In response to reporting that President Donald Trump personally pressed for an informant’s gag order to be lifted, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Friday that he wanted the informant to be free to speak out.
“He believes, as many others do, frankly, that the FBI informant should be free to say what he knows,” Conway said on CNN’s “New Day.”
CNN reported Thursday that Trump told his staff to work with the Justice Department to allow an undercover FBI informant who played a critical role in an FBI investigation into Russian efforts to gain influence in the uranium industry in the United States during the Obama administration to be free to speak with Congress. Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has called for the Justice Department to do the same.
Conway, in the interview, pointed to Grassley’s request.
“That’s the proper channel here,” Conway said.
In an interview on Fox News, Attorney General Jeff Sessions repeatedly said he hadn’t discussed the matter with the President.
“What I would say is that Senator Grassley has been direct with us for some time,” Sessions said. “We worked with Senator Grassley and are very happy to be able to approve his testimony before the Senate judiciary.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said she was not aware of any specific involvement by the President, when asked by CNN’s Jim Acosta about it Friday at a daily news briefing.
“The President has pushed for transparency, if that’s what you are referring to, when dealing with Congress,” Sanders said.
“I know that’s probably something new, for a president to actually push for transparency,” she said. “But that’s what he’s done, and that was the purpose what he was trying to do in that process.”
The Justice Department has strict rules limiting the White House’s involvement in criminal law enforcement matters. Any involvement by the White House counsel in the decision is unusual, particularly because it relates to the President’s political opponents.
Conway, however, defended Trump’s interest in the politically charged case: “It’s not unusual for a President to weigh in.”
Republicans want to know the circumstances surrounding the sale of a uranium mining company to Russia’s Atomic Energy Agency, Rosatom, which was approved by the Obama administration in 2010.
The deal had to be approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a panel that is composed of representatives from several US government agencies, including the State Department, which at the time was led by Hillary Clinton.
Conway went on to hit Clinton and the Democratic Party for helping fund a dossier of allegations about Trump and Russia, which she said was an improper attempt to use foreign intelligence to hit Trump.
“Now, we are faced with the possibility – and it looks like the very real probability – the DNC and the Clinton campaign paid a foreign agent for information to try to smear Donald Trump,” Conway said.
A lawyer paid by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party solicited the firm Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Trump during the campaign. That firm, in turn, hired former UK intelligence officer Christopher Steele, whose memos make up the infamous dossier. As CNN has previously reported, the Fusion efforts researching Trump were first funded by his Republican foes.
Conway slammed the Democrats for contributing funding to opposition research obtained from a foreign source, though the Trump campaign – prior to Conway’s involvement – met with a Russian lawyer in an attempt to glean potentially damaging information on Clinton, according to Donald Trump Jr.’s own account.
Likewise, CNN reported the head of a data analytics company linked to the Trump campaign contacted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about emails from Clinton’s private server.
Conway denied any firsthand knowledge of the effort.
“I only know what I read in the press on this, which is that he made that entreaty and Julian Assange says that he rejected it, never happened, and the Trump campaign has since spoken on this,” Conway said.
She went on to say the Trump campaign, which she helped lead through the end of the general election, “beat Hillary Clinton fairly and squarely.”
“I know nothing about that because I was the campaign manager, and I can’t be bothered with any of that,” Conway said of the Cambridge Analytica outreach to WikiLeaks. “The campaign was not doing that.”
CNN’s Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.