Trump has zeroed in on, and at times embellished, reports that a longtime us government informant approached members of his campaign in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election.
The informant reportedly met with at least three Trump campaign advisers - George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios PapadopoulosComey: Trump's "Spygate" claims are made up Top Intel Dems denounce presence of Trump lawyer at classified briefings The Hill's 12:30 Report - Sponsored by Delta Air Lines - Trump calls off North Korea summit MORE, Carter Page and Sam Clovis - in 2016.
It remains unclear what, if any, spying was done.
Democrats emerged from the meetings saying they saw no evidence to support Republican allegations that the FBI acted inappropriately in its early investigation into ties between Russian Federation and Donald Trump's presidential campaign.
"A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign", Trump told reporters on Tuesday.
"Trump has told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement has conspired against him", the AP's Mary Clare Jalonick and Jonathan Lemire wrote. He went on to debut the term "Spygate" on Wednesday, despite its previous associations with a 2007 National Football League scandal over videotaping coaches.
After a series of evolving pronouncements and significant posturing, lawmakers from both parties attended a pair of briefings on Thursday about the FBI's use of an informant during its investigation into connections between Russian actors and members of the Trump campaign. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said that no White House staff would be present at this meeting.
But Democrats slammed the fact that Flood was there at all. Lindsey Graham and Texas Sen. A White House lawyer, Emmet Flood, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly showed up for both briefings, although the White House had earlier said it would keep a distance, drawing criticism from Democrats.
"They are not", Ingraham said.
Needless to say, those are Watergate-level allegations, and it seems Trump may even possess the one thing the Mueller investigation has conspicuously lacked to date: hard-core evidence.
The meeting scheduled for Thursday was encouraged by Trump and brokered by the White House.
Initially, the White House had planned for only House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes - its longtime co-conspirator in ginning up politically useful conspiracy theories - to receive this briefing. Then, when a constitutionally empowered oversight committee demands information about that investigation, the DOJ could accuse it of "extortion" and stonewall for years.
Giuliani has cast doubt on Trump interviewing with Mueller in the past. "Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!" "What goes around, comes around!"
"I did a great service to this country by firing James Comey", Trump said. "How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?" "I hope there weren't, frankly. but some man got paid based on what I read in the newspapers".
But the briefings themselves over the source became the latest political confrontation in the Russian Federation investigation after the White House initially only had invited Republicans to the Justice Department briefing on the confidential source.
The Justice Department agreed by expanding an open, internal investigation to determine whether there was any politically motivated surveillance.
Trump has also taken to now frequently using the term "Spygate" to refer to reports of an Federal Bureau of Investigation informant making contact with three former Trump campaign officials amid suspicions of Russian officials infiltrating the president's team.
Exactly when Stefan Halper began his work spying on the Trump campaign, the full extent of his contact with Trump campaign officials, to whom he reported and what information he ultimately gathered from his meetings with Trump officials remains unknown, but one thing is clear; the first target of Halper's spying was not Donald Trump, it was Obama administration critic LTG Mike Flynn.
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