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24 Feb, 2018 23:47

‘Total political & legal bust!’: Trump slams Democrats’ memo on Russia probe & surveillance abuse

US President Donald Trump has dismissed the memo released by the US House Intelligence Committee Democrats as a “total political and legal bust.”

“The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST. Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Dem Memo: FBI did not disclose who the clients were - the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!”

The US leader also reiterated that “Russians” never had any compromising information on him, dismissing the whole collusion investigation as a disgraceful and illegal “witch hunt.”

The ten-page Democratic memo released to the public by the House Intelligence Committee on Saturday was intended to counterbalance the Republican narrative which, earlier this month, raised questions about the legality of FBI surveillance methods against former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, who is suspected of being a “Russian agent.”

The Republicans contend that the notorious ‘Steele dossier’ was key in obtaining Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court approval for the surveillance of Page. The FBI, the GOP argues, failed to notify the court that the dossier was partially financed by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The Democrats challenge the claim, insisting that the FBI was investigating Page long before it got hold of Steele files and would even have obtained a court warrant without it. “FBI and DOJ officials did not 'abuse' the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) process, omit material information, nor subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign,” the memo argues. “In fact, DOJ and the FBI would have been remiss in their duty to protect the country had they not sought a FISA warrant and repeated renewals to conduct temporary surveillance of Carter Page, someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.”

The infamous dossier, published in January last year, alleges collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin during the 2016 election campaign. Produced by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, and partially financed by the Clinton camp, it accuses Moscow of cultivating a relationship with Trump for decades. It claims that several of Trump's associates, including former foreign policy advisor Carter Page, worked with Russian contacts to elevate Trump to power.

Trump, who has repeatedly denied any connections with the Russians, once again refuted any involvement with the Kremlin, tweeting: “This whole Witch Hunt is an illegal disgrace...and Obama did nothing about Russia!”

Earlier this month, Trump blocked the release of the Democrats’ rebuttal, sending the document back to the House Intelligence Committee for revision, citing “national security concerns.” The House Democrats heavily redacted the memorandum before releasing it on Saturday, to avoid revealing intelligence-gathering sources and the methods of the FBI.