FBI opposes move to release Russia probe memo, at odds with Trump
The memo raises questions on the manner in which the FBI and the department of justice, under the Obama administration, obtained permission to spy on a member of a Trump campaign in 2016.Updated: Feb 01, 2018 10:53 IST
US president Donald Trump on Wednesday found himself at odds with FBI director, Christopher Wray, who publicly opposed his move to release a secret memo regarding the probe into alleged Russian interference in 2016 presidential polls that has dogged his presidency from its start.
Trump wants to make the memo, prepared by the House intelligence committee Republicans, public as it raises questions on the manner in which the FBI and the department of justice, under the Obama administration, obtained permission to spy on a member of a Trump campaign in 2016.
Leaving the House of Representatives after the state of the union address on Tuesday, Trump, who wants to discredit the probe and has toyed with the idea of shutting it down, was caught on an open mic telling Republican congressman from South Carolina, Jeff Duncan, that he was “100%” going to allow the memo to be made public.
Trump’s own justice department and the FBI are opposing him. In an unusual move, the investigation agency said in a statement that it was opposing the release because of “material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy”.
Wray, a Trump appointee, will be independent as he had promised. He had served in the justice department and had succeeded James Comey, who was fired months ago.
The FBI statement also said that the agency “was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it”. Wray was allowed to review the memo on Sunday, a day before the congressional committee which has oversight over intelligence agencies, voted along party lines to release it.
According to news accounts quoting people who had seen the memo, senior officials of the FBI had cited a questionable report — Steele Dossier — prepared by a former British intelligence operative, Christopher Steele to obtain judicial permission to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, whose Russia contacts had already put him under the radar of the US intelligence.
Also, the officials did not tell the court, the memo reportedly pointed out, that the report was the result of a contract financed first by Trump’s Republican opponents when he was still battling through the primaries, and then by the campaign of the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, his rival.
Trump and his Republican allies believe the memo — most of whom have not read given secrecy rules — would show the Russia probe for what it is — an attempt, as Trump has repeatedly said, by his opponents and detractors to sully his presidency because they cannot accept his unexpected victory.
Trump and Devin Nunes, the house intelligence committee chairman who is seen as the man pushing for the memo’s release most forcefully, have apparently, and incredulously, not read the memo according to news reports, which went on to say it was written by staff members of the committee.