FBI weighs in on release of Russia memo
The FBI said Wednesday it has “grave concerns” about the accuracy of a classified memo on the Russia investigation that President Donald Trump wants to release to the public. It was the first time the bureau has weighed in publicly on an issue that has openly divided the Justice Department and the White House.
In its unusual public statement, the FBI said it was given only a limited opportunity to review the four-page memo, which was drafted by Republicans on the House intelligence committee led by Rep. Devin Nunes of California.
Republicans have said the memo reveals improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department in the Russia investigation. But the FBI said Wednesday that important facts were omitted.
“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.
The statement escalates the intra-government conflict over the memo, which had already touched off a partisan brawl with Democrats and has pitted GOP lawmakers ordinarily supportive of surveillance against the FBI and the Justice Department. The FBI director and the deputy attorney general have told the White House releasing it could set a dangerous precedent.
On Wednesday afternoon, Nunes, the Republican chairman of the committee, escalated the conflict over the memo, calling the FBI and Justice Department objections “spurious.”
“It’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign,” Nunes said. “Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again.”
Trump was overheard Tuesday night telling a Republican lawmaker he was “100 percent” in favor of releasing the memo, and his chief of staff said Wednesday the document is likely to be released “pretty quick.”
The encounter on the House floor with South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan was captured by television cameras after the State of the Union address. When Duncan implored him to “release the memo,” Trump said: “Oh yeah, don’t worry. 100 percent.”
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CNN on Wednesday that a legal and national security review of the document was continuing. Trump had not read the memo as “as of last night prior to and immediately after the State of the Union,” she said.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Wednesday on Fox News Radio that he expected the memo to be released “pretty quick.”
According to Republicans, the memo alleges surveillance misconduct in the early stages of the FBI’s investigation into potential Trump campaign ties to Russia. But Democrats have called the memo a “cherry-picked” list of GOP 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.