DOJ, Trump reach deal on expanded Russia review

President TrumpDonald John TrumpConway defends herself against Hatch Act allegations amid threat of subpoena How to defuse Gulf tensions and avoid war with Iran Trump says 'stubborn child' Fed 'blew it' by not cutting rates MORE and the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday reached an agreement to allow the inspector general to investigate conservative claims of FBI wrongdoing in the Russia probe, defusing at least for now a burgeoning crisis between the White House and senior law enforcement officials.  

After summoning top DOJ, FBI and intelligence officials to the White House, Trump agreed the DOJ’s inspector general should “expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Justice Department already referred the matter to Inspector General Michael Horowitz on Sunday after Trump demanded that the department probe the FBI’s use of a confidential source in its investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia in 2016.

But the White House also said chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE plans to “immediately set up a meeting” between top law enforcement officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill to “review” the “highly classified” materials that sparked the standoff.

It is unclear what, exactly, the members of Congress will be allowed to examine.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHillicon Valley: Hacker group targeted electric grid | House Democrats press CBP over facial recognition program | Senators offer bill to protect health data | Groups file FCC complaint over carriers' use of location data Lawmakers grapple with deepfake threat at hearing Intel hearing showcases political divide over Mueller report MORE (R-Calif.), a vocal Trump supporter, has subpoenaed the Justice Department for information related to the source. The law enforcement agency granted Nunes a meeting earlier this month — but has so far rebuffed his demand for documents.

The announcement came after Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinTrump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake Trump blasts Mueller, decries 'witch hunt' at 2020 launch Trump: I didn't fire Mueller since firings 'didn't work out too well' for Nixon MORE, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsCNN's Jake Tapper repeatedly presses Pence on whether he thinks climate change is a threat Hillicon Valley: Tim Cook visits White House | House hearing grapples with deepfake threat | Bill, Melinda Gates launch lobbying group | Tech turns to K-Street in antitrust fight | Lawsuit poses major threat to T-Mobile, Sprint merger House Intel to take first major deep dive into threat of 'deepfakes' MORE to discuss his ultimatum, which raised alarm bells in Washington.

Trump took to Twitter on Sunday to claim his campaign may have been “infiltrated or surveilled … for Political Purposes” and said the DOJ should look into whether “any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

The extraordinary demand from Trump set up a potential crisis with the Justice Department. Although the DOJ is part of the executive branch, most presidents have refrained from requesting specific investigations in order to avoid the appearance of wielding improper political influence.

But Trump has increasingly broken those constraints, as he and his allies in Congress have mounted a furious verbal fusillade against the Russia probe.

Trump’s response suggests Rosenstein was able to thread the needle by assuaging the president’s concerns while stopping short of carrying out a full-fledged investigation at his request.

At the same time, it would be a significant victory for Nunes if he is able to view documents related to the early days of the Russia probe, which he has requested for months.

The Justice Department had refused to provide Nunes with the information he sought about the source on the basis that doing so would endanger this person’s life. Wray made an impassioned defense of the need to protect confidential sources to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Rosenstein has also publicly pushed back against Nunes’s efforts to obtain information on the start of the Trump campaign probe, saying that the Justice Department would not be “extorted.”

But Trump had backed the Intelligence Committee chief, whom he praised as “courageous” on Monday during a swearing-in ceremony for the new CIA director, and threatened to personally intervene in the dispute.

Several House Republicans — backed by the president — have publicly suggested that the FBI used the secret intelligence source to entrap members of the Trump campaign. The bureau, Nunes has alleged, never had enough information to open a counterintelligence investigation into the campaign in the first place.

There is no public evidence of wrongdoing by either the intelligence source or the bureau, which regularly uses confidential informants in validly predicated counterintelligence investigations.

Critics say Nunes and other conservative lawmakers on Capitol Hill are seeking the documents in order to muddy the waters around special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump Schiff says Intel panel will hold 'series' of hearings on Mueller report MORE’s investigation.

“The demand for additional information about the scope and other details regarding the special counsel’s ongoing investigation is ... misplaced,” said Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinYoung activists press for change in 2020 election The Hill's Morning Report — US strikes approved against Iran pulled back Democrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Department regulations protect this type of information from disclosure to Congress for legitimate investigative and privacy reasons.”

But his supporters see a complex and wide-ranging internal effort to thwart the Trump campaign within the Obama-era Justice Department, citing the FBI’s use of a controversial piece of opposition research in its investigation.

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump: Appointing Sessions was my biggest mistake Nikki Haley blasts Roy Moore's Senate bid: 'He does not represent our Republican Party' Time magazine: Trump threatened reporter with prison time MORE has already appointed a federal prosecutor to work with the inspector general to look into conservative allegations of surveillance abuse during the 2016 election. John Huber, Utah’s top prosecutor, is working in tandem with Horowitz from outside of Washington.