President Trump on Monday officially demanded an investigation into whether the FBI or DOJ infiltrated or spied on his 2016 presidential campaign or whether requests for such an operation were made.
The demand follows media reports about a “government informant” who met with former campaign aides Carter Page and George Papadopoulos about possible ties to Russia. Claims of an informant originate with Christopher Steele, the ex-spy who wrote the infamous (and debunked) anti-Trump dossier.
Republican lawmakers have been unable to confirm or deny the rumor, said Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), because the FBI and DOJ have refused to provide information. If the FBI really did have a paid informant inside the Trump team, the agency will have crossed a “red line," added Nunes.
“We’ve seen disturbing evidence that the FBI engaged in political targeting,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). “But the DOJ can’t be trusted to investigate themselves - Congress needs the documents too.”
DOJ spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores on Sunday confirmed the agency would expand its ongoing review of the FISA application process to look into potential impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its initial investigation into Trump's alleged collusion with Russian agents.
“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Trump’s lawyer Rudi Giuliani insists the Administration has a right to know the informant's identity and has suggested that such information would improve the chances of a future interview between the President and Robert Mueller. “I can’t imagine we’d allow an interview under the circumstances that there was some kind of informant that planted in our campaign that we didn’t know about.”
The FBI insists that exposing the informant’s identity would present a risk to his or her life, but media reports suggest the informant was Stefan Halper, a Cambridge professor who allegedly met with Mr. Papadopoulos in October 2016 and asked him if he knew about “hacking the emails from Russia.” One year later, Papadopoulos admitted to making false statements to the FBI.
Democrats claim Trump's demand for an investigation is a tactic to distract from the Mueller probe.
House Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) called Trump's claims about a spy "nonsense" and accused him of spreading false information that threatens to undermine our institutions.
Former CIA Director John Brennan criticized Trump’s demand as a “self-serving action” and urged Senator Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan to stop him from “continuing along this disastrous path.”
Along with Trump’s demand for an investigation came calls for Mueller to end what has become a “$20,000,000 Witch Hunt composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years,” tweeted Trump on Sunday. The President also called on authorities to investigate Hillary Clinton and accused Mueller of prolonging his investigation so he can “take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party.”
Author’s Note: This rumor is a big deal, and it is coming out at the worst time for Republicans, who should be focused on the upcoming elections. Trump is right to demand an investigation, but wrong if he trusts the DOJ to investigate itself. Depending on what happens, we could see multiple firings within the agency.