U.S. House Intel Committee Democratic memo defends Russia probes

WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The Democratic minority on the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Saturday released a response to Republican charges that the FBI and Justice Department have abused the law in their investigation of possible ties between Russia and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.

The Democrats' 10-page memo, released on Saturday in partially-redacted form, calls an earlier Republican version "a transparent effort to undermine" the FBI, the Justice Department, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and congressional probes into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, posted the document on Twitter.

The Republican memo, the Democrats allege, "also risks public exposure of sensitive sources and methods for no legitimate purpose."

The Democratic memo and a Republican counterattack that included a point-by-point refutation of the minority Democrats' conclusions, are an escalation of the partisan feuding that Schiff and other members of his party have said is sabotaging the House committee's investigation.

The latest duel on Capitol Hill also comes as Mueller's investigation gathers steam, including a guilty plea on Friday from Richard Gates, Trump's deputy campaign manager.

In a statement, the committee's Republican Chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, renewed his allegations, saying: "The American people now clearly understand that the FBI used political dirt paid for by the Democratic Party to spy on an American citizen from the Republican Party."

"We wanted it out because we think it is clear evidence that the Democrats are not only trying to cover this up, but they're also colluding with parts of the government to help cover this up," Nunes said during an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hills, Maryland.

14 PHOTOS
A look at Washington, D.C. the day Rep. Devin Nunes' memo was released
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A look at Washington, D.C. the day Rep. Devin Nunes' memo was released
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A person leaving the secure offices of the House Intelligence Committee bolts upstairs after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A person enters the secure offices of the House Intelligence Committee after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A camera is seen mounted to the FBI headquarters, on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: A person enters the secure offices of the House Intelligence Committee after a six-page memo alleging misconduct by senior FBI officials investigating President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign was released to the public February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. Assembled by Committee staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the formerly classified memo alleging FBI misconduct was released to the public Friday with permission from President Donald Trump. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
A Republican�memo, written under the direction of House Intelligence Chairman�Devin Nunes, is arranged for a photograph at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. FBI and Justice Department officials got a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign associate by misleading a surveillance court judge, House Republicans contend in a�newly released�memo�that Democrats have dismissed as a contrived account intended to protect the president. Photographer: Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: The FBI headquarters is seen on February 2, 2018 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump contemplating the possible release of a highly controversial Republican memo alleging the FBI abused its surveillance tools. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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WHITE HOUSE RESPONSE

In a statement released on Saturday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said: "While the Democrats' memorandum attempts to undercut the president politically, the president supported its release in the interest of transparency."

The Democratic memo charges that Republicans deliberately omitted facts from their document that undermine their allegation that the FBI conducted improper surveillance of one-time Trump campaign aide Carter Page, "whom the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government."

"The FBI had ample reason to believe that Carter Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power based on his history, including the fact that he had previously been a target of Russian recruitment, his travel to Russia and other information," Schiff said in a statement.

The Democratic memo, which was released by the White House at mid-afternoon on Saturday as Republican committee chairman Nunes was addressing the Conservative Political Action Committee, had been reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department before its release, Schiff said.

"But it is unfortunate that the weekend release of the Democratic memo by the White House was delayed beyond what was necessary and to the advantage of those seeking to mislead the American public," he added.

The Democratic memo also disputes a Republican charge that the FBI initiated a counterintelligence investigation in late July 2016 based on an unverified dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and paid for by the Democratic National Committee through a law firm.

The FBI received Steele's reporting in mid-September, more than seven weeks after launching its investigation of Page's ties to Russia.

The requests "made only narrow use of Steele's reporting, "chiefly his suspected July 2016 meetings in Moscow with Russian officials."

The Democrats also said the Justice Department's Oct. 21, 2016, application to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for warrants to monitor Page and three subsequent renewals offered "a multipronged rationale for surveiling Page," who by then had left Trump's campaign.

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Former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page
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Former Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page
One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
One-time advisor of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump Carter Page addresses the audience during a presentation in Moscow, Russia, December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Carter Page, walks away after speaking to the media after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee conducting an investigation into Russia's tampering in the 2016 election. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 12, 2016: Carter Page, Global Energy Capital LLC Managing Partner and a former foreign policy adviser to U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump, makes a presentation titled ' Departing from Hypocrisy: Potential Strategies in the Era of Global Economic Stagnation, Security Threats and Fake News' during his visit to Moscow. Artyom Korotayev/TASS (Photo by Artyom Korotayev\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, speaks to the media after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee conducting an investigation into Russia's tampering in the 2016 election. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - DECEMBER 12, 2016: Carter Page, Global Energy Capital LLC Managing Partner and a former foreign policy adviser to U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump, makes a presentation titled ' Departing from Hypocrisy: Potential Strategies in the Era of Global Economic Stagnation, Security Threats and Fake News' during his visit to Moscow. Artyom Korotayev/TASS (Photo by Artyom Korotayev\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 02: Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser for the Trump campaign, speaks to the media after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on November 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. The committee conducting an investigation into Russia's tampering in the 2016 election. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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(Reporting by John Walcott and Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by David Morgan and Jim Oliphant; editing by G Crosse)

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