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President Trump has grown increasingly convinced that the FBI used an informant to spy on his 2016 campaign, and has now demanded a Justice Department investigation:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The back story: There has been a growing amount of speculation by conservative writers that an FBI source spied on the Trump campaign, and might have even planted a spy inside. It's now clear from multiple news reports that the FBI had an informant who talked to two campaign advisers, but not that the informant was planted on the inside. That talk is based on suspicions — not evidence.

Between the lines: This all started with House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes' fight to get the Justice Department to turn over documents about an intelligence source who helped the Russia investigation.

The Washington Post reported on this source earlier this month, and the New York Times reported last week that the informant — an American academic who teaches in Britain — met with Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, but only after the FBI was looking into their contacts with Russia.

The Wall Street Journal identified Stefan Halper as the suspected informant on Sunday, but neither the White House nor the FBI have confirmed it. Axios' Jonathan Swan reports that Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro recommended Halper for a senior role in the Trump administration.

Beyond that, the columns read a lot into what the source could have been doing.

Here's what the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel wrote in a May 10 column:

"When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.
This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting."

National Review's Andrew McCarthy got more specific in a May 12 piece, noting that Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of Fusion GPS, testified to a Senate committee that former British spy Christopher Steele told him the FBI had a "human source" inside the Trump campaign —and then tried to walk it back. McCarthy believes Simpson got it right the first time.

And when he appeared on Fox and Friends last week, McCarthy went farther: "There's probably no doubt that they had at least one confidential informant in the campaign." That's the line Trump quoted in a tweet declaring the possible spying was "bigger than Watergate."

The bottom line: We still have no evidence that the FBI actually planted a source inside the Trump campaign, and the reports from the New York Times and CNN concluded that it didn't. If there's any evidence that contradicts that, we won't know more unless it surfaces from the Justice Department inspector general's investigation into whether there was "any impropriety or political motivation" in the FBI's Russia investigation.

The other way we could learn more is if Nunes gets his information on the source. But if he discloses any of it, intelligence officials are warning that he could put the source in danger, per the Washington Post.

Until that gets resolved, this story is likely to be stuck in an uncomfortable limbo, with no evidence to back up the suspicions of questionable FBI surveillance — but no way to put them to rest, either.

This story has been updated to include Trump's demand for an investigation and more reporting on the FBI source.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs "dull" DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker