White House lawyer's presence at briefings on FBI's Russian Federation source roils lawmakers

US President Barack Obama walks down the West Wing Colonnade alongside retired General James Clapper Obama's nominee for director of national intelligence before making a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington DC

In light of revelations this week regarding an FBI informant sent to gather information on the Trump campaign leading up to the 2016 presidential election, high-profile meetings were held Thursday to review classified information related to the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the campaign.

Trump has zeroed in on, and at times embellished, reports that a longtime US government informant approached members of his campaign in a possible bid to glean intelligence on Russian efforts to sway the election.

New York Democratic Congressmember Jerrold Nadler said Thursday it appears someone in the Trump administration or Congress broke the Intelligence Identities Protection Act when they revealed the name of the FBI's confidential informant-Stefan Halper, a retired professor tapped in 2016 to investigate the Trump campaign.

"If we learned a good deal from it, it will shorten that whole process considerably", Giuliani added, suggesting the briefings could speed up the process for special counsel Robert Mueller's team to interview Trump. This claim is completely unsupported by the facts as we know them. He's also claimed that the investigations are part of a "deep state" conspiracy to undermine both his campaign and his administration.

"Accusations that the FBI was "spying" on the Trump campaign - rather than spying on foreign spies, which is its job - erase the important distinctions between counterintelligence and criminal investigations", Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent who now teaches at Yale Law School, wrote in an op-ed last Sunday in the Washington Post. In a tweet Thursday morning he called it "one of the biggest political scandals in USA history".

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said Flood and Kelly "were there to relay the President's desire for as much openness as possible under the law; and both left - as planned-before the substantive portion of the meeting began".

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, an ardent Trump supporter, had originally requested the information on an FBI source in the Russian Federation investigation.

Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said, "Never seen a Gang of Eight meeting that included any presence from the White House".

President Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, arrives for a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday. Trump asked in one tweet. Trump has railed about him for days, tweeting just before the meetings Thursday, "Large dollars were paid to the Spy, far beyond normal".

Trump on Friday issued a string of accusatory Twitter messages asserting that the use of the informant was part of a political plot against him.

The quote Trump has continued to twist as he has accused higher-ups at the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice of conspiring against his campaign originated from Clapper's appearance on The View Tuesday.

Clapper says Trump has set a "new low bar" for ethics and morality and has caused "societal damage" that will take years to fix. "And if Obama knew about it, why can't Trump?"

Trump said that lawmakers will probably be troubled once they see documents regarding the use of the source. After negotiations with leaders on Capitol Hill, the White House announced the additional bipartisan meeting but said the original briefing would go on as well.

Trump also repeated his allegation that the FBI's use of informants - a common practice in investigations - amounted to spying on his campaign. The secretary for homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen, having been yelled at during a Cabinet meeting by Trump angry his wall hasn't been built, was so intimidated that she said publicly she was unaware the entire intelligence community agreed the Russians worked illegally to elect Trump.


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