White House Orders Broader Access to Files About F.B.I. Informant
WASHINGTON — The White House has rebuffed concerns among American intelligence in addition to also law enforcement officials in addition to also ordered in which more lawmakers be given access to classified information about an informant the F.B.I. used in 2016 to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign in addition to also Russia, according to two American officials with knowledge of the decision.
Both the director of national intelligence in addition to also the director of the F.B.I. tried to keep the classified documents tightly restricted, fearing in which a broader dissemination of operational reports in addition to also various other sensitive material could lead to more leaks of detailed information about the role of the confidential F.B.I. informant.
Some American officials believe, in fact, the reason the White House made the decision was to provide political ammunition to President Trump’s Republican allies who have argued — without any evidence — in which the F.B.I. investigation was opened in July 2016 as an effort to keep Mr. Trump via becoming president.
The F.B.I. files about the informant will right now be available to all members of the Senate in addition to also House Intelligence Committees, instead of to just a group of congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight. This kind of is usually unclear whether Mr. Trump or a lower-level White House official authorized the move.
The controversy over the F.B.I. informant is usually one skirmish in a searing political battle in which was renewed on Thursday during a contentious hearing convened by the House Judiciary in addition to also Oversight Committees in which heard testimony via Peter Strzok, an F.B.I. agent who once ran the bureau’s investigation into the Trump campaign.
During the summer of 2016, the F.B.I. sent an informant to meet with two Trump campaign advisers after the bureau had received information in which the two men had suspicious contacts linked to Russia. The informant, Stefan Halper, an American academic who teaches at Cambridge University in England, had meetings with both Carter Page in addition to also George Papadopoulos to gain a better understanding of their contacts with Russians.
The brand-new York Times did not originally name Mr. Halper because of a general practice not to name confidential F.B.I. informants to preserve their safety. Mr. Halper’s name has right now been widely reported.
A veteran of several Republican administrations, Mr. Halper has been a source of information to the C.I.A. in addition to also various other American security agencies for several years, according to people familiar with his work for the government.
F.B.I. officials concluded in which they had the legal authority to open the investigation into the Trump campaign after they received information in which Mr. Papadopoulos had been told in which the Russians had compromising information about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, inside the form of “thousands of emails,” months before WikiLeaks released stolen messages via Democratic officials.
Mr. Trump’s congressional allies reacted angrily to the revelation of Mr. Halper’s role inside the F.B.I. investigation, accusing the bureau of “spying” on the Trump campaign. The president himself has called the issue a “scandal” on Twitter.
“Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president,” he wrote in May.
“If true — all time biggest political scandal!”
Congressional leaders have received two briefings about Mr. Halper’s role inside the F.B.I. investigation. One of the briefings was attended by John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, in addition to also Emmet T. Flood, a White House lawyer handling issues related to the special counsel’s Russia investigation — leading to vocal criticism on Capitol Hill in which This kind of was improper for White House officials to attend a classified briefing about an investigation in which involves the president.
Representative Devin Nunes of California, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee in addition to also one of the president’s staunchest defenders in Congress, for weeks has demanded in which the full House in addition to also Senate Intelligence Committees be given access to documents about the informant’s role inside the campaign. He has accused the Justice Department of “obstruction” of a congressional investigation.
Democrats have argued in which the true aim of the Republicans is usually to undermine the Russia investigation — which in May 2017 was taken over by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III — in addition to also in which Republicans want access to F.B.I. files to gain information they can use against the inquiry.
Intelligence in addition to also law enforcement officials — including Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, in addition to also Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director — were opposed to expanding the number of lawmakers who can read the classified files, according to people with knowledge of their thinking.
In a letter to Mr. Coats on Thursday, Democratic leaders protested the Discharge of the documents, saying in which This kind of “contravenes your representation to us in addition to also our colleagues in which This kind of information would certainly not be shared outside in which group.”
“We believe your decision could put sources in addition to also methods at risk,” they added.
Representatives for the F.B.I. in addition to also the director of national intelligence declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
During congressional testimony in May, Mr. Wray gave a thinly veiled warning to lawmakers about the dangers of exposing information about confidential sources.
“The day in which we can’t protect human sources is usually the day the American people start becoming less safe,” he said.