Fri, Feb 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

FBI clashes with White House over Russia probe memo


US President Donald Trump makes remarks to American workers in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington on Wednesday.

Photo: EPA

In a remarkably public clash of wills with the White House, the FBI on Wednesday said that it has “grave concerns” about the accuracy of a classified memo on the Russia election investigation that US President Donald Trump wants released.

The FBI’s short and sharp statement, its first on the issue, laid bare a Trump administration conflict that had previously played out mostly behind closed doors in meetings between top US Department of Justice and White House officials.

“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI said.

Further complicating the memo’s release, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee late on Wednesday said that his committee’s vote to release the memo was now invalid because it was “secretly altered” by the Republicans who wrote it.

US Representative Adam Schiff said in a letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that committee Democrats had discovered changes that were made after the panel voted on Monday to send it to Trump for review.

“The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the committee never approved for public release,” Schiff said in the letter.

Schiff did not detail the changes and a spokesman for Nunes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump has five days from the vote to review the document and if he does not object then US Congress can release it.

Schiff called for Nunes to withdraw the memo from the White House and for the committee to hold a new vote on Monday next week.

The memo is part of an effort to reveal what Republicans say are surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department in the early stages of the probe into potential ties between Russia and Trump’s presidential campaign.

The FBI’s stance on the memo escalates the dispute and means Trump would be openly defying his handpicked FBI director by continuing to push for its disclosure.

It also suggests a clear willingness by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in the early stretch of his tenure has been notably low-key, to challenge a president who just months ago fired his predecessor, James Comey.

The FBI statement came the day after Trump was overheard telling a representative that he “100 percent” supported release of the four-page memo.

US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday night placed the blame on House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying that if Ryan “cares about the integrity of the House or the rule of law, he will put an end to this charade once and for all.”

Democrats have called the memo a “cherry-picked” list of Republican talking points that attempts to distract from the committee’s own investigation into Russian meddling in the election that sent Trump to the White House.

The drama comes as special counsel Robert Mueller is also investigating whether the Trump campaign improperly coordinated with Russia during the campaign and whether Trump sought to obstruct the inquiry by, among other actions, firing Comey.

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