U.S. Democrats have released a redacted memo challenging Republican claims that the FBI abused government surveillance powers in its investigation of Russia election meddling, a document President Donald Trump had previously blocked in its full form.
The House Democrats’ document, released on February 24, attempted to counter claims made in a previous Republican-written memo and focused on longstanding FBI concerns about a Trump campaign aide's links to Russia.
Democrats wrote that the FBI and Justice Department (DOJ) “did not abuse” procedures, “omit material information” or “subvert” government regulations in requesting court permission to conduct surveillance on a member of the Trump campaign team.
Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee released their memo on February 2 that accused the two law-enforcement organizations of being biased against Trump and of hiding information as part of the investigation into Russian meddling in U.S. politics and any links to the Trump team.
The Republican memo alleged that the FBI and DOJ inappropriately applied for permission to conduct surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who had extensive Russian contacts.
Democrats said the memo was a selectively edited set of Republican talking points aimed at distracting attention from the committee's own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
They attempted to release a rebuttal memo, but it was block by the Trump administration, which said it contained "numerous properly classified and especially sensitive passages."
The Democrats then removed some portions of the memo and released it after negotiations with the FBI.
The new memo alleges that Page was targeted for recruitment in 2013 by two Russians who had been indicted by the U.S. government.
That information, it says, was used by U.S. law enforcement to gain four judges’ permission to conduct surveillance against Page, and not an unverified dossier partially paid for by Democrats, as Republicans claimed.
"The FBI had ample reason to believe that Carter Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power based on his history, including the fact that he had previously been a target of Russian recruitment, his travel to Russia and other information," said Adam Schiff,the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which produced the new memo.
Page has denied any wrongdoing, and Trump has repeatedly said he has done nothing wrong in his dealings with Russia.
Trump dismissed the Democrats' memo with a Twitter posting later on February 24 saying, it was "a total political and legal BUST."
"Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!" he wrote.
At least five people -- including three former Trump aides -- have pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling, although charges have been financially related and do not directly allege collusion with Russia.
Thirteen Russians and three Russian companies have also been indicted in the probe.
With reporting by AP and AFP