On Sunday afternoon, President Donald Trump announced that he would direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether or not the FBI and the DOJ infiltrated or surveilled his 2016 presidential campaign, and whether or not Obama himself or his immediate advisers were involved.
“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!” the president tweeted.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
The president’s announcement came mere days after The Washington Post confirmed previous reports that the FBI had used a covert agent to contact the Trump campaign, snooping for evidence of collusion with Russia.
The FBI source, reportedly a 73-year-old professor from Britain’s University of Cambridge, met with Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos in the summer of 2016. He later met with campaign co-chair Sam Clovis in August 2016. The spy reportedly served in the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations.
The New York Times reported that the FBI source approached Papadopoulos, offering money for the Trump official to write an academic paper. The spy asked Papadopoulos if he knew anything about Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Papadopoulos, who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged Trump-Russia collusion, reportedly told the spy he had no insight into Russian collusion.
The campaign staffer had been told months earlier that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, in connection with the Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya (who was also working with Fusion GPS, the firm behind the Trump-Russia dossier). Since that Trump Tower meeting yielded no results, Papadopoulos’s response may not have been a lie.
Following these reports, Trump powerfully denounced the espionage tactics.
“If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal,” the president tweeted Saturday. “Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!”
If the FBI or DOJ was infiltrating a campaign for the benefit of another campaign, that is a really big deal. Only the release or review of documents that the House Intelligence Committee (also, Senate Judiciary) is asking for can give the conclusive answers. Drain the Swamp!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2018
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Sunday that he would refuse to meet with the DOJ until he receives documents related to the FBI spy. Earlier this month, he threatened to hold DOJ officials in contempt of Congress if they don’t release related documents.
Trump’s demand for a formal investigation may be warranted, but even this is likely to bring more heat to a situation that seriously needs more light. Too few facts about the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign during 2016 are known, and that yields a situation where the Left vociferously defends the FBI and the Right defends Trump, with little objective investigation of what happened.
If the Obama administration did indeed spy on the Trump campaign in a clandestine effort to help Hillary Clinton’s Democratic candidacy, that would be a scandal on the level of Watergate. However, the Republican candidate did hire a few rather questionable actors — especially Paul Manafort.
Much hinges on the Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, which could have been set up by the Clinton campaign and the DNC — who were hiring Fusion GPS at the time to compile the Trump dossier, the same firm that worked with Veselnitskaya. Indeed, the notorious Russian lawyer involved met with Fusion GPS’s Glenn Simpson both before and after the meeting.
When the president tweeted instructions for the DOJ to investigate “if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration,” it seems he likely meant people in Obama’s inner circle. Technically, the FBI and the DOJ were part of “the Obama administration.” The real question is whether or not any investigation had “political purposes.”
A text message between notorious FBI agents Lisa Page and Peter Strzok made public in February suggested that Obama may have known about “everything we are doing,” around the time of the Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) Court request to spy on the Trump campaign. Obama’s denial of involvement in the FISA scandal proved rather suspect.
It is possible that the FISA scandal and the FBI attempt to “infiltrate” the Trump campaign were above board, but the American people need to know more about exactly what the Obama administration did. This potential scandal needs a great deal more light, and at this point Democrats are fighting back against public disclosure. What do they have to hide?