U.S. President Donald Trump has lashed out at the FBI amid a controversy over a memo that has heightened tension in Washington during investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the election that put him in office.
In a tweet on February 2, Trump charged that senior officials and investigators of the FBI and Justice Department "have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans."
His tweet followed reports citing unnamed officials as saying the White House plans to authorize the release of a memo regarding the FBI and the ongoing government probe into the alleged meddling and whether associates of Trump colluded with Russia.
The memo was written by Republican members of the Intelligence Committee in the House of Representatives, one of three congressional panels conducting investigations in addition to the Justice Department probe.
The document reportedly questions how the FBI has conducted its criminal probe of Trump associates during the 2016 election campaign. One section in particular deals with the justification for the extension of a court-ordered wiretap of Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign.
Democratic lawmakers have said the memo cherry-picks facts and omits important context. The FBI director, meanwhile, has taken the unusual step of publicly calling for it not to be released, saying it could be misleading and could compromise intelligence sources and methods.
In a statement, the FBI said it has "grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”
The reports cited officials as saying that Trump, who has the authority to prevent the memo from being made public, was "OK" with its release.
The memo has been the source of intense debate in Washington.
Citing four unnamed sources familiar with the memo, the Reuters news agency reported that the document contends that the FBI and Justice Department failed to tell a U.S. judge that some of the information used to justify the extension of a warrant for the surveillance on Page included portions of the so-called Steele Dossier, a report on Trump-Russia contacts that was opposition research paid for by Democrats.
However, Reuters cited its sources as saying, the request to extend surveillance on Page -- which began before Trump took office -- also relied on other highly classified information and that U.S. agencies had confirmed excerpts from the dossier included in the request.
The Steele dossier claims that Page, an oil industry consultant and former investment banker, met with representatives of Russian state oil giant Rosneft -- which is headed by Igor Sechin, an influential ally of President Vladimir Putin -- during his stint as a campaign adviser. Page also traveled to Russia during the 2016 campaign but says it was a personal visit only.
In January 2017, U.S. intelligence agencies said they had determined that Putin ordered a concerted hacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 election, with goals including undermining faith in the U.S. electoral process, denigrating Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, and improving Trump's chances of winning.
In addition to the congressional probes, U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the alleged meddling and whether there was collusion between associates of Trump and Russia.
Trump denies there was any collusion and Putin denies that Russia interfered in the election, despite what U.S. officials say is substantial evidence.