FBI in­ves­ti­gates Trump-Rus­sia links

Nelson Mail - - WORLD DIGEST -

UNITED STATES: The head of the FBI pub­licly chal­lenged US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, deny­ing his claim that for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama wire­tapped his 2016 elec­tion cam­paign and con­firm­ing his agency had launched a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into any col­lu­sion be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and Rus­sia.

FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey told a con­gres­sional hear­ing he had seen no ev­i­dence to sup­port a claim by Trump that Obama had wire­tapped his cam­paign head­quar­ters in Man­hat­tan’s Trump Tower.

The pres­i­dent cre­ated a con­tro­versy in early March when he tweeted with­out giv­ing ev­i­dence that Obama had wire­tapped the cam­paign as the busi­ness­man took on Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton in the pres­i­den­tial race.

‘‘With re­spect to the pres­i­dent’s tweets about al­leged wire­tap­ping directed at him by the prior ad­min­is­tra­tion, I have no in­for­ma­tion that sup­ports those tweets,’’ Comey told the House of Rep­re­sen- tatives In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee hear­ing.

The com­mit­tee is in­ves­ti­gat­ing ac­cu­sa­tions that Rus­sia tried to in­flu­ence the elec­tion mostly by hack­ing Demo­cratic op­er­a­tives’ emails and re­leas­ing em­bar­rass­ing in­for­ma­tion. Rus­sia de­nies the al­le­ga­tions.

Comey con­firmed the FBI has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing since last July pos­si­ble Rus­sian gov­ern­ment ef­forts to in­ter­fere in the elec­tion, in­clud­ing any links be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and Moscow. He said that while the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment wanted to hurt Clin­ton’s cam­paign and help Trump’s, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies made no judg­ment on whether the ef­forts in­flu­enced the out­come.

Comey gave no de­tails of the clas­si­fied in­ves­ti­ga­tion and said the fact that it ex­ists does not mean charges will be filed.

US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded that Rus­sia tried to help Trump by hack­ing lead­ing Democrats. Comey said Moscow had long been op­posed to Trump’s elec­tion ri­val, for­mer sec­re­tary of state Clin­ton.

‘‘I think that was a fairly easy judg­ment for the [in­tel­li­gence] com­mu­nity,’’ he said. ‘‘Putin hated Sec­re­tary Clin­ton so much that the flip side of that coin was he had a clear pref­er­ence for the per­son run­ning against the per­son he hated so much.’’

Asked about Comey, White House spokesman Sean Spicer read a se­ries of quotes from of­fi­cials — some from the Obama Ad­min­is­tra­tion — who have said they have seen no signs of col- lu­sion be­tween Trump’s cam­paign and Rus­sia.

‘‘You can con­tinue to look for some­thing but con­tin­u­ing to look for some­thing that doesn’t ex­ist doesn’t mat­ter,’’ he told re­porters at the White House.

Spicer said he was not aware of any White House of­fi­cial be­ing un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FBI.

Trump has fre­quently urged bet­ter re­la­tions with Rus­sia, which has been at odds with the United States in re­cent years over Moscow’s role in Ukraine and the Syr­ian civil war.

Adam Schiff, the top Demo­crat on the in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, de­tailed ac­tiv­i­ties by Trump ad­vis­ers or as­so­ciates with ties to Rus­sia, in­clud­ing for­mer elec­tion cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn, who was forced out as Trump’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser after talk­ing to the Rus­sian am­bas­sador and then mis­rep­re­sent­ing the con­ver­sa­tion to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence.

‘‘Is it pos­si­ble that all of these events and re­ports are com­pletely un­re­lated and noth­ing more than an en­tirely un­happy co­in­ci­dence? Yes, it is pos­si­ble,’’ Schiff said. ‘‘But it is also pos­si­ble, maybe more than pos­si­ble, that they are not co­in­ci­den­tal, not dis­con­nected and not un­re­lated.’’

Trump’s March 4 tweet about wire­tap­ping, which was made with­out sup­port­ing ev­i­dence, pulled at­ten­tion away from the claims of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion. He made the claim two days after At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, who had met with Rus­sia’s US am­bas­sador last year, said he would re­move him­self from any in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion.

Trump and his ad­vis­ers have con­tended in re­cent weeks that his claims of wire­tap­ping were in­tended to mean sur­veil­lance of the Trump cam­paign in gen­eral but the White House has not pro­vided ev­i­dence of sur­veil­lance of any kind.

Last week, Trump’s spokesman cited a me­dia re­port that Bri­tain’s GCHQ spy agency was be­hind the sur­veil­lance, prompt­ing ridicule in Bri­tain. The head of the US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency, Ad­mi­ral Mike Rogers, told the hear­ing that the al­le­ga­tion had strained re­la­tions with Lon­don.

‘‘I think it clearly frus­trates a key ally of ours,’’ Rogers said.

— Reuters

FBI di­rec­tor James Comey.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.