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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 
September.

   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," 
Giuliani said.

   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 
surveillance.

   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 
confidential.

   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.


(KA)

 
 
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