WASHINGTON — House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is defending the FBI after sitting in on last week’s classified briefing about oversight of the FBI’s campaign-season investigation into Russia’s influence operation and possible Trump campaign contacts.
“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump,” Gowdy told Fox News on Tuesday evening.
Some House GOPs sought information on a confidential FBI source who, during the investigation into possible campaign ties to a foreign power, spoke with Trump campaign aide Carter Page, Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to investigators in October and has been cooperating with special counsel investigators. The source has been identified as a professor living in London who had been providing the FBI with information on a variety of cases for many years and did not work on the campaign.
President Trump has interpreted the existence of the source as the FBI planting a spy in his campaign, according to his many recent tweets on the subject. Before the Memorial Day recess, the FBI, DOJ and Director of National Intelligence agreed to hold a briefing with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Gowdy, as well as another meeting with the “gang of eight” congressional intelligence leaders plus Gowdy.
Gowdy, a career prosecutor who is returning to that line of work after retiring at the end of this Congress, told Fox, “President Trump himself in the Comey memos said if anyone connected with my campaign was working with Russia, I want you to investigate it, and it sounds to me like that is exactly what the FBI did.”
“I think when the president finds out what happened, he is going to be not just fine, he is going to be glad that we have an FBI that took seriously what they heard,” he added. “…We run toward the criminality, but I would think everyone would want to know what Russia did.”
Gowdy said Trump should be “heartened” that top Justice Department officials are all his own appointees.
On CBS this morning, Gowdy said that “when the FBI comes into contact with information about what a foreign government may be doing in our election cycle, I think they have an obligation to run it out.”
“Based on what I have seen, I don’t know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia. I would think you would want the FBI to find out whether there was any validity to what those people were saying,” the chairman said.
“I think the FBI, if they were at the table this morning, they would tell you that Russia was the target and Russia’s intentions toward our country were the target. The fact that two people who were loosely connected to the Trump campaign may have been involved doesn’t diminish the fact that Russia was the target and not the campaign.”
Gowdy told the network that he hasn’t spoken with Trump about the president’s allegations, and said he wouldn’t use the term “spy” anyway. “Undercover informant, confidential informant, those are all words I’m familiar with, I’ve never heard the term spy used,” he said.
“I think his lawyers have an obligation to share with him what Devin and Paul [Ryan] and I saw last week,” Gowdy added. “I’m convinced when he sees it, he’s going to say ‘you know what, that’s what I told [James] Comey I wanted the FBI to do.'”
On Twitter this morning, Trump focused instead on Gowdy’s comments regarding a new report that the president tried to press Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his recusal on the Russia probe and got angry when the Trump appointee refused.
Gowdy told CBS that Trump seemed to be “expressing frustration that Attorney General Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job, not afterward,” and noted “there are lots of really good lawyers in the country; he could have picked somebody else.”
“And I wish I did!” Trump added in the tweet.
Nunes has not publicly spoken about the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there was “nothing particularly surprising” revealed and told NPR that he supports both special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigation, calling them “the two investigations going on that I think will give us the answers.”
Schiff tweeted Sunday: “It begins by seeding the ground with a falsehood: ‘They spied on the Trump campaign.’ It’s then promoted by the President, who echoes the falsehood. Then his allies call to investigate the falsehood. This is how propaganda works. It is also how democracy dies, one lie at a time.”