United States President Donald Trump today approved the release of a classified Republican memo that alleges bias against him at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department, in an extraordinary showdown with law enforcement agencies over the probe into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Ignoring the urgings of the FBI earlier this week, Trump declassified the four-page memo and sent it to Congress, where Republicans on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee immediately released it to the public.
The Republican president told reporters that the contents of the document tell a disgraceful story of bias against him and that “a lot of people should be ashamed”.
The document has become a flashpoint in a battle between Republicans and Democrats over special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller is also believed to be investigating any attempts to impede his probe.
Trump has repeatedly complained about Mueller’s investigation, which has cast a shadow over his first year in office, calling it a witch hunt and denying any collusion or obstruction of justice.
Moscow has denied any election meddling.
The memo, criticised by the FBI as incomplete and slammed by Democrats as an attempt to undermine Mueller’s probe, purports to show the investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia was driven by political bias.
The document, commissioned by the Republican chairman of the House intelligence panel, Devin Nunes, uses the case of investigations into a Trump campaign aide, Carter Page, saying the FBI used a biased source to justify surveillance on him.
It alleges that a dossier of Trump-Russia contacts compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, and funded in part by Democrats, formed an essential part of requests for electronic surveillance on Page that began in October, 2016.
It says the initial application and subsequent renewal applications did not mention the link between Steele and the Democrats. It also portrays Steele as biased, saying he was passionate about him (Trump) not being president.
Democrats said the memo cherry picks information.
“The selective release and politicisation of classified information sets a terrible precedent and will do long-term damage to the Intelligence Community and our law enforcement agencies,” Democrats on the House intelligence panel said in a
The Democrats said they hoped to release their own memo responding to the allegations.
Two days ago, in a rare public rebuke of the president and Republicans in Congress who were pushing to release the memo, the FBI said it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact” in the document and it should not be made public.
James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence under Democratic President Barack Obama, said Trump’s attack on the FBI and Justice Department was the “pot calling the kettle black”.