WASHINGTON (CN) – The White House said Monday afternoon that the Justice Department has asked the inspector general to expand an ongoing investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the DOJ’s activities regarding the Trump campaign.
The announcement came after President Trump met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
In a statement, the White House said in addition to requesting the investigation of Trump’s claims the FBI placed a mole in his 2016 presidential campaign, Chief of Staff Kelly will set up a meeting between the FBI, DOJ, and congressional leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.
The moves come after a weekend tweet storm by the president in which he claimed the Obama administration improperly surveilled his campaign.
“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!” Trump proclaimed in a Sunday afternoon tweet.
The Justice Department announced later that day that it had asked the inspector general to assess any political impropriety in the FBI’s investigation of any ties between Trump campaign officials and Russia’s disruption of the 2016 election to hurt Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also weighed in on Sunday.
“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Rosenstein said in a statement.
The president’s accusation of surveillance of his campaign arose from theories that have been circulating in conservative media on the right that the FBI used a spy to infiltrate the Trump campaign for political purposes. The president and his allies on Capitol Hill have amplified those theories, without providing evidence, to ratchet up pressure on the Russia probe, which special counsel Robert Mueller took over after President Trump fired former FBI director James Comey about a year ago.
On Friday night, both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported that the FBI used an informant, not a spy, to investigate possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign. Neither publication named the informant to protect his identity, but described him as an American academic who teaches in Britain and a long-time U.S. intelligence source.
According to the New York Times the informant was in contact with three Trump campaign aides – George Papadopoulos, Sam Clovis and Carter Page – but no evidence has yet emerged to suggest that the investigation was politically motivated or that the informant acted improperly.
According to reports, the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation on July 31, 2016 – with Comey still at the helm – after Australian officials reported that Trump foreign policy adviser Papadopoulos and bragged about Russia having damaging material on Hillary Clinton to an Australian official.
Trump has denied any collusion with Russia but has for months railed against the investigation, calling it a “witch hunt.” But his tweets Sunday mark an escalation from criticism to threatened action, which Democrats say is intended to undermine Mueller’s probe. Republicans meanwhile insist they are concerned that the FBI abused its authority.
The president’s tweet storm came just hours after House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes said on Fox News show “Sunday Morning Features” that the use of a paid informant would cross a red line.
“If they paid someone it’s an absolute red line and this is over with,” Nunes said, explaining that it would mean the Russia investigation is a scam.
Nunes has been locked in battle with the Department of Justice for months over documents about the confidential FBI source, which the agency has so far refused to release after Nunes subpoenaed them, saying that doing so could endanger the source and strain U.S. relationships with intelligence allies.
On Sunday, Nunes said he would refuse to meet with the agency until he gets the documents, after threatening earlier this month to hold agency officials in contempt if they don’t disclose them.
On Monday, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates also warned of a red line, cautioning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that President Trump was approaching it.
“What we’re seeing here is that the president has just taken his all-out assault on the rule of law to another level,” she said. “And this time he’s ordering up an investigation of investigators who are examining his own campaign.”