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Trump weighing his response to Democratic Russia memo: White House

By Ayesha Rascoe
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. February 9, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Ayesha Rascoe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump is still weighing how to handle a classified memo written by Democrats to rebut a Republican document claiming FBI and Justice Department bias against him in the federal probe of Russia and the 2016 U.S. election, the White House said on Friday.

The House of Representatives Intelligence Committee voted unanimously on Monday to release the 10-page document drafted by the panel's Democrats, contingent on the Republican president agreeing to reclassify it. If Trump approves the release, it would then be up to the committee to make it public.

"The president is weighing his options and will respond soon," White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.

Trump met on Friday afternoon with officials from the Justice Department, White House Counsel's Office and the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Christopher Wray, to get their input on the memo, Shah said.

Earlier on Friday, Trump told reporters the White House would be releasing a letter about the memo "soon," but he did not specify what the letter would say.

Trump on Feb. 2 allowed the release of the earlier memo written by the committee's Republicans, escalating a campaign criticizing current and former senior law enforcement officials. Democrats said the Republican memo mischaracterized highly sensitive classified information and was intended to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of potential collusion between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia.

Mueller also is investigating whether Trump has committed obstruction of justice in trying to impede the Russia probe.

The Republican memo portrayed the Russia investigation as a product of political bias at the FBI and Justice Department against Trump. The president said the document "totally vindicates" him in the Russia investigation, a claim disputed by Democrats and some Republicans.

Democrats last week warned Trump against using the Republican memo as a pretext to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who hired Mueller and oversees the investigation, or to remove Mueller himself. The Republican memo singled out Rosenstein and several other officials by name, including former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey, who Trump fired in May 2017, as the agency investigated the Russia matter.

Mueller took over the investigation from the FBI.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign using hacking and propaganda, an effort that eventually included attempting to tilt the race in Trump's favor. Russia denies interfering in the election. Trump denies collusion with Moscow.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle and Eric Walsh; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Paul Simao and Daniel Wallis)