Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy defends FBI against Trump's 'Spygate' claims

Key Points
  • Trump has repeatedly claimed that a spy was placed in his campaign for "political purposes."
  • Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who was briefed last week by intelligence officials, says he is "even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do."
  • Trump on Wednesday took separate comments from Gowdy as an opportunity to once again publicly attack Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy defends FBI against Trump's 'Spygate' claims
Gowdy defends FBI against Trump's 'Spygate' claims

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., said the FBI has used proper methods in its ongoing probe of potential Russian links to the Trump campaign, a rebuke to President Donald Trump's recent rhetoric that a "spy" had been embedded in his campaign "for political purposes."

Gowdy, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a leading player on the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday night that his view of the FBI was only strengthened after a briefing on Thursday with intelligence officials.

"I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do," Gowdy said in a Fox News interview. "It has nothing to do with Donald Trump."

Gowdy was among the congressional Republicans invited to a briefing last week with Justice Department and intelligence community officials to discuss the FBI's use of the alleged informant. After being criticized for initially scheduling a single meeting without any Democrats present, the White House added another briefing that included members of the opposition party.

Trump has repeatedly claimed that a spy was placed in his campaign for "political purposes," an accusation for which no evidence is publicly available.

Trump tweet

Gowdy said the context for Trump's frustration is understandable, citing former Obama officials and Democrats in Congress whom he described as having beat the drums of collusion and impeachment for months. Gowdy made his name by targeting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in his role as one of the chief investigators in the probe over the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on U.S. officials in Benghazi, Libya.

The Trump-Russia ties hiding in plain sight
The Trump-Russia ties hiding in plain sight

But Trump should be "heartened," Gowdy said, by the fact that most senior Justice Department officials, such as FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, are his own appointees.

"It was President Trump himself who said, No. 1, 'I didn't collude with Russia, but if anyone connected with my campaign did, I want the FBI to find that out,'" Gowdy said. "It looks to me like the FBI was doing what President Trump said I want you to do — find it out."

Targeting Sessions

Trump, meanwhile, seized on a different set of Gowdy comments. In a trio of tweets Wednesday morning, the president used the congressman's words to publicly attack his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Quoting Gowdy's stance that Sessions' recusal from the Russia probe meant that the president should have selected a different attorney general, Trump tweeted: "I wish I did!"

Trump has repeatedly excoriated Sessions in public — and reportedly in private — for his recusal from investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Other voices on Fox News knock down 'Spygate'

Gowdy was not the only voice on Fox News, a network Trump often promotes and endorses, to push back against the president's unsubstantiated claims of an implanted spy in his campaign.

Immediately after Gowdy's appearance Tuesday night, Andrew Napolitano, a conservative judicial analyst for the network, said the allegations "seem to be baseless — there is no evidence for that whatsoever."

Trump had quoted Napolitano last week amid a maelstrom of tweets decrying "Spygate."

Trump tweet 4

Anchor Shepard Smith also challenged Trump's accusations, calling them "unfounded, not based in fact or reason, with no evidence to support them."

Asked whether Trump should refrain from his fusillade against the special counsel, Gowdy hinted that he should leave the public statements to his staff.

"I would tell him to rely on his lawyers and his [communications] folks," Gowdy said.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.