WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's claim of exoneration in the Russia investigation was undercut Sunday by several Republican lawmakers, including one who helped draft a controversial memo the president has embraced, alleging that the FBI abused its surveillance powers.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the memo, spearheaded by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., did not have "any impact on the Russia probe."
Gowdy is a member of the committee, and the only Republican on it who's read classified documents that are the basis of the disputed memo.
On Saturday, Trump seized on the Republican memo, which was released Friday after he declassified it over Justice Department objections, as confirming his own repeated contention that the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller is a "witch hunt." Trump declared in a Twitter post Saturday that the memo "totally vindicates" him.
Even before seeing it, the president also reportedly told associates that the memo bolstered the case for ousting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, a Trump appointee who oversees Mueller. Democrats and some Republicans have warned that such a move could spark a constitutional crisis.
Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, said the material the FBI used to get a secret surveillance court's approval for its surveillance of former Trump campaign associate Carter Page did not prompt the bureau's wider look at whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Gowdy, who has announced plans to retire, also said he supports Mueller "100 percent" in conducting the investigation.
A fellow Republican congressman, interviewed on CNN's "State of the Union," also said the overall Russia investigation is a "separate issue" from matters addressed in the memo. "It's more looking within the agencies, something we have oversight over," said Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio.
A third Republican on the committee, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, also said he disagreed that the memo bolsters the case the White House has been making for months against the impartiality of Mueller.
"I don't believe this is an attack on Bob Mueller," Hurd said on ABC's "This Week." Hurd, who formerly worked for the CIA, added, "I would say that (the Justice Department) should continue doing their job."
The comments from Hurd, Gowdy and Wenstrup were not only a break with Trump's stance, but with that of many House Republicans who've suggested the entire investigation is corrupted. The three lawmakers reflected the more measured stance of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who said Friday that the memo isn't "an indictment" of the FBI and Justice, nor does it "impugn" Mueller's investigation or Rosenstein.
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