President Donald Trump is increasing the pressure on the Justice Department, declining to say whether he has confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after the White House negotiated rare access to classified documents for Trump’s congressional allies.
Asked before a private meeting Tuesday with the president of South Korea if he has confidence in Rosenstein, who is overseeing the special counsel's Russia investigation, he told reporters to move on to another question.
“Excuse me, I have the president of South Korea here,” Trump said. “He doesn't want to hear these questions, if you don't mind.”
The comments came just before White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that a meeting to allow House Republicans to review highly classified information on the Russia probe will happen Thursday.
Sanders said FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and Justice Department official Edward O'Callaghan will meet with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes and House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Trey Gowdy.
Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, has been demanding information on an FBI source in the Russia investigation, according to the Justice Department. And Trump has taken up the cause as the White House tries to combat the threat posed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Trump said Tuesday it would be a "disgrace" to the country if it's shown that the FBI had spies in his campaign, and that would “make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes.”
Later Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “The spy was there early in the campaign and yet never reported Collusion with Russia, because there was no Collusion.”
In a tweet Sunday, Trump demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign and “if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
In response to Trump’s tweet, the Justice Department said it would expand an open, internal investigation into the ongoing Russia probe by examining whether there was any politically motivated surveillance. The White House then said Monday that Trump chief of staff John Kelly would organise the meeting to review the documents.
Sanders said no White House staffers — including Kelly — will be present at Thursday's meeting. She said no Democrats were invited because they had not requested the information, despite calls from lawmakers for the briefing to be bipartisan.
The top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, California Rep. Adam Schiff, said the briefing should have been done through the bipartisan "Gang of 8," which includes Republican and Democratic leaders and the top Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence panels. That group regularly receives classified briefings.
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.
The Justice Department's internal probe began in March at the request of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and congressional Republicans. Sessions and the lawmakers urged Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review whether FBI and Justice Department officials abused their surveillance powers by using information compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, and paid for by Democrats to justify monitoring Carter Page, a former campaign adviser to Trump.
Horowitz said his office will look at those claims as well as communications between Steele and Justice and FBI officials.