Republican Rep. Jim Banks On Controversial Memo
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Fallout continues over a Republican memo that accuses the FBI and Justice Department of bias in their investigation into the Trump campaign's possible ties to Russia. It alleges federal agents abused their powers when they sought a court order to put Trump adviser Carter Page under surveillance. Democrats say the memo proves nothing of the kind and is instead a smokescreen to try to discredit the investigation. Representative Jim Banks, a Republican of Indiana, joins us now. Mr. Banks, thanks so much for being with us.
JIM BANKS: Happy to be with you.
SIMON: You, I gather, have read the memo and say you're deeply troubled.
BANKS: The memo is deeply troubling. And like so many others, I had hoped that it would be released to the public, so the public could make that determination themselves. But the memo is neither as damaging as some Republicans want it to be - it's not - as it is irrelevant as some Democrats are hoping that it is, as well. So it's important that the public has a chance to read it. It's also important that at some point in the near future, the minority - the Democrat report from the House Intelligence Committee is made public, so the public can see that as well.
SIMON: Aren't House Republicans on the intelligence committee blocking release of that?
BANKS: I'm not a member of that committee, but I'm not aware of any efforts to block the memo. In fact, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, called for exactly that yesterday. He's hopeful that here, in a short period of time, that the Democrat memo will be made available to the public, too.
SIMON: The memo states, as I read, that Carter Page's involvement with Russian operatives was a worry to U.S. intelligence back in 2013, and that was long before the FBI went to the FISA court. Doesn't that sort of disprove those people who are - who say that this was all a political reaction and was based on the dossier?
BANKS: Well, the dossier certainly tips his hand that that is the case. But it also - as the memo report shows that there was a breakdown in the process. As many federal judges have said over the past 24 hours or so since the memo was made public, if many of the details that weren't made available - the political motivations behind the information that was used in the FISA court - if it was known that Democrats had paid for the information of some of the motivations behind the information of FISA court were made available - that the judge probably wouldn't have cancel - probably wouldn't have given or would have cancelled the warrant in the first place. So the facts speak for themselves. They can't be ignored. There were political motivations here that - and a breakdown of the process that are deeply troubling.
SIMON: There are FBI sources that say, in fact, that information was in there.
BANKS: That information hasn't been made available to me. If that information is true, then it needs to be made available to the public, as well. If that's a part of the Democrat memo, then it should be made available to the public to see that, too.
SIMON: And also, there are investigative officers who say, look, when you - when you're painting a - trying to obtain a warrant for surveillance - and they point out that this was, in fact, renewed three times - yeah, sometimes, your sources don't always have clean hands, and that's just how investigations - and crime, for that matter - rolls.
BANKS: But that's completely speculative at this point. But what is true is that those of us who stand on the side of transparency believe that in a situation like this, this information should be made available to the public, which it was yesterday...
SIMON: I mean, I...
BANKS: ...And I totally support the chairman - Chairman Nunes and his committee's efforts to make these details available. If the Democrat memo disputes that, then it should be made available to the public, as well.
SIMON: Yeah. But, I mean, are you putting yourself in a position where you say information - I'm going to guess now - can only come from Jesuit seminarians or something?
BANKS: That - I'm not sure that that's a valid point. But the committee went through the due process of the committee. The staff put together the memo. The memo was released to members of Congress like myself over a week ago, and many of us took the step to go read the memo. And on its face, the details and what is detailed in the memo is troubling and is showing a breakdown in the process. And that's why I and dozens of other members thought it should be made available to the public.
Now, as many have seen and can determine for themselves, as I said at the outset of our conversation, this memo is not as damaging as some Republicans are making it out to be, but it can't be ignored and made irrelevant like many Democrats want it to be, as well. The process needs to be examined, and if some abused their powers, as the memo would suggest that they did, then they should be held accountable.
SIMON: Republican Congressman James Banks of Indiana. Thanks so much for being with us, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.