The long-simmering feud between President Trump and the Justice Department erupted into open conflict Wednesday when the FBI publicly challenged the president’s expected release of a contentious and classified memo related to the probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
In a rare unsigned statement, the FBI cited “grave concerns” with inaccuracies and omissions in the four-page memo, which was written by House Republicans and alleges abuses at the Justice Department connected to secret surveillance orders. Trump has told advisers that the memo could benefit him by undercutting the special counsel’s investigation and allow him to oust senior Justice Department officials — and that he wants it released soon, something that could happen as early as Thursday.
“We have grave concerns about the material omissions of facts that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy,” the FBI said.
The extraordinary statement pits the nation’s top federal law enforcement agency against a commander in chief who already has fired one FBI director and has repeatedly expressed a desire to remove the attorney general and others connected to the Russia investigation. That probe, led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, is aimed in part at determining whether any Trump associates coordinated with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election and investigating any related issues.
The FBI’s public warning came after several days of failed attempts by FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and other Justice Department officials to convince the president and his senior staff in private meetings that the memo should be blocked because it poses a risk to national security.
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