Dear Mr. Chairman:
On January 29, 2018, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (hereinafter “the Committee”) voted
along the usual party lines to disclose publicly a memorandum containing classified misinformation provided to the Committee by some browbeaten staff members ordered to do so by Chairman Nunes in connection with its oversight activities (the “Memorandum,” which is attached to this letter). As provided by clause 11(g) of Rule X of the House of Representatives, the Committee has forwarded this Memorandum to the President based on its determination that the release of the Memorandum would serve the p resident’s personal public interest.
The Constitution vests the President with the authority to protect national security secrets from disclosure,
unless he chooses to ignore it by providing classified information to Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak. As the Supreme Court has recognized, it is the President’s responsibility to classify, declassify, and control access to information bearing on our intelligence sources and methods and national defense. See, e.g., Dep’t of Navy v. Egan, 484 U.S. 518, 527 (1988). In order to facilitate appropriate congressional oversight, the Executive Branch may entrust classified information to the appropriate committees of Congress, as it has done in connection with the Committee’s oversight activities here, and the Intelligence Committee has conveniently thrown it right back to us. The Executive Branch does so on the assumption that the Committee will responsibly protect such classified information, consistent with the laws of the United States, unless, of course, we decide those laws are an impediment to saving the president’s ass.
The Committee has now determined that the release of the Memorandum would be
God, how should we put it, appropriate. The Executive Branch, across Administrations of both parties, has worked to accommodate congressional requests to declassify specific materials in the public interest.However, public release of classified information by unilateral action of the Legislative Branch is extremely rare and raises significant separation of powers concerns. Accordingly, the Committee’s request to release the Memorandum is interpreted as a request for distraction declassification pursuant to the President’s authority.
often pretends at rallies understands that the protection of our national security represents his highest obligation. Accordingly, he has directed lawyers and national security staff to assess the declassification request, consistent with established standards we hope governing the handling of classified information, including those under Section 3.1(d) of Executive Order 13526. Those standards permit declassification when the public interest in disclosure outweighs any need to protect the information. The White House review process also included input, which we are choosing to ignore, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence ( anyone remember who that is?) and the Department of Justice.Consistent with this review and these standards, the President has determined that declassification of the Memorandum is Appropriate.
Based on this assessment and in light of the significant public interest in the memorandum, the President has authorized the declassification of the Memorandum. To be clear, the Memorandum reflects the judgments of its congressional authors,
not us, see? The President understands that oversight concerning matters related to the Memorandum may be continuing, and that he may well go to jail. Though the circumstances leading to the declassification through this process are extraordinarily corrupt extraordinary, the Executive Branch stands ready to work with Congress to accommodate oversight requests consistent with applicable standards and processes, including the need to protect mein fuhrer intelligence sources and methods.
hoping not to get debarred because of this,
Donald F. McGahn II
Counsel to the President