WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) in a Sunday morning radio interview said he believed “there was no legal basis” for the FBI to open an investigation into then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and its purported ties to Russia.
King, appearing on John Catsimatidis’ “The Cats Roundtable” show on 970AM, said an internal Justice Department investigation commissioned by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia probe would show anti-Trump “bias” among investigators.
"Just from the evidence I’ve seen over the last several years being on the Intelligence Committee, being a member of Congress, there is no doubt to me there was severe, serious abuses that were carried out in the FBI and, I believe, top levels of the CIA against the President of the United States or, at that time, presidential candidate Donald Trump," King said.
Asked to elaborate on what led him to believe the FBI and others acted improperly, King, in a follow-up phone interview with Newsday, repeated Trump’s long-standing argument that investigators had no valid reason to open an investigation into his campaign.
King said the two Trump campaign aides with ties to Russia who were among the first to be investigated — Carter Page and George Papadopoulos — were “not significant” players in the overall campaign operation.
“I never saw any kind of smoking gun that would warrant that type of investigation,” King told Newsday.
Page and Papadopoulos were both foreign policy advisers to the Trump campaign.
Page, according to special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the election, had long maintained contact with senior Russian officials but the “investigation did not establish that Page coordinated with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”
Papadopoulos was among the six Trump campaign operatives indicted by Mueller’s sweeping Russia probe. He pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with a Kremlin-linked professor and served 12 days in federal prison last year.
The FBI’s former chief counsel, James Baker, has previously defended the agency’s decision to open an investigation into the Trump campaign. Baker, in a rare interview in May, told the “Lawfare” podcast that the investigation was launched following a tip from Australian officials who relayed that Papadopoulos had boasted of having “dirt” on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“That was the nugget of information that got everything going,” he said, adding later, “It would have been a dereliction of our duty not to investigate this information.”
The Mueller report indicated that Papadopoulos had heard from a London-based professor that Russian operatives were in possession of “thousands” of Clinton’s emails, but “no documentary evidence, and nothing in the email accounts or other communications facilities reviewed by the Office, shows that Papadopoulos shared this information with the [Trump] Campaign.”