Dems after briefing: ‘No evidence’ spy placed in Trump campaign
Congressional Democrats said after a closed-door briefing with top Justice Department officials Thursday that there is “no evidence” that the FBI placed a spy in the Trump campaign, hitting back at a claim by President Trump.
“Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told reporters.
Schiff said he was reading the statement on behalf of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who also attended the meeting.
The statement came after FBI, Justice Department and intelligence officials held two meetings to brief lawmakers about an FBI informant who has become the latest controversy in the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
The informant reportedly had contact with three members of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has asserted without evidence that the Justice Department put a “spy” in his campaign.
“Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit,” Trump tweeted last week, quoting Fox Business Network anchor David Asman.
“Really bad stuff!” the president added.
“Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit.” David Asman @LouDobbs @GreggJarrett
Really bad stuff!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2018
Reps. Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Schiff – the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, respectively – attended the first meeting at the Justice Department on Thursday, which was also arranged for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
The second meeting included members of the “Gang of Eight,” which is composed of the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate as well as the top Republicans and Democrats on the intelligence committees in both chambers.
Democrats blasted House Republicans and the White House over the first meeting, a closed-door briefing in which only Republicans were initially invited. It was later revealed that Schiff, the top House Intelligence Committee Democrat, attended both meetings.
Warner, leaving the broader bipartisan meeting, referred to the first briefing as “rogue.”
“I call the noon meeting a rogue meeting,” he told reporters. “The Gang of Eight meeting … I hope they will continue with that appropriate process on any kind of effort going forward.”
In addition to DOJ, FBI and intelligence officials, Emmet Flood – a White House lawyer handling the Russia investigation – and White House chief of staff John Kelly stopped by both meetings Thursday.
“Neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.
Warner confirmed that White House staff left before the “substance” of the meeting started, but said their appearance at the meeting was itself unusual.
“Never seen a Gang of Eight meeting that included any presence from the White House staff,” he said.
“Those individuals left before the substance began. Unusual times.”
– Katie Bo contributed reporting
Updated: 5:10 p.m.