President Donald Trump said on Twitter Sunday that he will order an investigation into whether law enforcement “infiltrated or surveilled” his presidential campaign “for political purposes,” escalating an already extraordinary clash between the president and the Justice Department.
The decision could lead to a new level of conflict over the Russia investigation. It began as a counterintelligence case during the 2016 campaign and has continued as a criminal investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller albeit under heavy criticism for what some say is a runaway prosecutor looking for anything, including beyond the disputed scope of his investigative purview.
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
Trump had previously warned that he may try to exert more influence at the Justice Department “because what’s going on is a disgrace.” He has harshly criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for stepping aside from overseeing the Russia investigation.
Republicans have stepped up their attacks on the Mueller investigation, claiming that it’s been handled improperly and tainted by partisan animus toward the president.
A flashpoint has been the FBI’s use of a confidential informant, who met with three Trump campaign aides believed to have had suspicious Russian contacts as Moscow was meddling in the election.
News accounts have said the informant was a retired American professor in England who has worked undercover repeatedly for the FBI and CIA over the years.
In the year since Mueller took over the investigation, his team has obtained guilty verdicts from five individuals, mostly for lying to investigators. They also have charged Trump’s former campaign manager with numerous financial crimes unrelated to the campaign, and have indicted 13 Russians for meddling in the U.S. election.
©2018 Los Angeles Times
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