An unsupported theory circulating on Capitol Hill and conservative media outlets about an “informant” spying on the Trump campaign reached new heights Friday morning, as President Donald Trump tweeted about the “all time greatest political scandal.”
But US officials tell CNN that the confidential intelligence source was not planted inside the campaign to provide information to investigators.
One of the officials said the informant is a US citizen, but provided no other details on the identity.
The officials say that the identity of the informant had been closely held at the highest levels of the FBI and intelligence community, and the individual has been a source for the FBI and CIA for years.
Trump started the morning by taking to Twitter, quoting Fox News pundits, to call it “really bad stuff.”
“Apparently the DOJ put a Spy in the Trump Campaign. This has never been done before and by any means necessary, they are out to frame Donald Trump for crimes he didn’t commit,” Trump said.
But Rudy Giuliani, who is representing Trump in the Russia investigation, admitted Friday morning that he didn’t know for sure if the FBI had an informant “embedded” in the Trump campaign as others have asserted.
“Here’s the issue that I really feel strongly about with this informant, if there is one. First of all, I don’t know for sure, nor does the President, if there really was. We’re told that,” the former New York City mayor told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on “New Day,” without providing details on the source for that information other than to hint some are “gone from the FBI.”
The maelstrom over the informant began over a week ago, as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes subpoenaed the Justice Department for documents related to the source, threatening to hold Justice officials in contempt of Congress.
Officials from the Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence have maintained that turning over that information Nunes has requested on the specific individual would pose a grave risk to the source’s life.
“The day that we can’t protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe,” FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. “Human sources in particular who put themselves at great risk to work with us and with our foreign partners have to be able to trust that we’re going to protect their identities and in many cases their lives and the lives of their families.”
Fight with House GOP
In order to quell rising tensions, officials briefed Nunes and South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy last week in a meeting the lawmakers later called “productive.”
Earlier this week, the Justice Department offered to brief Nunes and Gowdy once again with the understanding that certain questions remained outstanding from last week’s briefing. Top officials at DOJ, FBI and ODNI were prepared to meet with the two lawmakers Friday and answer questions, but their invitation went unanswered.
Nevertheless, Nunes and other House Republicans have continued to threaten Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions with contempt of Congress.
Mark Meadows, leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, told CNN on Friday that a Justice Department official informed him late Thursday night that the department had “no intention” of complying with Nunes’ subpoena.
“I’m not optimistic that the Department of Justice will voluntarily comply with the two outstanding subpoenas that are there,” Meadows said, referencing Nunes’ request and another by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte on a range of issues related to the Russia investigation.
A source familiar with the discussions between the Justice Department and Capitol Hill disputed Meadows’ characterization of the call, noting he has not been involved in the negotiations related to Nunes’ subpoena and is not a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Yet the requests show no signs of slowing.
Meadows and fellow Republican Reps. Jim Jordan and Ron DeSantis sent a letter to Trump earlier this week asking that he order Sessions to immediately produce “all documents” related to Congressional investigations.
“This is about Congress as a separate equal branch of government getting information … it has nothing to do with that it’s like we’re entitled to get answers to the questions that the American people have as their elected representatives,” Jordan told CNN. “Rod Rosenstein wasn’t elected to anything.”