FBI con­firms probe into pos­si­ble Trump cam­paign-Krem­lin links

Blow to pres­i­dent over Rus­sia scan­dal Comey says no ev­i­dence for Obama wire­tap claim

Financial Times Middle East - - Front Page - DEMETRI SEV­ASTOP­ULO AND COURT­NEY WEAVER — WASH­ING­TON

James Comey has con­firmed that the FBI is prob­ing pos­si­ble links be­tween Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and the Krem­lin, an un­prece­dented public ac­knowl­edg­ment that pits the top US law en­force­ment agency against a sit­ting pres­i­dent.

Mr Comey, the FBI di­rec­tor, also said the bureau had “no in­for­ma­tion” that sup­ported tweets writ­ten by Mr Trump con­tend­ing that his pre­de­ces­sor, Barack Obama, was “wire­tap­ping” his cam­paign­be­fore­theNovem­ber­elec­tion.

The two as­ser­tions be­fore the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee are a se­vere set­back to the White House’s ef­forts to put the mount­ing scan­dal sur­round­ing MrTrump’stiestoRus­si­abehin­dit.

Al­though Mr Comey’s state­ments largely con­firm what many in Wash­ing­ton had al­ready as­sumed, the im­pri­matur of a public con­fir­ma­tion by the FBI gives the al­le­ga­tions against Mr Trump new cred­i­bil­ity. Mr Comey said the bureau started the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in July, three­months­be­fore­the­elec­tion.

Mr Trump has de­nied his aides had links to Rus­sian of­fi­cials, call­ing such re­ports “fake news”. In a series of tweets just be­fore Mr Comey ap­peared on Capi­tol Hill, Mr Trump in­sisted there was “no ev­i­dence” of col­lu­sion be­tween his cam­paign and Rus­sia, blam­ing the ac­cu­sa­tions on Democrats look­ing for “an ex­cuse for run­ning a ter­ri­ble cam­paign”.

“Noth­ing has changed. Se­nior Obama in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials have gone on record to con­firm there is no ev­i­dence of Trump-Rus­sia col­lu­sion and there is no ev­i­dence of a Trump-Rus­sia scan­dal,” theWhiteHous­e­said­i­nas­tate­ment.

But Mr Comey told Congress the FBI con­tin­ued to ex­am­ine “whether any crimes were com­mit­ted”. He said the probe“in­cludesin­ves­ti­gat­ingth­en­ature of any links be­tween in­di­vid­u­als as­so­ci­ated with the Trump cam­paign and the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment and whether there was any co-or­di­na­tion be­tween the cam­paig­nandRus­sia’sef­forts”.

He said Rus­sia had sought to dis­rupt the demo­cratic process and the cam­paign of Hil­lary Clin­ton, Mr Trump’s ri­val, while aid­ing his cam­paign — a goal Moscow­be­lievesithelpedachieve.

Mr Trump has at­tempted to steer at­ten­tion to the un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions that Mr Obama or­dered sur­veil­lance of Trump Tower, go­ing so far as to re­peat al­le­ga­tions that GCHQ, the UK elec­tronic sur­veil­lance agency, was com­plic­itinthe­op­er­a­tion.

Ad­mi­ral Mike Rogers, the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency head who was also ap­pear­ing be­fore Congress, re­jected the claims, say­ing he agreed with an an­gry GCHQ de­nial that the al­le­ga­tions were “ut­terly ridicu­lous”.

“It would be ex­pressly against the con­struc­tion of the five eyes [in­tel­li­gence shar­ing] agree­ment that has been in­place­fordecades,”MrRogers­said.

The House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee probe is one of sev­eral into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the elec­tion. Mr Comey could not tell the com­mit­tee when the FBIin­ves­ti­ga­tion­wouldend. Sup­port for Gor­such page 6

James Comey: the im­pri­matur of a public con­fir­ma­tion by the FBI gives the al­le­ga­tions against Mr Trump new cred­i­bil­ity

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