A group of Republicans in the House of Representatives have been holding secret talks for weeks in an effort to undermine the Trump-Russia investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

The Republicans have been meeting to build their claim that senior leaders of the Justice Department and FBI improperly — and perhaps criminally — mishandled the contents of a Trump-Russia dossier revealed in December 2016, according to “four people familiar with their plans”.

The group is a subset of the Republican members of the House intelligence Committee. It is led by Devin Nunes of California, the Committee chairman who had supposedly recused himself in March after revelation of his contacts with the White House.

The Republicans have not informed Democrats about their plans, although they have consulted with the House’s general counsel.

The sources said the Republicans hope to release a report early next year setting out their allegations against the Justice Department and FBI, and may seek congressional votes to declassify details.

The 2016 dossier of 17 memoranda was compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, working for the private firm Fusion GPS. Including claims from Russian officials of their contacts with Trump campaign advisors, much of the dossier has been supported by later revelations during the Mueller inquiry.

However, with the investigation closing on Trump’s top advisors, some Republicans are trying to discredit Mueller’s team before they reach Trump. The effort complements a White House effort, alongside media allies such as Fox, to portray a conspiracy against the President — to the point of declaring a possible “coup” by the “Deep State”.

Nunes bolstered the campaign in an interview on Fox earlier this month: “I hate to use the word corrupt, but they’ve become at least so dirty that who’s watching the watchmen? Who’s investigating these people? There is no one.”

Representative Jim Jordan, another member of the group, admits that he has been in contact with the White House about the initiative, although he insists that there has been no coordination: