PRESIDENT TRUMP overruled his law enforcement team when he approved the release of the Nunes memo, a slanted hit piece on the Justice Department. But when faced with a Democratic response that would not help the president discredit the Russia investigation, Mr. Trump was suddenly swayed by law enforcement objections, demanding that the Democratic document be refashioned to protect sensitive information.
The motives of Mr. Trump and his enablers, such as memo author Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), are clear enough: to seed doubt about federal law enforcement among enough Americans that Mr. Trump will be able to brush off any negative conclusions that emerge from the Russia probe. As the fate of the Democratic response is sorted out, the coming days will test whether that motive is shared — or at least tacitly encouraged — by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the rest of the House GOP caucus.
We are not suggesting that the Democrats’ response should have been approved for release with the same cavalier disregard for the opinions of law enforcement that Mr. Trump showed in releasing the Nunes memo. Much longer than the Nunes memo, the Democratic document may contain material whose disclosure would raise national security concerns. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that it includes details from a secret surveillance warrant application. Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, who have more credibility than most in the Trump administration, have identified specific passages that they want redacted.
Yet if that is the case, it shouldn’t take long to agree on an edited version. Mr. Rosenstein and Mr. Wray identified sections that raise high concern and others that are less problematic. Mr. Schiff says he is ready to work with Justice Department officials to adjust the document. Both sides should favor as much disclosure as possible, as quickly as possible.
If the administration drags its heels, then the whole House may have to get involved. Mr. Ryan should be prepared to force the release of a sensibly redacted Democratic memo, which would require a vote of the full House. His GOP colleagues should be willing to take that vote. If they are not, they will reveal a lot about their willingness to betray the American system in service of a wayward president. Their actions would simultaneously erode trust in Congress and in independent law enforcement.
All along, Republican leaders, including Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan, have insisted that the memo fiasco is about transparency and evenhanded oversight. Now is the time to prove it.
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