WASHINGTON (AP) — Over the strong objections of his own Justice Department, President Donald Trump will clear the way for the publication of a classified memo on the Russia investigation that Republicans say shows improper use of surveillance by the FBI, White House officials said Thursday.
The memo, prepared by Republicans on the House intelligence committee, is said to allege FBI misconduct in the initial stages of its investigation of potential ties between Russia and Trump’s 2016 campaign. Trump’s Justice Department and Democrats furiously lobbied Trump to stop the release, saying it could harm national security and mislead the public.
A White House official said Congress would probably be informed of the decision Friday, adding Trump was “OK” with its release. A second White House official said Trump was likely to declassify the congressional memo but the precise method for making it public was still being figured out. The officials were not authorized to be quoted about private deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The FBI’s stance means Trump, by allowing the memo’s release, would be openly defying his own FBI director. It also suggests a clear willingness by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who in the early stretch of his tenure has been notably low-key, to challenge a president who just months ago fired his predecessor, James Comey.
Comey weighed in on Twitter Thursday night, writing, “All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would.”
He advised his former colleagues at the FBI to “take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up.”
The House intelligence panel voted along party lines Monday to put the memo out, giving Trump five days to reject the release under committee rules. But Trump also has the power to declassify the document himself and either release it or hand it to Congress to release. One of the White House officials said the memo would be in “Congress’ hands” after Trump declassified it and there were unlikely to be any redactions to the document.
Trump has said he wants the memo released even after the FBI declared Wednesday that it has “grave concerns” about its accuracy. The document was written as part of an effort to reveal what Republicans say are surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department early in Russia investigation, before special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take it over.
Senior FBI officials have also made direct appeals to the White House, warning that it could set a dangerous precedent.
Democrats call the memo an attempt by Republicans to distract attention from the investigation into Russian meddling in the election that sent Trump to the White House. Democrats on the intelligence panel made a last-ditch effort Wednesday evening to stop the release, saying it had been “secretly altered” by the Republicans who wrote it.
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