FBI clashes with Trump amid ‘grave concerns’ over Russia memo

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The FBI has said it has “grave concerns” about the accuracy of a classified memo on the Russia election investigation that Donald Trump wants released.

The FBI’s short statement, its first on the issue, laid bare a Trump administration conflict that had previously played out mostly behind closed doors in meetings between senior Justice Department and White House officials.

“As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI said in a remarkably public clash of wills with the White House,

Further complicating the memo’s release, the leading Democrat on the House intelligence committee said his committee’s vote to release the memo was now invalid because it was “secretly altered” by Republicans who wrote it.

Adam Schiff said in a letter to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes that committee Democrats had discovered changes made after the panel voted on Monday to send it to Mr Trump for review.

“The White House has therefore been reviewing a document since Monday night that the committee never approved for public release,” Mr Schiff said in the letter, without detailing the changes.

The president has five days from the vote to review the document, and if he does not object then Congress can release it.

Mr Schiff called for Mr Nunes to withdraw the memo from the White House and for the committee to hold a new vote next Monday.

The memo is part of an effort to reveal what Republicans say are surveillance abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department in the early stages of the investigation into potential ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

The FBI’s stance on the memo escalates the dispute and means Mr Trump would be openly defying his hand-picked FBI director by continuing to push for its disclosure.

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.

The FBI statement came the day after Mr Trump was overheard telling a congressman that he “100%” supported release of the four-page memo.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday night placed the blame on House speaker Paul Ryan, and Democrats have called the memo a “cherry-picked” list of Republican talking points that attempts to distract from the committee’s own investigation into Russian meddling in the election that sent Mr Trump to the White House.

The drama comes as special counsel Robert Mueller also investigates whether the Trump campaign improperly co-ordinated with Russia during the campaign and whether Mr Trump sought to obstruct the inquiry by, among other actions, firing Mr Comey.

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