SPONSORED:

Key Republican publicly defends FBI against Trump criticisms

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) defended the FBI's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election during a Wednesday interview in which he took issue with President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE's characterization of the FBI's use of an informant to gather information on some of his campaign aides.

“I don’t know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia,” said Gowdy, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“I think you would want the FBI to find whether or not there was any validity to what those people were saying,” Gowdy said during an interview with "CBS This Morning." 

ADVERTISEMENT

Gowdy, who is retiring at the end of this Congress, said he did not believe the FBI had done anything out of bounds in its investigation, in which it reportedly deployed an informant to meet with three aides on Trump's campaign.

"Think back to what the president himself told [former FBI Director] James ComeyJames Brien ComeyJohn Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Trump DOJ officials sought to block search of Giuliani records: report Tina Fey, Amy Poehler to host Golden Globes from separate coasts amid pandemic MORE," Gowdy said. "He said, 'I didn't collude with Russia, but if anyone connected with my campaign did, I want you to investigate it.' It strikes me that that's exactly what the FBI was doing."

Asked about Trump's comment about the FBI using a spy on his campaign, Gowdy described that as a term from espionage and not an appropriate description of what the FBI had done.

"That is not a term I've ever used in the criminal justice system," Gowdy said.

“I’ve never heard the term ‘spy’ used,” Gowdy said. “Undercover informant, confidential informant, those are all words I'm familiar with. I've never heard the term spy used."

Gowdy said he had seen no evidence that would suggest a spy was inserted into the Trump campaign, as alleged by the president.

"That's an espionage term, it's not a law enforcement term," he said. 

Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, also defended the use of informants by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, saying he couldn't think of a major case he'd been involved in where confidential sources had not provided information. He emphasized it was up to law enforcement to decide what to do with that information.

Gowdy and two other GOP lawmakers met with FBI Director Christopher Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE and other officials last week for a briefing on the FBI's use of an informant who reportedly met with the three Trump campaign aides in 2016, George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosTrump supporters show up to DC for election protest Trump pardons draw criticism for benefiting political allies Klobuchar: Trump 'trying to burn this country down on his way out' MORE, Carter Page and Sam Clovis.

Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump MORE's investigation into Russia's interference in the presidential election.

Gowdy said he is convinced that if Trump's lawyers showed the president the documents that he and the other congressmen saw, he would conclude that the FBI had done exactly what he had asked Comey to do. 

The Oversight chairman did not directly criticize Trump during the interview, but appeared to suggest that some of the president's tweets and statements about the probe were designed for political branding purposes.

Trump has railed over the FBI's use of an informant, repeatedly describing it as a spy and sometimes suggesting a spy had been embedded in his campaign. 

The remarks have widely been seen as part of an effort to hurt the Mueller probe. 

Gowdy, in one curious exchange during the interview, said he had not discussed any of the matters with Trump, saying he had "never met or talked to the president."

When CBS co-host Gayle King expressed surprise at the comment and pressed Gowdy on whether he's ever met the president, he responded, "I've not."