by Steve Herman
U.S. President Donald Trump says he will order an investigation Monday about a secret source of the country’s top law enforcement agency he claims infiltrated his 2016 election campaign – setting up a potential showdown with his Department of Justice, which oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Trump tweeted Sunday from the White House, “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!”
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
Within minutes, members of the Obama administration and others reacted with alarm, perceiving the Trump threat as potentially the most serious intervention into the American judicial system since the president last year fired FBI Director James Comey, who was investigating Trump’s campaign.
Trump’s charge is dangerous to American democracy, with the president “officially knocking down the firewall between policy and law enforcement – an indispensable element of the rule of law,” senior Obama administration official Ned Price tells VOA News.
“And he’s doing so for his own personal ends,” adds Price, a retired officer of the Central Intelligence Agency who served on the National Security Council (NSC).
Former NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor tweeted, “This is crossing a massive red line. Trump is forcing DOJ to conduct a politicized investigation – something he himself conceded he shouldn’t do.”
It is yet not clear whether Trump will ask for a general investigation or specifically call on the Justice Department to make public certain materials about the FBI’s counterintelligence process or the identity of sources.
Two months ago, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced that he would examine a series of applications for surveillance of one former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. This would appear to indicate at least part of the president’s request announced on Sunday is already being investigated.
There is “no doubt” Trump has the authority to make the demand, said Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who specializes in U.S. national security law.
Wittes also predicts, in a series of tweets, that Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who has recused himself from the current investigation into Trump campaign contacts with Russian agents), Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray will not comply with Trump’s order.
“This is a nakedly corrupt attempt on the part of the President to derail an investigation of himself at the expense of a human source to whose protection the FBI and DOJ are committed,” tweeted Wittes, who is also co-director of the Harvard Law School-Brookings Project on Law and Security.
Trump on Saturday complained that the FBI and the Justice Department infiltrated his campaign by using an informant who made contact with three campaign associates before passing on information to the FBI.
Several news agencies have identified the informant as Stefan Halper, a 73-year-old American-born professor at Britain’s University of Cambridge who worked decades ago in three Republican administrations in the U.S.
Trump further complained Sunday about the yearlong investigation into whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia and if he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.
“Things are really getting ridiculous,” Trump complained in one the Twitter remarks, asking at what point the investigation will end, calling it a “soon to be $20,000,000 Witch Hunt.”
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.
Trump said the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller “has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the world” and its connections to the Trump campaign.
Trump said Mueller, “should easily be able” to extend the inquiries into the congressional elections in November where he and his team “can put some hurt on the Republican Party.”
He added, “Republicans and real Americans should start getting tough on this Scam.”
Mueller’s investigation shows no hint of ending any time soon. He has indicted numerous Russian individuals and entities for interference in the U.S. election through the creation of fake news stories commenting on contentious American issues. He has also secured guilty pleas from three Trump campaign associates who are cooperating with prosecutors in the investigation.