Democrats seek to release their answer to Nunes memo 'correcting' Donald Trump over Russia claims

Senate Democratic leader urges Donald Trump to back public release, saying refusal to do so would show his intent to undermine Russia investigation

Samuel Osborne
Monday 05 February 2018 10:45 GMT
Donald Trump says GOP-produced memo 'totally vindicates' him
Donald Trump says GOP-produced memo 'totally vindicates' him (AP)

Democrats are pushing to have their own memo on the FBI and its Russia investigation released by Congress, after a similar note penned by Republicans was made public with President Donald Trump's blessing.

The Republican memo accuses senior FBI and Justice Department officials of using unverified information from a politically biased source when they sought a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the communications of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page and his ties to Russia.

Mr Trump said he was "vindicate[d]" by the memo drafted by the Republican House Intelligence Committee chair, Devin Nunes, after it was declassified on Friday.

Tweeting from his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Saturday, the President called special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation a "witch hunt" and a "disgrace".

Despite it being embraced wholeheartedly by Mr Trump, the Republican memo features "mischaracterisations" of the FBI's actions and lacks crucial context, Democrats told the New York Times. They say their 10-page rebuttal would "correct" these errors.

Last week, the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee rejected a move to release the Democrat memo. One Republican member said revisions were needed so it wouldn't endanger national security.

The Senate's Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, urged Mr Trump to back the public release and said refusing to do so would show the President's intent to undermine the Russia investigation.

Donald Trump says Nunes memo is declassified and Congress will "do whatever" with it

The Republican memo takes aim at the FBI's use of information from former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier containing allegations of ties between Mr Trump, his associates and Russia.

The memo's central allegation is that agents and prosecutors, in applying in October 2016 to monitor Mr Page's communications, failed to tell a judge the opposition research that provided grounds for the FBI's suspicion received funding from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Mr Page had stopped advising the campaign sometime around the end of that summer.

Mr Steele's research, according to the memo, "formed an essential part" of the warrant application. But it's unclear how much or what information Mr Steele collected made it into the application, or how much has been corroborated.

Republicans say a judge should have known "political actors" were involved in allegations that led the Justice Department to believe Mr Page might be an agent of a foreign power, an accusation he has consistently denied.

The memo confirms the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign began in July 2016, months before the surveillance warrant was sought, and was "triggered" by information concerning campaign aide George Papadopoulos. He pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI.

The committee's top Democrat, Adam Schiff, branded the GOP memo "a political hit job."

He questioned whether the chairman, Mr Nunes, had coordinated with the White House in drafting the document seized on by the President to vent his grievances against the nation's premier law enforcement agencies.

"The goal here is to undermine the FBI, discredit the FBI, discredit the Mueller investigation, do the president's bidding," Mr Schiff said. "I think it's very possible his staff worked with the White House."

Mr Nunes was asked during a committee meeting on 29 January whether he had coordinated the memo with the White House. "As far as I know, no," he responded, then refused to answer when asked whether his staff members had communicated with the White House.

He had previously apologised for sharing with the White House secret intelligence intercepts related to an investigation of Russian election interference before talking to committee members.

Additional reporting by agencies

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