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Dem, GOP Leaders to Get Probe Briefing 05/24 06:15

   House and Senate lawmakers from both parties are set to meet with top 
intelligence officials Thursday as President Donald Trump raises new suspicions 
about the federal investigation into his 2016 campaign.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- House and Senate lawmakers from both parties are set to 
meet with top intelligence officials Thursday as President Donald Trump raises 
new suspicions about the federal investigation into his 2016 campaign.

   Trump is calling his newest attempt at discrediting special counsel Robert 
Mueller's Russia investigation "spygate." In recent days, he has been zeroing 
in on --- and at times embellishing --- reports that a longtime U.S. government 
informant approached members of his campaign during the 2016 presidential 
election in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the 
election.

   Trump tweeted Wednesday that the FBI had been caught in a "major SPY 
scandal."

   Trump's latest broadsides set the stage for the unusual decision by the 
White House to arrange a briefing Thursday about classified documents for just 
two Republican House members, both Trump allies, as Trump and his supporters in 
Congress pressed for information on the outside informant.

   After Democratic complaints and negotiations that went into the late evening 
Wednesday, the Justice Department said it would host a second classified 
briefing the same day and invite the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" --- a group 
that includes the top Republicans and Democrats in each chamber and the top 
Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

   There were two other late additions to the list --- White House chief of 
staff John Kelly and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. White House press 
secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had originally said that no one from the White 
House would attend the briefing, at which the investigation into Trump's 
campaign will be discussed.

   Rosenstein will replace another Justice Department official who was 
originally scheduled to attend. Rosenstein was left off the list as Trump on 
Tuesday declined to say whether he had confidence in him. Rosenstein appointed 
special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the Russia investigation, and is 
frequently criticized by Trump.

   The two House lawmakers --- Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and 
Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy --- were invited to attend 
both briefings, as were Kelly, Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and 
National Intelligence Director Dan Coats.

   All were invited to the second briefing, as well, plus Senate Majority 
Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker 
Paul Ryan and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Senate Intelligence 
Committee Chairman Richard Burr was also invited, along with the top Democrat 
on the Senate intelligence panel, Sen. Mark Warner, and the top Democrat on the 
House intelligence panel, Rep. Adam Schiff.

   Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, had originally requested the information 
on an FBI source in the Russia investigation. And Trump took up the cause as 
the White House tried to combat the threat posed by Mueller's investigation 
into Russian interference and possible obstruction of justice.

   Trump escalated his efforts to discredit the investigation Wednesday, 
tweeting: "Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State. They 
go after Phony Collusion with Russia, a made up Scam, and end up getting caught 
in a major SPY scandal the likes of which this country may never have seen 
before! What goes around, comes around!"

   It remained unclear what, if any, spying was done. The White House gave no 
evidence to support Trump's claim that the Obama administration was trying to 
spy on his 2016 campaign for political reasons. It's long been known that the 
FBI was looking into Russian meddling during the campaign and that part of that 
inquiry touched on the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian figures. Mueller 
later took over the investigation when he was appointed in May 2017.

   Trump has told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant 
was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement had 
conspired against him, according to three people familiar with his recent 
conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. Trump told one ally 
this week that he wanted "to brand" the informant a "spy," believing the more 
nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public.

   As Republicans worked to show a Justice Department conspiracy against Trump, 
Democrats and former law enforcement officials defended the agency. Former FBI 
Director James Comey, who was fired by Trump last year, tweeted Wednesday that 
the agency's use of secret informants was "tightly regulated and essential to 
protecting the country."

   "Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our 
country," Comey tweeted. "How will Republicans explain this to their 
grandchildren?"

   Trump shot back during a brief news conference with reporters: "What I'm 
doing is a service to this country and I did a great service to this country by 
firing James Comey."

   The back and forth between Congress and the Justice Department over the 
Nunes request --- one of many over the course of the Russia investigation --- 
has simmered for weeks.

   The department originally rejected Nunes' appeal, writing in a letter in 
late April that his request for information "regarding a specific individual" 
could have severe consequences, including potential loss of human life. 
Negotiations over the information stalled, but restarted when Trump demanded in 
a tweet Sunday that the Justice Department investigate "whether or not the 
FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes."

   The Justice Department agreed by expanding an open, internal investigation 
to determine whether there was any politically motivated surveillance. And the 
White House said Kelly would organize the meeting with House lawmakers to 
discuss the documents.

   The New York Times was the first to report that the FBI had an informant who 
met several times with Trump campaign officials who had suspicious contacts 
linked to Russia. No evidence has emerged to show that Obama-era authorities 
placed an informant inside the Trump campaign.


(KA)

 
 
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