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story.lead_photo.caption President Donald Trump talks to visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in as he departs the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has branded his latest attempt to discredit the special counsel's Russia investigation as "spygate," part of a strategy embraced by his Republican colleagues to raise suspicions about the probe that has dogged his presidency since the start.

Trump now is zeroing in on reports that a longtime U.S. government informant approached members of his 2016 campaign during the presidential election in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election.

Trump's latest broadsides set the stage for a decision by the White House to arrange a briefing about classified documents for just two Republican House members, both Trump allies, in a meeting expected Thursday, as Trump and his supporters in Congress press for information on the outside informant.

After Democratic complaints, the White House said late Wednesday that it would also give an additional briefing to group of lawmakers known as the "Gang of Eight" after the Memorial Day recess. That group includes the top Republicans and Democrats in each chamber and the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

It remains unclear what, if any, spying was done. The White House has given no evidence to support Trump's claim that the Obama administration was trying to spy on his 2016 campaign for political reasons. It's long been known that the FBI was looking into Russian meddling during the campaign and that part of that inquiry touched on the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian figures.

Trump has told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement has conspired against him, according to three people familiar with his recent conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. Trump told one ally this week that he wanted "to brand" the informant a "spy," believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public.

He went on to debut the term "Spygate" on Wednesday, despite its previous associations with a 2007 NFL scandal over videotaping coaches.

Democrats said Wednesday that the briefing — held as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates Trump's campaign and whether it was involved in Russian meddling in the U.S. election — was highly inappropriate and asked for the "Gang of Eight" briefing instead of Thursday's GOP-only meeting. After negotiations with leaders on Capitol Hill Wednesday afternoon, White House spokesman Raj Shah announced the additional bipartisan meeting but said Thursday's briefing would go on.

Some Senate Republicans have asked to be invited to the meeting as well, arguing that they should be included. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Texas Sen. John Cornyn made that request to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Tuesday.

Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said Wednesday evening that they had not yet received a response.

The meeting scheduled for Thursday was encouraged by Trump and brokered by the White House. Expected attendees are FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Justice Department official Edward O'Callaghan, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy.

Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, has been demanding information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. And Trump took up the cause as the White House tries to combat the threat posed by Mueller's investigation.

Trump escalated his efforts to discredit that investigation Wednesday, saying the FBI has been caught in a spy "scandal."

He tweeted: "Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen before! What goes around, comes around!"

Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, tweeted Wednesday morning that the agency's use of secret informants was "tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country."

"Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country," he said. "How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?

Trump told reporters in response: "What I'm doing is a service to this country and I did a great service to this country by firing James Comey."

The back and forth between Congress and the Justice Department over the Nunes request — one of many over the course of the Russia investigation — has been simmering for weeks.

The department originally rejected Nunes' appeal, writing in a letter in late April that his request for information "regarding a specific individual" could have severe consequences, including potential loss of human life. Negotiations over the information stalled, but restarted when Trump demanded in a tweet Sunday that the Justice Department investigate "whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes."

The Justice Department agreed by expanding an open, internal investigation to determine whether there was any politically motivated surveillance. And the White House said Kelly would organize the meeting with House lawmakers to discuss the documents, although he and other White House staffers would not be present.

The New York Times was the first to report that the FBI had an informant who met several times with Trump campaign officials who had suspicious contacts linked to Russia. No evidence has emerged to show that Obama-era authorities placed an informant inside the Trump campaign.

Separately on Wednesday, Mueller's prosecutors asked a federal judge to start the process of sentencing former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who has been a key witness in the investigation since his plea last year to lying to the FBI.

Prosecutors had been pushing off Papadopoulos' sentencing for months as he cooperated in the probe. Information about Papadopoulos' contact with people linked to Russia during the 2016 campaign triggered the FBI counterintelligence investigation that Mueller took over.

Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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  • 3WorldState1
    May 23, 2018 at 11:18 a.m.

    God this guy is an idiot. A corrupt, lying idiot.

  • hah406
    May 23, 2018 at 11:22 a.m.

    Like many things in Trump's world, this simply is not true. A confidential informant is only a "spy" to a mafia boss. To everyone else, it is a legitimate investigative tactic utilized when there is a strong suspicion of criminal activity. In this case, known Russian interference with the election. I think Trump is going off because the CI here may be the key to many truths that Trump has lied about, and that may lead to many charges against him and his family members.

  • PopMom
    May 23, 2018 at 12:52 p.m.

    Trump is frightening with his lies and twisting of the truth and attacks on the media. He is every bit the wannabe dictator.

  • glh05230944
    May 23, 2018 at 1:54 p.m.

    Herr Pervert continues to display the behavioral pattern of a Russian agent.

  • mrcharles
    May 23, 2018 at 4 p.m.

    YOu are commanded to not seeth a kid in its mother's milk.

    I believe this means trump is enjoined from seethes. I know this stuff doesnt make sense, but , you are just not reading it right.

  • Packman
    May 23, 2018 at 4:40 p.m.

    President Trump has the hammer down on this truly terrifying event (weaponizing the FBI and DOJ against a private citizen for purely political purposes), and more power to him. This isn't going to end well for Loretta Lynch, James Comey, James Clapper, and others. It must always be remembered the political elites never for a second thought Hillary would lose and this would have all been swept under the rug. But President Trump won and America is seeing just how corrupt some of our finest institutions became under BH Obama.
    Hey hah - You're going to be eating a lot of crow on this one, mark my words. The evidence is the way the narrative changed over the past several months. First, President Trump was called batsh*t crazy for saying his campaign was "wiretapped" and was proven to be absolutely correct. Now, the narrative has gone from "Trump's batsh*t crazy" to "Yes we did it but Trump deserved it and why is he worried if there is nothing to be afraid of".
    And your silly parsing of "informant" versus "spy" is, well, just silly. MAGA one exposed corrupt political elite at a time.

  • itryed
    May 23, 2018 at 8:19 p.m.

    December 7, 1941
    September 11,2001
    November 8, 2016

  • WGT
    May 23, 2018 at 8:51 p.m.

    Trump will go out. He’ll put up a ruckus, for sure. But he’s a goner. Orange loopy. He keeps making up bigger tales to distract. Mueller needs to be left alone.

  • RobertBolt
    May 23, 2018 at 9:58 p.m.

    Clapper recently stated that Russian actions were themselves sufficient to be decisive in turning the election, and nobody free to speak would know better than him. Trump is the very definition of a Manchurian candidate.
    Listen to the latest dire warnings from Senator Flake. Our democracy is engaged in an intensifying struggle with existential questions.
    Pay attention as the Republicans subjugate justice to Trump's personal benefit. Don't be fooled by lies and distractions. Disregard the trolls. Be ready.

  • itryed
    May 23, 2018 at 10:09 p.m.

    This is of an indictment of those who voted for Trump. Turns out to be a horrible mistake, but those whovoted for him had that right; but NOW is the time to put live for your country to the forefront. Remember, another Republican slides into the seat. ( lovefor your country). Everyone gets a do over in November and 2020. Those of you that voted for Trump, step up