Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has asked Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review a claim reported last week by the New York Times that the Obama administration placed an FBI informant inside the Trump campaign in 2016.
“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Rosenstein said in a statement Sunday.
The request was made shortly after President Trump tweeted that he would “officially” ask “that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”
A source told Fox News that Trump will meet with Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray at 3 p.m. Monday, in a previously scheduled meeting, and the investigation is expected to be a topic of discussion.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, tweeted Sunday night that Trump’s “statement indicating that he will order the Justice Department to investigate the FBI could not be more disturbing and reiterates his deep contempt for the rule of law.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that Trump’s “claim of an embedded ‘spy’ is 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 said. “Never mind that DOJ has warned that lives and alliances are at risk. He doesn’t care.”
Meanwhile, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif, continues to express frustration with the Justice Department over its unwillingness to release documents related to the Russia investigation and the FBI-informant allegation.
Two weeks ago, Nunes threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt of Congress for not complying with a subpoena to turn over the documents. Shortly after issuing the threat, Nunes and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., were briefed by DoJ officials in a closed-door session.
But Nunes and Gowdy canceled a follow-up meeting scheduled for last Friday after they learned the Justice Department had decided not to supply the documents.
On Sunday, Nunes told the Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” with Maria Bartiromo he won’t attend any more meetings with the “leaky” Justice Department until they “show us the documents.”
“We’re not going to go to another meeting where we don’t get documents, and then the meeting leaks out,” Nunes said.
The congressman suggested the FBI could have had more than one informant embedded in the Trump campaign.
“We don’t know if there is one informant of more informants, because there’s so much out there now,” he said.
“We have a right to get the information,” Nunes said. “If James Comey and many others and people who are currently at the Department of Justice today continue to say there’s nothing to see here — well, if there
s nothing to see here, show us the documents we’re asking for.”
Nunes said that if he and Gowdy had attended the planned meeting Friday night, “you can bet they would have tried to pin [the leaks] on us.”
“We had what I thought was a productive meeting, and then, after that meeting, they’ve done nothing but leak and leak and leak. Now, we don’t know exactly who it is over at the Department of Justice or the FBI. I’m not pinning any blame on people. But we’re not going to go to another meeting where we don’t get documents and then the meeting leaks out.”
The House Intelligence Committee reported, after ending a 14-month probe in March, that it found no evidence of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
Trump on Monday turned a spotlight on any role President Obama might have had in the alleged operation by the FBI to infiltrate his campaign.
The New York Times reported last week the “informant” had multiple contacts with members of Trump’s campaign.
Trump tweeted Monday: “The Wall Street Journal asks, “WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS BARACK OBAMA?” A very good question!”
The Wall Street Journal column by James Freeman called on Obama to explain “his administration’s surveillance of affiliates of a presidential campaign,” noting Obama was likely “fairly well-informed” of the activities of his law enforcement agencies.
Obama’s involvement was mentioned in a text between FBI agent Peter Strzok and agency lawyer Lisa Page, which said — amid the investigation of Russia-Trump campaign collusion — that Obama who wanted to “know everything we’re doing.”
Obama CIA Director John Brennan, now an MSNBC and NBC contributor, shot back at Trump on Monday, warning Republican congressional leaders not to comply with the president’s request for an investigation.
Brennan tweeted: “Senator McConnell & Speaker Ryan: If Mr. Trump continues along this disastrous path, you will bear major responsibility for the harm done to our democracy. You do a great disservice to our Nation & the Republican Party if you continue to enable Mr. Trump’s self-serving actions.”
Brennan also quoted the Roman philosopher Cicero: “Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.”
Trump returned fire at Brennan in a series of tweets, saying the former CIA director is “panicking” and has “disgraced” himself, the country and the intelligence community.
“He is the one man who is largely responsible for the destruction of American’s faith in the Intelligence Community and in some people at the top of the FBI.”
Trump said it’s known that Brennan had “detailed knowledge” of the unverified anti-Trump dossier funded by Democrats based on unnamed Russian sources, which allegedly was used to launch the probes of his campaign.
Informant story ‘a very big deal’
The New York Times reported May 16 an operation, codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” obtained phone records and other documents, and had at least one “government informant” in the Trump campaign who met several times with campaign volunteers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.
The Times also said the FBI was worried that disclosure of its surveillance of the Trump campaign would “only reinforce his claims that the election was being rigged against him.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley Strassel said in a series of tweets that the Times story, which “all of us following this knew had to be coming,” was an attempt by FBI and Justice Department leakers “to get in front of the facts” that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes “is forcing out, to make it not sound so bad.”
“Don’t buy it. It’s bad,” she writes, noting the Times slipped in the information “far down” in the story to make out “like it isn’t a big deal.”
“It is a very big deal.”
Former U.S. attorney Andrew McCarthy wrote in a National Review column that the Times’ “buried lede” makes “explicit, with studious understatement” that the Obama administration “used its counterintelligence powers to investigate the opposition party’s presidential campaign.”
“That is, there was no criminal predicate to justify an investigation of any Trump-campaign official,” McCarthy said. “So, the FBI did not open a criminal investigation. Instead, the bureau opened a counterintelligence investigation and hoped that evidence of crimes committed by Trump officials would emerge.”
He wrote it is “an abuse of power to use counterintelligence powers, including spying and electronic surveillance, to conduct what is actually a criminal investigation.”
Horowitz report coming soon
Horowitz has turned over to congressional and Justice Department officials a draft report of his probe of the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server to transmit classified information. The report likely will be released to the public within the next three or four weeks.
For more than a year, Horowitz examined allegations such as whether or not it was improper for Comey to make a public announcement about the FBI’s decision not to refers charges to the Justice Department in the Clinton investigation.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe also is under scrutiny. In April, Horowitz sent a criminal referral for McCabe to the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington in response to his finding that McCabe leaked information to media about the Clinton investigation and lied about it to investigators.
“We will update you on the specific timing for the report’s release, and I will be prepared to provide a briefing and testify publicly about our findings and conclusions as soon as the report is released,” Horowitz said.
In November, Horowitz said his team was looking at whether “certain underlying investigative decisions were based on improper considerations.”
It was Horowitz’s review that uncovered the Strzok-Page anti-Trump texts, including one that referred to an “insurance policy” in case Trump became president. The texts led to Strzok’s removal from Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.