(Adds Justice Department letter to panel chairman, paragraphs 9-11)
By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) - U.S. House Intelligence Committee Democrats have drafted their own “memo” about the investigation of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, after calls for the release of a Republican memo critical of a special counsel’s criminal probe, the panel’s ranking Democrat said on Wednesday.
Amid growing partisan rancor over the investigation of possible collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow, many of Trump’s fellow Republicans have been clamoring for the release of a classified memorandum commissioned by Republicans, which they say shows anti-Trump bias at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Democrats have criticized that memo as “highly misleading” talking points intended to undermine the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Trump and his associates. They accused Republicans of inappropriately releasing classified information by allowing every House of Representatives member to read it.
Moscow denies attempting to influence the presidential election. Trump denies any collusion.
“Regrettably, it has been necessary for Committee Democrats to draft our own memorandum, setting out the relevant facts and exposing the misleading character of the Republicans’ document so that members of the House are not left with an erroneous impression of the dedicated professionals at the FBI and DOJ,” Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat, said in a statement.
The dispute has fueled doubts about whether the House panel’s investigation has become too politicized to produce a credible report. House Intelligence is one of three congressional committees looking into the issue, along with the Senate Intelligence and Senate Judiciary Committees.
Schiff said panel Democrats will ask that their memorandum be made available for review by all House members on Monday at the committee’s normally scheduled meeting.
A spokesman for Representative Devin Nunes, the panel’s Republican chairman, who commissioned the Republican memo, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A top Justice Department official told Nunes in a letter on Wednesday that allegations of impropriety at the department are unfounded, according to a senior U.S. official.
“We believe it would be extraordinarily reckless for the Committee to disclose such information publicly without giving the Department and the FBI the opportunity to review the memorandum and to advise the (committee) of the risk of harm to national security and to ongoing investigations that could come from the public release,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd said in the letter.
“Indeed, we do not understand why the Committee would possibly seek to disclose classified and law enforcement sensitive information without first consulting with the relevant members of the Intelligence Community,” the letter said.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that some conservative House Republicans had discussed the Republican memo and their plans to release it with Trump.
Schiff and Senator Dianne Feinstein called on Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc on Tuesday to investigate accounts promoting the Republican memo that were reportedly linked to a Russian influence operation.
Separately, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked its Republican chairman, Chuck Grassley, to share with Mueller transcripts of its interviews in the Russia investigation.
Aides to Grassley did not immediately respond to a request for comment. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; editing by Grant McCool)