Washington: The FBI has clashed with US President Donald Trump over a Republican intelligence memo, furthering the rift between the leader and the agency probing Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
The memo apparently accuses the Justice Department and the agency of abusing a surveillance programme known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) during the 2016 election campaign.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday sent a striking signal to the White House, issuing a rare public warning that the memo omits key information that could impact its veracity.
The move set up an ugly confrontation between Wray and Trump, who already has fired one FBI Director and has repeatedly expressed a desire to remove the Attorney General and others connected to the Russia investigation.
The President wants the memo released and told his advisers that he believes it makes the case that the FBI and Justice Department officials acted inappropriately when they sought the highly-classified warrant in October 2016 on campaign adviser Carter Page, the New York Times reported.
“We have grave concerns about the material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI said.
On Wednesday, White House chief of staff John Kelly predicted the memo would be released “pretty quick” and that “the whole world will see it”.
Trump himself was overheard telling a Republican congressman after the State of the Union address he will “100 per cent” release the memo.
Democrats made a last-minute attempt to halt the process on late Wednesday.
Democrat Representative Adam B. Schiff on the Intelligence Committee sent a letter to Representative Devin Nunes, its Republican chairman, charging that the Republicans had made “material changes” to the memo after voting to release it on Monday.
The changes, Schiff said, meant that the committee should halt the review process and vote on the new, altered memo.
However, the Republicans rejected Schiff’s charge, saying that it was a “strange attempt to thwart publication of the memo”.
The Justice Department has warned repeatedly that the memo, prepared by Republican staff members on the House Intelligence Committee, is “misleading” and that its release would set a bad precedent for making government secrets public, including sensitive sources of information and methods of intelligence gathering.
FBI officials said the President “was prioritizing politics over national security and is putting the bureau’s reputation at risk”.