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Trump attacks critic in Russian probe
Source: Demetri Sevastopulo

President Trump slammed Adam Schiff as the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee pushed to release a memo that disputes rival Republican criticisms of the FBI probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The California congressman wants to release a rebuttal to the memo Devin Nunes, the Republican head of the House intelligence committee, released on Friday. The Nunes memo alleged that Federal Bureau of Investigation officials were politically biased when they sought to wiretap a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.

Mr Trump, who has claimed the Nunes memo “totally vindicates” him in the Russian investigation, turned his fire on Mr Schiff in an Monday morning message on Twitter.

“Little Adam Schiff, who is desperate to run for higher office, is one of the biggest liars and leakers in Washington . . . Adam leaves closed committee hearings to illegally leak confidential information. Must be stopped!,” Mr Trump tweeted, before later declaring that Mr Nunes was a “Great American Hero”.

Mr Trump said Mr Schiff was “right up there with Comey, Warner, Brennan and Clapper,” in a reference to James Comey, whom he fired as FBI head, Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, as well as John Brennan and James Clapper, who, respectively, served as head of the Central Intelligence Agency and director of the office of national intelligence during the Obama administration.

Democrats say the Nunes memo was “hit job” designed to tarnish the reputation of the FBI as Robert Mueller, the special counsel, continues his investigation, which includes examining whether Mr Trump attempted to obstruct justice. Mr Mueller has told the White House that he wants to question the president, and Mr Trump has said that he would testify under oath subject to approval from his lawyers.

        In the interest of transparency, it is likely that they release it to the public
        James Schultz, a former member of Mr Trump’s White House counsel team, on the Democratic memo

The Nunes memo asserts that the FBI did not reveal that the Steele dossier — allegations about Mr Trump and Russia compiled by former MI6 operative Christopher Steele — was funded by the Democratic National Committee when the agency made an application to a special secret intelligence court seeking a warrant to conduct electronic surveillance on Carter Page, the Trump campaign adviser.

The FBI has historically come under more criticism from liberal groups who have on occasion accused the agency of violating civil rights. But a recent poll conducted by Axios found that 47 per cent of Republicans had an unfavourable view of the FBI, suggesting that some of the claims made by Mr Trump and his supporters about the Russia probe were damaging the credibility of the law enforcement agency.

Mr Trump has had a fraught relationship with the FBI. His decision to fire Mr Comey — months after he demanded loyalty from him — prompted the appointment of Mr Mueller. He also reportedly told his team to fire Mr Mueller but backed off when his general counsel threatened to resign over the move.

Mr Trump also has repeatedly attacked Andrew McCabe, who was FBI deputy director until he resigned last week, ahead of his mooted retirement. The president accused him of bias because his wife had run for office as a Democrat. The Nunes memo also claimed that Mr McCabe told the House intelligence committee that the FBI would not have requested a warrant to spy on Mr Page without the information in the Steele dossier.

Democrats are concerned that Mr Trump is paving the way to fire Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney-general who named Mr Mueller. Mr Rosenstein has overseen the probe since Jeff Sessions, the attorney-general and former Trump adviser, recused himself after failing to tell the Senate about meetings he had with the Russian ambassador.

On Sunday, Mr Trump ramped up his criticism, saying the FBI had become “a tool of anti-Trump political actors”. The House intelligence committee was set to meet on Monday to debate the release of the memo.

If it contains classified information — as was the case with the Nunes memo — Mr Trump must approve its release. While some Republicans blocked an effort to release the memo last week, several have since suggested that they might support the effort.

Assuming that the House panel approves its release, Mr Trump has five days to determine if it should be made public.

James Schultz, a former member of his White House counsel team, said he expected that Mr Trump would approve its release — assuming there was no information that would harm US national security — notwithstanding his criticism of Mr Schiff.

“In the interest of transparency, it is likely that they release it to the public,” said Mr Schultz, head of the government practice at Cozen O’Connor. “It gives him an opportunity to air the differences between the memos.”


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