A former British spy behind a dossier of lurid claims against Donald Trump admitted he was “desperate” to stop him becoming US president, it was alleged on Friday.
Christopher Steele told a US justice official before the 2016 election that he was “passionate” about stopping Mr Trump winning, according to a newly released memo.
Republicans held up the comment as proof the former MI6 agent had “ideological motivations” against Mr Trump that throw into question the reliability of his evidence.
The previously undisclosed conversation was contained in a classified memo written by Republican congressmen that Mr Trump approved for release on Friday.
The four-page document criticises the way the FBI and US Justice Department used Mr Steele’s claims to approve a wiretap on a Trump campaign adviser.
The memo claimed the wiretap request failed to mention that Mr Steele could be politically biased and had been paid more than $160,000 by US Democrats.
Democrats called the memo a “shameful effort” to “discredit” the intelligence services and undermine an investigation into Russian election meddling that has blighted Mr Trump’s presidency.
The top Leadership and Investigators of the FBI and the Justice Department have politicized the sacred investigative process in favor of Democrats and against Republicans – something which would have been unthinkable just a short time ago. Rank & File are great people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 2, 2018
The president, who declassified the memo despite a rare public warning from the FBI, expressed fury at leading officials involved – raising fears he could fire some of them.
“I think it’s a disgrace what’s happening in our country,” Mr Trump said. “A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves.”
WATCH: President Trump says memo is "terrible"
"You want to know the truth, I think it's a disgrace … A lot of people should be ashamed of themselves." – https://t.co/kdrUxk2XiK pic.twitter.com/LdvAMC388h
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 2, 2018
Asked if he retained confidence in Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russian investigation as deputy attorney general, Mr Trump responded: “You figure that one out."
Mr Steele, a former MI6 agent, was thrust into the spotlight last year when a controversial dossier he compiled before the US election alleging ties between Mr Trump and Russia was published.
The claims included that Mr Trump asked prostitutes to take part in lurid sex acts while visiting Russia – something he categorically denied.
It has also emerged the research was part-funded by the Democrats.
Mr Steele’s dossier has become the centre of a fiercely partisan battle over the legitimacy of the Russian election meddling investigation being led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel.
Republicans argue the investigation, which is looking into Trump campaign links with Russia, was overwhelmingly triggered by Mr Steele’s research, much of which is unverified.
But Democrats point to evidence that Trump campaign figures discussed dirt on Hillary Clinton with Russian figures, meaning the inquiries are legitimate.
Mr Steele said he “was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president”, according to an account by Mr Ohr quoted in the memo.
The memo’s Republican authors called this “clear evidence of Mr Steele’s bias” and later said the former has “anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations”.
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It concluded that officials should have mentioned these “relevant facts” when requesting a wiretap on Carter Page, a Trump foreign policy adviser, in October 2016 – a month before the election.
Memo row | Who are the key figures?
Republicans, Democrats and intelligence figures criticised Mr Trump’s decision to release the memo, which some warned would expose sources and methods for gathering confidential information.
John McCain the Republican senator for Arizona, said: “The latest attacks against the FBI and Department of Justice serve no American interests ― no party’s, no President’s, only Putin’s."
A FBI Association spokesman said: “FBI Special Agents have not, and will not, allow partisan politics to distract us from our solemn commitment to our mission.”
The FBI’s former director, James Comey, expressed his outrage at the memo’s release calling it "dishonest" and "misleading".
That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen. For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs.
— James Comey (@Comey) February 2, 2018
Mr Comey, who was fired by Mr Trump last year, tweeted: "That’s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House intel committee, destroyed trust with Intelligence Community, damaged relationship with FISA court, and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen.
"For what? DOJ & FBI must keep doing their jobs."