The Justice Department says it will give a second bipartisan briefing Thursday on classified information related to the Russia investigation after complaints from Democrats that they were being excluded from a similar Republicans-only meeting.
The second briefing, which includes the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” congressional leaders, is to be held at 2 p.m., following the previously scheduled noon briefing for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Ca., and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.
Nunes and Gowdy and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will attend both briefings, conducted by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Chris Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.
Kelly’s inclusion comes despite earlier remarks by press secretary Sarah Sanders, speaking before the second briefing was added, that no one from the White House would be at the noon meeting.
The briefings follow President Trump’s angry denunciations of what he has described as “Spygate” over the FBI’s use of a secret informant to determine whether aides from the Trump campaign were meeting with Russian officials.
“A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “If so, that would be a disgrace to this country. I hope there weren’t, frankly … but some man got paid based on what I read in the newspapers.”
Former FBI Director James Comey, who was fired by the president last year, responded via Twitter, denouncing attacks on the agency and defending its use of confidential informants as “tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country.”
He said the president’s attacks on the FBI “will do lasting damage to our country.”
As NPR’s Philip Ewing wrote earlier this week:
“According to reports, the FBI paid a confidential informant to meet with Trump campaign workers who had or were suspected of having contacts with foreign governments in 2016. That followed a tip via Australia’s Foreign Ministry that an American working for Trump in London had been meeting with Russian agents.
Trump cited the news stories to expand upon a theme he has sounded a few times before: that the Obama administration inappropriately spied on his campaign.
Previous charges about eavesdropping and ‘unmasking’ were deflated, and skeptics say Trump is trying to change a story about potential wrongdoing by his campaign into one that casts doubt upon his predecessor, the Justice Department and the FBI.”