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Former intel director: The intent was not to spy on Trump’s campaign

Former intel director: The intent was not to spy on Trump’s campaign
© Greg Nash

Former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert Clapper140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack The biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community MORE denied on Wednesday that the FBI sought to spy on President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE's campaign, saying that the bureau used an informant to "determine what the Russians were up to."

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"The intent though … was not to spy on the campaign, but rather to determine what the Russians were up to," Clapper said on PBS's "NewsHour."

"Were they trying to penetrate the campaign, gain access, gain leverage, gain influence?" he continued. "That was the concern the FBI had, and I think they were just doing their job in trying to protect out political system."

President Trump and his allies have raised concerns in recent days about the FBI's use of a top-secret informant, who met with at least three Trump campaign officials during the 2016 presidential election. 

Trump himself has suggested that his campaign was infiltrated by government agents for political purposes. He tweeted on Wednesday that, if the FBI did spy on his campaign, it "could be one of the biggest political scandals in history."

The role of the informant, who has been identified in multiple media reports as Stefan Halper, an American academic and former staffer in the Nixon, Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, has come under scrutiny by some Republicans, who have expressed concern that the Obama administration sought to spy on the Trump campaign.

There is no evidence that the informant was planted within the campaign to gather dirt on Trump and his associates.

Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesOvernight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he Hillicon Valley: Biden administration sanctions Russia for SolarWinds hack, election interference Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats hearing MORE (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, subpoenaed the Justice Department earlier this month for all records related to the informant. That request was initially denied, out of concern that providing the documents could endanger the source and his associates.

The White House said this week that chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE would convene a meeting of law enforcement and intelligence officials and a select group of Republican lawmakers to "review highly classified and other information" about the informant. White House officials and Democrats reportedly will not be present.