US Justice Department launches probe of FBI tactics used in Trump 2016 campaign investigation
The US Justice Department has ordered a probe into whether the FBI acted with political bias by sending one of its informants, reportedly a University of Cambridge academic, to meet with advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign.
Stefan Halper, 73, the professor, was named by numerous media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, as the suspected FBI informant. He has not yet made any public comment.
Mr Halper served in the administrations of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. The American was reportedly a foreign policy scholar at Cambridge until 2015.
He was reported to have met with Trump campaign advisers Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, and Sam Clovis as the FBI investigated any ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Justice Department said its inspector general had been tasked with “determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation” in how the FBI acted before the 2016 vote.
Mr Trump expressed his fury last week. He tweeted that “word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI ;spied on the Trump campaign with an embedded informant’," adding: “If so, this is bigger than Watergate!”
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 hours, the Justice Department had commented, saying the inspector general – which investigates complaints or allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct by relevant government employees – would look into the claims.
Mr Trump was on Monday night meeting at the White House with senior justice department and intelligence officials to discuss his demand.
The meeting included Mr Rosenstein, Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence.
Mr Rosenstein said: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”
The moves from the Justice Department appeared to be an attempt to head off Mr Trump’s criticism and calls for a full probe into the matter.
It is unclear whether the announcement will placate the president, given he has criticised using the inspector general in the past because the office lacks prosecutorial power.
Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general, and Mr Rosenstein, his deputy, have both been figures of Mr Trump’s public anger in the past.
Mr Sessions recused himself of the Russian election meddling investigation, meaning he cannot shape its course, while Mr Rosenstein is overseeing the probe.
In a separate development, Rudolph Giuliani, Mr Trump’s lawyer, said Robert Mueller, the special counsel now leading the investigation, wanted to end the part looking into obstruction of justice by September 1.
The revelation of the timeframe comes with Mr Mueller seeking to interview Mr Trump about claims he obstructed justice. The allegations have always been denied by the White House.
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