Ex-FBI chief to shed light on Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in US pres­i­den­tial polls

New Straits Times - - World - WASH­ING­TON

JAMES Comey, the former Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI) chief fired by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, has agreed to pub­licly tes­tify about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the United States elec­tions, as fresh al­le­ga­tions in­creased pres­sure on the Amer­i­can leader.

In an Oval Of­fice meet­ing with Rus­sian of­fi­cials last week, Trump called Comey a “nut job” and said fir­ing the in­tel­li­gence chief had re­lieved “great pres­sure” on him, The New York Times re­ported.

The ex­change sup­ports claims that Trump sacked him over the bureau’s probe into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween the mogul’s cam­paign and Moscow.

The Wash­ing­ton Post, mean­while, said the FBI had iden­ti­fied a se­nior White House of­fi­cial as a “sig­nif­i­cant per­son of in­ter­est” in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Comey will tes­tify in open ses­sion of the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee at some point af­ter May 29 though a date has not yet been set. Comey has not spo­ken pub­licly since his sur­prise fir­ing last week.

“I’m hope­ful that he will clar­ify for the Amer­i­can peo­ple re­cent events that have been broadly re­ported in the me­dia,” panel Chair­man Richard Burr said.

The top Demo­crat on the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, Mark Warner, said he ex­pected Comey to “shed light on is­sues crit­i­cal to this Com­mit­tee’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion”.

How­ever, mem­bers of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee said Comey de­clined their in­vi­ta­tion to tes­tify be­fore the panel over the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing his abrupt re­moval.

“We’re dis­ap­pointed in Comey’s decision not to tes­tify voluntarily be­fore the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee,” said Chair­man Chuck Grass­ley and the panel’s top Demo­crat, Dianne Fe­in­stein, urg­ing Comey to re­con­sider.

The White House has been thrown into tur­moil by a suc­ces­sion of al­le­ga­tions against Trump this week, in­clud­ing that he may have ob­structed jus­tice by ask­ing Comey to drop an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into one of his top ad­vis­ers.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, is among those whose con­tacts with the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment have come un­der scru­tiny.

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told Rus­sian For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov last week, cit­ing notes taken at the meet­ing and read to the pa­per by a US of­fi­cial.

“I faced great pres­sure be­cause of Rus­sia. That’s taken off.”

That flies in the face of the White House’s pub­lic in­sis­tence that Comey’s dis­missal was not linked to his in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer did not dis­pute the NYT ac­count.

In­ter­cepted Rus­sian com­mu­ni­ca­tions sug­gested that Rus­sian of­fi­cials felt that they had built up such a strong re­la­tion­ship with Flynn, that they could use him to in­flu­ence Trump and his in­ner cir­cle, CNN re­ported.

On Thurs­day, Trump de­clared him­self the vic­tim of the “great­est witch hunt” in Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal his­tory and de­nied al­le­ga­tions of col­lu­sion.

“There is no col­lu­sion be­tween my­self and my cam­paign, but I can al­ways speak for my­self, and the Rus­sians — zero,” Trump said.

The White House on Fri­day pre­dicted that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion would back up Trump’s ac­count.

“As the pres­i­dent has stated be­fore — a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion will con­firm that there was no col­lu­sion be­tween the cam­paign and any for­eign en­tity,” said Spicer.

Spicer of­fered a new ex­pla­na­tion for the fir­ing, say­ing that Trump had been try­ing to im­prove re­la­tions with Rus­sia — and Comey got in the way. AFP


Former Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion chief James Comey has not spo­ken pub­licly since his sur­prise fir­ing last week.

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