The US Department of Justice will investigate whether FBI agents spied on President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign for “inappropriate purposes”.
In a tweet, Mr Trump said he wanted to know whether his predecessor’s administration ordered such a move.
The call comes after US media reports suggesting the FBI had an informant meeting campaign aides.
US Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein said action would be taken if any infiltration was found.
“If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action,” Mr Rosenstein said in a statement.
I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes – and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2018
What is the scope of the investigation?
There is already an investigation into all aspects relating to Mr Trump’s campaign for the 2016 election and whether Russia tried to influence the outcome.
Mr Trump’s latest demand came amid a series of tweets on Sunday denouncing a “witch hunt” that, he said, had found no collusion by his campaign with Russia.
This refers to the ongoing investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 US election, whether there was any collusion between the Kremlin and Mr Trump’s election campaign and whether the president tried unlawfully to obstruct the inquiry.
Mr Trump has constantly attacked the inquiry.
Was there a mole inside the Trump team?
Mr Trump first made the accusation that the FBI had sent a spy into his campaign team on Friday.
“It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story,” Mr Trump tweeted, adding: “If true – all time biggest political scandal!”
Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president. It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a “hot” Fake News story. If true – all time biggest political scandal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2018
The New York Times followed with an article that suggested there was, indeed, an FBI informant – whose identity it did not reveal – who had been sent to speak to campaign aides but only after the FBI had received reports of “suspicious contacts linked to Russia”.
The informant – an American academic working in the UK – had made contact with George Papadopoulos and Carter Page.
The Washington Post reported a similar account.
What’s likely to happen next?
Law enforcement officials have refused to provide evidence to Congressional leaders over the issue.
They have argued that doing so would put the informant’s life – or that of his contacts – in danger.
Mr Trump could order the US Department of Justice – which has oversight over the FBI – to release the documents.