President Donald Trump is continuing with his belief that he’s been unfairly victimized in the Russia scandal. This Tuesday at the White House, he referred to commentary from FBI Director Christopher Wray as “ridiculous” because the Trump appointee dared break with the passion with which Trump and his closest allies have been pushing the “witch hunt” idea. He told a Senate appropriations subcommittee that he wouldn’t personally refer to any surveillance of the Trump team in association with the Russia scandal as “spying,” which is a clean break with the line that the president himself has pushed over and over again.
Trump told reporters:
‘I didn’t understand his answer because I thought the attorney general answered it perfectly. So I certainly didn’t understand that answer. I thought it was a ridiculous answer.’
Trump vs. The FBI, Part 85
The President says FBI Director Chris Wray gave a “ridiculous answer” in distancing himself from the term “spying” pic.twitter.com/CM3NfuiHII
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) May 14, 2019
Attorney General William Barr had told Congress that “spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” although he eventually admitted that he had no evidence that any inappropriate or even illegal surveillance had actually occurred. The most prominent target was one-time Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Although the government surveillance of him began after he left the Trump campaign and he had been previously flagged as an apparent Russian recruitment target, Republican interests have made a big deal of the case and alleged that Justice Department officials went after him thanks to political bias against Trump. Currently, Inspector General Michael Horowitz is looking into the origins of the Russia probe including that issue, and Barr has also reportedly tapped Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham for an investigation.
Besides Page, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has also previously been under government surveillance. He’s currently serving a seven and a half year jail sentence for a wide range of charges, including financial crimes. He first became the subject of an FBI investigation back in 2014 over his connections to and work for pro-Russia interests overseas, which he eventually went down for and which surveillance wrapped up in back in 2016. Surveillance of the now disgraced political operative began again and continued after the 2016 election as part of the wide-ranging federal government inquiry into Russian meddling in U.S. politics and possible Trump team collusion in those efforts.
Trump has consistently maintained that the entire investigation is a sham, even in the face of mounting piles of evidence against him and his associates. He has lied in the aftermath of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report dropping that the document completely exonerates him, even though it makes clear that it does not. Perhaps coming to terms with its true nature, the president’s team has swung the total other direction and declared executive privilege over the entire document and its underlying evidence in an effort to keep it from the House Democrats who are after the information.
He’s got a close ally in Barr in the latest chapter of his antagonism of the United States justice system. The attorney general has already made a name for himself with his adamant support of the president’s line in the Russia scandal, and when that crossed into defying a subpoena, the House Judiciary Committee recently voted to hold him in contempt of Congress.
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