FBI probed Trump as spy

Taranaki Daily News - - News -

The FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump that was opened al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter he fired then-di­rec­tor James Comey also in­cluded a coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence com­po­nent to de­ter­mine if the pres­i­dent was seek­ing to help Rus­sia and if so, why, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

The de­ci­sion by then-act­ing FBI Di­rec­tor An­drew McCabe to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of a sit­ting pres­i­dent was a mo­men­tous step, but it came af­ter Trump had cited the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion in his de­ci­sion to fire Comey, these peo­ple said.

The coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence com­po­nent of the Trump in­ves­ti­ga­tion was first re­ported by The New York Times.

Trump re­sponded yes­ter­day on Twit­ter, blast­ing for­mer FBI lead­ers, crit­i­cis­ing their han­dling of an ear­lier in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Hil­lary Clin­ton and rip­ping the on­go­ing Rus­sia probe. Trump has re­peat­edly de­nounced the FBI and Jus­tice De­part­ment in such harsh terms, un­der­scor­ing the gulf be­tween the White House and the na­tion’s top law en­force­ment agen­cies in his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

‘‘The cor­rupt for­mer lead­ers of the FBI, al­most all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad rea­sons, opened up an in­ves­ti­ga­tion on me, for no rea­son & with no proof, af­ter I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a to­tal sleaze!’’ the pres­i­dent tweeted. ‘‘My fir­ing of James B. Comey was a great day for Amer­ica. He was a Crooked Cop.’’

Coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tions are dif­fer­ent to crim­i­nal probes, in that their chief pur­pose is to un­der­stand what a for­eign ad­ver­sary like Rus­sia is try­ing to do to in­flu­ence Amer­i­can so­ci­ety or coun­ter­act US poli­cies, and if any Amer­i­cans are as­sist­ing in those ef­forts, ei­ther know­ingly or un­wit­tingly.

In the case of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Trump, the FBI’s de­ci­sion to open a file on the pres­i­dent so quickly af­ter Comey’s fir­ing in May 2017 was a source of con­cern for some of­fi­cials at the Jus­tice De­part­ment be­cause the FBI acted with­out first con­sult­ing lead­er­ship at the de­part­ment. But those wor­ries were al­layed when, days later, spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller was ap­pointed to over­see the Rus­sia probe, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss sen­si­tive in­ter­nal de­lib­er­a­tions.

At the time the FBI be­gan directly in­ves­ti­gat­ing Trump, they wanted to un­der­stand if he was at­tempt­ing to ob­struct jus­tice by fir­ing Comey, and un­der­stand the rea­sons for his be­hav­iour, which also in­cluded com­ments in an NBC in­ter­view two days af­ter Comey’s dis­missal.

In that in­ter­view, Trump said, ‘‘when I de­cided to just do it, I said to my­self – I said, you know, this Rus­sia thing with Trump and Rus­sia is a made-up story.’’

In ad­di­tion to that state­ment, top bureau of­fi­cials were also con­cerned about a draft let­ter to Comey that Trump had wanted to de­liver but never did and whose tone was bel­liger­ent and de­fen­sive, and made re­peated ref­er­ences to Comey’s pri­vate state­ments to Trump that he wasn’t per­son­ally un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion in the Rus­sia probe, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

‘‘The FBI sees [these ac­tions] and it has two jobs – it needs to try to fig­ure out why the per­son is be­hav­ing that way, that’s the coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence part, and it needs to suss out whether that be­hav­iour is crim­i­nal in na­ture,’’ said one of­fi­cial. ‘‘It is hard to over­state how dev­as­tated the lead­er­ship of the bureau was when Comey was fired – not be­cause they loved him, al­though many in the FBI did love him – but be­cause it com­pletely broke so many norms and ap­peared to be a move that had noth­ing to do with Comey and ev­ery­thing to do with the pres­i­dent’s own in­ter­ests.’’

The of­fi­cial said that the coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence and crim­i­nal in­quiries were al­ways linked.

Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., a mem­ber of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said the rev­e­la­tions are dis­turb­ing. ‘‘A lot of the be­hav­iour which has sent peo­ple to jail – largely about ly­ing about Rus­sia – oc­curred prior to the fir­ing of Comey,’’ he said in an in­ter­view. ‘‘So if the FBI had con­cerns that the pres­i­dent was wit­tingly or un­wit­tingly act­ing in the Rus­sians’ in­ter­ests as late as the fir­ing of Jim Comey, that’s a pretty scary thought – es­pe­cially since we don’t know what else they [the in­ves­ti­ga­tors] know.’’

He added that, ‘‘the FBI open­ing any in­ves­ti­ga­tion is a highly doc­u­mented, well-con­sid­ered and well-re­viewed process. This one would have been par­tic­u­larly care­fully un­der­taken.’’


An FBI in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Don­ald Trump as a Rus­sian spy started af­ter the pres­i­dent said the on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion was be­hind his de­ci­sion to fire then-FBI di­rec­tor James Comey.

Don­ald Trump tweeted that ‘‘Lyin’ James Comey’’ was ‘‘a to­tal sleaze’’.

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