Intelligence officials to brief lawmakers on Russia probe

WASHINGTON, May 24 (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers, including senior Democrats, will receive classified briefings from FBI and intelligence officials on Thursday on an FBI probe into Russian election meddling after President Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims about a "spy" being used against his campaign.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said he would attend the first briefing, along with two Republican committee chairmen, to review classified information relating to a recent Trump's allegation that the FBI might have used a "spy" to gather information on his 2016 presidential campaign.

A second briefing was scheduled for Republican and Democratic leaders from the Senate and House of Representatives, known as the Gang of Eight, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

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White House spokesman Raj Shah had said on Wednesday that second briefing would take place some time after the U.S. Memorial Day holiday on Monday.

Democratic and Republican leaders pushed for Democrats to be included in the briefings.

Ryan said he told the Trump administration on Wednesday he believed Democrats should receive the same briefing as Republicans.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer welcomed the decision to brief the Gang of Eight promptly but questioned why there should be a separate briefing for the two Republicans, U.S. Representatives Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, chairmen of the intelligence and oversight committees.

"What is the point of the separate briefing if not to cause partisan trouble?" Schumer asked in a statement on Thursday.

FBI Director Christopher Wray, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were scheduled to attend both meetings, along with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, according to the Justice Department.

The FBI was investigating whether anyone in Trump's campaign had worked with Russia to help tip the election in Trump's favor. Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by the Justice Department to take over that probe in May 2017 after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the Justice Department and FBI during his presidency, has referred to the matter as "Spygate," aiming to portray it as a scandal.

The New York Times reported the use of the informant was intended to collect information about what Trump campaign aides knew about Russian efforts to hack Democratic emails, not to spy on the campaign.

Trump's closest conservative allies in Congress have been clamoring for access to the classified documents. The lawmakers have accused the FBI and Justice Department of political bias against Trump in favor of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, during his successful presidential campaign. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Will Dunham)