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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump speaks Thursday during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Oval Office. Earlier, Trump tweeted his frustration with “the disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt” as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation enters its second year.

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump sought to lend credence Thursday to reports that FBI informants had infiltrated his presidential campaign, saying that "if so, this is bigger than Watergate!"

Trump made the comment on the anniversary of Robert Mueller's appointment as special counsel to head the Justice Department investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump campaign officials. Trump has repeatedly called the investigation a "witch hunt."

"Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI [the following was in all capital letters] 'spied on the Trump campaign with an embedded informant,'" Trump tweeted, referring to former President Barack Obama. "Andrew McCarthy says, 'There's probably no doubt that they had at least one confidential informant in the campaign.' If so, this is bigger than Watergate!"

McCarthy, a Republican former federal prosecutor and a contributing editor at the National Review, wrote an article published last week headlined "Did the FBI Have a Spy in the Trump Campaign?"

McCarthy also appeared on Fox & Friends, the Fox News Channel morning show that Trump regularly watches, shortly before the president's tweet speculating about FBI informants inside Trump's campaign.

The New York Times reported separately this week that at least one government informant met several times with Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, both former foreign policy advisers on Trump's Republican campaign. The newspaper attributed the information to current and former FBI officials.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said if the reports are proved true, "it should certainly be looked into."

The Watergate scandal in the early 1970s occurred after a break-in by five men at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington and subsequent attempts by the administration of President Richard Nixon to hide its involvement. Nixon, a Republican, ultimately resigned from office as a result of the ensuing investigation.

In the year since Mueller was appointed special counsel, Trump has considered firing Mueller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein -- actions that also have drawn parallels to the Watergate investigation, in which Nixon ordered his attorney general and deputy attorney general to fire the special prosecutor investigating abuses in the 1972 presidential election. Both Justice Department officials resigned rather than carrying out Nixon's order.

The president's allies Thursday seized on the FBI informant reports.

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, speaking Thursday on Fox and Friends, said he was "shocked to hear that they put a spy in the campaign of a major-party candidate, maybe two spies."

The former New York mayor added: "We're going to have to look into whether we can challenge the legitimacy of the entire investigation. Maybe a special counsel, special prosecutor, never should have been appointed."

Kellyanne Conway, Trump's 2016 campaign manager who now is a White House adviser, also appeared on Fox & Friends on Thursday and said, "It looks like the Trump campaign may have been surveilled."

Still, Giuliani said, the president wants to testify in the Russia probe -- but he will do so only if "we feel there's a way to shorten this thing." He added that Trump remains eager to offer his "side of the case."

GIULIANI WEIGHS IN

Giuliani has been urging Mueller's team to wrap up the investigation now that the probe has reached the one-year mark.

Giuliani's team has been weighing whether to allow Trump to sit for an interview with Mueller. He said the legal team is "pretty comfortable, in the circumstances of this case, that they wouldn't be able to subpoena him personally."

While the Supreme Court has never definitively ruled on the subject, it appears that a sitting president could be forced to testify. In 1974, justices held unanimously that a president could be compelled to comply with a subpoena for tapes and documents.

If Trump were subpoenaed and did not want to testify, he could invoke his constitutional right not to testify against himself and decline to answer questions. But that act would pose significant political risk.

Giuliani on Thursday also repeated that Mueller's team has indicated it would not attempt to indict Trump. Justice Department legal opinions from 1973 and 2000 have suggested that a sitting president is immune from indictment and that criminal charges would undermine the commander in chief's ability to do the job.

On Wednesday, Giuliani told Fox News Channel's Laura Ingraham that Mueller "has all the facts to make a decision."

"Mueller should now bring this to a close," Giuliani said. "It's been a year. He's gotten 1.4 million documents, he's interviewed 28 witnesses. And he has nothing, which is why he wants to bring the president into an interview."

So far, the special counsel's office has charged 19 people -- including four Trump campaign advisers -- and three Russian companies. Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and former deputy campaign chairman, Rick Gates, have pleaded guilty and are now cooperating in the probe.

On Thursday, reports surfaced that the former son-in-law of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was talking with Mueller's team.

Jeffrey Yohai has been so busy with the investigation that he's been unable to keep up with his other legal issues, according to a court filing and a lawyer involved in a civil lawsuit against him.

The confirmation of his involvement with Mueller's ongoing investigation comes as he has been caught up in another investigation in New York and has reportedly cut a plea deal with federal prosecutors in California. The developments could add pressure to Manafort, who suffered a setback in his legal defense earlier this week after a judge denied his motion to dismiss charges filed against him.

The two criminal cases filed against Manafort by the special counsel's office accuse him of bank fraud, tax evasion, acting as an unregistered foreign agent and false statements related to his political work in Ukraine as well as loans he took out to purchase U.S. properties.

Manafort has pleaded innocent and denied any wrongdoing.

Trump on Thursday continued to pan the special counsel's investigation as a "Witch Hunt" intended to discredit his presidency.

In a second morning tweet, Trump said: "Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History ... and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!"

And in a third tweet, Trump said, "Despite the disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt, we have had the most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history -- by far! Sorry to the Fake News Media and 'Haters,' but that's the way it is!"

Mueller, for his part, hasn't uttered one word in public about his Russia investigation in the year since he was appointed special counsel.

With lawmakers eyeing midterm elections and Trump publicly mulling over whether he will sit for an interview with Mueller, Republican calls are growing for the special counsel to end his investigation.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has steadfastly supported the special counsel, seemed to change his tone a bit Thursday.

"I think he should be free to do his job, but I would like to see it get wrapped up, of course," Ryan said of Mueller. "I mean we want to see this thing come to its conclusion, but again I've always said he should be free to finish his job."

Information for this article was contributed by Darlene Superville, Mary Clare Jalonick, Eric Tucker, Chad Day, Tom LoBianco, Andrew Taylor and Jake Pearson of The Associated Press; by Philip Rucker of The Washington Post; and by Eileen Sullivan of The New York Times.

Photo by AP file photo
In a photo from Wednesday, May 9, 2012, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller appears before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington.

A Section on 05/18/2018

Print Headline: Speculation FBI infiltrated camp stirs up Trump; If factual, president tweets, it’s ‘bigger than Watergate’

Comments

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  • TimberTopper
    May 18, 2018 at 5:28 a.m.

    Not bigger than Watergate, as usual he just spouts out something not true.

  • hah406
    May 18, 2018 at 8:07 a.m.

    How about this. It isn't "Obama's FBI", it is just the FBI. It operates independent of political parties. And what if we don't use the term "spy." What if it was actually an under cover agent investigating allegations of actual crimes being committed by the Trump campaign, of which there have been many. Trump continues to attempt to delegitimize the Mueller probe like only a guilty man would.

  • BOLTAR
    May 18, 2018 at 8:41 a.m.

    If one is considering the nature of the offenses proven under Nixon and credibly alleged under Trump, I believe this situation actually is much worse than Watergate. Nixon's offenses involved domestic actors and the abuse of authority to undercut institutions of government and to obstruct justice, and Trump's alleged offenses include all of these actions, too. What makes this situation worse is Trump's alleged collusion with foreign foes to benefit himself both politically and financially, as well as his ongoing and rampant violation of the emoluments clause in the Constitution. So, in this rare instance and for very different reasons, I agree with Trump's conclusion as to the relative severity of the two situations to the extent the facts and allegations are presently known. Ultimately, Trump's offenses may very well surpass Nixon's by orders of magnitude.

  • 3WorldState1
    May 18, 2018 at 8:51 a.m.

    Squirrel!

  • BOLTAR
    May 18, 2018 at 9:29 a.m.

    Yelled the golden retriever with the world's worst comb-over.

  • itryed
    May 18, 2018 at 9:45 a.m.

    Like Jack reaching for that plank of wood when he fell off Titanic

  • mozarky2
    May 18, 2018 at 9:51 a.m.

    Problem is, hah, the FBI was acting in concert with higher-ups in the government to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
    Laugh if you like "progs", but some mighty big heads are going to roll.

  • BOLTAR
    May 18, 2018 at 10:07 a.m.

    Two things about government officials overturning the results of an election: 1) This is called impeachment (which responsibly relies on evidence obtained by investigators), and 2) This is a Constitutional provision for preserving our Constitution and for protecting the rights of the people governed under its provisions, so we actually get to have more elections.

  • hah406
    May 18, 2018 at 10:17 a.m.

    moz, that sounds as crazy as Hillary claiming there was a giant conspiracy against her. If it were true that some "higher ups" were trying to overturn the election results, who are they? Why hasn't anyone leaked their names and provided evidence of that? The undisputed facts are that the Russians interfered in the election with the specific intent of helping Trump and hurting Clinton, and it appears very likely that they did so in concert with Don Jr., Paul Mannafort, Michael Cohen, and other close Trump associates and family.

  • GeneralMac
    May 18, 2018 at 10:21 a.m.

    (2nd post)

    haha406 says............" it operates independent of political parties"

    If you believe that, I have some ocean front property still for sale in Harrison AR.

    4 branches of govt ?

    Judicial
    Legislative
    Executive
    FBI

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