WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump, dogged by an unrelenting investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, lashed out Friday at the FBI and Justice Department as politically biased and prepared to release a classified memo that Republicans say would reveal abusive FBI surveillance tactics.
His early morning tweet came as the morning news shows were dominated by reports that the FBI and DOJ had objected strenuously to the memo’s release. Agency officials say the document is misleading and could jeopardize national security.
“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 — something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!” Trump tweeted.
White House officials say Trump intends to clear the way for publication of a classified memo on the Russia investigation written by Republicans who accuse the FBI of abusive surveillance tactics in the early stages of its probe. That sets up a clash with the man he picked to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, after firing James Comey as agency director.
A White House official said Congress would probably be informed of Trump’s decision Friday, adding that the president was “OK” with its release. A second White House official said Trump was likely to declassify the congressional memo but the precise method for making it public was still being figured out. The officials were not authorized to be quoted about private deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The House intelligence panel voted along party lines Monday to put the memo out, giving Trump five days to reject the release under committee rules. But Trump also has the power to declassify the document himself and either release it or hand it to Congress to release. One of the White House officials said the memo would be in “Congress’ hands” after Trump declassified it and there were unlikely to be any redactions to the document.
Trump has said he wants the memo released even after the FBI declared Wednesday that it has “grave concerns” about its accuracy. The document was written as part of an effort to reveal what Republicans say are surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department early in Russia investigation, before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take it over.
Senior FBI officials have also made direct appeals to the White House, warning that it could set a dangerous precedent.
Democrats call the memo an attempt by Republicans to distract attention from the investigation into Russian meddling in the election that sent Trump to the White House. Democrats on the intelligence panel made a last-ditch effort Wednesday evening to stop the release, saying the memo had been “secretly altered” by the Republicans who wrote it.
California Rep. Adam Schiff said in a letter to the House intelligence committee chairman, Republican Devin Nunes of California, that committee Democrats had discovered changes that were made after the vote Monday.
“The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the committee never approved for public release,” Schiff said in the letter.
Schiff asked Nunes for another vote on the memo, but Republicans didn’t appear to waver. Nunes spokesman Jack Langer said the committee vote was “procedurally sound.”
“To suggest otherwise is a bizarre distraction from the abuses detailed in the memo, which the public will hopefully soon be able to read for themselves,” Langer said.
This all comes as special counsel Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign improperly coordinated with Russia and whether Trump sought to obstruct the inquiry by, among other actions, firing Comey. Republicans have intensified their pressure on the Justice Department as Mueller’s probe has moved closer to Trump’s inner circle.
Trump has been telling confidants in recent days that he believes the document will validate his concerns that the FBI and Justice Department conspired against him, according to one outside adviser familiar with those conversations but not authorized to speak publicly about private discussions.
The president also has told allies that he believes the memo bolsters his claim that accusations of collusion between his campaign and Russian officials are false and part of a conspiracy to discredit his election.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer are pressing House Speaker Paul Ryan to stop the release.
Ryan charged that the Democrats were just out for political gain, saying the purpose of the memo is to reveal whether there have been abuses of surveillance laws.
“This memo is not an indictment of the FBI or the Department of Justice, it does not impugn the Mueller investigation or the deputy attorney general,” he said, referring to Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller in May.
But Schiff said the opposite Thursday, asserting that Trump is looking for a reason to fire Mueller and Rosenstein. He said he’s more worried about Rosenstein because he decides the scope of Mueller’s investigation.
“The White House knows it would face a firestorm if it fired Bob Mueller,” Schiff said. “What’s more effective is to fire Bob Mueller’s boss.”
Comey weighed in on Twitter as well: “All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.”