FBI challenges White House over explosive Russia case memo

US agency issues rare statement against release of controversial document

WASHINGTON The FBI warned on Wednesday that it has "grave concerns" over the accuracy of a secret congressional memo that could depict the agency as deeply politicised, as President Donald Trump's top aide signalled the White House would allow the document's release.

Based on classified information, the four-page memo - by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Devin Nunes - suggests that the Justice Department and the FBI abused their power in running surveillance on a member of Mr Trump's 2016 election campaign.

The Justice Department and the FBI have lobbied against its release, which has the potential to taint special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.

But White House chief of staff John Kelly said the document could be made public soon, once lawyers have vetted it.

"It'll be released here pretty quick, I think, and the whole world can see it," Mr Kelly told Fox Radio.

The FBI stressed its concerns in an extraordinary, unsigned public statement that demonstrated its growing rift with Mr Trump and Mr Nunes, a staunch defender of the President.

It said: "As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

Mr Nunes' committee voted on Monday to release the memo, distilled from a larger volume of documents used by the FBI to get a warrant to spy on Trump campaign official Carter Page, who is suspected of espionage.

Media reports, citing lawmakers who have seen the document, say it alleges that to obtain the warrant, they submitted as evidence the contentious and unproven "Russia dossier".

The dossier includes information on contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia compiled by a former British spy and financed partly by Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Republicans say it provides evidence that the Justice Department actively sought to undermine Mr Trump.


But Democrats say the memo is based on selective information that does not reflect the entire classified file on the warrant application on Mr Page.

They say Mr Nunes is running a politically motivated stunt to smear the Mueller investigation, which is also examining whether Mr Trump tried to obstruct the probe.

"Today's announcement that the FBI has 'grave concerns' about the Nunes memo is the latest reason not to release it," said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"It is clear the goal is to undermine the special counsel's investigation."- AFP