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Trump says never asked former FBI chief to stop Flynn probe

In a string of morning tweets, the president also rubbished the appointment of an FBI agent to a supervisory role in the Russia probe, after it turned out that he had sent political, anti-Trump messages in the past.

world Updated: Dec 03, 2017 21:14 IST
Yashwant Raj
“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History,” Trump said in a tweet.
“After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History,” Trump said in a tweet.(AFP)

US President Donald Trump plowed full tilt into the Michael Flynn controversy on Sunday, denying he had ever asked former FBI director James Comey to stop the probe into his former national security advisor's Russia contacts, even as he launched an attack on the investigating agency.

In a string of morning tweets, the president also rubbished the appointment of a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent to a supervisory role in the Russia probe, after it turned out that he had sent political, anti-Trump messages in the past. It emerged on Saturday that the agent, identified in media reports as Peter Strzok, was removed this summer by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the investigation.

Strzok, as deputy head of counter-intelligence at the FBI, had also played a key role in the investigation of the use of a private email server by Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. And the president brought that up as well, calling him  “tainted (no, very dishonest)” in a tweet.

He followed that with brutal criticism of the investigating agency: “After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters - worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.”

Trump renewed a call to probe Clinton, saying on Saturday, “Many people in our Country are asking what the “Justice” Department is going to do about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from the United States Congress, deleted and “acid washed” 33,000 Emails? No justice!”

The Russia probe that has dogged the Trump presidency from the start resurfaced last week with Flynn, the national security adviser fired in February, pleading guilty to lying to FBI about his interactions with the then Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

The White House and the president have said Flynn was fired because he lied, but Trump continued to defend his former NSA saying in a tweet, “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”

While Flynn’s plea did not establish collusion by him or anyone in the Trump presidential campaign with Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, it did bring the Russia probe right into the middle of  the president’s inner circles of aides and advisers.

Flynn is also cooperating with investigators under a plea deal.

While the White House has sought to distance itself from Flynn, calling him an Obama administration official and suggesting he was working on his own, court documents and news reports have indicated he had looped in Trump transition team officials.

A “senior official” and one “very senior official”, who is said to be the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, were mentioned in a court document filed by Mueller’s team on Thursday.

But some media reports went too far. ABC News has withdrawn a news report it published on Friday that had wrongly claimed Flynn was prepared to testify that he had been instructed to establish contacts with Russians by Trump himself while he was still a candidate. The network has since apologised and announced it had suspended the reporter.

The president sought vindication in his longstanding complaint that he was not being treated fairly by media, tweeting, “Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross (the reporter) for his horrendously inaccurate and dishonest report on the Russia, Russia, Russia Witch Hunt. More Networks and “papers” should do the same with their Fake News!”