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Democrats sharpen warning to Trump in wake of disputed memo

US President Donald Trump tells reporters he has authorized the release of a Republican-drafted memo on the FBI's probe into his campaign
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (AFP)
Democrats said the memo was intended to lay the groundwork for Trump to subvert Russia meddling investigation

Democrats on Sunday sharpened their rhetoric in the clash over the investigation into Trump campaign links to Russia, warning the president that firing top law enforcement officials could "lead to a confrontation we do not need in America."

The warnings came two days after the Republican-led House intelligence committee released a declassified memo that claims that Democrat-funded research prompted the FBI to spy on a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page.

Democrats stoutly resisted the memo's release, saying it was misleading, and possibly intended to lay the groundwork for President Donald Trump to fire senior officials and subvert the Russia meddling investigation led by Robert Mueller.

Dick Durbin, the number two Senate Democrat, warned on Sunday against any such move.

"The question at that moment is whether or not the majority Republicans in the House and the Senate will stand up for the rule of law and the Constitution if the president takes that extreme position," Durbin said on CNN's "State of the Union." 

"If the president takes this extreme action, I'm afraid that it could lead to a confrontation we do not need in America."

Both he and the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, Representative Adam Schiff, contested the suggestion that the FBI's request to a special court for authority to surveil Page failed to note that it was based in part on a dossier paid for by Democrats.

SAUL LOEB (AFP/File)

"The court was notified there was a political actor involved," Schiff said.

"The goal here is to undermine the FBI, discredit the FBI, discredit the Mueller investigation, do the president's bidding," he said on ABC's "This Week." He said it was "very possible" committee Republicans had "coordinated the whole effort with the White House."

- 'No collusion' -

Trump tweeted Saturday that the memo "vindicated" his insistence that there was "no collusion and there was no obstruction." 

But some Republicans, while supporting the gist of the memo, took pains to show support for Mueller, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein and FBI chief Christopher Wray at a time the FBI and Justice Department are facing almost unprecedented criticism from the president.

"I've had my differences with Rod Rosenstein, and I still think that he is fully capable of helping run a Justice Department that we can all have confidence in," said Representative Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, on CBS's "Face the Nation." 

And Representative Will Hurd, a Republican on the intelligence committee, told ABC, "I want to stress Bob Mueller should be allowed to turn over every rock, pursue every lead so we can have trust knowing what Russia did or didn't do.

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