WASHINGTON - Concerned over US President Donald Trump’s decision to fire the Director of Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey, in May 2017, the FBI reportedly opened an investigation into whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.
The bureau opened the counterintelligence inquiry days after Comey was ousted, the Times reported, citing several people, including former law enforcement officials, familiar with the probe.
Investigators were specifically looking into whether Trump’s firing of Comey posed a national security threat as well as whether it was an obstruction of justice, considering the FBI’s broader investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Former law enforcement officials told the Times that the criminal aspect (whether Trump obstructed justice) and counterintelligence aspect (whether Trump was working covertly for Russia) of the investigation were combined into one inquiry because it would have been considered a national security threat if Trump had indeed ousted Comey to impede the Russia investigation. In a statement reported by NBC News, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasted The Times report as "absurd."
"James Comey was fired because he's a disgraced partisan hack," she said, according to NBC.
"Unlike President Obama, who let Russia and other foreign adversaries push America around, President Trump has actually been tough on Russia."Comey’s firing in 2017 is a focal point of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump attempted to obstruct the probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump and his allies have offered a series of changing explanations for his decision to fire Comey, which has complicated investigators’ effort to determine his intent. The firing of Comey was reportedly used as justification for the investigation being opened, but FBI agents had already been concerned about the president’s ties to Russia, the Times reported.
The Russia investigation was taken over by Mueller when he was appointed special counsel.“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,” President’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Times for its report. - APP