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Democrats, Republicans Dispute Trump 'Vindication' Claim

Several U.S. lawmakers have disputed President Donald Trump's claim that the GOP memo 'vindicated' him in the Russia probe.
Several U.S. lawmakers have disputed President Donald Trump's claim that the GOP memo 'vindicated' him in the Russia probe.

Democratic lawmakers and several Republicans have disputed U.S. President Donald Trump's contention that a GOP-produced classified memo on FBI surveillance powers cleared him in the Russia investigation.

In a series of television interviews, several lawmakers on February 4 expressed hope that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and any ties to the Trump campaign would continue without interference.

"The goal [with the memo] is to undermine the FBI, discredit the FBI, discredit the Mueller investigation, do the president's bidding," said Adan Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

Trump had claimed he had been completely vindicated by the Republican-written congressional memo, which alleges the FBI abused its surveillance powers during an investigation of the Trump presidential election campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

In a Twitter message late on February 3, Trump said: "This memo totally vindicates 'Trump' in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on."

Trump tweeted that there was "no Collusion and there was no Obstruction" of justice by his administration to block the FBI's investigation.

But the memo also includes revelations that could complicate any attempt by Trump and his allies to undermine Mueller's probe.

The memo, released on February 2, contends that the FBI, when it applied for a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate, relied excessively on an ex-British spy whose opposition research was funded by Democrats.

But the document also calls that source a "longtime FBI source" with a credible track record.

'Really Sloppy Process'

It also confirms that the investigation actually began several months earlier, and was "triggered" by information involving a different campaign aide.

Four Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee -- Brad Wenstrup, Chris Stewart, Will Hurd, and Trey Gowdy -- appeared to split with the president, saying on February 4 that the memo has no material effect on Mueller's investigation.

"No, not to me, it doesn't, and I was pretty integrally involved in the drafting of it," said Gowdy, who has announced he will not run for reelection.

"I am on record as saying I support Bob Mueller 100 percent," Gowdy said. "I say investigate everything Russia did, but admit that this was a really sloppy process that you engaged in to surveil a U.S. citizen."

'Political Hit Job'

The FBI on January 31 took the unusual step of publicly opposing the release of the memo, saying it demonstrated "material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

Democrat Schiff called the memo a "political hit job," but said it nevertheless confirms that the FBI probe had been based on legitimate intelligence.

Democrats say the memo is 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.

Democrats say they will seek a vote on publicly releasing their own rebuttal memo when the GOP-led House Intelligence Committee meets on February 5.

Schiff and Hurd spoke on ABC TV’s This Week program, while Stewart appeared on Fox News Sunday, Gowdy was on CBS TV’s Face the Nation, and Wenstrup was on CNN's State of the Union.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, ABC, Fox, CBS, and CNN
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