US intelligence agencies offered no evidence to back President Donald Trump's claim that the FBI planted a 'spy' in his campaign, congressional Democrats said Thursday after a closed-door briefing.
The Department of Justice and the FBI held two classified meetings with leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives and the heads of the chambers' intelligence panels, after the president demanded a probe into allegations of infiltration into his team, a potential scandal Trump has branded 'SPYGATE.'
US media have reported that the FBI sent an informant to gather possible evidence that Trump campaign advisors had suspicious contacts with Russia.
Democrats have warned that Trump's fixation on the issue -- he has tweeted about it repeatedly -- suggests he is attempting to undermine the year-old investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with his campaign.
Democrats say there is no evidence of 'spy' in Donald Trump's campaign after an intelligence brief (Trump seen on Thursday)
FBI Director Chris Wray was among the intelligence officials who briefed senior members of Congress about the FBI's use of a confidential intelligence source in the Russia investigation
An initial Thursday briefing at the Department of Justice was intended to be only for Republicans, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes.
But after outcry from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the panel's top Democrat Adam Schiff was allowed to attend.
The action then shifted to the US Capitol where Federal Bureau of Investigation director Chris Wray, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who oversees the Russia investigation, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats helped brief the so-called Gang of Eight.
The intelligence grouping consists of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Pelosi, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, top intelligence Democrat Mark Warner, Nunes and Schiff.
Wray (C) walks to an intelligence briefing on whether the FBI embedded an informant in the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, on Capitol Hill
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly (R) and White House lawyer Emmet Flood (L) arrive to attend a briefing with members of the so-called 'Gang of Eight' at the U.S. Capitol May 24, 2018 in Washington, DC
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, reads a statement from himself and the other members of Congressional Democratic leadership after a classified briefing
United States Senator Richard Burr (Republican of North Carolina), Chairman of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, travels through the Senate subway en route to the special meeting
Democrats said the meetings were conducted in part to assure lawmakers that no intelligence sources or methods were exposed while probing whether an FBI informant spoke with Trump campaign advisers in 2016.
'Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a 'spy' in the Trump campaign, or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols,' the Democrats said in a joint statement.
Trump's lead lawyer countering Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, Emmet Flood, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly were also allowed to attend the opening of both briefings, a move Democrats decried as a disturbing breach of protocol.
'I've never seen a Gang of Eight meeting that included any presence from the White House,' Warner told reporters, clarifying that the individuals left before classified substance was discussed.
Trump and his supporters have cast the apparent informant as a mole possibly sent by the Obama administration to burrow into his campaign.