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US President Donald Trump slams FBI for politicising investigations ahead of secret memo release

White House official said he would give Congress approval on Friday to make the document public

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 2:20pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 February, 2018, 10:44pm

US President Donald Trump on Friday accused the FBI and the Department of Justice’s top officials of politicising its investigations as the White House prepared to approve the release of a controversial secret Republican memo alleging FBI bias against him in its Russia probe.

“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicised the sacred investigative process in favour of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump said on Twitter, even as he backed rank- and-file employees.

The FBI earlier this week expressed “grave concerns about material omissions of fact” in the Republican memo, which was seen as having the potential to prompt high-level resignations in US law enforcement agencies if released.

FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed by Trump after the president fired predecessor James Comey. There has been speculation that Wray might resign if Trump allows release of the memo. An association representing FBI agents has backed Wray’s stance.

A White House official said on Thursday that Trump was likely to give Congress approval on Friday to release the document, which has further inflamed tensions between the Republican president and the nation’s top domestic law enforcement agency.

It has also become a flashpoint in a wider battle between Republicans and Democrats over special counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe into potential collusion between Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. The probe grew out of the FBI’s Russia investigation after Trump fired Comey.

Russia has denied collusion and Trump has called the probe a “witch hunt”.

Comey on Thursday defended the agency against “weasels and liars”.

Explainer: Why Washington is at war over Russia probe memo

He wrote in a tweet that “all should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish more of our leaders would”.

The ex-FBI chief urged his former colleagues to “take heart: American history shows that, in the long run, weasels and liars never hold the field, so long as good people stand up”.

Referencing a senator who, in the 1950s, conducted hearings aimed at rooting out Communists in the US government, Comey said: “Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.”

Trump ‘to allow release of Nunes’ controversial memo on Friday’

Since his firing by the US president last May, Comey has made his personal feelings about Trump known, testifying in detail about personal interactions he says troubled him.

He also authorised a close friend to share with reporters details from a memo he produced documenting one such encounter – a February conversation in the Oval Office in which he said Trump encouraged him to drop an FBI investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. That revelation prompted the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel to run the Russia investigation.

Comey has also used language about “weasels” before, most notably in a September 2016 congressional hearing when he defended the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

“You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels,” Comey said. “We’re not weasels.”

Representatives for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department could not be immediately reached for comment.

Reporting by Reuters and Associated Press