Democrats who sat in on a briefing by the FBI and Department of Justice said they heard no evidence to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that the FBI spied on his 2016 presidential campaign.
“Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign,” Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told reporters gathered on Capitol Hill after leaving the meeting.
Trump demanded the briefing over the weekend, after alleging — without evidence — that former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department infiltrated his campaign with a spy.
“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!” Trump tweeted on May 20.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray agreed to brief congressional leaders about the use of an FBI informant, who met with former Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, whose communications with and about their ties to Russians are what sparked the FBI investigation into Trump’s possible Russia ties in the first place.
Initially, only GOP Reps. Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy were going to receive the briefing.
But Democrats pushed to be included, and ultimately were allowed to hear the information from the confidential briefing.
Schiff, who made the statement on behalf of the Democrats in the meeting — including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi — wouldn’t answer any questions or divulge any other information from the meeting, except to say that there was nothing said that indicated wrongdoing.
Trump has been railing against the informant for days, dubbing the incident “Spygate” and saying it “could be one of the biggest political scandals in history!”
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, let slip that the reason Trump wanted the briefing in the first place was to get information on how the FBI used an informant on the campaign to try and use in Trump’s defense against the probe.
“We want to see how the briefing went to today and how much we learned from it,” Giuliani told Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn. “If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably.”
Also raising eyebrows was the fact that Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly and Trump’s lawyer Emmet Flood also attended the meetings — the first one at the Department of Justice with Nunes and Gowdy and the second one on Capitol Hill with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders.
The White House, however, said that Kelly and Flood were only there to make a statement about Trump’s intention for the meeting, and didn’t stay for any of the substance.
“Earlier today, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Special Counsel Emmet Flood went to the Department of Justice and Capitol Hill to facilitate meetings between members of Congress, DOJ, FBI, and DNI,” the White House said in a statement. “Neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meetings but did make brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the president’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law. They also conveyed the president’s understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government. After making their brief comments they departed before the meetings officially started.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who sat in on the meeting on Capitol Hill, confirmed the White House’s account.