President Donald Trump asserted Saturday that a Democratic memo rebutting Republican claims about surveillance of a former campaign aide was “a total political and legal BUST” and used the occasion to repeat his claim that an ongoing probe of possible collusion between his campaign and Russians is a “Witch Hunt.”
The president took to Twitter shortly after the release of a memo that sought to undermine Republican allegations that federal law enforcement agencies used politically biased information to conduct surveillance on Carter Page, one of Trump’s foreign policy advisers during the 2016 campaign.
In the redacted memo, released by the House Intelligence Committee, Democrats charge that the GOP unfairly maligned the FBI and the Justice Department for citing information from the author of a now-famous dossier alleging Trump had ties to Russian officials in their application to surveil Page.
In his tweets, Trump made clear he found the pushback underwhelming.
“The Democrat memo response on government surveillance abuses is a total political and legal BUST,” he said on Twitter. “Just confirms all of the terrible things that were done. SO ILLEGAL!”
He echoed those sentiments later Saturday, calling in to the television show “Justice with Judge Jeanine” on Fox News.
“The memo was a nothing,” Trump told host Jeanine Pirro.
Trump also suggested that his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, should be taking a more active look at what led to the surveillance of Page.
“Somebody should look into it, because what they did, it’s really fraudulent, and somebody should be looking into that, and by somebody, I’m talking about you know who,” Trump said.
Both on Twitter and on TV, Trump attacked Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the intelligence committee and the driving force behind the rebuttal, calling him a “total phony.”
“He’s a bad guy,” Trump told Pirro.
Trump also seized on the fact that in seeking the permission of judges to surveil Page, the FBI did not disclose that the dossier was being funded in part by the campaign of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic National Committee.
The Democratic memo says judges were made aware that there was a political motivation behind the dossier compiled by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele.
“FBI did not disclose who the clients were – the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. Wow!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
The Democratic memo also stresses that the FBI had several other reasons to suspect the Trump campaign of questionable connections to Russia – including evidence that agents had approached former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos – before Steele and the dossier came along.
Among other things, the Steele dossier asserts that the Russians had compromising information on Trump, including salacious details of his personal behavior in the country.
In one of his tweets Saturday night, Trump sought to rebut that notion, writing that “there is none, and never was.”
He also took a broader swipe at the investigation being led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“This whole Witch Hunt is an illegal disgrace…and Obama did nothing about Russia!” Trump said on Twitter, referencing his stepped-up claim in recent weeks that former president Barack Obama should have done more to counter Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump later told Pirro that “there is no collusion, no phone calls, I had no phone calls, no meetings, no nothing. There is no collusion. I say it all the time, anybody who asks, there is no collusion.”
He said he won the 2016 election because he was a better candidate than Clinton.
“I don’t want to sound braggadocios,” Trump said. “I was a far better candidate. She was not a good candidate. She went to the wrong states.”
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · John Wagner