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Trump Says He'll Demand A Probe Into Campaign Surveillance Allegations


No doubt the president of the United States has the power to order the Justice Department to do something. What makes President Trump's move here extraordinary is he's giving the department orders on a case that directly involves him. Trump tweeted yesterday that he is demanding that Justice Department officials investigate whether the FBI infiltrated his 2016 campaign for political purposes as the agency was monitoring Russia's activities. The deputy attorney general has already responded to Trump's tweet directing the department's inspector general to look into this.

For some legal perspective here, I want to bring in Michael Moore. He's a former U.S. attorney appointed by President Obama. He joins us from Atlanta this morning. Mr. Moore, thanks for coming on.

MICHAEL MOORE: I'm glad to be on with you. Good morning.

GREENE: So for a president to direct an investigation on a matter that involves him, is there precedent for this?

MOORE: You know, there's precedent for a president looking into activity that he might think has some nefarious reasons. But I'm not sure that in a situation like this, I'll just say, there's nothing normal or usual about the situation with President Trump.

GREENE: Say more. What is so unusual in your mind here?

MOORE: Well, I mean, I think at some point, he made a decision that his case, whether that be the obstruction case or the conspiracy charges that involve Russia and meddling in the election, that that's not going to be won in court. And so he's made a decision to move the case now to the court of public opinion. And essentially, what he's done is he's got his lawyer out there, who's suggested that Bob Mueller's promised that the investigation would be over in September. But yet at the same time now the president has come back and said, look, but I want to dig around and find out if somebody was in my campaign.

He did the same thing back with his wiretapping allegation when he claimed that the Obama administration had placed a wire in Trump Tower in his campaign office to try to get information. So these are basically missiles that he's lobbed out to the public in the hopes that we'll quit talking about things involving the investigation and the fruits of the investigation thus far. I mean, there's been a pretty significant finding by Bob Mueller thus far as far as the indictments and the cooperation. So I don't think he wants us talking about that, and so he turns the tables and tries to direct them there.

GREENE: And we're talking about something else. But I do want to talk about, I mean, potentially what his legal argument would be here. You said that there's precedent for presidents looking into something they feel might be nefarious.

MOORE: Sure.

GREENE: In theory, could a law have been broken if the FBI was using a source to collect information about Russia and somehow made contact with people in Trump's campaign?

MOORE: Well, I mean, I think we know at this point that in fact the government did have contact or at least was gathering some information about people involved in his campaign. I mean, we know this from what was released from the House intel report. We know it from other sources that in fact - let's take Carter Page, for instance - that there had been some discussions there and that a federal judge had approved some level of surveillance. So that is...

GREENE: And we should say Carter Page was a foreign policy adviser to the president. And we now see The Washington Post is reporting that he came in contact with a retired professor who may have been an informant for the FBI.

MOORE: Well, sure.

GREENE: So there is a lot of stuff happening here.

MOORE: Well, there's that going on. I mean, we don't have to look that deep into the campaign, either. I mean, Donald Trump Jr. met with a lawyer who apparently has ties to the Kremlin in Trump Tower. So there's nothing particularly new about the campaign having some contact with Russian operatives. That's not a revelation that ought to catch any of us by surprise.

GREENE: What about the contact with people who might have been sources for the FBI? I mean, that the president is making the argument that his campaign may have been, quote, "infiltrated" by, you know, by people who are informants for the FBI. Could that have happened here? And could there be something illegal if it did?

MOORE: No. I mean, he's no stranger to hyperbole, but I certainly don't think there's been anything illegal that's happened. By all appearances, there was some concern that there may have been some Russian contact, and a confidential source for the FBI was confirming that there was nothing that needed immediate attention. And I think we've heard even Chris Wray, the director of the FBI, suggesting that moving down this path might put confidential sources and means in peril. So I don't see anything that makes me think there's been a law broken. Rod Rosenstein, as I understand, has turned the matter over to the inspector general's office.

GREENE: The deputy attorney general, yeah.

MOORE: That's right. They'll look into that. They'll widen their inquiry somewhat. But for a man who wishes to see the Russia investigation close down, this looks to me like it adds new fuel to the fire.

GREENE: The last question I want to ask you is about Christopher Wray, the FBI director. I mean, he was appointed by President Trump. He said before Congress last week, quote, "the day we can't protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe." Why is that concern so related to this case?

MOORE: Well, I mean, this is not the first time that Chris Wray has butted heads with the president about information and investigative sources, means, methods. Remember that when the House Intelligence Committee report was coming out, he lobbied to, in fact, have the document remained sealed so that it wasn't released to the public for fear that it would release information that could harm sources or otherwise affect the investigation. It's important because that's how we get information. We have people out there who put their selves in jeopardy, who gather information for us. And that's a key to having a successful investigation inquiry into anything that's law enforcement related in these types of cases.

GREENE: Michael Moore is a former U.S. attorney. He was appointed by President Obama - speaking to us from Atlanta this morning. Thanks a lot for your time. We appreciate it.

MOORE: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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