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DOJ asks watchdog to probe Trump campaign surveillance claims

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has asked its inspector general to look into whether the FBI surveilled President TrumpDonald Trump Pence said he's 'proud' Congress certified Biden's win on Jan. 6 Americans put the most trust in their doctor for COVID-19 information: poll OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Biden administration to evacuate Afghans who helped US l Serious differences remain between US and Iran on nuclear talks l US, Turkish officials meet to discuss security plans for Afghan airport MORE's campaign for "inappropriate purposes."

“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action," Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations MORE said in a statement.

DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said in a separate statement that "the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct."

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The expanded probe, she said, will "include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election."

The DOJ announcement comes just hours after Trump tweeted that he planned to demand on Monday that the department look into whether federal agents spied on his campaign for "political purposes."

The original probe into alleged FBI surveillance abuse was announced in late March, and was focused on whether the department abused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) when it obtained a warrant to surveil former Trump campaign associate Carter Page.

That investigation sprung from claims among some House Republicans that federal officials inappropriately used the so-called Steele dossier to obtain a warrant to surveil Page. 

Trump has spent the last few days sounding the alarm on Twitter about claims that an FBI informant was embedded within his campaign. He has alleged, without evidence, that the FBI sought to spy on his campaign for political purposes, which Trump argued would be a scandal "bigger than Watergate."

The New York Times reported Friday that an FBI informant met with two former Trump campaign advisers, George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, after they'd received information that those two had contacts with Russia.

Republicans have in recent weeks sought access to documents that reveal the identify of the FBI's informant, even as intelligence officials have warned that doing so could threaten lives and national security.

The dispute over the informant is the latest clash between House Republicans and the FBI in recent months.

House Republicans, led by Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesTech privacy practices under scrutiny after DOJ subpoenas GOP's Stefanik defends Trump DOJ secret subpoenas CNN reporter's phone and email records secretly obtained by Trump administration: report MORE (R-Calif.), published a memo in January that detailed alleged FISA abuses. They released the memo despite the FBI warning that doing so would be "extraordinarily reckless."

Democrats have argued that Republican attacks on the FBI and Trump's calls for an internal probe serve only to undermine special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Several Republicans have called for an end to Mueller's investigation, which the president has repeatedly deemed a "witch hunt."

Four former Trump associates and 13 Russian nationals have pleaded guilty or been indicted as part of the investigation thus far.