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House Republicans release partisan memo on Russia probe

President Donald Trump walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House, on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, in Washington. He was traveling to speak at the House and Senate Republicans' annual legislative planning conference at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. | Evan Vucci/AP photo

WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Friday released a partisan and bitterly disputed memo that they say shows surveillance abuses in the early stages of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.

The memo, prepared by Republicans on the House intelligence committee, says there was “a troubling breakdown of legal processes” in the Russia investigation.

President Donald Trump, who advocated for the memo’s release over the fierce objections of the Justice Department and the FBI, told reporters the document shows “a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.”

“I think it’s terrible,” Trump said. “You want to know the truth. I think it’s a disgrace. What’s going on in this country, I think it’s a disgrace.”

The memo, which the FBI has said is inaccurate and missing critical context, asserts that current and former FBI and Justice Department leaders signed off on a surveillance warrant to monitor communications of a former Trump campaign associate.

The document also asserts that opposition research, conducted by a British spy and funded in part by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign, formed a critical basis for the allegations contained in the warrant application.

They say that research should not have been a basis for the warrant because it contains unproven allegations.

The release of the memo is likely to further divide Trump and his FBI and Justice Department leaders, and the president lashed out anew on Friday morning on Twitter. He has supported the memo release in apparent hopes that it could help undermine the probe being led by special counsel Robert Mueller, which he has called a “witch hunt.”

“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. Rank & File are great people!” Trump tweeted.

The tweet came as U.S. news coverage was dominated by reports that the FBI and the Justice Department had objected strenuously to the memo’s release. Earlier this week, the FBI declared it had “grave concerns” about its accuracy.

Trump’s tweet and his approval of the memo release set up a clash with the man he picked to lead the FBI, Christopher Wray, after firing James Comey as agency director. It also seemed at odds with House Speaker Paul Ryan who said a day earlier “this memo is not an indictment of the FBI or the Department of Justice.”

Democrats say the memo cherry-picks intelligence in an effort to smear law enforcement investigating whether Trump associates collaborated with Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election.

“This is designed to impugn the credibility of the FBI, to undermine the investigation, to give the president additional fodder to attack the investigation. And it’s a tremendous disservice to the American people,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS “This Morning.”

The document was written by GOP lawmakers 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.

Comey weighed in on Twitter as well: “All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would. But take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.”
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Associated Press writers Catherine Lucey, Matthew Daly, Eric Tucker and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.