Top Democrat defends Russia memo as Trump fumes

Washington: A top Democrat, who released a new memo on investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 US election, which led to President Donald Trump fume over it, on Sunday defended his work, saying he is “proud to be one of the bad hombres, I guess.”

Trump in a tweet on Saturday said the memo was “a total political and legal BUST”.

The President also abused California Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, who Trump said was “a bad guy” responsible for leaks that were “probably illegal”, the Guardian reported.

Referring to Trump’s infamous remark about Mexican immigrants, Schiff said he was “proud to be one of the bad hombres” and added that the President’s anger about leaks was likely based on his discussion of Donald Trump Jr’s appearance before the House intelligence committee in December.

The President’s son claimed attorney-client privilege to avoid discussing the drafting of a misleading statement about a meeting with Russians offering “dirt” on the last year election’s Democratic contestant Hillary Clinton at Trump Tower in June 2016.

Schiff said his discussion of Trump Jr’s appearance was “not a leak, it’s a fact”.

The Democratic memo was published in redactions two weeks after Trump blocked its full release.

The document aims to counter a Republican narrative that the FBI and justice department conspired against Trump as they investigated his ties to Russia.

A Republican memo was made public earlier this month, with no objection from the White House. In that document, Republicans on the House intelligence panel attacked the FBI and justice department over the use of information compiled by a former British spy Christopher Steele to obtain a secret warrant to monitor the communications of a Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page.

“I’m not surprised the White House tried to bury [the Democratic] memo response as long as they could,” CNN quoted Schiff as saying. “But it’s important for the public to see the facts that the FBI acted appropriately in seeking a warrant on Carter Page, and that they are not part of some deep state as the President would like the public to believe.”

The GOP memo included the assertion that the FBI obtained a surveillance warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) without disclosing that Steele’s research was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

The Democratic memo says the justice department disclosed “the assessed political motivation of those who hired” Steele, who it said was likely hired by someone “looking for information that could be used to discredit” Trump.

Trump seized on this point in a tweet and the Republican National Committee said in a statement: “Again, the fact the minority cannot outright deny that a DNC/Clinton funded document was used to wiretap an American is extremely concerning.”

Schiff told CNN: “It’s ironic that Republicans would attack the FBI for following procedures which require that they minimise names of Americans and American entities which are not the subject of a warrant. Even Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are referred to as candidate one and candidate two. They’re supposed to mask the identities of people.”

The Democratic memo asserts that FBI concerns about Page long predated Steele’s work, now known as the Trump-Russia “dossier”, and that the government’s application to monitor Page’s communications detailed suspicious activities he undertook during the 2016 presidential campaign, including a July 2016 trip to Moscow in which he gave a university commencement address.

The memo contends that the justice department provided “additional information from multiple independent sources that corroborated Steele’s reporting”. Most of the details of the corroborated information are blacked out, but they do appear to reference Page’s meeting with Russian officials.

The memo says the justice department did not include any “salacious allegations” about Trump contained in the Steele dossier in the FISA application.

The memo also details Russian attempts to cultivate Page as a spy. It cites a federal indictment of two Russian spies suspected of targeting Page and notes that the FBI interviewed him in March 2016.

Schiff said: “The issue is, what did Christopher Steele know? What might have influenced him that might bias him? Christopher Steele did not know who was paying him, who the client was, and so the FBI properly reported what they suspected, what Christopher Steele may have suspected, and they masked it appropriately.”

He added: “I’ve been on the [House intelligence] committee for 10 years now and this is the first time Republicans have taken issue with any FISA application. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it serves the president’s interests to do so here. The FBI has acted appropriately.”

Four former Trump aides have been indicted by Robert Mueller, the special counsel appointed by the justice department to investigate Russian election meddling after Trump fired FBI director James Comey in May.

Three of those former aides have agreed on plea deals, exchanging lighter sentences for cooperation: former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former campaign deputy chairman Rick Gates and former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos.

Former campaign manager Paul Manafort maintains his innocence on charges including money laundering and tax and bank fraud.

Trump has said the Republican memo “vindicates” him. Democrats and Republicans, including Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who helped draft the GOP memo, have said it should not be used to undermine Mueller.

There are some points of agreement between the Republican and Democratic memos, including that the FBI did not open its investigation into links between Russian election interference and the Trump campaign because of Steele’s dossier.(ANI)