Trump-Russia: Republican memo accuses FBI of abusing power

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Media caption“I think it’s terrible…I think it’s a disgrace”, Trump said of the controversial memo

The US Congress has released a memo accusing the FBI of abusing its power in its investigations into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The memo, written by Republicans, alleges the FBI used unsubstantiated evidence to spy on a Trump aide.

The FBI had warned against the memo’s release and said key facts had been omitted.

Democrats said it was aimed at derailing ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia.

Controversy over the memo has raged for days.

What’s in the memo?

It accuses the FBI and the justice department of abusing their power to spy on Mr Trump’s campaign for the presidency in 2016, by using an unsubstantiated and Democratic-funded report to obtain a warrant for surveillance on a Trump aide called Carter Page.

The memo says that they did not tell the authorities their claim to the warrant was based on a dossier funded in part by the rival Hillary Clinton campaign.

It also says that the author of that dossier, a former British intelligence agent called Christopher Steele, told a senior justice department official that he was “desperate” that Donald Trump not win the vote.

The report says that all this represents “a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses”.

The memo was top secret, but it was approved for release by the House Intelligence Committee on Monday and by Mr Trump on Friday.

Who’s who?

  • Rod Rosenstein, 53, was appointed deputy attorney general last April. He was involved at various points in authorising applications for the surveillance. President Trump questioned his loyalties in December, CNN reports.

What’s the reaction been?

Asked about the contents of the memo, Mr Trump said a lot of people should be “ashamed of themselves”.

Earlier on Friday the president accused top officials of politicising FBI and justice department investigations to damage his Republican party.

Mr Nunes has said it showed “serious violations” of public trust and he hopes it will trigger reforms.

Mr Page, the Trump aide who was the subject of the surveillance, said he would use the memo in upcoming legal action against the justice department.

Democrats on the panel say the memo’s release is a “shameful effort to discredit” the FBI and the inquiries into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said: “By not protecting intelligence sources and methods, [Trump] just sent his friend Putin a bouquet.”

Democrats have warned Mr Trump in a letter not to use the memo as a “pretext” to fire senior justice department officials or the special counsel appointed to investigate alleged Trump campaign ties to Russia.

They said this would provoke a constitutional crisis.

FBI agents say they “have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract” from their work.

Analysis: Bomb or dud?

by BBC’s North America reporter Anthony Zurcher

The mystery is over, the memo is out, and the results are… pretty much what everyone expected.

Whether the Republican-generated document is as explosive as it had been made out to be depends on how one views the now-infamous Christopher Steele dossier and whether one believes the memo’s assertion that it was an “essential part” of the Carter Page Fisa warrant’s approval – or if there was other pertinent information the Republican memo-writers omitted.

The memo makes the case that the Fisa judge should have been told about information about Steele that could call his objectivity into question – including his expressed views about Donald Trump, his contacts with the press and the fact that his investigation was funded, in part, by Democratic Party interests.

Would such a disclosure have been enough to make the Page warrant request one of only a handful of the tens of thousands of Fisa applications that have been rejected by judges since the system was set up in 1978? And is the surveillance of Page – who had drawn the attention of US intelligence services as far back as 2013 – enough to call into question the entire Russia investigation, which had been initiated months before the warrant was approved?

The answers to those questions will determine whether the memo was a bomb or a dud.

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