On Sunday Donald Trump sent a furious tweet in which he “hereby demand[ed], and will do so officially tomorrow,” that the Department of Justice examine whether the government “infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”
Rather than waiting for Trump to hereby-officially his way into making it another Constitutional crisis tomorrow, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein quickly took the liberty of dumping that Twitter request into the Inspector General’s office, where investibations into similar alleged misdeeds peddled by Trump-allied House Republicans have been already churning away.
In response to the President’s tweet calling for an investigation into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign, Department of Justice Spokesperson Sarah Isgur has release this statement:
The Department has asked the Inspector General to expand the ongoing review of the FISA application process to include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation in how the FBI conducted its counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with the Russian agents who interfered in the 2016 presidential election. As always, the Inspector General will consult with the appropriate U.S. Attorney if there is any evidence of potential criminal conduct.
You may choose to read something into the Justice Department statement specifically calling out that what Trump has been so vociferously objecting to is a counterintelligence investigation of persons suspected of involvement with Russian agents. The Justice Department statement appears to be emphasizing this even though it did not have to, but in fact the “surveillance” Trump is speaking of, and made furious by, was apparently instigated due to suspicious and possibly ongoing ties between several of Trump’s campaign aides and agents of a hostile foreign power.
The Deputy Attorney General issued the following statement: “If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”
You may choose to read something into Rosenstein using the word anyone there, in that “we need to know” whether anyone infiltrated or surveilled “participants in a presidential campaign.” Rosenstein did not limit his statement to Trump’s specific complaint of alleged surveillance by the Department of Justice, but crafted a terse statement against anyone who might “surveil” a campaign, and he did not specifically mention the Trump campaign but instead issued a statement equally applicable to each campaign.
This is notable in that the entire purpose of the Robert Mueller-led investigation is, obviously, to determine whether anyone infiltrated or surveilled members of a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes. That is the whole point: The investigation seeks to determine the extent to which now-known efforts against a U.S. presidential campaign were ordered and executed by the Russian government—the involvement of which has already been determined by the nation’s intelligence services—and whether that weaponized infiltration was assisted by persons within the United States.
While some are alarmed that Rosenstein was so quick to jump at the president’s request that the investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russian agents be itself investigated, it is not clear that that’s what is going on here. The phrasing of this Justice Department statement could just as easily be interpreted as telling Trump, in gleefully passive-aggressive response likely too subtle for Trump himself to parse, to go piss up a rope—and a message to Trump that his department will get to the bottom of 2016 election meddling and just who infiltrated who, whether the result is pleasing to Trump or not.