Trump: re­port FBI in­ves­ti­gated him as pos­si­ble Rus­sian agent is 'in­sult­ing'

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Erin Durkin in New York

The FBI launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Don­ald Trump had been work­ing on be­half of Rus­sia against Amer­i­can in­ter­ests – and Trump went to ex­tra­or­di­nary lengths to con­ceal from his own ad­min­is­tra­tion the de­tails of his con­ver­sa­tions with Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, ac­cord­ing to two bomb­shell re­ports.

The New York Times re­ported on Fri­day that law en­force­ment of­fi­cials were so con­cerned about Trump’s be­hav­ior af­ter he fired James Comey as FBI di­rec­tor that they launched a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether he was act­ing as a Rus­sian agent, ei­ther in­ten­tion­ally or un­wit­tingly.

Ac­cord­ing to an­other re­port by the Washington Post, Trump has taken un­usual steps to con­ceal the con­tents of his dis­cus­sions with Putin. Af­ter meet­ing with the Rus­sian pres­i­dent in Ham­burg in 2017, the Post re­ported, Trump took his in­ter­preter’s notes and in­structed him not to dis­close what was dis­cussed to other US of­fi­cials.

On Satur­day night, Trump was asked by a Fox News host whether he had ever worked for Rus­sia.

“I think it’s the most in­sult­ing thing I’ve ever been asked,” he said.

He did not give a yes or no an­swer. As for his con­ver­sa­tions with Putin, he said: “I’m not keep­ing any­thing un­der wraps, I couldn’t care less.”

On Sun­day, Democrats said the lat­est rev­e­la­tions raise se­ri­ous ques­tions about Trump’s re­la­tion­ship with Putin and Rus­sia.

“Why is he so chummy with Vladimir Putin – this man who is a for­mer KGB agent, never been a friend to the United States, in­vaded our al­lies, threat­ens us around the world, and tries his damn­d­est to un­der­mine our elec­tions?” Sen­a­tor Dick Durbin, an Illi­nois Demo­crat, said on ABC’s This Week.

“Why is this Pres­i­dent Trump’s best buddy? I don’t get it.”

Mark Warner of Vir­ginia, the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, said it was sus­pi­cious that Trump has “par­roted” the poli­cies of Putin.

“I do think it’s cu­ri­ous that through­out that whole sum­mer when these in­ves­ti­ga­tions started, you have Vladimir Putin poli­cies al­most be­ing par­roted by Don­ald Trump,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union.

“You had Trump say only nice things about Putin – he never spoke ill about Rus­sia. The Repub­li­can cam­paign doc­trines soft­ened on Rus­sia and de­creased their will­ing­ness to de­fend Ukraine.”

Warner said the US gov­ern­ment still does not know what took place in Trump’s meet­ings with Putin, in­clud­ing an­other in Helsinki last sum­mer where Trump ap­peared to em­brace Putin’s claim, re­jected by US in­tel­li­gence, that his coun­try had noth­ing to do with an in­ter­fer­ence ef­fort in the 2016 elec­tion.

“The Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment does not know what was dis­cussed be­tween Trump and Vladimir Putin in that frankly pa­thetic, em­bar­rass­ing en­counter,” Warner said.

Repub­li­cans de­fended the pres­i­dent, say­ing the US dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion has im­posed tough sanc­tions against Rus­sia in re­sponse to its in­ter­fer­ence cam­paign dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion and its ag­gres­sion in Ukraine.

“We’ve been very tough on Rus­sia,” House Repub­li­can leader Kevin McCarthy said on CBS’s Face the Na­tion. “Look at the sanc­tions that we have taken with this ad­min­is­tra­tion. I know this ad­min­is­tra­tion and I know this Congress is very tough on Rus­sia and we will con­tinue to be so. But I want this pres­i­dent to be able to build a re­la­tion­ship, even on a per­son level, with all the world lead­ers.”

Ron John­son, a Wis­con­sin Repub­li­can sen­a­tor and chair of the home­land se­cu­rity com­mit­tee, said he had only heard “in­nu­endo” about Trump’s in­ter­ac­tions with Rus­sia, not any ev­i­dence of im­pro­pri­eties. He said there were le­git­i­mate rea­sons to want to guard the pres­i­dent’s con­ver­sa­tions with Putin.

“This is not a tra­di­tional pres­i­dent,” he told CNN. “He has un­ortho­dox means, but he is pres­i­dent of the United States. It is pretty much up to him in terms of who he wants to read into his con­ver­sa­tions with world lead­ers. He was burned by leaks in other ar­eas and he was pretty frus­trated.”

Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, a close ally of the pres­i­dent, was more force­ful, telling Fox News Sun­day: “I am go­ing to ask the FBI di­rec­tor: ‘Was there a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion opened up re­gard­ing the pres­i­dent as be­ing a po­ten­tial agent of the Rus­sians?’ I find it as­ton­ish­ing.

“If this re­ally did hap­pen, Congress needs to know about it. How could the FBI do that? What kinds of checks and bal­ances are there?”

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo did not an­swer spe­cific ques­tions about whether he was aware of the FBI coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence work when he di­rected the CIA.

“The no­tion that Pres­i­dent Trump is a threat to Amer­i­can na­tional se­cu­rity is ab­so­lutely lu­di­crous,” he told CBS.

Pho­to­graph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Don­ald Trump speaks in the cab­i­net room of the White House on Fri­day.

Trump meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, last July.

Pho­to­graph: Kevin La­mar­que/Reuters

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