WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump avoided directly answering when asked whether he currently is or has ever worked for Russia after a published report said law enforcement officials, concerned about his behaviour after he fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017, had begun investigating that possibility.
Trump said it was the “most insulting” question he’d ever been asked.
The New York Times report on Friday cited unnamed former law enforcement officials and others familiar with the investigation.
Trump responded to the story on Saturday during a telephone interview broadcast on Fox News Channelafter host Jeanine Pirro, a personal friend, asked the Russia question.
“I think it’s the most insulting thing I’ve ever been asked,” Trump said. “I think it’s the most insulting article I’ve ever had written, and if you read the article you’ll see that they found absolutely nothing.”
Trump never answered Pirro directly, but went on to assert that no president has taken a harder stance against Russia than he has. “If you ask the folks in Russia, I’ve been tougher on Russia than anybody else, any other … probably any other president, period, but certainly the last three or four presidents.”
Trump’s claim was disputed by Senator Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He said almost all the sanctions on Russia arose not in the White House but in Congress, due to concerns by members of both parties about Moscow’s actions. Warner accused the White House of being very slow to put in place the penalties.
The Times reported that FBI agents and some top officials became suspicious of Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign but didn’t open an investigation at that time because they weren’t sure how to approach such a sensitive probe. Trump’s behaviour in the days around Comey’s May 2017 firing helped trigger the counterintelligence part of the probe, according to the newspaper. Trump tweeted early Saturday that the report showed that the FBI leadership “opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof” after he had fired Comey.