The Justice Department will expand its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to include President Donald Trump’s claims that the FBI planted an informant to spy on his campaign, the White House said Monday.
The announcement came after Trump’s demand for a probe and his meeting Monday with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The White House also said the Justice Department will work with congressional leaders to review “highly classified” documents related to Trump’s claim that someone spied on his campaign.
“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 before Monday’s meeting with Trump.
Trump has alleged the FBI, under former President Barack Obama, planted a spy in his campaign “for political purposes,” calling it the “all-time biggest political scandal.”
The informant’s actual role was to talk with two Trump campaign advisers suspected of having contacts with Russia. There is no evidence the FBI acted illegally.
Several news agencies have identified the informant as Stefan Halper, a 73-year-old American-born professor at Britain’s University of Cambridge, who had worked decades ago in three other Republican administrations.
Ned Price, who served on Obama’s National Security Council, told VOA that Trump’s charge of spying on his campaign is dangerous to American democracy.
Price said the president is “officially knocking down the firewall between policy and law enforcement — an indispensable element of the rule of law. And he’s doing so for his own personal ends.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Alene tweeted that “Trump is a subject of the investigation he will apparently succeed in obtaining evidence in and that no subject is entitled to during a criminal investigation. This is unprecedented.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in interfering in the 2016 campaign and whether Trump himself obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey, who had been investigating the charges.
Trump has denied those charges. In a tweet Sunday, he contended investigators have “found no Collussion [sic] with Russia, No Obstruction, but they aren’t looking at the corruption” in the campaign of his Democratic challenger two years ago, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“Things are really getting ridiculous,” Trump said in another Twitter remark, asking at what point the investigation will end, calling it a “soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt,” although the cost appears to be much less.
Mueller has already indicted numerous Russian individuals and entities for interference in the U.S. election, along with guilty pleas from three Trump campaign associates who are cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation.
Trump has expressed fears the Mueller probe could last long enough to hurt Republicans in the November congressional elections.