US President Donald Trump is set to approve the release of a controversial memo accusing the FBI of abusing its surveillance tools during its probe into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election. The move is tipped to set up a clash with the intelligence agency as FBI has opposed it.
According to the US media, a senior administration official, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the president is expected to tell Congress that he has no objections to the release of the memo written by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes.
“The president is ok with it,” the official said, adding “I doubt there will be any redactions. It’s in Congress’ hands after that,” the official said.
Trump’s reported decision comes a day after the FBI in an unusual move went public urging against release of the memo. Some White House official fear that this might result in the resignation of FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Last year, Trump abruptly fired FBI chief James Comey for his handling of the Russia inquiry. Trump also publicly shamed Attorney General Jeff Sessions for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia case because of his prior contacts with Russia Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
The potential release of the memo has set up a standoff with Trump against both the FBI and Department of Justice.
Although the President has signalled that he is inclined to release the memo, as part of an effort to undercut the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, senior officials inside the White House are trying to come up with a solution that satisfies both the President and law enforcement officials like Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the US media said.
Intelligence officials warn the memo distorts facts and could jeopardise intelligence-gathering information. On January 31, the FBI released a statement to express their “grave concerns about the material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy”.
Once Trump gives his approval, it would be up to the House intelligence committee to take a final call on the report’s release.
Meanwhile, House Democratic Whip Steny H Hoyer said the report was intended “to undermine the Special Counsel’s independent investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia”.
In a separate statement, FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) president Thomas O’Connor opposed the release of the memo.
“The FBI Agents Association appreciates FBI Director Chris Wray standing shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the FBI as we work together to protect our country from criminal and national security threats,” said O’Connor.
(With inputs from PTI)