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FBI opened a probe into whether Trump was working for Russians: NYT

Updated January 13, 2019

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FBI opened the Trump probe days after Trump fired Comey after considering various options for dealing with the firing. — File
FBI opened the Trump probe days after Trump fired Comey after considering various options for dealing with the firing. — File

NEW YORK: The FBI opened a probe into President Donald Trump for possible obstruction of justice after he fired FBI Director James Comey, counterintelligence agents were investigating why Trump was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia, according to a source familiar with the matter, The New York Times reported.

As the FBI opened the Trump probe in the hectic days after Trump fired Comey, after considering various options for dealing with the firing. In addition to the Comey dismissal in May 2017, Trump had raised concerns in the FBI for comments he made to Russian officials in the Oval Office about firing his FBI director, according to the source familiar with the matter.

The source spoke to CNN after New York Times reported that the FBI were so concerned they began investigating whether Trump was working on behalf of Russia against US interests.

Rudolph Giuliani, lawyer for Trump, was quoted by The Times as saying that the investigation seems to have gone nowhere. “The fact that it goes back a year and a half and nothing came of it that showed a breach of national security means they found nothing,” Giuliani said on Friday.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Comey was fired for just cause and that Trump has never favoured Russia. “This is absurd. James Comey was fired because he’s a disgraced partisan hack, and his Deputy Andrew McCabe, who was in charge at the time, is a known liar fired by the FBI. Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia.”

The decision to investigate Trump himself was an aggressive move by FBI officials who were confronting the chaotic aftermath of the firing of Comey and enduring Trump’s verbal assaults on the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt”, The Times reported.

CNN reported that counterintelligence agents were investigating why Trump was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia.

The obstruction probe was an idea the FBI had previously considered, but it didn’t start until Comey was fired, CNN reported. The justification went beyond Trump’s firing of Comey, CNN said, according to its sources, and included Trump’s conversation with Comey in the Oval Office asking him to drop the investigation of his former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

The FBI director’s firing is central to an obstruction of justice investigation being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is also looking into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election in order to help Trump.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019