'This Memo Is Not Going To Erode National Security,' Says Rep. Will Hurd
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The classified memo with explosive claims about the FBI could be made public as soon as today. This is the document that was created by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes alleging that the FBI abused its surveillance authority to monitor the Trump campaign. The FBI put out an extraordinary statement this week saying it has grave concerns about the accuracy of this document. President Trump has remained relatively quiet on the issue until this morning when he tweeted the following - (reading) the top leadership and investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans, something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank and file are great people, the president tweets.
We are joined now by Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas. He's a member of the House Intel Committee. He has seen this memo, and he voted to release it to the public. Congressman, thanks so much for being back on the show.
WILL HURD: Hey, Rachel, good morning. It's always a pleasure to be with you.
MARTIN: The director of the FBI, Chris Wray - a Republican, by the way - appointed by President Trump, is strongly against releasing the memo. The No. 2 at the Justice Department, career civil servant Rod Rosenstein, is against this. Why are you OK with releasing the memo over their concerns?
HURD: Well, one, of course, they're going to be against this because I do not believe they want to see Congress exercising aggressively its oversight function and it's informing function. I'm a former intelligence officer. I spent almost a decade in the back alleys of places like India and Pakistan and Afghanistan, collecting intelligence, protecting sources and methods. It's my responsibility to know the difference between information and intelligence. And this memo is not going to erode national security. This is not a attack on Bob Mueller. What the Russians did when it came to our elections...
MARTIN: Although President Trump reportedly has been talking to close confidants saying that he hopes that this is able to undermine the special counsel's investigation.
HURD: Well, you'd have to ask the president why he thinks that. In my opinion, it doesn't. It's very narrow, and it talks about what should DOJ and the FBI be able to present in order to get, you know, the ability to erode an American citizen's civil liberties. That's a problem.
MARTIN: Here's the concern, though, that many have, including some in your own party - it was written by Devin Nunes, who worked on the Trump transition team, ended up having to recuse himself from the Russian investigation because it was revealed that he had collaborated inappropriately with the White House. Do you find him to be credible in deciding what exactly the public gets to know about the FBI?
HURD: Well, this is not just some memo that was written by Devin Nunes. Just because Devin Nunes is the head of the intelligence community, this is looked at as this is his issue, but many people looked at this. And I think at the lead y'all used the word explosive. I don't necessarily believe this is an explosive memo and details in this memo. And it's just a statement of facts on what was...
MARTIN: Some - one Republican congressman called it bigger than Watergate, so there's different messaging out there about what's actually in this memo, and it's awkward because we don't know what's in it. But I do know Republican Senator John Thune has objected to the release of the memo, saying that Richard Burr, the chair of the Senate Intel Committee, should get to see it first. Why can't that happen?
HURD: I don't know what conversations went into why Senator Burr wasn't allowed to see it. I think Senator Burr should be allowed to see it. And I agree with you. It is awkward because this is not out in the public, and it's a four-page memo. It's a four-page memo that is not meant to be a complete explanation of everything that may be going on, you know, when it comes to any investigation. It's very narrow.
MARTIN: Which brings up why the Democratic memo they've written in rebuttal can't be released simultaneously, which is another concern.
HURD: Because it was 10 pages, and it actually included information that would impact national security. It's being re-edited to remove that information, and that will be released to the public as well.
MARTIN: We had the former director of the CIA, Mike Hayden, on our show yesterday, and he raised that concern, as others have, that releasing this memo means we have in some ways crossed the looking glass where our intelligence and our intelligence agencies are being politicized, which is dangerous for the country. What do you say to those concerns?
HURD: Politicizing our intelligence organizations and agencies, it is dangerous - 100 percent. But it's also the responsibility of Congress - we are the only entity that can provide oversight of these organizations. And we can do that at the same time. Shining light on issues is always a good thing. And sometimes...
MARTIN: Although you know - as a former intelligence officer, you know that there are some circumstances where you absolutely cannot have transparency, that it does jeopardize sources and methods.
HURD: Absolutely, and this is not one of them, right? Having been involved in some incredibly sensitive operations where life and death, you know, hung in the balance, this is not one of those cases. And so...
MARTIN: So you think Chris Wray was just wrong when he said that it could jeopardize sources and methods. You disagree with the director of the FBI.
HURD: I do.
MARTIN: Where does it go from here? I mean, if this memo comes out, does Chris Wray resign? Do you want him to resign?
HURD: I don't want him to resign. He has to do what he thinks is necessary. I think the uber partisanship in this country is what is ultimately going to have a broader impact. When you have Republicans and Democrats completely disagreeing just because it's somebody else, when you have, you know, this perceived White House being - not trusting the intelligence community and vice versa, this is what the Russians were trying to do by being involved in our elections is eroding this trust that we have in our institutions. And so we're allowing them to have...
MARTIN: What do you think the president's role is in fomenting that divide, though? I mean, I read that tweet at the top where he's accusing now the FBI and the Justice Department of politicizing the investigative process.
HURD: Yes, the president does have a role in creating this, and I think everybody needs to have their blood pressure come down. And, ultimately, it's - everybody needs to do their job. The intelligence community needs to make sure that when they go to a court to ask for a telephone tap on an American citizen that they're using good information and that Congress should be - you know, using their oversight function, and the press should be making sure that we're all doing these things in the right way.
MARTIN: Will Hurd - he is a congressman from Texas, and he joined us this morning on Skype. Congressman, it is always a pleasure. Thanks for being with us this morning to talk about this.
HURD: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.