Updated at 3:34 p.m. ET
President Trump could notify Congress as soon as Friday that he endorses releasing the controversial memo that alleges the FBI and Justice Department abused their surveillance powers.
That would set the stage for it to become public, perhaps that afternoon, although the procedure is unclear.
Democrats went on the attack Thursday trying to stop the process and even to get rid of the man who has driven it, Trump ally Devin Nunes, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer demanded that House Speaker Paul Ryan pull Nunes from his job.
“Chairman Nunes’ deliberately dishonest actions make him unfit to serve as chairman, and he must be immediately removed from this position,” Pelosi wrote.
Ryan made clear that wasn’t going to happen. He defended Nunes to reporters at congressional Republicans’ retreat in West Virginia.
“I think they’re just playing politics and I think they’re looking for a political distraction,” he said. Republicans’ majority in the House means Nunes is in no danger.
A senior administration official told reporters traveling with Trump that he has read the Nunes memo and that the White House appears on track to send it back down Pennsylvania Avenue to Nunes and his committee.
“The president is OK with it,” the official said. “I doubt there will be any redactions. It’s in Congress’ hands after that.”
What might happen once the file becomes public isn’t clear. The FBI and Justice Department have objected to the document’s becoming public. But there is no way to know whether the release of the memo might simply be another turn of the screw or whether it could bring about more consequential changes in the intelligence world or the Justice Department.
The bureau said in a rare statement Wednesday that it has “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
The memo, prepared by Nunes and his staff, is part of a campaign by Trump’s allies to prove that the FBI and Justice are biased and out to get the president.
Democrats call the document misleading and part of an effort to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 elections.
The intelligence committee voted Monday along party lines to publicly release the four-page document prepared by Nunes, who served on the Trump transition team.
Democrats complained that Republicans used their majority to authorize the release of their memo but not a secret rebuttal prepared by ranking member Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Late Wednesday, Schiff charged that Nunes hadn’t even sent the same memo to the White House that the full committee had voted on.
Schiff asked for the memo to be called back for a revote; intelligence committee spokesman Jack Langer dismissed that idea.
“In its increasingly strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo, the committee minority is now complaining about minor edits to the memo, including grammatical fixes and two edits requested by the FBI and by the minority themselves,” he said.
“The vote to release the memo was absolutely procedurally sound and in accordance with House and committee rules. To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves.”
A senior House intelligence committee Republican, Mike Conaway, told NPR that the memo’s public release would most likely be accomplished by publishing it in the Congressional Record. That can only be done when the House is in session. The House is scheduled to have a pro forma session Friday afternoon.