The head of the FBI has set up an extraordinary public showdown with US President Donald Trump, publicly saying there were "grave concerns" about the accuracy of a classified memo on the Russia investigation that Republicans want to release to the public.

It was the first time the bureau has explicitly weighed in publicly on an issue that has put Trump and senior Republicans in conflict with the Justice Department.

The memo was written by Republicans on the House intelligence committee under the leadership of congressman Devin Nunes, a backer of Trump.

Republicans have said the memo reveals improper use of surveillance by the FBI and the Justice Department during the early stages of the investigation into whether there were links between Trump's campaign and Russia. The memo was said to reveal political bias in the investigation.


FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly visited the White House and told chief of staff John Kelly the memo contains inaccurate information and offers a false picture.

In a public statement the bureau said: "The FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it.

"As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo's accuracy."

Meanwhile, it was also reported that Trump had asked the second most senior official in the Justice Department if he was "on my team".

During a December meeting at the White House Trump was said to have asked Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General, where the ongoing special counsel probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election was heading, CNN reported. Rosenstein is said to have replied: "Of course, we're all on your team, Mr President."

Democrats have claimed the memo consists of "cherry-picked" information and is designed to undermine the current Russia investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, overseen by Rosenstein.

An inevitable showdown

Analysis written by Aaron Blake

President Donald Trump attends a meeting with American workers on the impact of the tax reform bill. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump attends a meeting with American workers on the impact of the tax reform bill. Photo / AP

Long-simmering tensions between the Donald Trump-led Republican Party and federal law enforcement have erupted into open battle.


The FBI is essentially labelling the memo a partisan document that uses lies to undermine law enforcement. And by extension, it's accusing the White House of abdicating its responsibility to the American people by releasing it.

This represents a significant — if perhaps inevitable — showdown between Trump and his own appointees in the Justice Department. Trump often demands or expects loyalty, and that has created almost ever-present conflicts with those involved with the Russia investigation, who generally are supposed to retain some degree of independence from the White House. The significance of the FBI taking a public stand suggests both desperation and resolute defiance.

But Republicans have shown over and over again that they give Trump the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his interactions with federal law enforcement officials. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 83 per cent of Republicans say the Russia probe is a "witch hunt" against Trump, while 12 per cent say it's legitimate.

- Telegraph Group Ltd, Washington Post