Telling reporters that he did not order an internal Justice Department investigation into the origins of the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections, President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised the decision of Attorney General William Barr to put a federal prosecutor from Connecticut in charge of an internal review of the matter.
"I didn't know it, but I think it's a great thing that he did it," the President told reporters as left the White House for a trip to Louisiana on Tuesday, as he again accused FBI officials of using the probe to wrongly investigate his campaign over possible ties to Russia.
"They want to look at how that whole hoax got started," Mr. Trump said.
President Trump praises AG Bill Barr for investigating why the Russia probe began, says it's the greatest hoax ever perpetrated upon the American people: "I am so proud of our Attorney General, that he is looking into it. I think it’s great." pic.twitter.com/7ReMqSG2ze— Harry Cherry (@TheHarryCherry) May 14, 2019
Mr. Trump - and many Republicans in Congress - have long claimed that the FBI 'spied' on his 2016 campaign, an accusation given new life by Attorney General William Barr in early April, when he told a Senate panel that there had been possible illegal surveillance of the Trump campaign.
Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked about that characterization by the Attorney General - and he made clear that he did not agree with Barr, saying, "that's not the term I would use."
That semantic conflict was simmering in the President's mind, as he denounced the FBI Director's answer as 'ridiculous.'
"I thought the Attorney General answered it perfectly," Mr. Trump said of Wray. "I certainly didn't understand that answer; I thought it was a ridiculous answer."
Trump vs. The FBI, Part 85— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) May 14, 2019
The President says FBI Director Chris Wray gave a "ridiculous answer" in distancing himself from the term "spying" pic.twitter.com/CM3NfuiHII
In charge of the review will be U.S. Attorney John Durham of Connecticut - who is no stranger to high profile investigations.
In 2008, Durham was chosen to investigate the destruction of videotaped interrogations by the CIA, in a post-9/11 dispute over treatment of terrorist detainees, and whether they were tortured in violation of U.S. laws.
Last week, former FBI General Counsel Jim Baker said the probe began after Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat that Russia had offered to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Papadopoulos later plead guilty to lying to investigators about his contacts with "certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with senior Russian government officials.”