Key Repub­li­can to ask FBI about Trump probe re­port

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WASHINGTON — The Repub­li­can head of the US Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee said on Sun­day that he plans to ask the FBI about a re­port it launched a probe into whether Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump had been work­ing on Rus­sia’s be­half, sug­gest­ing the agency may have gone too far.

“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,” Sen­a­tor Lind­sey Gra­ham said on the Fox News Sun­day pro­gram.

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

The New York Times re­ported on Fri­day that the Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (FBI) opened the coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2017 af­ter Mr. Trump fired then-FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey, out of con­cern the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions may have pre­sented a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity.

Mr. Comey at the time was lead­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sia’s al­leged in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

US in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have said Moscow tried to tip the elec­tion to Mr. Trump. Rus­sia has de­nied in­ter­fer­ing, and Mr. Trump has said re­peat­edly there was no col­lu­sion be­tween his cam­paign and Moscow.

The Times re­ported the coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence probe was sparked in part by grow­ing alarm about Mr. Trump’s be­hav­ior, in­clud­ing com­ments he made sug­gest­ing he fired Mr. Comey over the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is now be­ing led by Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller.

Mr. Trump re­jected the Times story on Satur­day, telling Fox News it was “the most in­sult­ing ar­ti­cle I’ve ever had writ­ten.”

The FBI de­clined a re­quest for com­ment.

Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo, who pre­vi­ously served as Mr. Trump’s CIA di­rec­tor, blasted the Times story, when asked about it on the CBS Face the Na­tion show.

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

Demo­cratic law­mak­ers said on Sun­day the re­port un­der­scored the need for leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect the Mueller probe.

“I do think it’s cu­ri­ous that through­out that whole sum­mer when these in­ves­ti­ga­tions started, you had (Rus­sian Pres­i­dent) Vladimir Putin’s poli­cies al­most be­ing par­roted by Don­ald Trump,” Sen­a­tor Mark Warner, the top Demo­crat on the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, said on CNN’s State of the Union pro­gram.

‘SE­RI­OUS QUES­TIONS’ Democrats also ex­pressed con­cern about a re­port in the Washington Post on Satur­day on al­leged ef­forts by Mr. Trump to con­ceal de­tails about his con­ver­sa­tions with Mr. Putin.

The pa­per re­ported that Mr. Trump took notes from his in­ter­preter and in­structed the per­son not to dis­cuss the de­tails of his con­ver­sa­tions with oth­ers. Reuters could not in­de­pen­dently ver­ify de­tails of the Post re­port.

“When he takes the in­ter­preter’s notes and wants to de­stroy them so no one can see what was said… it raises se­ri­ous ques­tions about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween this pres­i­dent and Mr. Putin,” the Se­nate’s No. 2 Demo­crat, Dick Durbin, said on ABC’s This Week.

In his ap­pear­ance on Fox News on Satur­day, Mr. Trump de­nied that he was keep­ing any­thing un­der wraps on his meet­ings with Mr. Putin.

Sen­a­tor Chris Coons, a Demo­cratic mem­ber of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said he planned to press Mr. Trump’s nom­i­nee for at­tor­ney gen­eral, Wil­liam Barr, for a pledge to let Mr. Mueller com­plete his work.

Mr. Barr is sched­uled to tes­tify be­fore the com­mit­tee on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day. If he is con­firmed as at­tor­ney gen­eral, he would over­see the Rus­sia probe.

“I would need a firm com­mit­ment that he will not al­low any in­ter­fer­ence in the Mr. Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Mr. Coons said on Fox News Sun­day.

He also said Mr. Barr must al­low Mr. Mueller to re­lease a copy of his fi­nal re­port to the pub­lic.

Mr. Barr, who served as at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, sent an un­so­licited memo to the Jus­tice depart­ment in June last year rais­ing con­cerns about Mr. Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and ar­gu­ing that it was in­ap­pro­pri­ate for Mr. Mueller to look into whether Mr. Trump may have sought to un­der­mine the probe. —

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