“If they had spies in my campaign that would be a disgrace to the country,” Trump said.
President Trump doubled down on his unsubstantiated theory Tuesday that the FBI planted “spies” in his campaign, claiming “a lot of people are saying” that’s the case.
“If they had spies in my campaign that would be a disgrace to the country,” Trump told reporters during a press conference at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “That would be one of the biggest insults anyone has ever seen.”
The President’s remarks comes as his Republican allies in Congress are mounting a full-scale offense against special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Trump “spies” claim was likely a reference to Stefan Halper, a Cambridge University professor and foreign policy scholar who worked as a confidential informant for the FBI in the early days of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to multiple reports.
Despite Trump’s suggestions, there’s no evidence that Halper was embedded with the Trump campaign to spy on the FBI’s behalf.
During the campaign, Halper sought out Trump advisers George Papadapolous, Sam Clovis and Carter Page, all of whom had suspicious connections to Russia, according to reports. Papadopolous has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts, and is cooperating with Mueller’s investigators.
Trump has pounced on reports about Halper, suggesting they show the FBI launched its investigation into his campaign out of political bias.
Congressional Republicans have requested records from the Justice Department relating to Halper’s activities, prompting criticism from intelligence experts who say such requests jeopardize the integrity of U. S. law enforcement agencies and its use of confidential sources.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the White House that FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats will brief GOP Reps. Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy about the confidential informant on Thursday. No Democrats will be present for the meeting, Sanders said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tore into Nunes over the development during a searing speech from the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.
“While an investigation is open and active, demands for oversight are tantamount to interference, especially when the folks demanding the information are the most biased, irresponsible actors,” Schumer said, adding Nunes’ own party members think he’s “off the deep end” in some of his defenses of Trump.
Nonetheless, Trump appears to be getting his way.
After the President met with Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the White House on Monday, the Justice Department announced it would expand its investigation into possible political bias within the FBI to include “any irregularities” in the tactics it used in the early days of its probe into the Trump campaign.
During the Tuesday press conference with President Moon, Trump declined to discuss his sit-down with Wray and Rosenstein, only saying it was “very routine.”
Trump also declined to answer whether he has confidence in Rosenstein, who’s overseeing the Mueller investigation.
“What’s your next question, please?” Trump said when asked about the deputy attorney general. “Excuse me, I have the president of South Korea here. He doesn’t want to hear these questions, if you don’t mind.”
With Denis Slattery