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Trump Says Republican Memo on Russia Probe 'Totally Vindicates' Him

By VOA News February 03, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump said Saturday a disputed Republican memo that alleges FBI investigators abused their powers in their Russia probe "totally vindicates" him, despite a contrarian view held by most Democrats.

"This memo totally vindicates 'Trump' in probe," the president wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. "But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their [sic] was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!"

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee released a memo to the public Friday that outlines allegations by Republican lawmakers that FBI investigators exceeded their authority in their probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The release followed Trump's approval of the declassification of the memo, which was written by the committee's chairman and fellow Republican Rep. Devin Nunes.

A significant part of the document focuses on foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants that permitted FBI surveillance of former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page, a businessman with interests in Russia.

There had been concerns about Page's alleged contacts with Russian intelligence agents.

The memo asserts that a dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele was an "essential part" of the FISA application to surveil Page, and that the FBI did not mention the Steele dossier had been funded by then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee, or that Steele had previously made anti-Trump statements.

Trump, the FBI and the disputed memo

Speaking to reporters Friday at the White House, Trump said the contents of the memo were "terrible."

"I think it's a disgrace, what's going on in this country," he said. "A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves, and much worse than that."

When asked by a reporter whether releasing the memo made it more likely Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein would be fired, Trump replied, "You figure that one out."

Rosenstein supervises the Russia probe and named special counsel Robert Mueller to lead it.

The release of the memo intensified the battle between Trump and his Republican allies in Congress on one side and Democrats and top FBI officials on the other about whether the probe into Russian interference in the presidential election was affected by political bias on the part of investigators.

The FBI on Friday reissued its statement from earlier this week, saying the agency "takes seriously its obligations to the FISA Court and its compliance with procedures overseen by career professionals."

The FBI noted it was given "limited opportunity" to review the document before lawmakers voted to release it.

"As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy," the agency said.

Support for the memo

Nunes issued a statement Friday expressing hope that the actions of Intelligence Committee Republicans would "shine a light" on what he called "this alarming series of events."

"The committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes," Nunes said. "Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another."

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin released a statement saying the "concern outlined" in the memo is a "legitimate one." He said he supported both the release of Nunes' memo as well as a memo produced by minority Democrats on the committee.

"It is critical that we focus on specific actions and specific actors and not use this memo to impugn the integrity of the justice system and FBI, which continue to serve the American people with honor," Ryan said.

Critics of the memo's release

The Democratic members of the committee issued a statement lambasting Nunes' decision to release his memo, saying it contains "misleading allegations against the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation [and] is a shameful effort to discredit these institutions, undermine the special counsel's ongoing investigation and undercut congressional probes."

"Most destructive of all may be the announcement by Chairman Nunes that he has placed the FBI and DOJ under investigation, impugning and impairing the work of the dedicated professionals trying to keep our country safe," the statement said.

The Democratic statement accused Republicans of setting a "terrible precedent" by releasing classified information they say will do long-term damage to the intelligence community for the purpose of protecting Trump against charges in the Russia probe.

Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, issued a separate statement questioning what he calls "serious mischaracterizations" in the Republican memo.

"The majority suggests that the FBI failed to alert the court as to Mr. Steele's potential political motivations or the political motivations of those who hired him, but this is not accurate," Schiff wrote. "The GOP memo also claims that a Yahoo News article was used to corroborate Steele, but this is not at all why the article was referenced."

Intelligence community reaction

Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighed in on the memo's release Friday, saying he has "great confidence in the men and women of this Department [of Justice]. But no department is perfect."

Former FBI Director James Comey, who headed the agency during the period in question, issued a blistering tweet Friday, calling the Republican memo "dishonest and misleading" and charging that it had "inexcusably exposed [a] classified investigation of an American citizen."

The president of the FBI Agents Association, Thomas O'Connor, defended the rank-and-file officers and their commitment to their work.

"The American people should know that they continue to be well-served by the world's pre-eminent law enforcement agency," he said in a statement. "FBI special agents have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission."

Trump's approval ratings

Trump also promoted on Twitter Saturday the results of a new poll that shows an increase in his approval rating.

"Rasmussen just announced that my approval rating jumped to 49%, a far better number than I had in winning the Election, and higher than certain "sacred cows." Other Trump polls are way up also. So why does the media refuse to write this? Oh well, someday!"

The Rasmussen results show Trump has a higher approval rating than the Real Clear Politics Average, a compilation of findings from eleven national polls (including Rasmussen), of 41.9 percent.

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