During a brief question-and-answer session with reporters on Wednesday, President Trump was asked if he has confidence in deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. The president responded by suggesting that Rosenstein could regain his trust — if the deputy AG provides him with documents about the Russia investigation.
“Mr. President, why won’t you say whether you have confidence in Rod Rosenstein? a reporter asked Trump, a day after Trump pointedly refused to affirm he still has confidence in his hand-picked deputy AG.
Trump responded by suggesting that a meeting on Thursday with Rosenstein, Trump-supporting Republican members of Congress, and other law enforcement, intelligence, and administration officials will be key. The meeting involves demands by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) for documents related to an FBI informant who communicated with members of the Trump campaign.
“Well they’re all going to be in the room tomorrow. We’re going to see what happens,” Trump said. “What I want is I want total transparency. You have to have transparency… so what I want from Rod, from the FBI, from everybody, we want transparency.”
Trump is under scrutiny as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into his campaign for possible collusion with Russia — an investigation being overseen by Rosenstein following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal. Under normal circumstances, he would never be granted access to sensitive investigatory materials pertaining to his campaign. But that is exactly what Trump is demanding happen at the meeting on Thursday.
Trump’s comments about Rosenstein come three days after he posted a tweet demanding that “the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
There isn’t a shred of evidence that the Trump campaign was inappropriately surveilled. Instead, reports indicate that the FBI used an informant to make contact with Trump campaign officials who were already under scrutiny because of their suspicious contacts with Russia.
Trump’s conspiracy theory doesn’t square with the facts of the 2016 campaign. If there was a vast FBI conspiracy against Trump, it doesn’t make any sense that President Obama, then-FBI Director James Comey, and other officials kept it under wraps until after the election, while Comey went out of his way to publicize an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails in a matter that may have cost her the election.
In order to make the conspiracy theory seem more plausible, Trump on Wednesday fabricated a quote from former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper about how the president should “be happy that the FBI was SPYING” on his campaign.
“Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign” No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2018
As ThinkProgress detailed, Clapper never said that. In fact, he has repeatedly denied that intelligence agencies spied on the Trump campaign. Nonetheless, during the question-and-answer session on Wednesday, Trump again tried to gin up outrage about the fake Clapper quote.
“If you look at Clapper, he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday, inadvertently,” Trump said, falsely.