woodruff that there were a number of “misleading” statements in the Republican memo.

“You can cherry-pick information from any [FISA] application that mislead people and that’s what’s been done here,” Schiff told Woodruff. “The whole point of it is to do damage to the FBI and damage” the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Schiff and his Democratic colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee have drafted their own memo, which they say gives a more comprehensive view of the underlying intelligence reports. Schiff said he hoped the Democratic memo — which Republicans blocked from being released in a vote earlier this week — would become public soon.

Hurd joined many of his Republican colleagues and voted against making the Democratic memo public. When asked if he would support its release in the future, Hurd said, “Of course, as long as it doesn’t have direct revelations of existing ongoing intelligence, which I think we can take out.”

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to the memo released today by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee.

    I spoke earlier with two of the members of that committee, starting with Republican Will Hurd of Texas.

    I asked what information was so explosive to warrant releasing the document, despite calls by the intelligence community to keep it classified.

  • Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas:

    Well, I don't know if I would describe it with the adjective explosive, but what the information in the memo questioned, asked is, should federal law enforcement be allowed to use unverified information, circular reporting and rumors in a Title III court to request a FISA warrant?

    And, for me, this is about making sure that Congress is actually providing good oversight of our federal law enforcement. This is not, in my opinion, about the Mueller investigation.

    I believe Bob Mueller should be allowed to turn over every rock, pursue every lead to ensure that we know what the Russians tried to do in our elections. But this is Congress' responsibility to the American people to provide oversight and ensure that our civil liberties are being protected.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I'm sure you know those who are defending the FBI here say that it did follow procedure very carefully and it relied on more than that controversial Steele dossier, so-called, to make its case.

  • Rep. Will Hurd:

    And, again, I expect them to make their case and to defend their actions.

    Whether or not other information was used is immaterial. The former director of the FBI himself said that some of the material that was used was salacious and unverified. And then another piece of information, the Yahoo News article, relied on that same information, which is circular reporting, and it was being used as confirmation of the original source, and then, third, rumors from another host government, another government.

    So whether or not more information was used or not, to me, is not the question. It's, why was that kind of information used? And, to me, as a professional intelligence officer, Judy, as you know, I spent almost as a decade as undercover officer in the CIA, protecting sources and methods, gathering information.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Right.

  • Rep. Will Hurd:

    My job was to determine the difference between information and intelligence.

    And I was comfortable releasing this information because, as you look, none of this damages national security.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, that is the argument Democrats are making, that this damages the intelligence community, it serves — does long-term damage to the agencies at do this fundamental work day in and day out.

  • Rep. Will Hurd:

    And I would disagree with that.

    This is not a criticism of rank and file members of the FBI. I have had the honor of serving side by side with them. This is about making sure the political leadership of these organizations are crossing every T and dotting every I.

    We give a lot of responsibility and authority to the Department of Justice and FBI, and that authority every single time should be used appropriately. And I think this is a case where I'm firmly in opposition of using unverified information in a FISA court.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you believe that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or any other top official at DOJ or the FBI should lose their job over this?

  • Rep. Will Hurd:

    No.

    I think this is part of oversight, making sure that we are ensuring that our agencies are operating the way that they're supposed to. There's currently a Department of Justice inspector general that is doing a review. And, apparently, I think a draft report has been produced.

    I think that's also another tool in order for us to look at our agencies. It's just unfortunate, I think, that all this information is going to be used by partisans to promote their partisan position.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Very quickly, will you vote to release the Democratic memo in your committee?

  • Rep. Will Hurd:

    Of course, as long as it doesn't have direct revelations of existing ongoing intelligence, which I think we can take out, but of course I would support that.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Representative Will Hurd of the House Intelligence Committee, thank you very much.

  • Rep. Will Hurd:

    Thank you.

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