President Trump’s feud with the Justice Department escalated dramatically over the weekend amid reports of an FBI informant snooping around his campaign, and now the president is calling on the embattled agency to investigate itself.
In a tweet on Sunday, the president said he will officially call for an investigation to determine the extent of the FBI’s infiltration into his campaign and where the order originated.
“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” the president tweeted.
The demand was made days after media reports identified Cambridge professor Stefan Halper, 73, as the FBI informant who met with several members of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016.
A foreign policy analyst and veteran of several Republican administrations, Mr. Halper reportedly requested a meeting in London with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, which Mr. Papadopoulos accepted. In the early October meeting, Mr. Halper reportedly asked, “George, you know about hacking the emails from Russia, right?”
Mr. Trump equated the tactic with spying and said it could go down as the “all time biggest political scandal!”
Mr. Papadopoulos would become the subject of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential race. The Trump campaign’s former foreign policy adviser pleaded guilty in October to making false statements to the FBI.
In a statement Sunday night, Sarah Isgur Flores, director of public affairs at the Justice Department, said the department’s watchdog has been asked to look into the accusations of improper surveillance.
“The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election,” Ms. Flores said. “As always, the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct.”
Rep. Mark Meadows, North Carolina Republican and chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Mr. Trump is making the right call.
But he also said the Justice Department can’t be impartial about policing itself. He pointed to the department’s refusal to turn over to the House documents outlining the scope of Mr. Mueller’s investigation.
“We’ve seen disturbing evidence that the FBI engaged in political targeting,” Mr. Meadows tweeted. “But the DOJ can’t be trusted to investigate themselves — Congress needs the documents too. [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein: where are the documents? Show Americans the truth.”
Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the idea that the FBI spied on the Trump campaign is nonsense.
“The most I can tell you, Chuck, is that this claim by the president, the suggestion by [Rudolph W.] Giuliani that there is a political spy embedded in the Trump campaign, is nonsense,” Mr. Schiff told Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And you hear it in the same terms that Trump often speaks, which is ‘people are saying,’ or ‘I’m hearing,’ or ‘We’re being told.’ That’s another way of saying, ‘This is patently untrue, but we would like to spread it anyway.’ And it’s singularly destructive of our institutions, but then that’s the point.”
If reports of the informant are true, Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House intelligence committee, said it’s a “red line” that the FBI should not be allowed to cross.
“If they paid someone, it’s an absolute red line, and this is over with,” he said. “I mean, there is no possible way that we should be allowing, even if it was legal, we should never allow this in this country. Congress should not allow for anything like this to ever occur again to any political campaign, if it in fact happened.”
Mr. Nunes, who has accused the Justice Department of stonewalling congressional document requests, said it’s impossible to tell how many informants were working to infiltrate the Trump campaign.
“We don’t know if there’s one informant or more informants because there’s so much out there now,” he said. “It’s really getting tough to follow, and all we’re asking for is give us the documentation that you used to start this investigation.”
Mr. Nunes also questioned the timing of the media reports about the FBI’s informant, effectively accusing at least some people within the Justice Department of trying to set him up.
He said the Justice Department had invited him and Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, to a meeting Friday, which the lawmakers declined to attend after information from a previous meeting was leaked to the press.
“They were trying to get Mr. Gowdy and I to go on Friday to the Department of Justice for supposedly another briefing,” Mr. Nunes said. “We said, ‘Look, unless we’re going to get documents.’ We found out Thursday night they were not going to provide documents, so therefore we’re not going to go. Now, if you look what happened on Friday night, probably the mother of all leaks of all time to two major newspapers that came out late Friday night. Now had Mr. Gowdy and I went to that meeting, you can bet they would have tried to pin that on us.”
The accusations of spying have emerged as patience with Mr. Mueller’s investigation grows thin. The president’s allies point out that no evidence of collusion with a foreign adversary has been made public.
Roger Stone, a longtime Trump aide, said it’s “not inconceivable” that Mr. Mueller will try to “conjure up” a crime completely unrelated to the 2016 campaign.
“I can guarantee you they have found no evidence whatsoever of Russian collusion, nor trafficking of allegedly hacked emails with WikiLeaks,” Mr. Stone said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It is not inconceivable no-w that Mr. Mueller and his team may seek to conjure up some extraneous crime pertaining to my business or maybe not even pertaining to the 2016 election.”
On Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, for evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.
Mr. Warner said that is the “endpoint question that we’re going to have to deal with.”
“But have you seen any evidence of that?” Mr. Tapper shot back.
Mr. Warner pointed to the Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer who was offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. He said the meeting shows that the Trump campaign was “receptive to these kinds of offers” and may be indicative of a pattern.
“Now, did the president know about that meeting or not? I don’t know,” Mr. Warner said. “I’d like to get the answer to that.”
Mr. Tapper remained skeptical.
“Still, as far as the public knows,” Mr. Tapper said, “no evidence of anybody in the Trump team accepting the offers of help, no evidence of actual conspiracy that we know of yet, that we in the public know of yet. And you’re not willing to comment on whether or not you’ve seen evidence of that conspiracy.”
⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.
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