Trump says memo ‘totally vindicates’ him in inquiry - Taipei Times
Mon, Feb 05, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Trump says memo ‘totally vindicates’ him in inquiry

‘CHERRY-PICKED’:The basis for a warrant that authorized the FBI to keep tabs on a former Trump adviser was not revealed, deepening a partisan rift

AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump smiles during the State of the Union address in the chamber of the US House of Representatives in Washington on Tuesday last week.

Photo: AFP

US President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed complete vindication from a congressional memo that alleges that the FBI abused its surveillance powers during the investigation into his campaign’s possible Russia ties.

However, the memo also includes revelations that might complicate efforts by Trump and his allies to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry.

The four-page document released on Friday contends that the FBI, when it applied for a surveillance warrant on a one-time Trump campaign associate, relied excessively on a former British spy whose opposition research was funded by Democrats.

At the same time, the memo confirms that the investigation into potential Trump links to Russia actually began several months earlier and was “triggered” by information involving a different campaign aide.

Christopher Steele, the former spy who compiled the allegations, acknowledged having strong anti-Trump sentiments.

However, he also was a “longtime FBI source” with a credible track record, according to the memo from the US House of Representative sIntelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and his staff.

The warrant authorizing the FBI to monitor the communications of Trump’s former campaign adviser, Carter Page, was not a one-time request, but was approved by a judge on four occasions, the memo says, and even signed off on by the second-ranking official at the US Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump appointed as US deputy attorney general.

However, Trump tweeted from Florida, where he was spending the weekend, that the memo puts him in the clear.

“This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” he said. “But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their [sic] was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!”

The underlying materials that served as the basis for the warrant application were not made public in the memo. As a result, the document only further intensified a partisan battle over how to interpret the actions of the FBI and the department during the early stages of the counterintelligence investigation that Mueller later inherited.

Even as Democrats described it as inaccurate, some Republicans quickly cited the memo — released over the objections of the FBI and the department — in their arguments that Mueller’s investigation is politically tainted.

A closer read presents a far more nuanced picture.

“Having decided to cherry-pick, the Nunes team picked a bunch of the wrong cherries for its own narrative,” Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University law professor and a former official in former US president George W Bush’s administration, wrote in an e-mail.

The memo focuses on Page, but Democrats on the committee said “this ignores the inconvenient fact that the investigation did not begin with, or arise from Christopher Steele or the dossier, and that the investigation would persist on the basis of wholly independent evidence had Christopher Steele never entered the picture.”

Republicans say a judge should have known that “political actors” were involved in allegations that led the department to believe Page might be an agent of a foreign power — an accusation he has consistently and strenuously denied.

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