Trump accuses Justice Dept, FBI of pro-Democrat bias
US President Donald Trump publicly attacked the FBI’s leadership Friday, accusing them of politicizing their investigations in favor of Democrats as he gets set to approve the release of an explosive memo alleging the agency’s abuse of power.
The extraordinary accusation is the latest salvo in the president’s open conflict with the top US law enforcement agency amid an investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with a Russian effort to sway the 2016 presidential elections.
Trump is expected to give a green light for the the publication of a Republican-drafted memo accusing the agency of abuses in obtaining a warrant to surveil a member of Trump’s campaign team over his contacts with Russian officials.
“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans,” Trump tweeted.
He called the alleged bias “something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!”
Trump nominated both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray as leaders of their respective departments. The Republican president hand-picked the latter to replace James Comey, whom he abruptly sacked last May.
Now just six months into his tenure, the 50-year-old Wray — who has made clear he does not support releasing the memo — finds himself on a collision course with the president.
The four-page memo was written by Republican lawmaker Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and purports to show the Justice Department and the FBI as deeply politicized, anti-Trump agencies.
Its release would amount to an outright rejection of the FBI’s extraordinary warning Tuesday that it had “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, reacted swiftly to the president’s tweet: “The country’s top elected leader has agreed to selectively and misleadlingly release classified info to attack the FBI — that’s what would’ve been unthinkable a short time ago.”
– Focus on ‘Russia dossier’ –
Democrats and critics in the intelligence community say the release is a stunt aimed at casting doubt on the independence of the FBI and Justice Department, using very selective information that cannot be countered publicly without revealing more secrets about government counterintelligence operations.
They hold that the ultimate goal of the memo, with Trump’s support, is to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia and possible obstruction of justice.
Speaking to CBS Friday morning, Schiff said the president’s early morning missive made plain that the memo’s release was “designed to impugn the credibility of the FBI — to undermine the investigation; to give the president additional fodder to attack the investigation.”
“It’s a tremendous disservice to the American people, who are going to be misled by this — by the selective use of classified information.”
Based on highly classified documents dealing with Russian espionage, Nunes’ memo is his summary of what lay behind the FBI obtaining a so-called FISA national security warrant in 2016 to surveil Trump campaign official Carter Page, who had many Russian contacts.
Nunes alleges that the basis of the warrant application was the “Russia dossier,” information on contacts between the Trump campaign and Moscow compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.
The dossier remains contentious and unproven, and was financed in part by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign — a fact that Nunes says shows the FBI and Justice Department’s anti-Trump bias and abuse of power.
– Ryan: issue is civil liberties –
Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, defended the memo Thursday as an attempt to protect American civil liberties.
“This memo is not an indictment of the FBI or the Department of Justice,” Ryan said.
“What it is, is the Congress’s legitimate function of oversight to make sure that the FISA process is being used correctly,” he said, adding: “This does not implicate the Mueller investigation.”
Other Republicans, including Representative Jeff Duncan, seemed less reticent to cast it all in a political light.
“Having read ‘The Memo,’ the FBI is right to have ‘grave concerns’ — as it will shake the organization down to its core — showing Americans just how the agency was weaponized by the Obama officials/DNC/HRC to target political adversaries,” Duncan tweeted.