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Trump questions credibility of FBI in series of tweets


Published: Mon, December 4, 2017 @ 12:05 a.m.

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

President Donald Trump launched a fresh attack Sunday on the credibility of his own FBI, responding to revelations that an FBI agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election meddling because of anti-Trump text messages.

Trump, two days after his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, again denied that he directed FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating Flynn.

The Republican president offered a running Twitter commentary Sunday amid renewed focus on Mueller’s probe and Flynn’s decision to cooperate with the investigation as part of his plea agreement. Democrats said the developments suggested growing evidence of coordination between Trump’s circle and Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the panel is beginning to see “the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice” against Trump.

“I think we see this in indictments ... and some of the comments that are being made. I see this in the hyperfrenetic attitude of the White House, the comments every day, the continual tweets,” Feinstein said. “And I see it most importantly in what happened with the firing of Director Comey, and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. That’s obstruction of justice.”

In a series of tweets, Trump questioned the direction of the federal law enforcement agency and wrote that after Comey, whom Trump fired in May, the FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters – worst in History!” He vowed to “bring it back to greatness.” The president also retweeted a post saying new FBI Director Chris Wray “needs to clean house.”

The president seized on reports that a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from Mueller’s team last summer after the discovery of an exchange of text messages that were viewed as potentially anti-Trump. The agent, Peter Strzok, had also worked on the investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, said Mueller removed Strzok from the team “immediately upon learning of the allegations.” He would not elaborate on the nature of the accusations. The person who discussed the matter with The Associated Press was not authorized to speak about it by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump tweeted Sunday: “Tainted (no, very dishonest?) FBI ‘agent’s role in Clinton probe under review.’ Led Clinton Email probe.” In a separate tweet, he wrote: “Report: ‘ANTI-TRUMP FBI AGENT LED CLINTON EMAIL PROBE’ Now it all starts to make sense!”

Strzok’s removal almost certainly reflected a desire to insulate the investigators from any claims of political bias or favoritism. Trump and many of his supporters have at times sought to discredit the integrity of the investigation, in part by claiming a close relationship between Mueller and Comey and by pointing to political contributions to Democrats made by some lawyers on the team.

After the tweets, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned the president to tread cautiously. “You tweet and comment regarding ongoing criminal investigations at your own peril. I’d be careful if I were you, Mr. President. I’d watch this,” Graham said.


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