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 Trump’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 Rosenstein 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.”
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 Nunes (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 Mueller’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.