Classified memo on Russia probe ‘shows FBI surveillance abuses’
The document reveals a “troubling breakdown of legal processes” in the FBI’s inquiry into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Republicans have released a declassified memo which they say shows surveillance abuses in the early stages of the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in US president Donald Trump’s election campaign.
The memo, prepared by Republicans on the US House intelligence committee, said there was “a troubling breakdown of legal processes” in the investigation.
Mr Trump, who advocated for the memo’s release over the fierce objections of the US justice department and the FBI, told reporters the document shows “a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves”.
“I think it’s terrible,” the US president said. “You want to know the truth. I think it’s a disgrace. What’s going on in this country, I think it’s a disgrace.”
The memo, which the FBI has said is inaccurate and missing critical context, asserts that current and former FBI and justice department leaders signed off on a surveillance warrant to monitor communications of a former Trump campaign associate.
The document also asserts that opposition research, conducted by a British spy and funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, formed a critical basis for the allegations contained in the warrant application.
They said that research should not have been a basis for the warrant because it contains unproven allegations.
The release of the memo is likely to further divide Mr Trump and his FBI and justice department leaders.
The president lashed out anew on Friday morning on Twitter. He has supported the memo’s release in the apparent hopes that it could help undermine the probe being led by special counsel Robert Mueller, which he has called a “witch hunt”.
The president tweeted: “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 & File are great people!”
The FBI and the justice department had objected strenuously to the document’s release. Earlier this week, the FBI declared it had “grave concerns” about its accuracy.
Trump’s tweet and his approval of the memo release set up a clash with the man he picked to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, after firing James Comey as agency director. It also seemed at odds with House Speaker Paul Ryan who said a day earlier “this memo is not an indictment of the FBI or the Department of Justice”.
Democrats said the memo cherry-picks intelligence in an effort to smear a probe into whether Trump associates collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election.
The document was written by Republican representatives as part of an effort to reveal what the party said are surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department early in Russia investigation, before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over.