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FBI has ‘grave concerns’ about release of House GOP memo

White House chief of staff John Kelly in

White House chief of staff John Kelly in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19, 2018. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski

WASHINGTON — The FBI cited “grave concerns” about accuracy as it urged President Donald Trump on Wednesday not to release a House Republican intelligence memo alleging abuses of surveillance power by FBI and Justice Department officials investigating the Trump campaign and its possible ties to Russia.

The FBI made its request by issuing a public statement the day after Trump was caught on camera after his State of the Union speech telling a Republican lawmaker that he planned “100 percent” to release the document, which was created by one of his chief allies.

“The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the FBI said in the statement about the four-page document drafted by the Republican staff of the House Intelligence Committee.

“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the statement said.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the committee’s chairman and a Trump campaign ally who ordered his staff to write the memo, said it shows that “top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counterintelligence investigation” against Trump.

“Having stonewalled Congress’ demands for information for nearly a year, it’s no surprise to see the FBI and DOJ issue spurious objections to allowing the American people to see information related to surveillance abuses at these agencies,” he said.

Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, opposed the move to release the memo, a position taken by all of the panel’s Democrats.

Late Wednesday night, Schiff issued a letter to Nunes demanding he withdraw the memo after Democrats on the committee determined that the document Republicans provided to the White House was modified and “materially different” from the memo approved for release Monday by the panel’s GOP majority.

Schiff said Democrats on Wednesday night reviewed the memo sent to the White House and compared it to the memo voted on by the committee and found “substantive” changes.

“This is deeply troubling, because it means that the Committee Majority transmitted to the White House an altered version of its classified document that is materially different than the version on which the Committee voted,” Schiff wrote. “The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the Committee never approved for public release.”

Earlier, in a Washington Post op-ed, Schiff wrote that the Republican memo “cherry-picks facts, ignores others and smears the FBI and the Justice Department — all while potentially revealing intelligence sources and methods.”

The clash between Trump and his hand-picked FBI Director Christopher Wray comes as Republicans have launched a drive to discredit some top Justice officials and FBI agents involved in the investigation of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.

The intensity of that campaign has grown against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed and oversees special prosecutor Robert Mueller, whose team reportedly is seeking an interview with the president.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, said he supports the memo’s release but doesn’t want it used to attack Mueller’s credibility.

“This is a completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation, and his investigation should be allowed to take its course,” Ryan said.

On Monday, the House Intelligence Committee’s Republican majority approved plans to release the four-page memo. To counter Nunes’ document, Schiff and committee Democrats drafted their own memo to release to the public. But Republicans on Monday voted against releasing it.

Trump has five days after the Intelligence Committee’s vote Monday to release the GOP memo to review and decide whether he will approve it.

Rosenstein and Wray urged White House chief of staff John Kelly in a closed-door meeting Tuesday to block the memo’s release. They argued that the memo mischaracterized the FBI’s work and could pose a security risk, The Washington Post reported.

But Trump appeared to be leaning toward making the memo public. On Tuesday night after the speech, a camera showed Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) urging Trump to release the memo. Trump replied, “Don’t worry. 100 percent.”

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