Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) just undercut President Trump’s claims about “Spygate.” The fiery former prosecutor from South Carolina responded to the president’s accusations of illegal spying on his campaign by saying that the FBI has an “obligation” to follow leads.
“When the FBI comes into contact with information about what a foreign government may be doing in our election cycle, I think they have an obligation to run it out,” Rep. Gowdy said as he discussed President Trump’s accusations about improper conduct by the FBI on CBS News on Wednesday.
“Based on what I have seen, I don't know what the FBI could have done or should have done other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia,” Gowdy continued. “I would think you would want the FBI to find out whether there was any validity to what those people were saying.”
Gowdy, who chairs the House Oversight Committee, was one of the congressional leaders briefed by the Department of Justice on the surveillance of Trump campaign associates last week. After the briefing, Gowdy says he is confident that Russia was the target of the investigation and not the Trump campaign itself.
“I think the FBI, if they were at the table this morning, they would tell you that Russia was the target and Russia's intentions toward our country were the target,” Gowdy said. “The fact that two people who were loosely connected to the Trump campaign may have been involved doesn't diminish the fact that Russia was the target and not the campaign.”
In response to a question, Gowdy said that he doesn’t know why President Trump persists in using the term “spy” to describe the FBI informant. In his role as a prosecutor working with law enforcement, Gowdy said that he had never heard the word “spy” used to describe an informant.
“Under cover, informant, confidential informant, those are all words I'm familiar with, I've never heard the term spy used,” Gowdy said.
Rep. Gowdy said that he doesn’t believe that President Trump has enough information about the investigation to understand the true aim of the probe. “I think his lawyers have an obligation to share with him what Devin [Nunes] and Paul [Ryan] and I saw last week,” Gowdy said. “I'm convinced when he sees it, he's going to say, 'you know what, that's what I told [James] Comey I wanted the FBI to do.”
Gowdy said he believes that the president should agree to testify before Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, saying, “He didn't collude with Russia, he doesn't know anything about it, and if anyone in his campaign did, he wants the public to know it, I think that's what he ought to tell Mueller.”
Gowdy also criticized Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia probe. “If I picked someone to be the country’s chief law enforcement officer and they told me later, ‘oh, by the way, I’m not going to able to participate in the most important case in the office,’ I would be frustrated too,” Gowdy said. President Trump immediately used Gowdy’s comment to attack Sessions.
So far, none of the congressional leaders briefed by the DOJ have backed President Trump’s claims that the FBI acted improperly. It is undisputed that the FBI investigated members of the Trump campaign, the questions are whether there was probable cause for them to do so and whether the surveillance was political in nature rather than a legitimate counterintelligence investigation. To date, the president has not supplied evidence that the surveillance was scandalous rather than necessary.
Claims that the FBI investigation were used to undermine the Trump campaign seem implausible. Even though the Steele dossier was investigated in the summer of 2016, it was not public knowledge until after the election was over. Where the FBI did intervene to affect the election, Comey’s October memo to Congress, it was to Donald Trump’s benefit.
President Trump has a duty to clarify his accusations against the FBI and the Department of Justice. If he has evidence of improper conduct, he should come forward with it. If he cannot provide evidence, he should stop publicly attacking and undermining America’s top law enforcement agency.