President Donald Trump accused officials at the FBI and the Justice Department on Friday of having “politicized” their investigations, ratcheting up his attacks on law enforcement agencies as he readies the release of an incendiary memo alleging wrongdoing by top bureau officials.
“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,” the president tweeted. “Rank & File are great people!”
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The White House told reporters that the president is expected to green-light the disclosure of a hotly-contested House intelligence memo as soon as Friday that contains allegations that senior FBI officials overstepped in their probe into Russian operatives and their ties to the Trump campaign.
The pending decision comes amid strong objections from Democrats and intelligence officials, who have pointed to potential issues over the document’s sourcing and accuracy. In a rare public statement released Wednesday, the FBI expressed “grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
Republican leaders, spearheaded by House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), have pushed back on the assertions, calling for increased transparency at the law enforcement agencies. The partisan feuding intensified Thursday as the top two Democratic officials in Congress — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — called Nunes to resign from his post atop the panel over his handling of the memo.
While the exact contents of the as-of-yet undisclosed document remain a mystery, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) insinuated in a series of tweets Thursday that the memo alleges the FBI used the unverified Fusion GPS dossier as evidence to obtain a surveillance warrant for Carter Page, a former Trump campaign official who is being investigated as a part of the DOJ Russia probe.
The memo’s pending release has raised concerns that Republican officials may seek to use it to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and potential criminal activity by the Trump campaign.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence panel and one of the most vocal opponents of the memo’s release, told “CBS This Morning” Friday that the president’s remarks and expected decision to disclose the document were part of a broadside attack law enforcement agencies.
“It’s clear from the president that this is exactly the purpose behind this cherry-picking of information that Nunes wants to release,” Schiff said. “This is designed to impugn the credibility of the FBI, to undermine the investigation.”
The president, whose campaign is being probed by congressional and federal investigators for potential ties to Russian officials, has forcefully denied allegations that his team colluded with foreign operatives, calling their probes a “witch hunt” and “fake news.”
Friday’s remarks are the latest instance of the president taking direct aim at Justice Department and FBI officials since entering the West Wing.
Earlier this week FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe abruptly left his post after facing intense public scrutiny from the president. Trump had questioned McCabe’s impartiality in handling the Russia prove, citing the fact that his wife received a donation from a Hillary Clinton political ally during her failed run for state office in Virginia.
Last week the president called the missing text messages between two FBI employees accused of bias against him “one of the biggest stories in a long time.” The messages, sent between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page, have become a rallying cry for some of the right alleging a vast conspiracy to sabotage Trump’s presidency is afoot at law enforcement agencies. Strzok and Page were formerly involved in Mueller’s investigation.
In a November tweet the president alluded to the existence of a “deep state” at the FBI and Justice Department, a reference to the conspiracy that government officials are working to undermine the White House for political reasons.
Despite his forceful Friday missive, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway insisted that Trump held deep respect for FBI employees.
“The president has stated many times that he respects the rank and file the FBI, the 25,000 men and women who do a great job there,” Conway told Fox News.
But some former law enforcement and intelligence officials remained skeptical, expressing alarm at the president’s actions and rhetoric toward the FBI and DOJ.
James Clapper, a former Director of National Intelligence, said Trump’s charge that the FBI and DOJ had “politicized” their investigations was “the pot calling the kettle black,”
“Transparency is a great thing, but let’s be factual and objective about it, and this clearly is a pretty blatant political act,” Clapper added during a Friday morning appearance on CNN, rebuffing Republicans who say the memo’s release will bolster government transparency.
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