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Trump claims vindication

President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed complete vindication from a congressional memo that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance powers during the investigation into his campaign's possible Russia ties. But the memo also includes revelations that might complicate efforts by Trump and his allies to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry.

The four-page document released Friday contends that the FBI, when it applied for a surveillance warrant on a onetime Trump campaign associate, relied excessively on an ex-British spy whose opposition research was funded by Democrats. At the same time, the memo confirms that the investigation into potential Trump links to Russia actually began several months earlier, and was "triggered" by information involving a different campaign aide.

Christopher Steele, the former spy who compiled the allegations, acknowledged having strong anti-Trump sentiments. But he also was a "longtime FBI source" with a credible track record, according to the memo from the House Intelligence Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and his staff.

The warrant authorizing the FBI to monitor the communications of former campaign adviser Carter Page was not a one-time request, but was approved by a judge on four occasions, the memo says, and even signed off on by the second-ranking official at the Justice Department, Rod Rosenstein, whom Trump appointed as deputy attorney general.

Trump, however, tweeted from Florida, where he was spending the weekend, that the memo puts him in the clear.

"This memo totally vindicates 'Trump' in probe," he said. "But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their (sic) was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!"

The underlying materials that served as the basis for the warrant application were not made public in the memo. As a result, the document only further intensified a partisan battle over how to interpret the actions of the FBI and Justice Department during the early stages of the counterintelligence investigation that Mueller later inherited.

Some Republicans are citing the memo, released over the objections of the FBI and Justice Department, in their arguments that the Mueller investigation is politically tainted.

A closer read presents a far more nuanced picture.

"Having decided to cherry-pick, the Nunes team picked a bunch of the wrong cherries for its own narrative," Matthew Waxman, a Columbia University professor and former Bush administration official, wrote in an email.

The memo's central allegation is that agents and prosecutors, in applying in October 2016 to monitor Page's communications, failed to tell a judge that the opposition research that provided grounds for the FBI's suspicion had been partially funded by Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Page had stopped advising the campaign sometime around the end of that summer.



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