- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2018

President Trump said Wednesday he is “cleaning” up the Justice Department in recent confrontations over spying on his campaign, and said his firing of FBI Director James B. Comey was a “great service to the country.”

“We’re cleaning everything up,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “This was a terrible situation. We’re not undercutting [the Justice Department]. What I’m doing is a service to this country.”

The president on Monday demanded an investigation of reports that the FBI infiltrated his campaign in 2016 with an informant. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein agreed to include the issue as part of an ongoing inspector general’s probe.

Mr. Trump used the term “Spy-gate” twice while discussing it with reporters, and said he wants Justice officials such as Mr. Rosenstein to come clean with what they know about the emerging scandal.

“I hope it’s not so, because if it is, there’s never been anything like it in the history of our country,” the president said. “It looks like a very serious event. But we’ll find out. When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad things happened.”

Asked if he believes President Obama knew about the alleged spying, Mr. Trump replied, “I don’t want to get into yet, but I will tell you … after we look at the proof — would he know? I would certainly hope not. But I think it’s going to be pretty obvious after a while.”

He said Mr. Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, “sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign inadvertently. I hope it’s not true, but it looks like it is.”

Mr. Clapper said in an interview this week that operatives were not spying on the Trump campaign per se, but were spying “on what the Russians were doing.”

The president is also calling for a meeting, scheduled for Thursday, among top Justice officials, FBI Director Christopher Wray, DNI Dan Coats, and key congressional Republicans to review highly classified information requested by lawmakers from the special counsel’s probe of possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election. Justice has refused to turn over some requested documents; the meeting is being coordinated by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who is not expected to attend.

“I want them all to get together,” Mr. Trump said. “They’ll sit in a room. Hopefully they’ll be able to work it out among themselves. So what I want from Rod [Rosenstein], from the FBI, from everybody — we want transparency. I want total transparency.”

Asked about objections from congressional Democrats to being excluded from the meeting, the president said, “Even they probably want transparency, because this issue supersedes a party. This supersedes Republicans and Democrats.”

The president said Mr. Comey, whom he fired last summer, has “got a lot of problems.”

“I did a great service to this country by firing James Comey,” Mr. Trump said. “If you go into the FBI, a lot of those great people who are working for the FBI will tell you that I did a great thing by firing James Comey. At some point they have an IG [inspector general’s] report, and then let’s see what James Comey has to say. But I assume he’s covered in the IG report.”

Earlier Wednesday, the president said on Twitter that “spy-gate” could become “one of the biggest political scandals in history!”

“Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “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!”

The FBI informant, Cambridge University Stefan Halper, allegedly communicated with at least three members of the Trump campaign — foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos, campaign aide Carter Page and campaign adviser Sam Clovis.

The Justice Department has directed its inspector general to look into any “impropriety or political motivation” in the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, California Republican, and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, will attend the meeting with Justice officials on Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California wrote to the Justice Department Wednesday, saying the Republican-only meeting is “completely improper in its proposed form and would set a damaging precedent for your institutions and the rule of law.”

Mr. Nunes, an ally of the White House, has been requesting information from the department about an FBI source in the Russia investigation. Justice officials initially rejected his request last month, saying that revealing the identity of a specific person could endanger that individual’s life.

Another supporter of the president, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, said he believes the Justice Department will continue to withhold the documents that Mr. Nunes and the White House are seeking.

“They’re not going to see any documents tomorrow, so it doesn’t matter,” Mr. Meadows told reporters. “Going to a briefing without seeing the documents is worthless.”

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