WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump on Sunday demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the agency or the FBI "infiltrated or surveilled" his campaign at the behest of President Barack Obama's administration.
"I hereby demand, and will do so officially [today], that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes," Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon.
In response, the Justice Department asked its Office of the Inspector General to expand its current inquiry into the surveillance of a former Trump campaign official, Carter Page, to include the questions raised by the president.
"If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action," Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, said in a statement. Rosenstein is overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said Sunday that U.S. spy agencies crossed a "red line" if they planted a paid informant inside Trump's campaign.
In an interview Sunday on Fox News Channel, Nunes said he and Republican colleagues have yet to determine whether there was such an informant because the Justice Department and FBI continue to withhold documents from them -- but that there would be consequences if such an informant existed.
"You can't do this to political campaigns," Nunes said.
Democrats including Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, as well as the Justice Department and intelligence leaders, have warned that identifying such a source may put lives in danger.
"If any individual, elected official or otherwise, knowingly reveals a classified piece of information about an FBI source, you are breaking the law and should be fully prosecuted," he said on CNN's State of the Union. Warner said he'd "not seen any evidence" that the FBI planted an informant in Trump's campaign.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that revealing information about any alleged FBI informant would be "a dramatic and new and destructive low" for Republicans in Congress.
But the president's attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, said Sunday that Trump was "doing what the president should do. He's telling the Justice Department the obvious, which is -- they should turn over information gleaned from this source."
Giuliani said he expected the formal order to be issued today.
"We think that's only fair," he said. "If they don't do it, he's the president, the executive branch of a government that's being maligned. He has the right to say, 'Straighten it out.'"
"If this guy was an FBI implant into the campaign," Giuliani added, "that's as offensive as Watergate."
Giuliani also said the special counsel plans to finish the investigation by Sept. 1. He said Sunday that waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in the midterm elections in November.
"You don't want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don't know how it affected the election," Giuliani said, referring to then-FBI Director James Comey's announcement that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. The FBI found no wrongdoing, but Clinton supporters have blamed the announcement for costing her the election.
Mueller's office shared its timeline about two weeks ago amid negotiations over whether Trump will be questioned by investigators, Giuliani said, adding that Mueller's office said the date was contingent on Trump's agreeing to be interviewed. A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.
Giuliani said he and Mueller's office were still hammering out the terms of an interview with the president. He portrayed his client as a willing interview subject, saying that in the president's view, no evidence exists that his associates coordinated with Russia's election interference.
Giuliani said an interview would be a distraction for the president and that the amount of preparation required meant Trump could not sit for questioning until after the scheduled summit between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. Based on that schedule, Giuliani said, the president could be questioned around Independence Day.
"We said to them, 'If we're going to be interviewed in July, how much time until the report gets issued?'" Giuliani told The Associated Press on Sunday, referring to the report Mueller is expected to issue to Congress at the conclusion of his investigation. "They said September, which is good for everyone, because no one wants this to drag into the midterms."
Trump argued Sunday that the special counsel's investigation was "the World's most expensive Witch Hunt," referring to a New York Times report that an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help to Trump's 2016 campaign.
The Times reported that George Nader, purportedly representing the two Persian Gulf states, met with Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, at Trump Tower in August 2016. The meeting was arranged by Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater, a private security firm that has since changed its name.
The president did not challenge the accuracy of the Times' account, but he suggested that the breadth of the inquiry was proof that Mueller's investigation was a partisan exercise geared toward harming Republican congressional candidates.
"At what point does this soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt, composed of 13 Angry and Heavily Conflicted Democrats and two people who have worked for Obama for 8 years, STOP!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
It was not clear where Trump's estimate of the cost of Mueller's inquiry came from. The Justice Department reported at the end of last year that the special counsel's investigation had incurred at least $6.7 million in expenses in its first 4½ months, and the department hasn't yet released a report about its spending in the 2018 fiscal year. Trump's own budget allocated $10 million for his office for fiscal 2019.
The president has often alleged that Mueller, a Republican, is leading a team of Democratic activists who are out to get him, citing reports that some of his investigators are Democrats who supported Clinton. He has also sought to discredit Andrew McCabe, the former deputy FBI director, by noting that his wife ran as a Democrat for political office in Virginia with support and campaign donations from Terry McAuliffe, a close Clinton ally.
"They have found no [collusion] with Russia, No Obstruction, but they aren't looking at the corruption in the Hillary Clinton Campaign where she deleted 33,000 Emails, got $145,000,000 while Secretary of State, paid McCabe's wife $700,000 (and got off the FBI hook along with Terry M) and so much more," Trump wrote.
Information for this article was contributed by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times; by Jonathan Lemire, Darlene Superville and Eric Tucker of The Associated Press; by David Nakamura, Matt Zapotosky, Robert Costa, Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post; and by Billy House and Elizabeth Dexheimer of Bloomberg News.
A Section on 05/21/2018
Print Headline: Informant talk leads president to order inquiry