WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump positioned himself squarely against the leadership of the FBI and Department of Justice on Friday ahead of the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools, claiming the government agencies “politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans.”
Watch the video in the player above for commentary from CNN’s Anderson Cooper titled: Nunes memo is a phony drama.
Trump, by accusing the leadership of having a bias against Republicans, is once again maligning people he appointed to their roles, including FBI Director Christopher Wray, a man Trump nominated after he fired former FBI Director James Comey in May.
The tweet also puts Trump squarely on the side of Republican lawmakers who view the memo, which was penned by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes and approved for release by the House committee earlier this week, as a document that shows evidence of nefarious motives atop the FBI.
“The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago,” Trump wrote. “Rank & File are great people!”
The tweet is especially notable since Trump once argued the FBI’s mistreatment of a Democrat, Hillary Clinton, in its handling of the investigation into her email server led him to fire Comey. The President, however, would later say that he considered “this Russia thing” before dismissing the FBI director.
The President’s tweet also ignores the fact that many senior people involved in the investigation, including Wray, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Comey, are all longtime Republicans.
Trump has signaled for days that he is inclined to release the memo and told a lawmaker who urged him to publish it on Tuesday that he shouldn’t worry.
The fight over the memo has put the President at odds with his top law enforcement officials, who have urged the White House to reconsider releasing the document.
Top White House aides are worried Wray could quit if the highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools is released, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN.
Trump reviewed the memo on Wednesday, White House officials told CNN, and discussed it with his chief of staff, John Kelly, and the White House counsel’s office.
In recent phone calls, Trump has told friends he believes the memo would expose bias within the FBI’s top ranks and make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations — primarily the inquiry led by special counsel Robert Mueller — are prejudiced against him, according to two sources.
The memo is expected to accuse the Department of Justice and FBI of abusing the FISA surveillance program during the 2016 campaign, including how they used material from the unverified dossier written by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, as part of their application to secure court approval of surveillance of Carter Page, a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser.
CNN previously reported in April that the FBI used part of the dossier to win approval to secretly monitor Page.
Republicans have already begun using the Nunes memo to discredit Mueller’s investigation into potential Trump campaign connections to Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Democrats have claimed that the document is nothing more than an attempt to undercut Mueller’s investigation.
“There’s no evidence of a corrupt evidence to obtain warrants against people in the Trump campaign,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday. “That’s been the President’s narrative, but there’s no evidence of that.”
Trump, though, has appeared undeterred on releasing the memo. Though aides claimed the decision to approve the document would be made after a thorough interagency review led by the White House counsel’s office and the National Security Council, Trump was eager to release it before he even read the document.
“Don’t worry, 100%” Trump told Rep. Duncan Hunter on Tuesday after the lawmaker urged him to release the document. “Can you imagine?”
Trump has been subject to a public and private pressure campaign on the memo, too. Lawmakers, informal advisers and even his own son have publicly called for the document to be released in full, without any redactions.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has supported the plan to release the Nunes memo, but has said the document is a “completely separate matter from Bob Mueller’s investigation and his investigation should be allowed to take its course.”
Ryan also said Friday morning, as the release of the memo loomed, that he is in favor of releasing a Democratic memo penned in response to the Nunes document.
“The speaker is in favor of greater transparency,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement. “If it is scrubbed to ensure it does not reveal sources and methods of our intelligence gathering, the speaker supports the release of the Democrats’ memo.”