ADDS DETAILS ON STEELE, COMEY COMMENT
By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The U.S. House Intelligence Committee on Friday released a partisan memorandum detailing alleged impropriety in an ongoing investigation into Russia and the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
President Donald Trump's signed off on the release just hours before, ignoring concerns from the Justice Department and the FBI, later telling reporters he thinks "it's a disgrace what's happening in this country.
"A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that," he said.
The committee voted Monday along party lines to release the document, setting a five-day clock for Trump to object to its dissemination. The memo alleges the FBI improperly used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the 2016 election, describing the committee's findings as "a troubling breakdown of legal processes established to protect the American people from abuses related to the FISA process".
At issue is the FBI's use of a dossier produced by opposition groups that alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian before and during the election cycle. The "Steele-dossier" was used by the FBI to obtain a warrant from a FISA court to surveil Carter Page, a Trump campaign aide.
Christopher Steele is a former British spy and longtime FBI source whose research was partly funded by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. His dossier was "essential" to the application for electronic surveillance on Page, the committee's memo said.
Trump and his campaign have been under scrutiny from law enforcement officials over possible collusion with what officials describe as Russia's "influence campaign" aimed at damaging Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was a vital part of the campaign, was interviewed by the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller for several hours. He is the first known Cabinet-level official to be questioned by the probe.
The FBI has disputed the memo's content, calling it inaccurate and objecting to what it called "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy".
Committee chairman Devin Nunes dismissed the FBI and Justice Department's "spurious concerns" in a statement shortly after the memo was released.
"It’s clear that top officials used unverified information in a court document to fuel a counter-intelligence investigation during an American political campaign. Once the truth gets out, we can begin taking steps to ensure our intelligence agencies and courts are never misused like this again,” he said.
Not all members of Trump's party reacted as enthusiastically.
Senior Senator John McCain shot out at Nunes' decision, saying in a statement "the latest attacks on the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests – no party’s, no president’s, only [Vladimir] Putin’s", referring to the Russian president.
"The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding Russia’s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must proceed unimpeded," he said.
"Our nation’s elected officials, including the president, must stop looking at this investigation through the warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him," he added.
Former FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump abruptly and unusually, slammed the committee's decision to release the memo.
"That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs," according to Comey, who Trump acknowledged was fired over the investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.