Trump Demands DOJ Probe FBI Role 05/21 06:05
President Donald Trump said he will "demand" that the Justice Department
investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign, an
extraordinary order that came hours before his legal team said the special
counsel indicated the investigation into the president could be concluded by
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump said he will "demand" that the
Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential
campaign, an extraordinary order that came hours before his legal team said the
special counsel indicated the investigation into the president could be
concluded by September.
Trump tweeted Sunday: "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!"
Trump's demand puts further pressure on the Justice Department, which later
Sunday asked its inspector general to expand an existing investigation into the
Russia probe by examining whether there was any improper politically motivated
surveillance. It comes as the White House tries to combat the threat posed by
special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into potential ties between
Russia and the Trump campaign.
The president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said Mueller recently shared a
timetable that suggested his probe could end by Sept. 1 if Trump were to sit
for an interview in July, which is the legal team's new working plan.
"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."
Giuliani said he did not want a repeat of what happened in 2016, when FBI
Director James Comey announced in the campaign's final days that he was
reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email
server, a decision Democrats believe cost Clinton the race. Giuliani, the
former mayor of New York, also said Mueller's team indicated that the entire
probe could end by September, not just its investigation into potential
obstruction of justice.
"This would be the culmination of the investigation into the president,"
The special counsel's office did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not certain that Trump will sit for an interview with Mueller, though
the president has publicly said he would. Giuliani said a decision would not be
made until after Trump's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in
Singapore, which is slated for June 12. Giuliani said Sunday the two sides
"were getting closer" to agreeing on the parameters on a potential interview
but would not put the odds of it happening at better than 50/50.
Giuliani's apparent attempt to publicly pressure Mueller on the timeline
amid interview negotiations came just hours after Trump's demand for a new
inquiry, which moved beyond his usual blustery accusations of institutional
wrongdoing and into the realm of applying presidential pressure on the Justice
Department, a move few of his predecessors have made.
Trump made the order amid days of public venting about the special counsel
investigation, which he has deemed a "witch hunt" that he says has yielded no
evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russia. In response, the Justice
Department moved Sunday to defuse a growing confrontation with the White House
by asking its watchdog to investigate whether there was inappropriate
It was not immediately clear if that move would satisfy Trump, or if any
further demands could lead to a confrontation with FBI Director Christopher
Wray or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Mueller
investigation. Rosenstein released a statement Sunday saying, "If anyone did
infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate
purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action."
The Justice Department probe had begun in March at the request of Attorney
General Jeff Sessions and congressional Republicans. Sessions and the lawmakers
had urged Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review whether FBI and Justice
Department officials abused their surveillance powers by using information
compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, and paid for by Democrats
to justify monitoring Carter Page, a former campaign adviser to Trump.
Horowitz said his office will look at those claims as well as communications
between Steele and DOJ and FBI officials.
Trump did not elaborate on the promised "demand," which he included in one
of a series of tweets he sent throughout the day Sunday. On Saturday, Trump
tweeted, "If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of
another campaign, that is a really big deal." He said only the release or
review of documents the House Intelligence Committee is seeking from the
Justice Department "can give conclusive answers."
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee, called Trump's claim of an embedded spy "nonsense."
"His 'demand' DOJ investigate something they know to be untrue is an abuse
of power, and an effort to distract from his growing legal problems," Schiff
tweeted. "Never mind that DOJ has warned that lives and alliances are at risk.
He doesn't care."
Trump's extraordinary demand of the Justice Department alarmed many
observers, who felt it not only violated presidential protocol but also could
have a chilling effect on federal law enforcement or its use of informants.
Giuliani defended the president's actions.
"As the president's lawyer, I can't be concerned on what effect it may
have," he said. "To me, there's not much of a difference between an informant's
ongoing collection of information in a surreptitious way or a spy.
"If this guy was an FBI implant into the campaign," Giuliani said, "that's
as offensive as Watergate."
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.
Giuliani said the information discovered by the source should eventually be
made public and released to Congress, even if the source's identity is kept
The GOP-led House Intelligence Committee closed its Russian meddling probe
last month, saying it found no evidence of collusion or coordination between
Trump's campaign and Russia. Schiff and other committee Democrats were furious
and argued that Republicans had not subpoenaed many witnessed they considered
essential to the committee's work.
Sunday was not the first time that Trump accused his predecessor of
politically motivated activity against him.
Without substantiation, Trump tweeted in March 2017 that former President
Barack Obama had conducted surveillance the previous October at Trump Tower,
the New York skyscraper where Trump ran his campaign and transition and
maintains a residence. Comey later testified to Congress that internal reviews
found no information to support the president's tweets. Trump fired Comey over
the bureau's Russia investigation.