Trump says those who spied on his campaign trail will face prison

Meanwhile White House may be retreating from some if its more harsh trade measures

US president Donald  Trump, who tweeted on Friday: ‘A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!’ Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

US president Donald Trump, who tweeted on Friday: ‘A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!’ Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

 

US president Donald Trump has warned that anyone found to have spied on his presidential campaign will face prison, as the attorney general renewed his pledge to investigate the origins of the Mueller investigation.

“My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics,” Mr Trump said on Friday on Twitter. “A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!”

The president’s comment comes as senior Republicans have said they want to investigate why special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed, with many accusing the US intelligence services of overstepping their remit by looking into connections between the Trump campaign team and Russia during the 2016 election campaign.

Mr Mueller, a former FBI director, concluded that Russia engaged in “systematic” interference in the 2016 election. He also unearthed “numerous links” between the Russian government and Mr Trump’s campaign, but concluded there was not enough evidence to establish that the campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with the Kremlin.

Trump supporters have seized on evidence that a warrant used to justify surveillance of Trump aide Carter Page in 2016 was based in part on a dossier provided by former British spy Christopher Steele, part of which was found to be false.

Russia investigation

In two interviews – his first since the publication of the Mueller report last month – attorney general William Barr elaborated on his move earlier this week to appoint Connecticut attorney John Durham to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation. He told Fox News that he wanted to get to the bottom of whether “government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale” during the Russia investigation.

“People have to find out what the government was doing during that period,” said Mr Barr. “I’ve been trying to get answers to the questions and I’ve found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and some of the explanations I’ve gotten don’t hang together,” he said of unnamed officials.

He doubled down on the comments in a separate interview in the Wall Street Journal. “Government power was used to spy on American citizens,” he said. “I can’t imagine any world where we wouldn’t take a look and make sure that was done properly.”

Surveillance practices

Mr Barr used the politically-loaded term “spying” to refer to US intelligence officials’ surveillance practices during the 2016 campaign when he testified to Congress last month, terminology that infuriated Democrats. But last week FBI director Christopher Wray – who was appointed by Mr Trump – said he was not aware of any improper spying on the Trump campaign, describing it as “ridiculous”. “That’s not the term I would use,” he told senators.

As Republicans pledged to investigate the origins of the Mueller report, Democrats continued to demand more information from the White House and government agencies over Mr Trump’s links with Russia and the president’s financial affairs.

Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin was expected to miss a Friday evening deadline to comply with a subpoena issued by the House of Representatives ways and means committee demanding access to six years of Mr Trump’s tax returns. The committee chairman, Richard Neal, has warned he will go to court in order to gain access.

Democrats are still said to be encouraging Mr Mueller to testify before Congress. While he submitted his completed report to the attorney general in March, he subsequently wrote to Mr Barr expressing displeasure with the way his findings had been represented.

Draconian trade measures

Separately, the White House appeared to be retreating from some of its more draconian trade measures on Friday, confirming that it would refrain from imposing tariffs on European vehicles for at least six months. The United States also reached agreement with Mexico and Canada to remove steel and aluminium tariffs, according to reports.

Nonetheless, Washington remains locked in a trade dispute with Beijing, a move that has rattled global stock markets. The United States raised tariffs on $200 billion (€180 billion) worth of Chinese exports to the United States last week and has threatened to impose charges on billions more. China has also threatened to impose punitive trade measures on the United States by June 1st.