‘Trump tried to un­der­mine Rus­sia probe’

White House told lies – Comey

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

FOR­MER FBI di­rec­tor James Comey yes­ter­day ac­cused US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of fir­ing him in a bid to un­der­mine the bureau’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble col­lu­sion be­tween his 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign team and Rus­sia.

Trump dis­missed Comey on May9 and the ad­min­is­tra­tion gave dif­fer­ing rea­sons for the ac­tion. Trump later con­tra­dicted his own staff and ac­knowl­edged on May 11 that he had fired Comey be­cause of the Rus­sia probe.

Asked at a US con­gres­sional hear­ing why he was fired, Comey said he did not know for sure. But he added: “Again, I take the pres­i­dent’s words. I know I was fired be­cause of some­thing about the way I was con­duct­ing the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion was in some way putting pres­sure on him, in some way ir­ri­tat­ing him, and he de­cided to fire me be­cause of that.”

Comey ear­lier told the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in the most ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated US con­gres­sional hear­ing in years that he be­lieved Trump had di­rected him to drop an FBI probe into the Repub­li­can pres­i­dent’s for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser as part of the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But Comey would not say whether he thought the pres­i­dent sought to ob­struct jus­tice.

Comey said the ad­min­is­tra­tion had told lies and de­famed him and the FBI af­ter the pres­i­dent dis­missed him on May 9.

Comey has said Trump asked him in Fe­bru­ary to drop an FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion of for­mer na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn as part of the probe into al­leged Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

“I don’t think it’s for me to say whether the con­ver­sa­tion I had with the pres­i­dent was an ef­fort to ob­struct.

“I took it as a very dis­turb­ing thing, very con­cern­ing,” Comey told the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

The Rus­sia is­sue has dogged Trump’s first months in of­fice, dis­tract­ing from his pol­icy agenda such as over­haul­ing the US health­care sys­tem and mak­ing tax cuts.

Comey’s ac­cu­sa­tions could fur­ther mire Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion in le­gal dif­fi­cul­ties, as spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller and sev­eral con­gres­sional com­mit­tees in­ves­ti­gate al­leged Rus­sian ef­forts to in­flu­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion and whether Trump’s cam­paign col­luded with Moscow.

Rus­sia has de­nied such in­ter­fer­ence and the White House has de­nied any col­lu­sion.

Trump trig­gered a po­lit­i­cal firestorm when he dis­missed Comey, and Democrats ac­cused the pres­i­dent of try­ing to limit the Rus­sia probe.

The for­mer FBI head said Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion had de­famed him in com­ments made af­ter his fir­ing by say­ing that the bureau was in dis­ar­ray and that the work­force had lost con­fi­dence in its leader.

“Those were lies, plain and sim­ple,” Comey said.

Comey said Trump did not at­tempt to get him to drop the over­all Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, just the part of if that re­lated to Flynn, who the pres­i­dent fired in Fe­bru­ary for mis­lead­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence about the ex­tent of his con­ver­sa­tions last year with Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to the US.

Trump crit­ics say that any ef­forts by the pres­i­dent to hin­der an FBI probe could amount to ob­struc­tion of jus­tice. Some le­gal ex­perts said Comey’s tes­ti­mony could strengthen any im­peach­ment case in Congress to re­move Trump from of­fice built on an al­le­ga­tion of ob­struc­tion of jus­tice.

At one point in the hear­ing, Repub­li­can Se­na­tor James Risch pressed Comey on whether Trump had ac­tu­ally di­rected him to drop the Flynn in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Comey said: “I took it as a di­rec­tion. If it is the pres­i­dent of the United States, with me alone, say­ing ‘I hope this’ I took it as ‘this is what he wants me to do’.

“I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.”


For­mer FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey.

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